Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer Called as
ABCUSA General Secretary
VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 5/9/17)—On Monday, May 8, the Board of General Ministries met at Springhill Suites in Chicago to elect Reverend Dr. Lee B.
Spitzer to the position of General Secretary of American Baptist Churches USA. Dr. Spitzer’s name was brought forward to the Board of General Ministries
by the General Secretary Search Committee. Over the past several months the Search Committee had interviewed numerous candidates. After much prayer,
discernment, and deep discussion, the committee identified Dr. Spitzer as the candidate best suited to lead American Baptists forward.
Currently Dr. Spitzer serves as Executive Minister for the American Baptist Churches in New Jersey (ABCNJ). He has served congregations in New Jersey,
Nebraska, and Rhode Island. Dr. Spitzer brings a wide range of experience and expertise to his new role as General Secretary. In ABCNJ he guided a
strategic planning and renewal process, provided pastoral leadership, launched new ministries and collaborative efforts, created networks and new partnerships,
promoted church growth, fostered a united community, and managed financial growth. He continues to speak prophetically into current issues and concerns.
Dr. Spitzer has authored Endless Possibilities: Exploring the Journeys of Your Life(1997), the companion Endless Possibilities Course Book (2001), A Summer’s Journey (2001), three articles for the Encyclopedia of Religious and Spiritual Development(Sage, 2006), and Jesus Christ from Cover to Cover (2006). In his first Judson Press book, Making Friends, Making Disciples(2010), he explores the pivotal role friendship plays in support of
the church’s mission to make disciples and evangelize. Dr. Spitzer’s newest Judson Press book, Baptists, Jews, and the Holocaust: The Hand of Sincere Friendship,
is scheduled for release in October 2017.
His goal as General Secretary is “to lead ABCUSA into a future of spiritual renewal, creative service, and church growth, in joyful cooperation with all
partners of the American Baptist Family.” His efforts as General Secretary will be directed toward strengthening connections with ABC regions, affirming
and enhancing our diversity, reaching out to the next generation of leaders, growing trust and collaboration, strengthening our American Baptist identity
and providing administrative leadership in areas of stewardship, funding, and fiduciary concerns.
Dr. Spitzer will be preaching on Sunday morning, July 2, at the American Baptist Biennial Mission Summit in Portland, Oregon.
ABCUSA President, Judy Fackenthal, wishes to extend her gratitude to the work and ministry of the General Secretary Search Committee: Wesley Roberts (Committee
vice-chair), Robin Crouch, Shirley Fair, Kelly Legg, Charity Matic, Don Ng, Marcia Patton, Charles Revis, Don Robinson, Tom Ross, and John Williams-along
with ABC staff member, Marilyn Tyson.
Dr. Spitzer will begin his service as General Secretary on June 1.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.
A Response to this news by
Rev. Dr. Brian Henderson
Okay American Baptist Family and Friends across the United States, in Puerto Rico and around the globe...here are my thoughts and reflections in light
of the news about the appointment of our new General Secretary, the Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer :
In true American Baptist fashion, reactions to this announcement have run the gamut of feelings and emotions. Per Facebook posts, some folk are excited
and energized and others are angry and discouraged while there are I’m sure, given the size of our denominational family, many, many people in between
these responding realities.
For personal reasons, I would count myself among the group of folk who are angry and discouraged. However, as I’ve talked with colleagues and friends around
the country and as I’ve allowed myself to sit with this news for nearly 48 hours, here are my conclusions and commitments moving forward:
1. While some are drawing comparisons of Dr. Spitzer’s appointment as General Secretary to the national election our country experienced last fall, there
is NO comparison here. There is enough angst in our country (no matter one’s party affiliation) and we do not need more angst in our denomination.
American Baptist Churches, USA, is not a country. We are a movement of congregations that seek collectively to do more together for mission and ministry
than any one of us can do on our own. Whether we welcome this news of a new General Secretary or find ourselves disenchanted by it, it is important
for us to remain United in Mission. For the sake of the Good News we have the capacity to proclaim in so many ways and through so many people, we can
2. Lest we forget the rich history and heritage from whence we’ve come...may we remain committed to the tension of being a denominational family that has
labored hard to create as many seats as possible around a common table...for as many people as possible. I know it can rightly be argued that some
of us have been kept from this table. In this time of history, we can’t afford to let a proverbial "herd of elephants" remain silently present in our
ecclesiastical house. As American Baptists, let’s stay steadfastly strident to our principles and liberties. There is room in our faith family for
all of us to voice our discontent and describe how we hope better to be a faith family that resembles a Beloved Community wherein the diversities of
our humanity are celebrated and honored. For the sake of the Good News we have the capacity to proclaim in so many ways and through so many people,
we can do this.
3. To keep some historical and practical perspective, if we look back over the centuries of our history, we have had women and men, from different cultures
and theological perspectives that have served in leadership capacities at all levels of our national family. When I served the nearest congregation
to the Mission Center in Valley Forge, I only had to walk through the three floors of that circular edifice to be reminded of our social, political,
and theological diversities. And you know what, while folk may not have seen eye-to-eye on any number of realities, mission and ministry happened and
affected many people in so many life-giving ways. The arc of history would remind us that we will have leaders, even General Secretaries, that will
represent the more conservative to the more liberal among us. These individuals are not Jesus...they are not our saviors. Each one has the capacity
to offer our faith family something unique. Time and history will ultimately be the judge of their legacies. In the present moment, it seems to me
the better angels of our humanity may be calling us to support the one who will now lead us for the next four years. We can support Dr. Spitzer whether
we agree or disagree with him and his style of ministry. We can support him and each other by being the BAPTISTS we are. We can support the work of
the General Secretary by respectfully reminding him of our diversities. The strength of our American Baptist family is that there can always be a way
to communicate prophetically our passions. When we cease to prophetically communicate our passions, we lose some of our Baptist-way. For the sake of
the Good News we have the capacity to proclaim in so many ways and through so many people, we can do this.
4. I’ve asked myself, “Am I acquiescing to the status quo?” No. I am not. I am committing myself to being the best American Baptist I can. Some day, I
hope my children will see that the struggles and strengths of the American Baptist Churches, USA, is for them a model of how to be and not to be. Of
how to be Christian and Baptist...of how to be socially, theologically and culturally informed and aware. When I consider that this work we do can
inspire and encourage my children...your children...then my own cynicisms become the inspiration I need to go “high” when others may go “low.” For
the sake of the Good News we have the capacity to proclaim in so many ways and through so many people, we can do this.
5. Many of us are tired of fighting. Unlike the Apostle Paul, we feel like we are afflicted, perplexed, persecuted and struck down. Decades of debating
and discussing real life matters is tiring and demoralizing. It is tempting to throw in the towel and give up the struggle of this American Baptist
enterprise. My hope and prayer for myself and for us all...is that we will not be distracted by matters that will keep us from sharing the hope we
have and the rich expressions of ministry that are taking place throughout our larger faith family. The good news of Jesus whose narratives still have
the power to heal and transform our love and lives today can be seen in and through our American Baptist witness...by the grace of God, whether we’re
at our best or at our worst.
So...let’s channel our passions into the ministries we are all about. Let’s hold each other accountable. Conservatives and Liberals, and everyone in between,
let’s encourage each other to be the best and the brightest we can. When our humanity gets in the way, and it will, may we remember to stay United
in Mission. This is our call. This is our work. This is our ministry.
For the sake of the Good News we have the capacity to proclaim in so many ways and through so many people, we can do this.
Jesus was a partier and a protester. Sounds kinda like us American Baptists. Whether partying or protesting...let’s do what we do with love and passion.
Hope to see you in Portland!
First Baptist Church of Denver is a welcoming and affirming, inclusive Christian community that embraces diversity, engages personal faith, and serves with compassion.