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ABC USA Biennial Delegates' Reflections

Read news from the Biennial Mission Summit in Portland, Oregon by our delegates:
Rose Welch
Marcia McCarthy
Ivan Marable
Lynn McClellan
Tasha Wilson (A General Board Member)
Rev. Brent Bowden, Pastor.

If you would like to reply or make comments to these reflections, you can do so by going directly to the Pastor's blog at

July 2, mid-afternoon:
Your Delegation

We have learned, we have worshipped, we have shared table with one another and with countless others in the ABC USA family. Soon we'll be headed home to tell the stories. See you back in Rochester!

-Pastor Brent

July 1, late afternoon, PST: Quick Upate - Young Adults

In a panel discussion of seven diverse people from 3 generations answering the question, "What are the top things you look for in a church?" The answers are 1) inclusive/welcoming and 2) active in the community.

-Pastor Brent

July 1, 2017, mid afternoon, PST: Technical Issues+

Well, a variety of factors has made this blogging venture quite challenging. The Portland Convention Center is very limited in Wifi Access and Cellular signal. Allow me to fill you in briefly, with only a sentence, what I might have given a fuller report on with more reliable connectivity:
  • A meal shared with a group of people who are doing creative and wonderful ministry in the world such as using art to work through serious trauma.

  • A wonderful sermon by the Reverend Dr. Zina Jacque, pastor of the Community Church of Barrington, IL, encouraging individuals and the denomination that "scars don't grow on anything dead." The marks we bear from trauma, conflict, and loss are proof that we have made it through.

  • Our delegation delivering a special and extended contribution to the new Executive Director of the Alliance of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists at our annual meeting.

  • A life giving conversation on ending poverty that occurred as a part of the general program this morning. Ending poverty is possible, but it needs people of faith to take significant risk. Nobody in the conversation seemed to think that was a bad thing.

  • The great joy I had in FINALLY meeting the incomparable Rev. Ken Williams and Rev. Peg Williams in person. We shared breakfast, a few stories, and a few laughs. My gratitude for Ken's incredible pastoral presence at FBC Rochester goes back many months now and my gratitude for our friendship will continue, no doubt, well into the future.

  • The tremendous amount of energy your delegates are putting into their work and presence here at the biennial. We'll have plenty of news and information for you from Portland when we return.
I'll keep trying to post a thing or two when opportunity presents itself.

-Pastor Brent

July 1, 2017, mid afternoon, PST: Black Caucus Worship

The ABC USA 2017 Biennial opened last night with a rousing, uplifting National Black Caucus worship service. There was joyous music involving all in attendance; several focused prayers; and the message was delivered by Dr. James Forbes, retired pastor of Riverside Church, New York City. Dr. Forbes dealt with our many social and political issues head on - racial, health, immigration, sexual orientation and others - he challenged us to examine the issues, talk about them and ask what God wants to do about them - and how can we join God's "Dream Team" in their resolution. He referred us to four biblical passages in II Timothy and Acts. A timely message for us as individuals and for ABC USA deliberation.

-Marilyn McClellan

July 1, 2017, mid afternoon, PST: Black Caucus Worship

Dr. Forbes, during last evenings Black Caucus worship service called the Church in general and ABCUSA in particular out for being in a state of denial regarding the Church being in a challenging mess of trouble. The most interesting part of the message was the labels we assign ourselves and the cultural conduct we promote to support our fears and avoid the risk of trust and network accountability. Dr. Forbes shared the above is true for both the Black church and White church. He then argued for the need of a spiritual dream team. I will share more with those who are interested when we return home.

-Ivan Marable

June 30, After midnight EST:

Well, everyone is present and accounted for here in Portland. While Tasha has been busy with board work already and Lyn came in a couple of days early to see Portland, the bulk of the Biennial really begins tomorrow. Tonight, I did have the opportunity to gather with 81 other people in a program called “Orientation to American Baptist Life.” Together we will venture through these busy days with a special focus on learning the structure, ministries, programs, and culture of ABCUSA. Tonight’s event was just a mixer, but it occurs to me that something of the ABC spirit was already present. I met seminary students, pastors of small, rural congregations, a astor of a storied church situated just six blocks from the White House in Washington D.C., and a guy who pastors a church and runs a ministry out of a coffee shop.

Through there, I joined Tasha for the last bit of Worship sponsored by the ABC Black Caucus. Rev. William Barber, founder of the Moral Mondays Movement and President of the North Carolina NAACP, was supposed to preach, but missed his flight. In his stead Rev. James Forbes stepped up. He was the pastor of Riverside Church in New York City for 18 years and is a graduate of Colgate Rochester Divinity School. His fiery (and funny) sermon called all people to the work of reconciliation in these trying days.

Much more from me tomorrow.

-Pastor Brent

Thursday, June 29, 3:00 PM:

Our delegates should soon be arriving in Portland, Oregon, if they have not already there. Travel days have been varied from several days ago for General Board meetings to late Thursday arrivals. As soon as reflections begin to be sent, this page will update. If you wish to respond or to ask questions, the blog allows for this option. We look forward to keeping you informated as our delegates represent us at this national event.

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