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BWA honors Duke McCall

A session in honor of Duke McCall, president of the Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) from 1980-1985, was held during the BWA Annual Gathering in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, from July 1-6.

A resolution passed by the General Council, which convened during the Gathering, commends "McCall as an instructive model for denominational service and leadership as a Baptist educator."

At the session in McCall's honor, BWA President John Upton spoke of his personal experience of McCall's humility and kindness while he was a student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), where McCall was president from 1951-1982.

BWA General Secretary Neville Callam also spoke about the insights he had gained into the character of McCall as he researched BWA literature. He spoke of the humanity of a man who conveyed deep self confidence that did nothing to conceal his own sense of personal vulnerability.

Bob Garrett, Piper Professor of Missions at Dallas Baptist University in the state of Texas in the United States, used a multi-media presentation to trace the life of McCall, beginning with his birth in Meridian, Mississippi, his upbringing in Memphis, Tennessee, through his schooling at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. The presentation moved on to McCall's early days at SBTS where he earned a doctorate in Old Testament studies. Garrett also described McCall's tenure as pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, his retirement, recent passing and his funeral service in Louisville.

McCall "was one of the towering figures of Baptist life... who contributed in multiple ways to his own religious body, the Southern Baptist Convention in the USA," Garrett said. McCall registered "an astonishing chain of achievements in rapid succession" and "brokered important agreements with other denominational bodies."

Garrett recalled McCall's presidency of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and SBTS. McCall opened the doors of SBTS to African American and women students "in opposition to prevailing views." Under McCall's leadership, the SBTS facilitated the integration of black students when it was still illegal to do so under Kentucky law.

As head of the BWA, Garrett said McCall "has left a strong footprint" as "a global leader with an expansive vision of the role Baptists should play in the world."

Garrett cited books by McCall, including God's Hurry, which called for worldwide evangelistic outreach, and Passport to the World, written with W. A. Criswell after a globe-hopping trip at the behest of the BWA, appealing to various governments to allow American missionaries.

Present at the session was McCall's son, attorney at law Duke McCall, Jr., who conveyed the thanks of the McCall family.

McCall died on April 2 this year. He was 98 years old.

Baptist World Alliance®
© July 14, 2013

BWA tells Baptists to take child abuse seriously

The Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) is urging its member organizations to protect children from sexual abuse.

Baptists should take "urgent action to implement measures to protect children from abuse, support their physical and emotional welfare, and respond to allegations of abuse," the BWA said in a resolution passed by its General Council in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

Special care should be taken "to ensure the suitability of persons working with children in the context of Baptist churches." Efforts should be made to make official checks against registers of criminal convictions and to put in place proper disciplinary procedures where there has been substantiated abuse of children.

Baptists, the BWA said, should take action even in instances "where the complainant has not contacted police, the police have not pressed charges, the police do not consider there is enough evidence, or the prosecuting authority has dropped the case."

The BWA "urges all Baptist churches, conventions and unions to take seriously every case of alleged child sexual abuse, to ensure that proper rules and processes are in place to protect children from harm and to promptly respond to allegations."

It expresses "profound sorrow at the ways in which children have been betrayed, harmed and sexually or otherwise abused." The international umbrella organization for Baptists in 120 countries repents of any failure by Baptists anywhere "to protect and of the failure to care for those who have been abused." It regrets instances of "neglect to implement and enforce effective policies and processes to protect children from abuse and of the silence of many of our churches on these issues in the past."

Baptists, the BWA said, should abide by "biblical teaching on the nurture and care of children."  Attention should be given to "the spiritual and social development of children through the ministry of the local church, and the contributions that children make to the life and mission of the church."

The General Council convened during the BWA Annual Gathering that was held in Jamaica from July 1-6.

Baptist World Alliance®
© July 6, 2013


South Africa getting ready to host the world

Baptists in South Africa are making preparations to host thousands of Baptists from around the globe during the 21st Baptist World Congress in the city of Durban in July 2015.

"We want people to have the ubuntu experience," said Paul Msiza, a vice president of the Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) and chair of the congress Local Arrangements Committee (LAC). Ubuntu is a distinctive South African word that speaks to African hospitality and respect for each other.

"We are intentional about making the congress a truly international gathering with an African flavor, declared Emmett Dunn, the BWA staff person who has special responsibility for meetings and conferences. "Bible study sessions will be multilingual. Bible study materials will be written from a world perspective and will be made available on the BWA website prior to the congress."

Dunn said "we will plan the congress in such a way that those who attend will experience the city of Durban." He encouraged African Baptists to "show real African hospitality to their international guests."

The four BWA member organizations in the country – the Baptist Union of Southern Africa, the Baptist Convention of South Africa (BCSA), the Baptist Association of South Africa and the Baptist Mission of South Africa – have joined together to ensure that the next congress will be memorable for all the right reasons.

Msiza, who is the immediate past general secretary of the BCSA, told the BWA there are currently 16 subcommittees comprising a total of 90 persons from all four Baptist groups that are engaged in preparations for the event, which will be the first Baptist World Congress on the African continent.  The LAC itself has 20 members from the four South African Baptist organizations.

There are committees for worship, prayer, music and mission as well as for accommodation, transportation, translation, promotions and marketing, medical and security, volunteers and technical matters.

The LAC is also in the process of forming another subcommittee in association with the convention bureau, a unit within the South African tourism board and the International Convention Centre Durban to look into technical needs on the ground.

"We are currently negotiating for housing with universities and home stays," Msiza explained. "We are also working on visa issues especially on the behalf of countries for which South Africa has stringent rules for visa applications and immigration."

Promotion of the congress begins in earnest on July 27 with a special breakfast in Durban and the official launch of the logo. Similar events will be held in other major South African cities such as Cape Town, Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Msiza said Baptists attending the congress will have opportunities for mission and to go on tours before and after the event. Mission opportunities may include visits to orphanages, HIV/AIDS projects, evangelism and light construction work such as painting and repairs.

Tour packages may include the Robben Island prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years during the apartheid era; Soweto, a township that was the scene of many of the struggles against apartheid; the Zulu Kingdom; and Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in Africa.

Registration information for the Baptist World Congress, which will be from July 22-26, 2015, will become available as of November 1. The congress theme is "Jesus the Door."

Baptist World Alliance®

© July 6, 2013

Baptists urge US to lift Cuban embargo

The General Council of the Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) passed a resolution asking the government of the United States to lift its long standing embargo on Cuba.

The US embargo against Cuba was first imposed in October 1960, was strengthened in 1962 and codified into law in 1993. It includes commercial, economic, financial and travel prohibitions and restrictions.

"The BWA urges the US government to end the embargo of Cuba and re-establish formal diplomatic relations with the Cuban government" and "lift all remaining restrictions on travel to Cuba by US citizens." Both governments need to "set in place a process for negotiating legitimate bilateral grievances."

Essentially asserting that the embargo is irrelevant, the council, which comprises Baptist leaders from around the world, said "more than two decades have passed since the end of the Cold War, and that most manifestations of that struggle have been ameliorated or abolished, except for the continuing United States embargo against Cuba begun in 1960."

The embargo, the resolution claims, serves no useful purpose. "The interests of neither nation – nor those of the international family of nations – are served by the status quo." Rather, "the lifting of the embargo will improve living conditions for Cubans and provide greater opportunities for commerce, education, and travel."

The BWA governing body noted that several of its member organizations in the US "have been on record for more than two decades in opposition to the embargo" and that "annually for the past 21 years the United Nations General Assembly has voted – nearly unanimously – for an end to the embargo."

The council expressed concern about the effect the embargo has on Baptists on the Caribbean island, which has the fastest growing Baptist membership in the Caribbean. "The Baptist World Alliance® stands in solidarity with Cuban Baptists who have been negatively impacted by this embargo."

The General Council convened during the Annual Gathering that was held in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, from July 1-6.

Baptist World Alliance®
© July 6, 2013

George Liele, first Baptist missionary

Presenters at a forum on the work, mission and legacy of George Liele at the Baptist World Alliance® Annual Gathering declared him the first Baptist missionary. Liele, a freed slave from the United States, planted the first Baptist church in Jamaica in 1783.

Noel Erskine, professor at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta in the United States, said that "With his migration to Jamaica in 1783, Liele became America's first missionary, 33 years before Adoniram Judson sailed for Burma and 10 years before William Carey of England sailed for India."

Liele, who was ordained in 1775, is also regarded as the first black person in the US to be ordained a Baptist pastor, and likely the first black Baptist pastor in the world. He planted churches in Savannah, Georgia.

His ministry in the US influenced others who went on to found significant Baptist work, including David George, baptized by Liele and who left Savannah  for the Canadian Province of Nova Scotia and then later to Sierra Leone in Africa, where he started Baptist churches in both countries.  Others included Jesse Peters in South Carolina, Hannah Williams in England and Andrew Bryan in Savannah.

Moses Baker, another freed slave from the US who was converted under Liele's ministry in Jamaica, was instrumental in starting Baptist work in the western part of the island. Liele had concentrated his work in the capital Kingston and surrounding areas in the east.

According to Horace Russell, retired professor of historical theology at Palmer Theological Seminary near Philadelphia in the US, aspects of Liele's model for ministry were adopted by the British missionaries. Missionaries from Britain started arriving in Jamaica early in the 19th century in response to appeals for assistance with the growing Baptist work on the island.

The session on the legacy of George Liele was one of several issues explored by the more than 400 Baptist leaders, theologians, teachers, pastors and others from 40 countries during the course of the BWA Annual Gathering from July 1-6 in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

Baptist World Alliance®
© July 5, 2013