An Alliance of Baptists leader is applauding new policies easing restrictions on travel and trade with Cuba unveiled by the Obama administration March 15.
In advance of President Obama’s historic visit to Cuba next week, the Treasury and Commerce departments announced regulatory changes to make it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba, expand access to U.S. financial institutions and the U.S. dollar from Cuba and expand the ability for Cubans living in the U.S. to earn a salary.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the policy goal is to improve the lives of Cubans and to advance the interests of the United States.
“The president fundamentally believes that the best way to achieve that goal is by facilitating more interaction between the Cuban and American people, including through travel and commercial opportunities, and through more access to information,” Earnest said.
At its annual gathering last year, the Alliance of Baptists adopted a statement that called for ending an economic embargo imposed against Cuba in 1960, lifting restrictions on travel and commending the restoration of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba.
Started in 1987, the Alliance of Baptists since 1991 has been in partnership with the Fraternity of Baptist Churches in Cuba, a group started by socially progressive churches expelled from the Baptist Convention of Western Cuba in 1989.
Today the Fraternity consists of 43 churches and more than 60 missions. Nearly half are in a sister-church partnership with Alliance congregations in the United States. Through those relationships, many Alliance congregations learned firsthand the impact of U.S. political and economic policies on Cuba’s citizens.
“We believe now is the time to bring an end to the embargo,” said Paula Clayton Dempsey, the Alliance’s director for partnership relations. “Both the Alliance and the Fraternity of Baptists in Cuba yearn for a time when we can exchange visits and resources unhindered.”
The 2106 Alliance of Baptists annual gathering is scheduled April 8-10 at Kirkwood Baptist Church in St. Louis. Keynote speakers include Black Lives Matter organizer Traci Blackmon, acting executive of justice and witness ministries for the United Church of Christ; feminist Bible scholar Phyllis Trible; and Kyndall Rae Rothaus, pastor of Lake Shore Baptist Church in Waco, Texas.
Preceding this year’s annual gathering April 7 is a first-time Festival of Young (Women) Preachers at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis.
Inspired by the Academy of Preachers, founded in 2008 by former Georgetown College chapel dean Dwight Moody, the festival is intended to provide young preachers with encouragement, feedback and support as they explore their calling.