Charlottesville—Our American Baptist Witness

Dear Sisters and Brothers in ABCMNY and Friends,
In the plethora of responses, amended responses, and counter-responses to the well-documented atrocities manifest in Charlottesville last weekend, much has been said and done. Much of what we have seen and heard has been deeply disappointing, cutting much of our community to the core. Other responses have tried to re-bandage the reopened wounds of racism in our country. In witnessing the actions too horrible to comprehend, and impossible to stop considering, thinking and feeling people have needed to ask ourselves, who are we really, as a country—and as a people residing on the same soil? Our incomplete historical memories are infused with mythology and aspirations of who we are. Have we forgotten who we really have been historically, and replaced it with who we want to be as a nation and as a people of this nation? Who we say we are, and who want to be are not necessarily the same.
On Saturday, our ABCUSA General Secretary, Dr. Lee Spitzer gave the Regional Ministers an update on recent events in our denominational life. Among the things he spoke to, he said, “Let us encourage our pastors to remind our membership that ABCUSA stands for the full equality of all Americans and rejects racial prejudice and specifically, the contemporary ugly resurgence of so-called ‘white nationalism.’”
I thought it might be helpful to remind us of who we are and who we have aspired to be as American Baptists through the centuries. I think we might be encouraged by the courageous and prophetic witness of our forbearers at this time.

  • On April 18, 1688: Settlers in Germantown, PA adopted an anti-slavery document, the first one in America. Read more.
  • On April 29, 1840: the American Baptist Anti-Slavery Convention held its first session in New York. Until then, the Baptists had maintained a strained peace by carefully avoiding discussion of the topic of slavery. But in 1840, an American Baptist Anti-Slavery Convention brought the issue into the open. The Baptist Foreign Mission Board denied a request by the Alabama Convention that slave owners be eligible to become missionaries. Finally, a Baptist Free Mission Society was formed and refused Southern money. The southern members withdrew and formed the Southern Baptist Convention. The split was completed in 1845. Read more.

In our own American Baptist region, during the 225 plus years of our existence, although far from perfect, we have committed ourselves to a counter cultural practice of respect and racial inclusion. As ABCMNY compares itself to many other regions, we recognize we are different in complexion, composition and our experience of the world. Yet, we have committed ourselves to remaining in fellowship despite and because of our theological, racial and language differences and celebrate and support the ministries of American Baptist congregations in the greater New York City area.
Let us continue to be clear about who we are and together, in our neighborhoods, our community at-large, the nation and the globe, glorify God and change our experience of the world.
We have our next regional gathering, the annual meeting scheduled for Saturday, November 4, 2017 to be held at Lenox Road Baptist Church in Brooklyn. Accompanying this letter is early information about the annual meeting. The theme Crossings, drawing from Ephesians 2:12-22 will guide our time together. Please reserve this date on your calendar and plan to rejoin there with your American Baptist community.
Christ is Our Peace,

Rev. Dr. Cheryl F. Dudley
Regional Executive Minister
American Baptist Churches of Metropolitan New York