BWA has deep “ecclesial density”

Baptists groups utilize a variety of names to describe their groupings. They self-identify as unions, conventions, conferences, assemblies, associations, fellowships and councils.

Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Secretary Neville Callam says these names “reflect the perplexing diversity that marks the Baptist family worldwide.”

Callam, who delivered the 2017 Willson-Addis Lecture at Baylor University in Texas in the United States in March, says “lurking behind these names are multiple ecclesiologies, but also the multiple cultures – diverse customs and traditions – found within the global Baptist family.”

He suggests that the BWA has had to negotiate the varied Baptist understandings and practices while forging a worldwide movement toward unity of Baptist Christians. The BWA has been careful to state, in its early formative documents, what it is not.

The BWA, for instance, “was not a body with supervisory powers over the churches”; it “was not authorized to exercise juridical power over individual churches and the unions and conventions they establish”; it “would not trample on the autonomy of its member bodies”; and it “would not compete with, or duplicate the work of, the churches forming it.”

But Callam insists that the “BWA is not a mere body of affinity. It is not simply a fellowship of likeminded persons…. Nor is the BWA merely a voluntary association of people claiming to share a common heritage.”

Rather, the BWA is “a fellowship or communion of churches… that exist in association with each other.” This association has “ecclesial density.”

The BWA provides “guardianship of congregational authority” while, at the same time, demonstrating and embodying “commitment to the furtherance of Baptist oneness.” Drawing on the works of Stanley Grenz and Paul Fiddes, Callam suggests that the groundwork exists for Baptists united in the BWA to adopt “a distinctively Baptist communion ecclesiology.”

This understanding of the church in communion terms is “strong enough to contain the variety of ways in which Baptist life is ordered” locally, nationally, regionally and globally. It is also dynamic enough to include relationships with church groups outside the BWA community.

The Willson-Addis Lecture at Truett Seminary, Baylor University, examines practical Christianity from a variety of perspectives within the Judeo-Christian tradition. Past lecturers included Philip Jenkins, Stanley Grenz, Ronald Sider and Diana Garland.

Baptist World Alliance®
©April 4, 2016

 

BWA supports creation of faculty chair in Netherlands

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) has endorsed the decision of the Baptist Union of the Netherlands (BUN) to create the McClendon Chair at the Free University in Amsterdam.  The BWA Executive Committee meeting in early March also agreed to co-sponsor the establishment of the chair.

The BUN received clearance for a chair on Baptist History, Identity and Theology at the university in April 2009.

The chair is being established in collaboration with Free University and the International Baptist Theological Study Centre (IBTSC), both located in Amsterdam.

The invested chair will be known as the McClendon Chair for Baptistic and Evangelical Theologies. “This chair, being rooted in the Free Church tradition, can stimulate and supervise research on historical, ecclesiological and missional questions,” BUN explained.

It is named after James McClendon, Jr., an outstanding Baptist theologian and ethicist from the United States who taught at several theological institutions. He helped found what became known as the narrative theology movement in the late 1960s.

“His three volumes on systematic theology exhibit profound knowledge of European and American theology, as it specifically revolves around the retrieval of the baptistic tradition,” BUN said.

“McClendon’s theology proves even more beneficial and relevant than decades before, because in the present demise of grand narrative of the church, Christian life should be spoken of in terms of diaspora ecclesiology.”

Contributions to the McClendon Chair may be made online at www.bwanet.org/give. Online donors may write “McClendon Chair” in the comment section inside the donation system.

For check donations, persons should write “McClendon Chair” on the memo line. Checks may be sent to:|

Baptist World Alliance
405 North Washington Street
Falls Church, VA 22046
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Baptist World Alliance®
©March 24, 2016

 

Refugee doctor to receive human rights award

Cynthia Maung, a medical doctor who has devoted nearly 30 years to providing healthcare to refugees from Myanmar living on the Thai-Myanmar border, will be the 2017 recipient of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award.

The award is given for significant and effective activities to secure, protect, restore or preserve human rights as stated in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other declarations on human rights.

The award presentation will be made by the General Council, which convenes during the BWA Annual Gathering in Bangkok, Thailand, from July 2-7.


Maung was among the displaced Karen who fled to and settled in Mae Sot on the border between Thailand and Myanmar.

Since 1949, the Karen people, an ethnic minority group in Myanmar, have been fighting for an independent Karen State. Hundreds of thousands of Karen and others from various ethnic groups have been killed in the conflict and many Karen have fled across the border into Thailand.

In February 1989, five months after escaping Myanmar, Maung established the Mae Tao Medical Clinic with a staff of six in a dilapidated building in Mae Sot. In the early days, she sterilized her medical instruments in a rice cooker. At its original location, the clinic was frequently affected by natural disasters such as floods. It has since relocated to a safer building.

The clinic was opened in response to the prevalence of infectious and other diseases such as malaria and pneumonia in Mae Sot and other refugee camps. It received support from Baptists in Thailand and elsewhere, the Karen and residents of Mae Sot.

Using donated medical supplies, the malaria epidemic was brought under control. Trauma victims with gunshot wounds and injuries from landmines received treatment, as well as those who needed maternity care and HIV counseling.

By 2003, the clinic was treating more than 42,000 patients per year and had a staff that included six doctors, 86 health workers, 150 other medical and administrative staff members and 20-40 international volunteers per year. 

The clinic, which now has a staff of more than 600, delivers up to 15 babies per day and fits 250 new and replacement prosthetic limbs each year. It treats between 300 and 400 patients daily, or up to 150,000 annually, including refugees, migrant workers and locals.

In addition to medical treatments, the Mae Tao Medical Clinic trains medical interns, nurses and hygienists. Its social programs include feeding more than 500 people twice each day.

Maung’s clinical interests in obstetrics and women’s reproductive health have broadened to include issues of domestic violence and human rights.

More than 50 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), international organizations, educational institutions and individual donors have supported the clinic and its programs.

Maung, the fourth of eight children, was born into a Baptist Karen family near the city of Moulmein, Myanmar, in 1959. “Dr. Cynthia Maung is a woman of faith who has committed her life selflessly for the welfare of the poor and oppressed,” the BWA Executive Committee was told. ”She is a member of the the Kawthloolei Karen Baptist Churches and involved with the Asia Pacific Baptist Federation women’s work.”

She entered the Institute of Medicine II in Yangon (formerly Rangoon), the medical school in which Karen, Mons, Arakanese and other minority students in Myanmar are concentrated.

After graduating medical school in 1985, she worked in a private maternity clinic in Bassein, operated by her great-aunt, a nurse, in the beginning of her specialization in obstetrics and gynecology. She left that facility and worked at a clinic in the village of Eaim Du to be near her ill mother. Political crisis and unrest in the country in 1988 led to her and others fleeing.

Maung had previously received the Jonathan Mann Award, sponsored by Swiss and US health organizations, in 1999; Southeast Asia’s Ramon Magsaysay Award for community leadership in 2002; the Sydney Peace Prize in 2013; and the South Korean POSCO TJ Park Prize in 2015. She was named one of Time magazine’s Asian Heroes in 2003.

 Baptist World Alliance®
©March 8, 2016

 

Anthony R. Cross to address special forum on baptism in Bangkok

Baptist World Alliance General Secretary Callam has announced that internationally recognized Baptist scholar, Anthony R. Cross, will be the presenter at a special forum on baptism that will be included in the program of the upcoming BWA Annual Gathering.

The Gathering, which will take place in Bangkok, Thailand, from July 2-7, brings together an international group of Baptist leaders, theologians, teachers, pastors and other representatives for worship, fellowship, study, theological reflection and decision-making.

Anthony R. Cross is adjunct supervisor at The International Baptist Theological Study Centre in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

He is author of two highly regarded books. His Baptism and Baptists: Theology and Practice in Twentieth-Century Britain (2000) has been described by David Bebbington of the University of Sterling as placing “twentieth-century Baptist convictions about baptism clearly in their context, showing with particular force how they have been affected by ecumenical involvement.”


His Recovering the Evangelical Sacrament: Baptisma Semper Reformandum (2012) is “highly recommended” by Timothy George of Beeson Seminary, Samford University. George likens the book to Beasley-Murray’s classic on baptism in that its author “brings new insight to the indispensable role of Christian initiation in both personal faith and the life of the church.”

With Philip Thompson, Cross co-edited Baptist Sacramentalism (2003) and Baptist Sacramentalism 2 (2006). The former is described by Barry Harvey of Baylor University as “a must read for all those seeking to come to terms with the central role played by the sacraments in the life and mission of the church.” Paul Fiddes of Oxford University describes the latter as opening out “new thinking on sacraments for the present day, for the benefit of the whole Church of Christ.”

Cross is editor of Ecumenism and History: Studies in Honour of John H. Y. Briggs (2002). He is one of the editors responsible for Semper Reformandum: Studies in Honour of Clark H. Pinnock (2003), Baptist Identities (2005), Global Baptist History (2006), On Being the Church (2006) and Recycling the Past or Researching History? (2006).

Cross, who will deliver two lectures entitled “Baptism – Who Cares? Baptists and Baptism in Recent Thought” and “Saved through Baptism: A Sacramental Baptist View,” will explore recent developments in Baptist understanding and practice of baptism, vis-à-vis the biblical mandate. 

Admission to the lectures will be free to all participants in the Gathering as well as interested guests.

Correction: The following correction has been made to the story: "Anthony R. Cross is a member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford in England." Cross no longer holds this position. 

Baptist World Alliance®
©March 20, 2016

A Baptist World Alliance statement on refugees

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) reaffirms its biblical stance concerning refugees, vulnerable people who are oftentimes victimized for their faith.

In a resolution approved by its General Council in Vancouver, Canada, in July 2016, the BWA calls upon its "member bodies, affiliated churches, and individual believers to actively embrace opportunities for Christian ministry and witness that exemplify the biblical teaching to love the stranger (Lev. 19:18b) and Jesus’ teaching to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-40), being salt and light in ways that bring the values of our Lord into our culture.”

The resolution further encourages Christian believers "to personally engage with all refugees and displaced persons, generously showing God’s love and care as we demonstrate the sufficiency of God made known through Jesus Christ.”

In light of this resolution passed a little more than six months ago and previous resolutions in 2011 and 2013, the BWA decries recent actions by the United States Government to issue a blanket travel ban on seven countries that specifically targets refugees and that seems to especially affect Muslims.

These actions are already having a negative impact on the lives of families. It has adversely affected service providers who work directly with refugees and has created unexpected difficulties for Baptist institutions in the United States, such as universities and seminaries, with students enrolled from the seven named countries.

While the BWA recognizes that a government has a right to create and maintain conditions that provide for the safety of its citizens, there is a temptation to give in to fear and to hastily pursue misguided policies that will have deleterious long-term effects and that undermine freedom of religion.

We accept this is not a situation that has emerged quickly and is in part a response to longstanding problems in these seven countries. We decry unjust actions that are too often left unaddressed and conditions that are allowed to deteriorate.

We note that in Iraq, Christians, Yazidis and others face genocide at the hands of the Islamic State. Over the last decade, the Christian population in Iraq has shrunk from 1.5 million to less than 200,000.

In Yemen, a Global Alert from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network indicates that Yemen is at risk of the highest level of food insecurity.

Syria is one of the most complex conflicts and humanitarian situations in our world that has devastated the country, which faces a future of trauma and rebuilding.

Baptists, fellow Christians and all people of goodwill should work to reverse conditions that lead to displacement in these and other countries and for peace, harmony and justice to prevail.

The BWA commends Baptists in countries such as Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Germany, Sweden, Croatia, Serbia and elsewhere, who have embodied the biblical mandate to stand with the vulnerable and to extend Christian hospitality. We support Baptists in the United States who offer welcome and provide assistance.

Baptist World Alliance®
© February 3, 2016