Issue 2009.11
May 18, 2009

Short Notices

Editor's Trips

New Logo

§  Michael Zerkich was ordained to the ministry by the Crosspointe Meadows Church in Novi on Sunday, May 3. The Rev. Danny Langley, pastor of the church, brought the message, and his wife, Renee, gave a blessing for the Zerkich family. Michael’s wife Joyce and her daughter Madeline Price provided special music. Zerkich is pastor of the Relational Church, a new church plant in Novi. We welcome Rev. Zerkich into the family of ordained American Baptist clergy.

§  First Latin American Baptist Church of Detroit will celebrate its 79th anniversary on Sunday, May 24, at 4pm. The church is located in Southwest Detroit near the Ambassador Bridge. See invitation announcement elsewhere in this issue of E-Link Online. The church conducts services in both English and Spanish. Interim Pastor Kevin Casillas will be formally installed on Friday, June 12 at 6:00pm.

§  The Rev. Cheryle Hanna has accepted a call to serve as Associate Minister of Discipleship and Spiritual Growth at the Yorkminster Park Baptist Church in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Dr. Peter Holmes is minister of the church. The Rev. Hanna has served in a number of American Baptist related ministries including the professional ministerial staff of Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit, as elected member of the General Board of the ABC,USA, and as a member and chair of the Commission on Ordination and Standing of the ABC-MI. She will begin her new ministry in Toronto in early August. The ABC-MI family offer her our congratulations and prayers of blessing.

Comings, Goings, Celebrations, Concerns

Mr. Tom Adams
Thomas Adams

§  Mr. Thomas Adams, a member of Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church of Detroit will receive the 2009 Edwin T. Dahlberg Peace Award at the ABCUSA Biennial in June. National Ministries of the ABCUSA made the announcement in advance of the coming gathering in Pasadena, CA.

Mr. Adams is president and co-founder of the Chance For Life organization, a prison-based rehabilitation program headquartered in Detroit and operating in six area correctional facilities. CFL provides education, life skills and behavioral modification programs to the incarcerated to prepare them for a successful return to the community. The nucleus of the program is the Mediation Center which provides inmates a safe environment in which to resolve disputes and learn communication skills.

The Dahlberg Award recognizes significant efforts for peace, including international peace, racial peace, community peace, and efforts of reconciliation between persons, groups and nations.

Pastor of the Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church of Detroit is the Rev. Jerome Warfield.

§  First Baptist Church of Muskegon has called the Rev. Dr. Dennis Henderson as their new minister, effective May 3, 2009. Henderson has attended Wayne County Community College, Detroit Bible College, Baptist Bible College, and Baptist Bible Seminary. After the completion of both the Bachelor of Religious Education degree (1974) and a Master of Divinity degree (1977) he chose to pursue a Master of Theology degree at Westminster Theological Seminary (1978), and then a Doctor of Ministry degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (1999).

He has served as the pastor at Whitehall Baptist Church of Philadelphia, PA., Shawnee Hills Baptist Church of Jamestown, OH, and First Baptist Church of Pontiac as the Associate Pastor of Outreach and Discipleship until 2004.

Since then Dennis has worked for SeeProgress, a website development company for the automobile collision repair industry. In a video studio in his home Dennis wrote, produced, and published a seven-part DVD video series called “Living Single Again”. It is a post-divorce recovery series that offers hope for new relationships. He has been a key-note speaker at Singles Conferences and recently wrote a book titled, Hope for New Relationships, released in 2008.

Dennis has been married for ten years to Dianne, who has been employed at Beaumont Hospital as a Sonographer and does ultrasounds of the heart. They have six children (all out of the house) and seven grandchildren.

Henderson's ordination was recognized by ABC-MI in 2008. He attended the clergy retreat in February at St Francis. We welcome Dennis to the ABC-MI family and look forward to working together for the gospel.

Major Restructuring Proposal on ABCUSA Biennial Agenda

The organizational scheme under which ABCUSA has operated for the past 40 years is about to be dismantled. That is, if delegates to the denomination's Biennial in Pasadena next month adopt by-law changes approved by the General Board. Dr. Michael Williams, executive minister of ABC-MI, summarizes the proposal and offers comments in the article below. He foresees the down-sized national body playing an on-going, "important, but subsidiary role" chiefly to "promote health and vitality" in local congregations which are the "primary unit of mission". For more detailed information on the proposal refer to the following documents: The Future is Bright, Proposed Bylaw Changes, and Graphical Representation of the Proposed Structure.

ABCUSA Governing Structure Reorganization -- An Overview

Delegates to the 2009 Biennial in Pasadena, CA will be considering ABCUSA Bylaw changes, which, if approved, will restructure the denomination’s form of governance that has been in place for over forty years.

This restructuring effort seeks to adapt to the many changes in the culture and church life in these forty years, to address the need for cost savings, and to position the ABCUSA to face the future with a sharpened focus on mission/ministry and less on legislation. Some of the major changes in the structure, if the proposed Bylaws are adopted, include:

Dr. Michael A. Williams
"...The local church is the primary unit of mission and the purpose of regional and national denominations is to serve and support the local church in such ways as to promote health and vitality." -- Michael A. Williams

The GEC worked for more than two years to develop a structure reorganization proposal to send to the ABCUSA General Board for consideration. The General Board's approval of what is described above now requires that ABCUSA Bylaw revisions come before the 2009 Biennial delegates for consideration.

The Bylaw revisions must be adopted for the restructuring to happen. Should these revisions not be approved, the current structure will remain in place, although there will be a number of issues to address, including the funding of the current structure.

If the 2009 Biennial delegates approve the proposed Bylaw revisions, I believe it will require a renegotiation of the current “ABCUSA Covenant of Relationships” as well as the current “ABCUSA Budget Covenant” both of which would take several years to accomplish.

A DVD with all the Bylaw revisions, a PowerPoint presentation regarding the proposed structural changes, and more was recently mailed to all ABCUSA congregations.

It is my conviction the church is essential to God’s plan for the redemption of creation. I continue to believe denominations can play an important, but subsidiary role. It must be clearly understood the local church is the primary unit of mission and the purpose of regional and national denominations is to serve and support the local church in such ways as to promote health and vitality. A healthy, vital congregation is a missional congregation making a difference in their communities, state, nation and world for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

*[Historical footnote: Baptist historians have applied the term "federation" to the loose structure of the Northern Baptist Convention, formed in 1907. The Convention was renamed the American Baptist Convention in 1950 and restructured as the American Baptist Churches in the USA in 1972. See Maring and Hudson, A Baptist Manual of Polity and Practice rev. ed, 1991, p. 205ff. -- Editor]

First Latin American

Scholarship Society Applications Due June 30

Michigan Baptist Scholarship Society applicants should apply for financial aid for fall term 2009 by June 30 (October 15 for winter term). Completed applications must include all supporting documents.

Undergraduate scholarships are for up to $1,000, seminary scholarships are for up to $2,000, and the specific amounts will be determined depending on the number of qualified new and renewal applications and available funds.

Application forms may be downloaded from (pdf).

Bruce Carr of the Scholarship Society will contact people who are already MBSS recipients to see if they qualify for continued support.

Carr also suggests that each church adopt a minimum goal of one dollar per member per year of supporting MBSS and for pastors to mention MBSS when meeting with congregation members to discuss memorial gifts. Carr is glad to provide more information. Contact: MBSS, 23436 North Stockton Drive, Farmington Hills, MI 48336; 248-474-8916;

Volf Lectures Deal with Christian-Islam Commonalities and Differences

Wes Babian
Wes Babian

Dr. Miroslav Volf, Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School, brought the Waterman Memorial Lectures for 2009 at First Baptist Church of Ann Arbor on April 25. Entitled "The God of Jesus and the God of Muhammad", the lectures were underwritten in part by the ABC of Michigan and the ABC-MI Ministers’ Council.

Dr. Volf spoke to issues of theology and dialogue in faith between Christians and Muslims. In his opening remarks, he pointed out that, in the contemporary scene, this topic had been largely unexplored until the attacks of September 11, 2001. That event created the impetus for a new and deeper consideration of the question of whether Christians and Muslims share the same God.

He discussed points of commonality and differentiation between the two faiths, drawing heavily from the work of Martin Luther whose world was affected deeply by the advance of the Ottoman Empire on Europe. While there are important differences from that time, the circumstances we now face also bear parallels. Among other insights, Dr. Volf highlighted how Luther used the story of the encounter between Jesus and Samaritan woman as an example of an interfaith dialogue. This formed a very helpful way to think about the process.

In the second lecture Prof. Volf addressed four issues: a) the word used for God; b) the referent to the word used for God; c) the character or description of God -- here he acknowledged that even within the same faith tradition there exists variation; d) worship of God -- focused on “rightly worshipping the right God” and the biblical assertion that right worship is (my word) ethical.

Miroslav Volf showed himself to be clear and accessible in these lectures, underscoring his status as one of the preeminent theologians of our time. There was good interchange in the question and answer times. The audience was quite receptive to the lectures, and responded with valuable responses in agreement and disagreement. The audience included persons from both Christian and Islamic faiths.

He left me with the question: How can those who hold deep and principled convictions about their faith come to the table of interfaith dialogue in a spirit of mutual respect and interest in learning? It is in such a place that we gain deeper knowledge not only of the faith of another but of our own.

Sowing Seeds of Ministry -- Region Offering

Materials for the Sowing Seeds of Ministry Region offering have been mailed out to churches. If your church has not yet received materials, please call the Region office (800.632.2953). Your participation in this offering will support ABC-MI in continuing to:

• provide congregational enrichment and assessment resources
• support Ministry Leadership Groups for Pastors
• work with Pastoral Search Committees in times of transition
• equip young people to be future leaders
• resettle Burmese refugees
• enable the work of our ABC-USA missionaries
• sow seeds of the Gospel all across Michigan

Please consider a generous contribution as we sow seeds of ministry together. One such sowing seeds of ministry story follows. More stories may be found on our ABC-MI website,

Sowing Seeds

sowing seeds of friendship

As the Mission and Service Coordinator for American Baptist Women’s Ministries of Michigan, I find myself constantly on the lookout for interesting projects. One day, I was reading in our ABC-MI publication. E-Link Online, about Burmese refugees who have resettled in Battle Creek and who are being helped by the Region. When I read that they needed funds for driver education and English classes as well as help settling into new homes, I felt a stirring of the Spirit and thought the ladies could help with this.

When it came time to plan for Woman's Day, I experienced a real "God Sighting." The event was scheduled to be held in the West Area (which includes Battle Creek) and this seemed a providential opportunity to connect with our Burmese Baptist neighbors. So I contacted Rev. David Laisum, Associate Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Battle Creek and Rev. Van Lian, Pastor of the Battle Creek Chin Baptist Church, and together we planned Women’s Day. Hosted by First Baptist, women came from across Michigan bringing sheets, blankets, clothes, kitchen utensils and countless other items.

Van Lian and Flaton
Rev. Van Lian and Carol Flaton

The Burmese Christian Fellowship and youth from the Chin Baptist Church presented a program of music and dance expressing their rich cultural heritage. Pastor David and Pastor Van spoke personally and poignantly about the oppression and persecution of Christians in Burma and let us know how we could help. Over a wonderful lunch prepared by the Burmese women, we joined in fellowship and made new friends.

After Pastor Van shared his desire to bring Burmese youth together for a retreat at Camp Lael, we decided to raise $4,000 for youth camperships. So far we have 25 funded; we are hoping to reach 100! We would also like to raise $2,000 to help with refugee resettling costs. While the needs are great, we know that "Little is much When God is in It!"

Says Pastor Van, “The fruits of being part of ABC-MI and being able to partner with ABWM have been and are being reaped by the Chin refugees in Battle Creek. In 2008 alone more than twenty people received driver’s licenses. Thanks,ABC-MI! Praise and glory to God!

We are thankful for our new-found friends and for our ABC-MI Region that has brought us together!

David Laisum Receives Religious Worker Visa

Laisum Family
Pao, Devenish, and David Laisum

The First Baptist Church of Battle Creek recently celebrated the the granting of a Religious Worker Visa to the Rev. Dr. David Laisum. Laisum first came to the United States in 1988 on a student visa to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago Divinity School. He undertook doctoral studies to become a more effective teacher at the Myanmar Institute of Theology. Before completing his degree, he returned to Burma in response to the dire need for teachers. However, as hostilities increased towards Christians, particularly those who were developing new leaders in the faith, Laisum made the courageous decision to return to the U.S. with his family to complete his studies, to freely practice his faith, and to seek asylum.

In 2003 Rev. Laisum was called to serve the Burmese Christian Fellowship at the First Baptist Church of Battle Creek. For over six months he commuted weekly to Battle Creek from Chicago over wintry roads of ice and snow while preparing for his doctoral exams. (What a test of faith!) In 2004, when the Rev. Woody Johnson was called to serve FBC Battle Creek as Senior Pastor, Rev. Laisum was called to serve as Associate Pastor. After moving to Battle Creek with his wife Pao and son Devenish, Rev. Laisum began the process of applying for a Religious Worker Visa. This arduous journey finally ended with the recent notification that his status as a Religious Worker has been granted.

Dr. Laisum is thankful for the support of the whole congregation at First Baptist Battle Creek, the support of several ministers who have journeyed with him—Rev. Woody Johnson, Rev. Jason Crosby, Rev. Allen Rogers, and Rev. Ross Lucas—the support of Dr. Michael Williams, and the support of the Region he is now thankful to call home, ABC-MI. Without this tremendous support, Dr. Laisum is certain that the visa would never have been granted. Laisum is now excited to be turning his focus away from the visa ordeal to his ministry at First Baptist and the larger Battle Creek community. Comments Rev. Laisum, “Here at First Baptist, we are striving to be God’s church, a place where all people can come together, not on the basis of race or color or ethnicity but by the power of the Word of God, sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all.”

On-Line Youth Ministry Training

ABC-MI is partnering with ABCOPAD (American Baptist Churches of Pennsylvania and Delaware) and Eastern University to offer an exciting on-line Youth Ministry Training program. Students who complete the program will receive a Certificate in Youth Ministry from Eastern University and ABC-MI. Starting in the fall of 2009, the program will involve 20 on-line classes on successive Monday evenings as well as four weekends in which the students will meet with each other and the course instructor. The instructor, Rev. Eric Kraihanzel, is the Student Ministries Coordinator for ABCOPAD, teaches courses in Youth Ministry at Eastern University, and has over 18 years of experience in youth ministry. The cost of $2400 covers all the on-line sessions, the weekend training events and the Certificate in Youth Ministry. For more information, visit our website, or contact Rev. Pat Hernandez (

Gloria Mission Concert

Short Notices

Office of Community Development of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority has posted a list of job openings with various non-profits involved in housing ministries. See the list here. (Thanks to Rev. Jabulani McCalister of Greater Christ Baptist Church, Detroit, for forwarding this information.

Save the date of September 26, 2009, for the Annual Golf Outing for Friendship House at Fox Creek Golf Club in Livonia.

The Friendship House Newsletter is now provided in both PDF and DOC formats. The DOC format is a much smaller file and will take much less time to acquire on slow dialup connections. Read it in PDF at or in DOC format at

The next issue of E-Link Online will be published on June 1, 2009. Please send news items and notices to the Editor ( by May 28.

Worth Repeating

In an age of information overload, when a vast variety of media delivers news faster than most of us can digest—when many of us have at least two e-mail addresses, two telephone numbers, and one fax number—the last thing any of us needs is more information about God. We need the practice of incarnation, by which God saves the lives of those whose intellectual assent has turned as dry as dust, who have run frighteningly low on the bread of life, who are dying to know more God in their bodies. Not more about God. More God. -- Barbara Brown Taylor, The Christian Century (, 1/27/09, cited in Context, June 2009

Editor's Trips

Disclaimer: listing of these references does not imply endorsement of positions or policies advocated in them by either the American Baptist Churches of Michigan or the editor of E-Link Online. They are provided here for further thought, discussion, inquiry, and an occasional laugh. Caveat lector. Suggestions for "Trips" and readers' comments are welcome. Send to

The Editor
The Editor
»»  The Right Kind of Religion Would Bring Back the Young --
»»  John Calvin Foresaw "The Market as God" --
»»  Worship Has Become An "Experience of Courtly Love" --
»»  The Idea of Progress is "Superstition" --
»»  Translating the Faith to Our Time is Huge Challenge --
»»  Why Aren't Evangelical Christians Bothered by Torture? --
»»  Teen Claims "Call" Exempts Him from Chores --
»»  Becoming a Community of Blessing -- "Paying It Forward" (Thanks, Ray Strawser)