In October a delegation from Lakeshore (Moderator Alean Saunders-Coffey, Vice- Moderator Kay Baxter-Reid, Pastor Tanner and I) will attend the Annual Convention of the Evergreen Baptist Association as we continue to explore moving our regional affiliation from the American Baptist Churches of Metropolitan New York to the Evergreen Baptist Association. On Sunday, October 27, The Reverend Dr. Marcia Patton, the Executive Minister of the Evergreen Association will join us at Lakeshore following the Diversity Month potluck for a time of further discussion. Everyone is invited to this dialogue.
In late August I sent this letter to The Reverend James Stallings, Executive Minister of the ABC of Metro New York. It explains in some depth the reasoning behind our consideration of this change in regional affiliation. I hope it also conveys the sense of gratitude we will always have for our Metro New York sisters and brothers.
August 28, 2013
The Reverend James Stallings
Executive Minister, American Baptist Churches of Metropolitan New York
475 Riverside Drive #432
New York, NY 10115
It is a most historic day in the story of our nation, the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It is good to know that we labor together in the mission of bending the moral arc of the universe towards justice.
I am writing to let you know that the leadership of our congregation has decided that the time has come for us to seriously consider affiliating with an American Baptist Region on the West Coast. For us, the most logical choice, in fact the only realistic option, is the Evergreen Baptist Association. We will be sending observers to this year’s Evergreen Convention in Seattle. They will report to the Church Council and then the Council and the Congregation will choose a course of action.
It has been thirteen years since you welcomed us when we were outcasts from the American Baptist Churches of the West. You have provided us with a stable place from which to reclaim our place in the American Baptist Family. We have worked together in important ways and will continue to value our common history and our shared vision.
The most pressing reasons for us to consider a change in regions are:
- Geography – New York City remains a continent away meaning being together requires someone to make a long and expensive plane trip.
- The Evergreen Presence in Northern California – The churches we relate to regularly are almost all members of the Evergreen Baptist Association. We are the only active member of the Pacific Coast Baptist Association that is not a member of Evergreen.
The area of our ministry where our concerns come into sharpest focus is ordination. Currently, if a Lakeshore member desires his or her ordination to be regionally recognized it means that they have to absorb the expense of at least one trip to New York City in order to be examined by a committee of folk they are not likely to have had, or continue to have, any ongoing relationship with. In contrast, the Evergreen Association has recently empowered the Pacific Coast Baptist Association to act on its behalf when it comes to the examination and recognition of Evergreen members from Northern California who are seeking ordination. Currently, most Lakeshore members seeking ordination choose to pursue ordination through the Pacific Coast Baptist Association even though, for them, such an ordination is not regionally recognized. If we were to become members of Evergreen the path to regional recognition of their ordination would be much more manageable.
One important fact to keep in mind is that when, in November of 2000, the American Baptist Churches of Metropolitan New York took the courageous steps of changing their by-laws to accommodate member congregations from outside the New York City area and, having changed their by-laws, to accept our application for membership, the Evergreen Baptist Association did not exist. We will be forever grateful to our Metro family for their courage in extending hospitality to a congregation that was not finding a welcome elsewhere.
I trust you and the leadership of our region will understand our need to consider this change and would welcome dialogue on the matter. I further trust that you know that the sea of green voting cards that welcomed us into membership that Autumn Saturday thirteen years ago at the Riverside Church will forever be seared in my memory as an example of fidelity to the gospel on the part of the American Baptist Churches of Metropolitan New York and a day of rejoicing for Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church.