Callam gives notice of retirement from BWA

Callam and former United States President Jimmy Carter greet each otherNeville Callam has given notice of his intention to retire as general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) on December 31, 2017.

As per policy, the general secretary, the chief executive of the international umbrella organization for Baptists, should give a minimum notice of 12 months.

Callam, a Jamaican, made history when he was elected to the position in July 2007 during the BWA Annual Gathering in Accra, Ghana, as the first Black person to hold the position. Since its founding in 1905, all previous general secretaries were American or European.

He took over the BWA just when the Great Recession occurred. Working with the Budget and Finance Committee, Callam shepherded the body through the financial crisis and global economic meltdown, with minimal dislocations and impact on the operations of the BWA and its staff.

 

In addition, after the Implementation Task Force completed its work in 2008, there were major constitutional and operational changes within the BWA, many with potentially disruptive implications on the future of the organization that Callam had to navigate.

Under Callam’s leadership, much work was done to streamline the administration of the BWA office, giving clarity to the alignment of purpose, function and operational modalities. He worked with staff to employ relevant technology to improve BWA functions while minimizing cost, and put in place a conference management system to secure greater economic sustainability.

The divisions on Evangelism and Education and Study and Research were merged into the newly formed Division on Mission, Evangelism and Theological Reflection (METR).

The Division on Freedom and Justice (F&J) was established in 2008 after years of discussion of the need for such a unit in the BWA. One consequence of the Great Recession was the 2016 merger of both METR and F&J into the Division on Mission, Evangelism and Justice when pledged donor funds failed to materialize to support a separate F&J division.

BWA membership has grown since Callam came into office, moving from 214 to 235 member organizations in 122 countries and territories, bringing new countries and territories such as Vietnam, Grenada, and the Turks and Caicos Islands, into the BWA fold. Some new groups from East and Central Africa found their beginnings in refugee camps in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and South Sudan.

Bread of Life, an evangelism training initiative, a successor to the Jesus Christ, Living Water program, played a significant role in forging Baptist cooperation among various Baptist groups in countries, including Brazil and Haiti. Callam worked tirelessly to help settle disputes among Baptists and bring about reconciliation in places such as Kenya and Liberia.

A Covenant on Intra-Baptist Relations was adopted to provide a framework for BWA response to the diversity of language, culture, opinions and perspectives in meetings and in the various operations of the international body. The document considers the great diversity that exists among Baptists, particularly within the BWA. It assists member organizations to understand that all equally belong in, and are needed by, the BWA and provides a framework for respectful trans-cultural relationships.

In his retirement notice letter, Callam said his commitment in serving the BWA was to “draw attention to the church's mission as the mission of God,” locating the ministries of relief and development, the defense of freedom and justice and a commitment to the unity of the church within that vision. He ceaselessly insisted “on the theological foundation for these values.”

“You are one of those gifts from God for the church,” BWA President Paul Msiza said in response to Callam’s announcement. “I have been touched and encouraged by your deep faith and commitment to God and to the mission of the church. Your hard work and sacrificial service describe your deep commitment and love for the BWA.”

“My first response was one of sadness. It felt I was losing something very significant and precious,” declared John Upton, former president and current chair of the Human Resources Committee, upon learning of Callam’s plans to retire from the organization. “I have been deeply grateful for the opportunity to work alongside Neville, not only while serving as president of the BWA, but in every other capacity. His deep commitment to the BWA and his tireless service to it will long be appreciated.”

Noting his scholarship and commitment to theological rigor and integrity, Upton said Callam “modeled unsurpassed excellence of service” and that “his leadership has challenged the BWA to become increasingly an authentic global Baptist community.”

Callam acknowledged God’s guiding presence and the support of his wife, Dulcie. “Serving in this position, God has never failed me and, through all the opportunities and challenges, I have benefited from the unwavering faithfulness of my wife who has helped me selflessly.”

A search committee is expected to commence work to choose Callam’s successor.

Baptist World Alliance® 
©November 21, 2016

Prayer for South Africa

#FeesMustFall student protest in South AfricaBaptists around the world are encouraged to join the call of the Baptist Union of Southern Africa (BUSA) to engage in a “special united prayer on Sunday 30 October” for South Africa.

BUSA made the call to its own membership at the conclusion of its 2016 Assembly in early October. “We are all familiar with the many challenges facing our country and Christian community,” wrote BUSA President Patrick Diba and General Secretary Angelo Scheepers.

The two leaders made special reference to protests by students against high university fees, for “a peaceful and just solution to be achieved” and that “peace and social justice” will prevail.

BUSA hopes “many youth will respond to the claims of Jesus Christ.”

South Africa is facing severe drought, as well. While Diba and Scheepers praised God for recent rains, they asked that prayers be offered “for those regions, especially catchment areas and farming communities, which are still experiencing drought conditions.”

Churches were also urged to bear in mind and to pray about the severe financial challenges that BUSA faces.

Diba and Scheepers request “that you and your congregation will join with our Baptist family as, together, we seek the Lord’s intervention, forgiveness and blessing on our nation, churches and people.”

Baptist World Alliance®
© October 28, 2016

Haiti needs urgent help

A church in southwestern Haiti destroyed by Hurricane MatthewEverton Jackson, Baptist World Alliance regional secretary for the Caribbean, indicated that Haiti needs urgent help after it was slammed by Hurricane Matthew, a category 4 storm that hit the nation with wind speed of 145 miles, or more than 230 kilometers, per hour.

Much of the damage occurred in Southwestern Haiti.

Jackson, who visited Haiti from October 7-10 at the request of BWA General Secretary Neville Callam, said “among the immediate needs are food, water, mattresses, clothes and building material.”

He told the BWA that “tents are needed to provide temporary accommodation for persons living in shelters, particularly those occupying schools and other public facilities.”


In addition, “medication and medical interventions are needed to monitor the health risks being posed in the aftermath of the hurricane, given Haiti’s vulnerability to cholera and other associated diseases.”

There is urgent need for clean water. Jackson, who is the executive secretary/treasurer for the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship, noted that the absence of clean water is a matter of emergency. He sees the need for the construction of new wells.

A Baptist-run school in southwestern Haiti badly damaged by Hurricane MatthewA major concern is the number of schools affected. Churches in Haiti, including Baptists, are the backbone of the educational system. “Approximately 150 of these schools were damaged during the passage of the hurricane,” Jackson told the BWA. “A number of these schools will be out of commission for a while because of the extensive nature of the damage.” Church leaders are anxious to find alternative venues for classes.

“It was a heartrending experience to have gone to Haiti and witness the extent of the devastation occasioned by Hurricane Matthew,” Jackson observed. “Evidently, the country has not fully recovered from the earthquake that ravaged it some years ago in January 2010 nor the cholera outbreak and other intervening traumatic experiences of a catastrophic nature.”

The BWA is appealing to its global constituency to respond with urgency to the need.

Donations may be made online at www.bwanet.org/give or sent to:

Baptist World Aid
c/o Baptist World Alliance
405 North Washington Street
Falls Church, VA 22046 USA

Baptist World Alliance®
© October 18, 2016

 

BWA launches podcast

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) launched its first podcast.

Titled, “Gifts from Global Baptists: Stories Engaging Churches in Conversation,” the podcast, a creation coming from the new Division on Mission, Evangelism and Justice (MEJ), focuses on the work and ministry of member bodies and churches in the BWA.

MEJ combines the former Division on Mission, Evangelism and Theological Reflection and the Division on Freedom and Justice.

Trisha Miller Manarin, new MEJ coordinator, said “our goal is to share stories from our Baptist brothers and sisters around the world, encouraging our churches to consider and explore new ministry possibilities.”

The podcast is available on the BWA website at www.bwanet.org.

Baptist World Alliance®
© October 27, 2016

Swedish group learns of BWA freedom and justice work

Swedish team meets BWA staffThe Baptist World Alliance (BWA) welcomed an eight-member team from the Commission for Government Support for Faith Communities in Sweden (SST) to its international offices on October 7.

SST is a government agency that provides support for faith communities, enabling congregations to work actively with long-term focus on worship, education and spiritual and pastoral care.

The team visited the United States on a fact finding tour and visited the US Department of State. They sought, among other things, to determine how faith communities interact with other parts of the civil society, the expectations that society and the state have of faith communities and the work done by faith communities to combat anti-Semitism, islamophobia and xenophobia.

SST was particularly interested in BWA’s involvement in justice issues. BWA staff, led by General Secretary Neville Callam, offered a summary of the BWA’s work through its seven freedom and justice commissions as well as its involvement in the United Nations, human rights visits, representations and advocacy and recognition through its human rights awards.

The work SST does is particularly crucial at this time as Sweden has taken in the second highest number of Syrian and other refugees among countries in Europe. Christian churches, including the Uniting Church in Sweden, which includes Baptists, are playing a critical role in the care and settlement of these refugees.

As recently as September, the government of Sweden allocated the rough equivalent of some US$4 million “to civil society and religious communities to strengthen their activities that focus on asylum seekers, and for the introduction of new arrivals.”

Baptist World Alliance®
© October 14, 2016