Churches burned in Niger

At least 68 churches, two of which were Baptist, have been burned in the West African country of Niger.

Panlieba Tchalieni, president of the Union of Evangelical Baptist Churches of Niger, reported that the church burnings, carried out by Muslim fundamentalist group Boko Haram, occurred in the Zinder region and Niamey.

"In terms of Baptist churches in Niger, we have two churches that are burned," Tchalieni said by email. "The first Evangelical Church in Niger built in 1928, and another behind the Niger River built 15 years ago."

Boko Haram, a Nigerian-based jihadist group that seeks to establish Sharia law, has extended its activities to other countries in West Africa, including Niger, where it has carried out recent attacks in the southeast.

Thousands of civilians fled their homes in the southeastern Niger town of Diffa. The area was already under stress, providing refuge to some 150,000 people who crossed the border to escape the violence in northern Nigeria.

Niger, which shares much of its southern border with Nigeria, declared a 15-day state of emergency in Diffa after a spate of attacks by Boko Haram.

Kojo Amo of Ghana, chairman of the western region of the all Africa Baptist Fellowship, appealed for prayer and support for the Christian church in Niger. "Please let us remember Christians in Niger in our prayers that the Lord will strengthen them in the faith during this difficult time."

Donations to assist Niger's displaced may be made online at www.bwanet.org or sent to::
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Baptist World Alliance®
© February 16, 2015

Flavors of Durban to Sweeten Baptist World Congress in South Africa

Participants in this year's Baptist World Congress (#BaptistCongress15) in Durban, South Africa, will have access to extensive dining facilities that will be available at the congress venue.  Studio 54, a South African event management company, will establish and operate a food court during the week of meetings.

The food court, dubbed "Flavors of Durban," will include serving areas that provide food native to South Africa, as well as menus from Durban's large East Indian population and other immigrant populations from Europe.  The bulk of the meals will be prepared by restaurants, chefs and caterers from Durban.

A staff of 68 persons will be on hand to assist congress participants to choose and purchase their preferred meal.

"Studio 54 hopes to create a local festival supported by locals allowing growth opportunities to local chefs and caterers," the company stated.

A pre-event launch For Flavors of Durban with invited media and celebrities will be coordinated by Studio 54.

The Baptist World Congress, normally held every five years, is the largest international gathering of Baptist Christians. Several thousand participants from some 100 countries are expected in Durban. The July 22-26, 2015, meetings are the first to be held in Africa.

Keynote speakers are Peter Chin from South Korea, Donald Ndichafah from Cameroon, Dimitrina Oprenova from Bulgaria, Anthony Carroll from the Bahamas, Luiz Soares Silvado from Brazil and Joel Gregory from the United States.

Highlights will include the installation of Paul Msiza of South Africa as BWA president, the second African to be elected to the position; the presentation of the Congress Human Rights Award; and the launch of various new initiatives for 2015-2020.

Daily activities include worship, Bible study and group discussions that explore core theological matters related to Christian worship, mission, evangelism, spiritual enrichment and other ecclesial topics.

Global issues related to the environment and various justice concerns such as peacemaking, migrants and poverty, among others, will be examined.

Information on the congress is available on the BWA website at www.bwanet.org/congress.

Baptist World Alliance®
© February 12, 2015

BWA reorganizes its United Nations Work

The Baptist World Alliance has reorganized the way it fulfills its mission through the United Nations (UN). The organization has expanded its partnership with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) to facilitate the coordination of its UN initiatives.

BWA's and CBF's main objective is to maximize the potential for advocacy in defense of human rights and justice through the instruments available at the UN. Their partnership has led to the appointment of Earl Marcus Wiggs III as BWA liaison to the UN.

Wiggs, an attorney at law from the US state of Mississippi, has served as chair of the Baptist Joint Committee, based in Washington, DC, and co-chair of the Religious Liberty Council, which has offices in Florida, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Wiggs will supervise BWA UN work. This includes coordination of the contribution of the current BWA appointed representatives at the UN: Darrell Armstrong, Joseph Oniyama, Raimundo Barreto and Phyllis Boozer in New York; Ronald Shane McNary and Christer Daelander in Geneva, Switzerland, and Dietrich Fischer-Dörl in Vienna, Austria. These volunteers play a vital role in BWA's networking and advocacy through the UN.

Since 1974, the BWA has had Special Consultative Status at the UN through the Economic and Social Council.  BWA is also a member of the Conference of NGOs, and enjoys consultative relationship with the UN Committee of Nongovernmental Organizations (CoNGO), an international membership association. The global organization has access to 41 influential NGO committees in New York, Geneva and Vienna.


The international umbrella organization for Baptists is also accredited as an NGO through the UN's Department of Public Information (DPI), which enables it to participate in briefings and receive announcements from DPI; is a member of the Committee of Religious NGOs; and collaborates with the Ecumenical Working Group that provides a forum for common work on issues of concern to UN representatives of Christian World Communions.

In recent times, the BWA has increasingly engaged the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), presenting alternative human rights reports on particular UN Member States. At Rio+20, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil in 2012, BWA co-sponsored side events and submitted documents contributing the focus of the discussions there. Through the BWA Women's Department, it has actively participated in the annual meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women.

Baptist World Alliance®
© January 28, 2015

Baptists and Methodists hold theological dialogue in Singapore

The second session of the international theological dialogue between the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) and the World Methodist Council (WMC) gets underway in Singapore on February 5 and ends on February 10.

The first session was held a year earlier, from January 30 until February 5, 2014, at the Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, in the United States.

While the 2014 session discussed presentations on the history, theology and contemporary global situation of Baptists and Methodists, the 2015 meetings will focus on core theological issues such as the nature of the church, the nature of authority, sanctification and justification.

The overall theme of the dialogue is faith working through love.

 


Co-chairs of the dialogue are Curtis Freeman, research professor and director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke University Divinity School, Durham, North Carolina, in the US; and Tim Macquiban, pastor of Ponte Sant' Angelo Church in Rome, Italy.

BWA representatives and presenters are Deji Isaac Ayegboyin, professor of church history and African Christianity in the Department of Religious Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria; Valérie Duval-Poujol, professor of biblical exegesis and co-director for the Institute for Bible and Orientalism at the Catholic Institute in Paris, France; Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University; R. L. Hnuni, principal of Calcutta Bible Seminary, Kolkata, India; and Stephen Holmes, senior lecturer in theology at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.Fausto Vasconcelos, BWA director of Mission, Evangelism and Theological Reflection, and co-secretary to the dialogue, is also in attendance.

The Methodist delegation includes Robert Gribben, chair of the Ecumenical Relations Committee of the WMC; Ulrike Schuler, professor for church history, Methodism, and ecumenism at Reutlingen School of Theology in Germany; Malcolm Tan, pastor of Barker Road Methodist Church in Singapore; Lauren Matthew, district supervisor of studies for the General Committee of Education for Mission Methodist Church of Southern Africa; Paul Chilcote, academic dean and professor of historical theology and Wesleyan Studies at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ohio; and Christine Gooden-Benguche, secretary of the Jamaica District Conference, Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas.

Baptist World Alliance®
© February 4, 2015

Baptists join others to discuss believers’ baptism

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) joined other Christian traditions at a Consultation on Believers' Baptism in Kingston, Jamaica, from January 8-10.

The consultation was convened under the auspices of the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions for representatives of "believers' baptism" church traditions to share their understandings and practices of baptism and to explore how thinking has changed in light of the emerging theological convergence on baptism and growing ecumenical encounter over the past 30 years.

The consultation affirmed that believers' baptism is the most clearly attested practice of baptism in the New Testament and that the personal faith of the recipient and continuous participation in the life of the church are essential for the full fruit of baptism. Church representatives attending the conference also agreed that the pressures of contextuality have influenced the way churches understand and practice baptism.

 


However, infant baptism, which has developed within the Christian tradition, witnesses to valid Christian insights. A supportive believing community surrounding the infant will nurture the child's personal faith as the child moves toward discipleship.

In response to the pressure of contextuality, the consultation concluded that those who baptize infants and those who baptize only believers may need to radically rethink their baptismal practices. They resolved that indiscriminate baptism, which represents an abuse, needs to be eliminated.

BWA General Secretary Neville Callam, a presenter at the consultation, gave an overview of the understanding and practice of baptism from a Baptist perspective, drawing upon the published reports of bilateral and trilateral dialogues involving Baptists in Europe, Asia Pacific and North America. He also surveyed the response of Baptists to the baptism section of Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (BEM), published in 1982 and which, according to Callam, "continues to wield enormous influence in the ongoing life of the church."

Acknowledging that "diversity marked the responses made by the Baptist groups" to BEM, Callam stated that some responses emphasized that Christian unity is not predicated fundamentally on baptism, some responses questioned the suggestion that infant baptism rests on the witness of the Bible, others expressed concern over a supposed equivalence between believers' and infant baptism, and some raised questions about "re-baptism."

These concerns and others, Callam said, featured in the discussion on baptism in many bilateral and multi-lateral theological discussions in which Baptists have participated since BEM. He declared that "the conviction that believers' baptism remains the most clearly attested pattern of baptism in the New Testament and is a guide for those seeking to practice 'New Testament Christianity' persists among Baptists."

A problem that some Baptists need to resolve, Callam indicated, was the relationship between baptism and church membership. There are instances of "apparent indiscriminate baptism," as well as "the practice of admitting unbaptized persons into church membership." Callam expressed the view that there is an "extreme form of open membership" practiced by some Baptist churches, which is based partly on the idea that baptism does not have instrumental value.

The more frequently practiced form of open membership, he asserted, was the most promising development that may aid constructive engagement between believers' baptism and infant baptism traditions.

Groups participating in the consultation included the Church of the Brethren, the Disciples of Christ, the Mennonite World Conference, the Pentecostal movement and the Christian Church/ Disciples of Christ and the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ/, all of which observe and practice believers' baptism.

Baptist World Alliance®
© January 27, 2015