Callam calls on Baptists worldwide to unite

Callam calling on Baptists to unite at the closing session of the Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa on July 26In a statement at the closing plenary session of the 21st Baptist World Congress in South Africa on July 26, Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Secretary Neville Callam renewed a call for the unity of the worldwide Baptist family.

In the address, Callam called attention to the jubilant occasion in July 1905 when the original BWA constitution was agreed by the delegates at the inaugural Baptist World Congress.

He drew attention to the emphasis the originators of the BWA placed on the organization as an expression of "the essential oneness in Christ" of Baptist churches worldwide. This was against the background of a perception of the worldwide Baptist witness as being weak and divided at the time.

Callam said those who formed the BWA were keen to emphasize that the worldwide fellowship being formed was to signify or express the oneness in Christ of Baptist churches worldwide. “The BWA was to become a vehicle for both the expression of that oneness and the furtherance of Baptist unity,” he said.

The BWA leader urged contemporary Baptists to affirm the importance of unity as a central focus of the BWA. “I believe that the BWA continues to have the vocation of giving expression, and bearing witness, to Baptist unity in Christ,” he told the more than 2,500 participants from more than 80 countries attending the congress in Durban. “The BWA has the calling to model this unity in our life as a denominational community and to serve as a vital instrument that helps Baptists overcome fragmentation and division.”

At the same time, Baptists ought to recognize that they are part of a wider global community of Christians, with Callam declaring that Baptists share with “other Christians the one body of Christ.”

In a final appeal, Callam urged Baptists to commit to the core principles of the BWA, which are preaching the Good News of the kingdom, practicing responsible Christian discipleship, defending those who are persecuted and identifying with people in need not only by contributing to their relief, but also by working to remove the systems and structures that perpetuate injustice.

Callam challenged Baptist Christians to “keep the word of God in our hearts and let us model a loving and united movement of Baptist Christians,” going “forward as a people who are united in God our Savior.”

The congress, which had as its theme, “Jesus Christ, the Door,” was held July 22 to 26 at the International Convention Center in Durban. It was the first Baptist World Congress in Africa since the first in London, England, in 1905.

The 2020 celebration will, for the first time, combine the Baptist World Congress with the Baptist Youth World Conference. It will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

 Baptist World Alliance®
© July 28, 2015

Going through the door of opportunity

Joel Gregory of the United States speaking during the last plenary session of the Baptist World Congress in South Africa on July 26Each person has a unique door through which God is leading him or her, said Joel Gregory, professor at Baylor University’s Truett Seminary in the state of Texas in the United States.

Gregory delivered the keynote address at the last plenary session of the 21st Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa, on July 26, which ended on a high note of celebration.

Gregory called on the gathering of more than 2,500 Baptist Christians from more than 80 countries to make a commitment to discover the door of opportunity that God has opened for them.

He explained that there is a personal door for each individual. “Understand that each door is a personal door, a door for me,” he emphasized. The prayer of the individual should be, “God show me my door. God, open my door. God, give me the will to walk through my door.”

At times, Gregory explained, “God brings the door to you rather than bring you to the door.” One can discern the door of opportunity by listening to the Spirit within us, knowledge and awareness of the scriptures before us and sensitivity to the circumstances around us.

 

But the professor of preaching, legendary for his oratory, warned the gathering that opportunity often comes with opposition. It is rare to have the first without the second. “If you are going to live and work for Jesus Christ opportunity and opposition will always go hand in hand,” he said to the responsive gathering. “But this should not surprise us.”

However, opposition should not thwart the Christian believer because “we serve a Lord who turned the ultimate opposition into the ultimate opportunity. No one turned opposition into opportunity like Jesus.” Jesus turned what seemed like ultimate defeat, his death as a criminal on a cross, into ultimate victory, transforming “the cross of shame into the symbol of salvation.”

The congress, which had as its theme, “Jesus Christ, the Door,” was held July 22 to 26 at the International Convention Center in Durban. It was the first Baptist World Congress in Africa since the first in London, England, in 1905.

The 2020 celebration will, for the first time, combine the Baptist World Congress with the Baptist Youth World Conference. It will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

 Baptist World Alliance®
© July 27, 2015

Love-based Christianity

Baptists from around the world were reminded of the power of love within the Christian community.

Donald Ndichafah, vice president of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship and former general secretary of the Cameroon Baptist Convention, was speaking during the 21st Baptist World Congress being held in Durban, South Africa.

This love, according to Ndichafa, has several characteristics. He said this love begins with opening up oneself to and giving oneself to God. “A person must come to a point in life that he senses an emptiness that cannot be satisfied by any human agency or material thing,” he told the several thousand Baptists gathered at the International Convention Center in Durban.

The opening of oneself to God comes by repentance, which is “to consciously reject our wrong ways and consciously embrace God’s way as being the best.” Repentance signifies that “we come to God on His terms, not ours.”

Christian love is selfless and unselfish, even to the point of being sacrificial, according to the Cameroon Baptist leader. He warned that Christians should guard against focusing more on self than on ministry. “You have not known love until you begin to give, and to give sacrificially.” This sacrificial love was exemplified by God who gave sacrificially through Jesus Christ, the Son.

Experiencing the love of Christ is an imperative to share that love with others. “When the love of God begins to overflow in your life, it is time to become a bridge which connects others to Jesus Christ, the Door to God’s love,” Ndichafa declared.

Having encountered and experienced Gods’ love in Christ, it is the believer’s responsibility to expand that love among others.

Video of the plenary worship service may be viewed on the BWA website at www.bwanet.org.

The congress, which has as its theme, “Jesus Christ, the Door,” continues from July 22 to 26 at the International Convention Center in Durban.

 Baptist World Alliance®
© July 26, 2015

Brazilian called world Baptists to discipleship

Luiz Soares Silvado of Brazil speaking during the Baptist World Congress in South AfricaLuiz Soares Silvado, former president of the Brazilian Baptist Convention and newly installed vice president of the Baptist World Alliance, encouraged a gathering of Baptists in South Africa to make a determined commitment to discipleship.

Speaking during the 21st Baptist World Congress in Durban on Saturday, July 25, Silvado argued that discipleship is at the core of the Christian experience. One should, however, be clear as to what discipleship is and what it means.

The Brazilian Baptist made a distinction between discipleship that is simply the passing on of information and discipleship that results in formation. “We must not only hear about Jesus, but be formed into/by His character,” he told the roughly 2,500 Baptist Christians gathered in the coastal city.

He cautioned against “mindless Christianity,” one based solely or primarily on ritual, social activism or experience.

 

 

While not discounting the importance of these, Silvado indicated that because many Christians regard religious ceremony as an end in itself, because many Christians are solely concerned about matters connected to hunger and violence, and because many ignore, disregard or even reject doctrine, “they cannot understand biblical truth and Christian thought” and thus “lack the character and mind of Christ.”

Jesus, he said, both informs the mind and forms the character. But formation is paramount. “A church that invests in formation believes in a continuous discipleship. It is something that the disciple does and submits to for all his [and her] life.”

This formation must pay particular attention to the preparation of young and future leaders, “because there are risks in allowing new leaders and younger generations to take strategic positions.” There is the need for “continuous discipleship that enables the formation of Christian character in order to develop spiritual consciousness,” he told the group of Baptists from more than 80 countries. At the same time, Baptists must trust God to “empower new generation” of leaders.

Recalling the words of Joao Soren of Brazil, who was BWA president in the 1960s, Silvado asserted that mindless discipleship includes prayers he described as “slothful prayer, empty prayer, vain prayer.” Discipleship involves doing, acting.

“We ask God to save sinners but we are not available to take the message of salvation to them. We ask God for resources for His work, for the expansion of His Kingdom and we close our wallets,” said Soren, through an audio recording played to the gathering.

These are “slothful prayers” that are “almost blasphemous.”

Each Christian is called to serve, Silvado insisted. “Each one has the task of taking the Gospel message.” God, Silvado said, “uses the testimony of witnesses, messengers, preachers, missionaries,” and all Christian believers.

Video of the plenary worship service may be viewed on the BWA website at www.bwanet.org.

The congress, which has as its theme, “Jesus Christ, the Door,” continues from July 22 to 26 at the International Convention Center in Durban.

Baptist World Alliance®
© July 26, 2015

 

African installed president of global Baptist body

New BWA President Paul Msiza of South Africa being congratulated by outgoing President John Upton and General Secretary Neville CallamNgwedla Paul Msiza of South Africa was installed as the second African to be president of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), the global organization for Baptist Christians. The ceremony took place on July 25 during the Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa.

Msiza succeeds John Upton of the United States, and is the first African to hold the office since William Tolbert of Liberia served as president of the BWA from 1965-1970. Tolbert was later elected president of Liberal in 1971 until he was overthrown and assassinated in a military coup in 1980.

A BWA vice president from 2010-2015, Msiza has been actively involved in the BWA since 2000, serving on its governing bodies and several key committees and commissions.


Msiza was president of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship, one of six regional fellowships of the BWA, from 2006-2011 and general secretary of the Baptist Convention of South Africa (BCSA) from 2001-2010.

He chaired the Local Arrangements Committee for the 2015 congress meeting in Durban.

In his response, Msiza, in alluding to the congress theme, “Jesus Christ, the Door,” declared that the church ought to swing the door wide open for those who would come to Christ, rather than acting as doorkeepers, deciding who are to be admitted and who to keep out. As doorkeepers, some install locks that “only they can open.” Contrary to such notions, Jesus Christ, the door, is inviting us, which affords us an ongoing opportunity for entry.

Msiza emphasized that, for the church, "the door is Christ.” It is the one door, the only door, “single entry,” open to “all human beings, made in the image of God,” a demonstration that “We all belong together.”

Msiza was trained at the Hebron Teacher Training College and worked bi-vocationally as a pastor and school teacher from 1988 until he became founding principal of the Baptist Convention College in 1995, from where he left to become BCSA general secretary.

He holds diplomas and degrees from the University of Witwatersrand, the University of South Africa, the Baptist Theological Seminary of Southern Africa and the Baptist Bible Institute.

He pastors Peniel-Salem Baptist Church in Pretoria beginning in 2011.

He has been married to Sanna Mapula since 1986 and they have three sons.

Twelve vice presidents were also installed along with Msiza. They are Michael Okwakol, Uganda; Ernest Adu-Gyamfi, Ghana; Tapan Chowdhury, Bangladesh; Miyon Chung, Australia; Anslem Warrick, Trinidad and Tobago; Jules Casseus, Haiti; Dimitrina Oprenova, Bulgaria; Jan Saethre, Norway; Naomi Tyler-Lloyd and Jerry Carlisle of the United States; Jorge Quinteros, Chile; and Luiz Roberto Silvado, Brazil.

Saethre of Norway will serve as first vice president.

The new slate of leaders serves until the next global gathering of Baptists in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2020.

Baptist World Alliance®
© July 25, 2015