Less than two years on the job and on the heels of medical leave, Lee Spitzer has announced plans to retire as general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA at the end of 2019.
Spitzer, former executive minister of American Baptist Churches of New Jersey who began leading the 1.3 million-member national body in June 2017, returned to work March 1 after a six-month medical leave to recover from open heart surgery.
Spitzer, 61, said in an open letter initially read to the ABCUSA Board of General Ministries Executive Committee the decision is based on “divine guidance” and “not any dissatisfaction” with the office or American Baptists in general.
“Toward the end of the medical leave, while in prayerful conversation with God, I believe that I received specific guidance concerning my post-recovery journey,” said the letter, post-dated March 1. “Accordingly, I would like to share with all of you in the ABCUSA family my intention to retire from administrative and pastoral leadership as ABCUSA General Secretary on December 31, 2019.”
Spitzer, an American Baptist minister for four decades, cited a life-long dream to retire at age 62, a milestone he expects to reach April 30.
“When I embraced the call to serve as General Secretary, I reluctantly accepted that an early retirement might not be possible,” he said. “However, in light of the medical leave, I believe retiring by the end of this year is not only best for me personally (health-wise), but an appropriate response to the insights I have gained while on medical leave.”
Susan Gillies, who preceded Spitzer as interim general secretary and like him has undergone open heart surgery to replace the aortic valve, said, “I deeply respect Lee’s decision and know it to be the result of true spiritual discernment.”
Roy Medley, who served as ABCUSA general secretary 14 years before retiring at the end of 2015, affirmed Spitzer’s decision to step down “as wise and as that which best serves the needs of his health, his family and ABC.”
Spitzer said he plans to remain busy during his final months of ministry, focusing on several key projects in 2019 including the upcoming Biennial Mission Summit scheduled June 21-23 in Virginia Beach, Virginia.