Medley re-elected American Baptist head

This year’s biennial American Baptist gathering, June 21-23 in Overland Park, Kan., takes the form of a Mission Summit, celebrating three events significant in the denomination’s history.

This story was edited after posting to correct an error in the opening paragraph.

By Bob Allen

Roy Medley, American Baptist Churches USA general secretary since 2002, has been elected to a two-year term as head of the 1.3-million-member body meeting this week in metropolitan Kansas City. He plans to retire when the term ends Dec. 31, 2015.

American Baptist News Service reported Medley’s re-election June 19, the second day of a three-day meeting of the ABC/USA Board of General Ministries.

roy medleyA native of Ringgold, Ga., who joined American Baptists as an adult, Medley served previously as executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey, one of 34 regions within the denomination, from 1992 until 2001.

Medley’s pastoral experience includes service as interim pastor at Christ Congregation, Princeton, N.J., (1977-1978) and associate pastor at First Baptist Church, Trenton, N.J., (1974-1977), where he also served as a seminary intern and was ordained in 1975.

One is the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Southern Baptists split with their northern counterparts over slavery in 1845, setting the trajectory for both bodies for the next century and a half.

Saturday night celebrates the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the first American Baptist missionaries, Ann and Adoniram Judson, to Burma, now known as Myanmar. As a result of their work, today some ethnic groups there are predominantly Baptist. In recent years the flow of Baptists has reversed, with thousands of Burmese refugees pouring into American cities to escape civil war, many of them linking with American Baptist churches.

The biennial also observes the 375th anniversary of the First Baptist Church in Providence, R.I., a landmark not only for Baptists but also religious freedom later enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“I hope that congregations will come away from this inaugural Mission Summit and our Biennial with an understanding that Baptists have always been an experimental people, that we have always faced adaptive challenges with a willingness to try new forms of ministry, to find new forms of expression of our faith and for outreach to others,” Medley said in a promotional video.

This year’s biennial departs from the usual schedule, grouping delegates in “Mission Summit Conversations” on a wide range of ministry and mission topics.

“I want people to come away from these conversations with a sense of encouragement derived from our history, but also with a sense of freedom,” Medley said, “a freedom to try new things” and ask new questions.

“How do we live out the life of Christ as a people in the midst of those who deal with despair, who deal with fear, who ask what future they will have where the gap between rich and poor seems to grow ever wider?” he asked. “Is there a way for us to be a blessing to our community that we have not been before?”