"I think it's time for ABC and other denominations to lead the way in our society so that we can have conversation about difficult issues," Lee Spitzer says.
Missions work. Millennials' spiritual hunger. Diversity of congregations.
These are some of the denomination's bright lights for Lee B. Spitzer, the new general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA.
Spitzer, former executive minister for American Baptist Churches in New Jersey, took office June 1. He spoke with EthicsDaily.com in a new online video interview about ABCUSA's initiatives and challenges.
"From the very beginning of my time in ABC, I have loved our missions work around the globe," said Spitzer, author of numerous books and articles.
"I also am very encouraged by what I see among millennials as a deep, spiritual hunger in our country and across other countries in the world," he said. "And I think ABC is uniquely positioned to reach out to millennials, to develop the leaders of the next generation and to provide a spiritual witness to a changing culture that can make a difference in peoples' lives."
Spitzer also cited the diversity within ABCUSA life as a strength. The denomination, which counts more than 5,000 congregations and 1.3 million members, has, for example, Latino, Burmese, Korean and Haitian congregations among its fellowship.
Spitzer said challenges to ABCUSA vibrancy include the now familiar story of aging congregations - even to the extent of vanishing altogether.
"I would like to see us be more effective in our turnaround ministries to bring renewal to churches that need a new vision for a new day," he said.
Challenges also include theological disagreements, which occur amid a larger society that is increasingly less civil.
"I think it's time for ABC and other denominations to lead the way in our society so that we can have conversation about difficult issues, such as racial reconciliation, for example, that enable our society to move forward and our churches to provide a positive, prophetic witness to our people," he said.
Another challenge, according to Spitzer, is learning how to witness and share how Jesus makes a difference in one's life. Baptists must reconnect, he said, with their tradition of testifying "in an authentic, sensitive, natural way."
Spitzer's latest book - "Baptists, Jews and the Holocaust: The Hand of Sincere Friendship" - releases in September from Judson Press.
Watch the interview with Spitzer at https://vimeo.com/ethicsdaily/spitzer
Learn more about American Baptist Churches USA at http://www.abc-usa.org/
Watch other EthicsDaily.com video interviews at vimeo.com/ethicsdaily