On Friday of Annual Session weekend, over 120 ABCNJ pastors gathered for the ABCNJ Academy at Annual Session. This year's Acedemy offered an opportunity to listen and dialogue with leaders from other world religions living in New Jersey. We hosted a Buddhist professor of Eastern Religions, the Muslim chaplain from Princeton University and an Assistant Rabbi from a New Jersey synagogue. These leaders shared their experiences living as a member of a minority religion in the United States. They were gracious as they fielded some insightful questions from the gathered ABCNJ pastors and commented about the wonderful hospitality they received. Those in attendance also had the pleasure of hearing reflections from Elie Haddad and Daniel Buttry, both of whom minister in contexts in which gracious interfaith dialog is an essential task.
Elie is the president of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, Lebanon. He shared the Christian church’s experience and conditions serving in a Muslim majority nation of 4 million people with an influx of 1.5 million mostly Muslim Syrian refugees. Elie also described the lessons being learned by the Baptist churches as they have begun to reach out to meet the needs of others outside their own congregations.
Dan is one of ABCUSA's International Global Consultants on peacemaking, and works through International Ministries. Many times over the years he has conducted training sessions with people groups experiencing conflicts or worked with interfaith groups. He also shared his personal experiences of living in an American city with the largest Arab Muslim population in the United States.
Dr. Spitzer closed the day with a presentation on Christian Evangelism within our multicultural and multi-faith neighborhoods here in New Jersey. Dr. Spitzer's talk encouraged attendees to wrestle with questions both about our theology as Christians and our desire for people of other religions to come to know Jesus as the Savior of the world.
Academy at Annual Session was a wonderful way to kick off Annual Session weekend and reminded participants how gracious listening is an both important aspect loving our neighbors and a essential tool for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.