“We got it! We got it!” Dr. Luther Wesley Smith exclaimed to James Kraft upon learning that the Northern Baptists’ offer to buy the bankrupt Lawsonia Country Club was accepted on December 7, 1943.
Dr. Smith, executive secretary of the Northern Baptist Board of Education and Publication, had been looking for a national conference center for Northern Baptists. He enlisted the aid of James Kraft of Kraft Foods, Inc. as well as leaders of the denomination about acquiring a “fabulous former estate”—Lawsonia Country Club, which had closed in 1942. Lawsonia was purchased in December 1943, and the Northern Baptist Assembly was born.
Baptist youth held the first conference in June 1944, and the slogan “For a Closer Walk with God” was adopted. Hundreds of Kansas Baptist youth were inspired to present the lighted cross on Judson Tower in 1945 in gratitude for the hallowed grounds and their meaning for generations to come. The conference center became a key meeting place for great Baptist leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who spoke at Green Lake in 1956 and 1957.
The conference center is an officially associated ministry of American Baptist Churches USA and is managed by a board of directors. When the Northern Baptist Convention changed its name to American Baptist Churches, the conference center followed suit and became known as the American Baptist Assembly. In the 1980s, its name changed again to Green Lake Conference Center (GLCC) to more fully describe the scope of guests and groups served.
Its founding purpose statement is an ecumenical vision for Christian leadership training. While GLCC continues to be the warm spiritual home for American Baptists, it’s also treasured by many other denominations, nonprofits, and educational groups. GLCC relies on financial and volunteer support from individuals and churches as it continues to invest in improvements to its great facilities for guests.
The year 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of the conference center. Celebratory events are planned for the week of August 6 through 9, 2019. Check GLCC’s Facebook page and website for details. GLCC is a place where God moves and the Holy Spirit works. Connections are made at this place and space of re-creation for people to discover God’s better version of themselves and their worlds.
For more information visit glcc.org .
Jean Cornelius is the communications director at Green Lake Conference Center.