Last year, our board of trustees and our ad hoc Vision 2020 Committee presented an innovative and challenging outline for the future of our organization. We were challenged to conceptualize a new way to carry out the ministry of the Cleveland Baptist Association. Consequently, we will be hosting a major Urban Ministry Conference in May of this year with nationally recognized speakers and workshop leaders facilitating our effort.
This association has continued to serve member congregations by coordinating the process of ordaining clergy, consulting with congregations that were searching for new pastors, hosting educational forums, mediating conflicts within local congregations, and providing scholarships for clergy seeking theological education. However, there were still opportunities to expand our vision for the future. As servants of Jesus Christ, we must create programs (ministries) that express the heart of Jesus.
As Jesus described a future time when he will return in his glory along with holy angels (Matthew 25:31-40) all nations will be gathered before him and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. He shall commend those who were faithful in ministering to him when he was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, and in prison. Then the righteous will cry out, when did we see you in such conditions and ministered to you? Jesus responded, assuredly, I say to you, in as much as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.
In response to the Master’s expectation to minister to the least of those in our society, we have dialogued with the American Baptist Home Missions Societies to conceptualize a joint ministry related to Justice for Children. Social workers, legal scholars, community activists, and journalists have written about and complained about the cradle-to-prison pipeline. Inner city youth with inadequate support systems are being prepared (from a very young age) for the prison lifestyle. We feel compelled to minister to the least of those in our society and to interrupt that negative cycle.
This might be an opportunity to go forward with our planning for establishing a Missions Center. Such a center could be a cooperative mission involving all of the Cleveland Baptist Association churches (along with American Baptist Home Missions Societies). The Missions Center is not intended to duplicate any ministry that is carried out by any of our affiliated churches. However, all of our member churches could work together in that ministry. Today, we shall seek the input from those at this annual session regarding the adoption of such a venture as we continue conceptualizing Ministry in the New Day.
In The Master’s Service,
Rev. Andrew Edwards, MSW, M.Div., Ph.D.