Baptists urge UN to raise threat designation for Nigeria

The main international organization that represents Baptists globally is telling the United Nations it needs to raise the designated threat level for Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region.

Declaring that the area is rife with conflict and dislocation, the Baptist World Alliance asserts that “violence, murder, and kidnapping [have] directly impacted more than 14 million people with between three and five million being internally displaced.”

This has resulted “in rampant malnutrition, leaving thousands of persons on the verge of starvation.”

The threat level, the BWA says, must be raised to Level 3, the “most severe large scale humanitarian crisis.”

Extremists in Nigeria, mainly the violent Islamist group, Boko Haram, and Fulani militants, have led a series of attacks in Nigeria and neighboring countries such as Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Millions lost property, home and agricultural produce, and have had to flee to elsewhere in their own nations or into other countries.

The BWA notes that “people of faith and houses of worship have been intentionally targeted, including the damage or destruction of thousands of churches and numerous mosques.”

Samson Ayokunle, president of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, has castigated the international community for ignoring terrorist violence and attacks in the West African country.

He accused the world community of devaluing Nigerian lives. "Does it not matter to the rest of the world if Boko Haram continues to kill hundreds of people every week? Are these people less human than those being killed in other places where they have gone to directly intervene? My people are being killed like animals and the whole world is just watching,” Ayokunle said after a particularly brutal series of attacks in Nigeria.

The BWA invites Baptists everywhere “to stand in solidarity with Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region, to pray for the development of transformative peace throughout the country and region, and to actively work to build a context of justice, human rights, rule of law, and religious freedom for all people.”

Baptist World Alliance®
© July 8, 2016

Appeals made to Baptists to help refugees

An illegal refugee camp at a gas station in GreeceThe Baptist World Alliance is appealing to Baptists in affected countries to assist those who are displaced.

While acknowledging “the profound challenges created in many parts of our world by the movement of millions of refugees and displaced persons,” the international umbrella organization for Baptists “calls upon its member bodies, affiliated churches, and individual believers to actively embrace opportunities for Christian ministry and witness that exemplify the biblical teaching.”

Baptist groups in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, as well as in European countries such as Germany, Sweden, Croatia, Serbia and elsewhere, have provided personnel and supplies to assist those who are displaced.

However, the BWA is concerned about those who have not been as engaged, or who have been less than welcoming in their remarks and actions. The organization points out that biblical motifs such as love for the stranger and “Jesus’ teaching to love our neighbors as ourselves” should guide the actions of Baptists and other Christians.

The BWA is encouraging “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.”

Baptist World Alliance®
©July 8, 2016

Plans begin for 2020 congress in Brazil

Riocentro, venue of 2020 Baptist World Congress in BrazilThe 22nd Baptist World Congress will be hosted in the city of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in July 2020. The event, dubbed Celebration 2020 will, for the first time, include the Baptist Youth World Conference, which was previously held as a separate assembly.

General Secretary Neville Callam, in his report to the General Council in its meeting in Vancouver, Canada, stated that the “BWA has signed a contract with the Rio Centro Convention Center, which will host the BWA 2020 quinquennial event in which the worldwide Baptist family will unite in celebrating God and discerning God’s will for the church’s ongoing life and mission.”

He indicated that payments to secure the location are being made and “BWA staff and the Congress Committee have commenced working on their mandate for the 2020 event.”

This will be the second Baptist World Congress to be held in Rio. The 10th congress was convened in the city in 1960, which saw the largest attendance in congress to date since the first was held in London, England, in 1905.

Evangelist Billy Graham preached to a packed Maracanã soccer stadium at the closing service which, at the time, had a capacity of nearly 200,000.

Baptist World Alliance®
©July 7, 2016

Baptists and Catholics to begin third round of dialogue in 2017

The Baptist World Alliance is to begin a third round of theological dialogue with the Catholic Church in 2017. This was announced by General Secretary Neville Callam in his report to the BWA General Council at its meeting in Vancouver, Canada, in July.

“On the basis of discussions between BWA and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), a third round of Baptist-Catholic dialogue will commence soon,” Callam wrote.

In May this year, preparatory meetings were held between Baptist representatives Frank Rees of Australia, Paul Fiddes from the United Kingdom and Timothy George of the United States “with a team from the Catholic Church to consider the focus and methodology for the upcoming phase of the Baptist-Catholic dialogue,” Callam stated.

“This joint preparatory meeting decided that the next phase of dialogue, which could commence in June 2017, should have clear continuity with the first two phases and should focus on the subject of common witness to Jesus Christ,” Callam elaborated. “A final statement on the purpose and plan for the upcoming dialogue is to be concluded in the near future.”

The first round of Baptist-Catholic dialogue occurred from 1984-1988 and the second round from 2006-2010. “We would be pleased to build on these two previous dialogues and explore new areas of discussion,” Cardinal Koch, president of the PCPCU, said in a letter to Callam in February. “These official dialogues were cause for great celebration and gratitude to God,” Koch declared.

The BWA and the Vatican have experienced close cordial relations in recent times, building on the goodwill that emerged out of the first two rounds of dialogues. In October 2013, Timothy George represented the BWA at the Thirteenth Ordinary General Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church on The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.

In October of the following year, 2014, Valerie Duval-Poujol, a French Baptist biblical scholar, represented the BWA at the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that discussed important issues facing contemporary families.

Roy Medley, recently retired general secretary of American Baptist Churches in the USA, was a fraternal delegate of the BWA at the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church which took place in Rome in October 2015.

The BWA leadership was represented at the March 2013 inauguration of Pope Francis I.

A four-year dialogue between the BWA and the World Methodist Council is currently underway, which runs 2014-2017.

Baptist World Alliance®
©July 7, 2016

BWA to combine divisional portfolios

The divisions of Mission, Evangelism and Theological Reflection (METR) and Freedom and Justice (F&J) are to be combined. This was affirmed by the BWA General Council at its meeting in Vancouver, Canada, in early July, after it was first approved by the Executive Committee in March.

“The person elected to succeed the current occupant of the METR director’s position will lead the Division on Mission, Evangelism and Justice (MEJ),” Callam told the General Council.

Current METR Director Fausto Vasconcelos retires at the end of August after holding the position for a little more than 10 years. The F&J director’s position has been vacant since 2014 after Raimundo Barreto resigned to take up a professorship at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey in the United States.

F&J was the newest BWA division after it was formally created in 2008.

Both divisions are being merged for primarily financial reasons when pledged donor funds failed to materialize after the global financial crisis that emerged in 2008. “Both the BWA Budget and Finance and the BWA Human Resources Committees concurred on the fact that funds were not available to enable BWA to call a successor to the first F&J director,” Callam informed the General Council.

It is expected that the MEJ position will be filled after a more detailed study of BWA staffing structure is completed.

Baptist World Alliance®
©July 7, 2016