American Baptists celebrate arrival of missionaries in Myanmar

American Baptists are Saturday celebrating the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the first American Baptist missionaries, Ann and Adoniram Judson, to Burma, now known as Myanmar.

As a result of their work, today some ethnic groups there are predominantly Baptist, American Baptist News Service reports during this year's biennial American Baptist gathering.

In recent years thousands of Burmese refugees pouring into American cities to escape civil war, many of them linking with American Baptist churches, thereby reversing the flow from the southeast Asian country where Buddhism predominates.

American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) has re-elected general secretary Roy Medley to a two-year term as head of the 1.3-million-member body on June 18 during the three-day meeting this week in metropolitan Kansas City.

Elected first in 2002, he plans to retire when the term ends Dec. 31, 2015.

American Baptist News Service reported Medley's re-election June 19, the second day of a three-day meeting of the ABC/USA Board of General Ministries.

Medley is a native of Ringgold, Ga. and joined American Baptists as an adult.

He served previously as executive minister of the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey, one of 34 regions within the denomination, from 1992 until 2001.

Medley's pastoral experience includes service as interim pastor at Christ Congregation, Princeton, N.J., (1977-1978) and associate pastor at First Baptist Church, Trenton, N.J., (1974-1977), where he also served as a seminary intern and was ordained in 1975.

One is the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Southern Baptists, the biggest Protestant denomination in the United States, split with their northern counterparts over slavery in 1845, setting the direction for both bodies for the 150 years.

The ABCUSA is a traditional Protestant group, known in the U.S. as mainline Protestants, and is a member of the National Council of Churches, the Baptist World Alliance and the World Council of Churches.

As with other Protestant denominations in North American the American Baptists have faced splits in recent years over the way they have dealt with homosexuality within the church.

The biennial this year, however, also observes the 375th anniversary of the First Baptist Church in Providence, R.I., a landmark not only for Baptists but also religious freedom later enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"I hope that congregations will come away from this inaugural Mission Summit and our Biennial with an understanding that Baptists have always been an experimental people, that we have always faced adaptive challenges with a willingness to try new forms of ministry, to find new forms of expression of our faith and for outreach to others," Medley said in a promotional video.

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