- Created on Thursday, 06 March 2014
Callam proposes merger of Baptist Congress and Youth Conference
Baptist World Alliance General Secretary Neville Callam has proposed that the Baptist World Congress and the Baptist Youth World Conference be merged. Both are planned by the BWA and are held at five-year intervals, normally two years apart from each other.
Callam made the proposal amid concerns of declining attendance at the two global events. "Over the years, attendance at these international events has been less than encouraging," he told the BWA Executive Committee. "The relatively small attendance has severely strained BWA financial resources and has had the effect of diverting attention of BWA staff from other pressing aspects of the BWA mission."
Callam provided statistics to back up his concern. The congress had more than 20,000 participants at the 1980 meetings in Canada. In 2010 in Hawaii, attendance was 4,400.
The youth conference had an attendance of approximately 7,000 in Scotland in 1988 and 8,000 in the United States in 1998. In 2013, just about 2,700 youth attended the event in Singapore.
"I believe that sound stewardship needs to be exercised in our approach to conceiving and planning future international conferences beyond 2015," the BWA leader said. Plans are already at an advanced stage for the 21st Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa, in July 2015.
"It is important to note that what I am asking us to consider is the transformation of both the congress and the youth conference through their integration into one vast opportunity for interaction among Baptists," he told the Executive Committee. "This transformation does not affect only the youth conference, but also the congress. The driving force behind this appeal is the firm desire to preserve the opportunities these two quinquennial events afford."
Callam believes that "thoughtful planning should preserve the opportunity for the youth to share fellowship with each other and to experience worship in ways that reflect the admissible values they hold." Similarly, "careful planning should also offer to adults and children the opportunity for meaningful encounter with each other and with the youth population of our churches."
Callam envisages that the 2020 global meetings "could be a great gathering in which children, youth, young people and adults in the church community across the worldwide Baptist family have the opportunity to experience a first great gathering in which the best features of both the youth conference and the congress are brought together in an appropriate way."
Such an "international gathering will provide BWA with an opportunity to respond to the challenge to preserve some of our best mission consciousness-raising opportunities, to facilitate extensive networking among Baptists worldwide, and to offer worship and fellowship opportunities using a flexible, effective, and sustainable vehicle," Callam declared.
Callam indicated that any future planning of global conferences and meetings should take into account technological developments, especially in international communications. "As is well known, ways of understanding what it means to be together have changed," he told the group of Baptist leaders from around the world. "Although not all aspects of the change are welcome, we need to bear this development in mind when we are planning international meetings."
The Executive Committee approved the establishment of a General Secretary's Special Commission to consider the possible design for such an international meeting.
Baptist World Alliance®
© March 6, 2014
- Created on Wednesday, 05 March 2014
Moldovan to receive human rights award
Ilie Coada of Moldova is the 2014 recipient of the Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award.
The award is given each year by the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) to an individual who has made significant and effective contribution to secure, protect, restore or preserve human rights.
The announcement was made during a meeting of the BWA Executive Committee in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, in the United States on March 5. Award presentation will be at the next meeting of the BWA General Council in Izmir, Turkey, in July.
Coada, a Baptist pastor, dedicated his life and resources to preventing young girls from becoming victims of human trafficking. He opened a shelter for vulnerable girls, many of them fresh out of orphanages, to reside and to continue their education, as well as a transition home where girls attending schools in the city may go for holidays and weekends. Coada founded a community center that offers after-school and summer programs, including tutoring, to more than 500 children, so that risk of trafficking is reduced for youth in the area.
|He instituted scholarships that enable girls at risk to attend vocational schools and university.
Coada developed greenhouses and other small businesses that offer employment to girls and women in the community so they may have paying jobs, helping them to take care of their children.
He began an elder-care program on the compound of the children's center so the elders can share meals and fellowship and spend time with the children as "adopted grandparents."
The Bethania Foundation is the vehicle through which he manages and runs his many projects.
Coada engaged in these various ministries at risk to his safety. Some human traffickers recruit directly from orphanages and Coada's work in these institutions has restricted their ability to recruit from the orphanages, resulting in threats on his life. His courage rests on his belief, drawn from Christian scripture, that "there is no fear in love."
"Pastor Ilie meets the threats of the mafia with wisdom, wit, courage and transparency," said the European Baptist Federation. "He knows God's call on his life and he's willing to risk everything to follow the voice of the One who loves him and who has saved him."
Even while combating human trafficking, Coada continues to pastor a local congregation and plant new churches in Moldova.
"Rev. Ilie Coada is an incredible example of a Baptist pastor who has not only preached the Word, but has also lived the Word authentically, quietly, humbly and without fanfare," said Lauran Bethell, recipient of the 2005 BWA Human Rights Award. "He has saved countless children from the worst kinds of slavery in the sex industry and has been an inspiration to me and to many others."
Baptist World Alliance®
- Created on Monday, 17 February 2014
Baptists in Africa have expressed deep displeasure at ongoing conflicts on the continent that have led to “wanton destruction of life and property of defenseless and vulnerable citizens.”
Making special reference to the Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the All Africa Baptist Fellowship (AABF) called “upon all parties involved to put an end to their anti-social actions and to start a serious search for peace.”
AABF, a regional body of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), urged the respective governments in these countries and others involved in the conflicts to “fulfill their constitutional responsibility to provide and guarantee peaceful co-existence, safety and security for all citizens irrespective of ethnicity, language, color, gender or religion.”
Baptists in Africa and elsewhere were encouraged “to intercede for these countries that respect for human life, peace and stability will soon be restored” and to “take practical action to express their Christian love and compassion to those affected.”
Fighting in the CAR began in 2012 and led to the ousting of the government by Séléka, a Muslim rebel coalition. Attacks were made against Christian civilians. The new president, Michel Djotodia, resigned and was replaced by Catherine Samba-Panza. Her government has taken action to disarm and suppress militia groups that staged retaliatory attacks against Muslims.
Despite a January 2014 ceasefire agreement, fighting continues in South Sudan between the government and rebels. More than 900,000 persons have been displaced as a result of the fighting and are facing possible starvation. South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in July 2011.
The DRC has been bedeviled by wars and conflicts going back decades. An estimated 5.4 million persons have died as a result of the conflicts, making it the costliest in human lives since the Second World War.
Two of the three countries have significant Baptist populations. There are four BWA member organizations in CAR with total membership of more than 180,000 in more than 770 churches. The DRC has 11 BWA member organizations with more than 1.6 million members in approximately 5,400 churches. South Sudan reports less than 1,000 members, though they were part of the larger Sudan Interior Church, based in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, before the country’s independence.
The BWA, though Baptist World Aid, has sponsored and supported numerous humanitarian and development projects in these countries.
Donations may be made online or sent to the BWA at:
Baptist World Alliance®
- Created on Thursday, 27 February 2014
BWA General Secretary Neville Callam made an official visit to Oleksandr Turchynov in March 2009 when he was deputy prime minister of Ukraine. Turchynov is the new interim president of the country following the ouster of former President Viktor Yanukovych
Pavel Unguryan, director of the International Mission Department for Ukrainian Baptists has declared, “Ukraine needs Christ,” if healing and reconciliation is to take place.
The country has experienced widespread violent protests since last November after former President Viktor Yanukovych, who has since gone into hiding, pulled out of signing a free trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer economic ties with Russia, a move that led to violent uprisings against the government resulting in the loss of life, injuries, arrests and the destruction of property.
According to Unguryan, Ukrainian churches and Christians offered a pastoral response to the crisis. “During all these days of protests and confrontations the Christian community in Ukraine has been the light and the salt for both parties.”
“For the past three months Ukraine was absorbed by the cloud of anti-government protests and demonstrations that resulted in the worst violence since it gained Independence in 1991,” said Unguryan, who was a Member of Parliament in Ukraine from 2008-2012.
He said Christian doctors, nurses, cooks, students and other Christian groups “have been helping whenever there was a need.” Unguryan claimed that the national crisis led “churches and even denominations to get united in prayer and fasting for peace and God’s intervention. People started crying out to God and even the TV media spoke about the role of the church and quoted Scriptures.”
Christians, including Baptists, provided food and medical help, handed out Christian literature and offered opportunities for prayer during the protests.
Unguryan suggested that much work is left to be done to bring about national reconciliation. “Unfortunately, many people have much anger and hatred for opponents. People are disappointed in all politicians and do not want to forgive anyone. Many are determined for revenge, to burn and bring about injuries.”
He believes the church can bring healing. “We need to face this challenge with Christ. What Ukraine needs is not just a change of people in authority but a change of the system and the relationship of the authorities to ordinary citizens. Ukraine needs love, mercy and forgiveness. Ukraine needs Christ!”
Yanukovych was replaced by Oleksandr Turchynov, a Baptist minister in Ukraine, as interim president of the Eastern European country on February 23. Turchynov previously served as deputy prime minister of Ukraine from 2007-2010 and was earlier elected speaker of parliament before being appointed interim president.
Ukraine is a former Soviet republic that regained its independence in 1991, after the breakup of the Soviet Union. It has one of the largest Baptist bodies in Europe. The All-Ukrainian Union of Associations of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, a member organization of the BWA, has more than 121,000 members in more than 2,300 churches.
- Created on Wednesday, 12 February 2014
The Baptist World Alliance and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship have formed a partnership to identify and respond to the needs of people and congregations worldwide through joint participation in work with the United Nations.
The collaborative effort seeks to increase the Baptist presence at the UN, maximizing the potential of the BWA's extensive UN credentials to increase and strengthen relationships and partnerships in and around the UN. The groups will seek to promote as spokespersons in official capacity, activists, pastors and scholars that can speak for the groups' concerns. The parties will also create publications focusing on both the theological and public policy concerns that surround issues important to both the BWA and CBF.
Raimundo Barreto, the director of the BWA Division of Freedom and Justice, said the face of international relations has dramatically changed in the past decades, and public diplomacy now includes not only governments, but the economic agents and so-called global civil society with a number of new actors – multinational corporations, the press, NGOs and religious organizations.
He said the partnership is an important collaboration on critical issues.
"This collaboration with CBF will certainly make a positive impact on our capacity to occupy new spaces and extend the reach of our work at the United Nations," he said. "We look forward to all the new possibilities that this collaborative work will enable us to pursue."
In the early 1970s, Barreto said, "the visionary leaders of the BWA already understood the need for Baptists to advocate for freedom, justice and peace at these levels, and this vision led the BWA to pursue consultative status as an international NGO at the United Nations.
He said the BWA Division of Freedom and Justice consistently worked to increase the Baptist presence in that setting using all the instruments available to make its voice meaningfully heard. One of the strategies is to work together with BWA member bodies who also see the need to play a role in that setting.
CBF has personnel and partners worldwide and will expand its global impact through this effort. CBF participation in the UN will be prioritized in accordance with the principles of its eight mission communities, which include Education, Economic Development, Healthcare, Justice and Peacemaking, Church Starts and Faith Sharing, Internationals, Disaster Response, and Poverty and Transformation.
CBF field personnel and partners can also mobilize, along with other local Baptist leaders in different countries, for advocacy on issues of common concern at the national level, strengthening the advocacy work done at the UN.
Stephen Reeves, CBF's associate coordinator for partnerships and advocacy, said the partnership with the BWA is an important step in the Fellowship's work to speak out for others and to be the presence of Christ in the world.
"The Baptist World Alliance is a great partner and has years of experience at the United Nations," Reeves said. "Working together, we will live out our call to love our neighbors and show compassionate concern for the least of these in a forum focused on international cooperation."
Currently, the BWA representation at the UN is done mainly through the use of volunteers. As of 2013, there were two volunteers representing the BWA at the UN in New York and one in Geneva.
Some initial work on the part of CBF has already begun. Phyllis Boozer, the coordinator of CBF's Northeast region, has participated in meetings of the Committee on Concerns of the Status of Women. Additionally, CBF field personnel Shane McNary has attended two meetings in Geneva regarding the protection of the rights of religious minorities.
Since 1974, the BWA has held special consultative status with the UN through the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The Council provides a setting in which nongovernmental organizations address the world's economic, social and environmental challenges and make policy recommendations. The BWA is also accredited as an NGO through the Department of Public Information, which acts as the public voice of the UN.
The BWA is a member of CoNGO, or the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations. This group facilitates NGO participation in UN decision-making and programs, particularly in the fields of economic and social justice. In addition, the BWA is a member of the Committee of Religious NGOs, has participated in the Ecumenical Working Group and has interacted with the Office of the High Commission on Human Rights (OHCHR).
The Baptist World Alliance is a fellowship of 228 conventions and unions in 121 countries and territories comprising 42 million members in 177,000 churches. Its priorities are nurturing the passion for mission and evangelism, promoting worship, fellowship and unity, responding to people in need, defending human rights and justice and advancing relevant theological reflection.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is a fellowship of Baptist Christians and churches who share a passion for the Great Commission and a commitment to Baptist principles of faith and practice. The Fellowship's mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.