BWA forging Baptist unity worldwide

The Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) welcomes two new member organizations and recently reported progress in improving relationships among Baptists worldwide.

The Reformed Baptist Convention in Rwanda, whose president, Faustin Bashaka, attended the BWA Annual Gathering in Santiago, Chile, was formally accepted into membership of the BWA. The Baptist group, formed in 2005, comprises more than 12,000 members in 34 churches. It becomes the fourth BWA member body in the country, located in the central region of Africa.

Also accepted into BWA membership was the Free Baptist Churches of Burundi, which has 70 churches and more than 8,000 members. There are now two BWA member bodies in Burundi, a country that shares a border with Rwanda.

The BWA now has 223 member organizations in 120 countries.

Members of the BWA General Council, which convened during the Annual Gathering, supported continuing dialogue between the BWA and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).  Leaders of both the BWA and the SBC held a joint meeting in December 2011.

George Bullard, BWA regional secretary for North America and general secretary for the North American Baptist Fellowship, who was part of the BWA delegation that met with the SBC leaders, told the council that the NABF is "thankful that BWA General Secretary Neville Callam initiated the first such meeting [with the SBC] during 2011."

The SBC had previously withdrawn its membership from the BWA in 2004 but an agreement was arrived at on April 13 in that year that the leadership of both bodies should "meet at least once per year to continue an ongoing dialogue."

While the issue of SBC membership within the BWA has not and is not expected to arise, the council sees the talks as steps toward the establishment of harmonious relationships among Baptists worldwide.

Durosinjesu Ayanrinola, elected general secretary of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship in November last year and who was formally appointed BWA regional secretary for Africa during the Annual Gathering, expressed his gratitude for the intervention of Callam in helping to settle long standing issues of disunity among Baptists in Kenya.

Ayanrinola also reported that pending litigation among Baptists in Sierra Leone has been settled as the court case has been withdrawn.

Concern was expressed about the Telugus in India. The General Council, one of the governing bodies of the BWA, is hopeful that the Telugus, one of the largest Baptist groups in India comprising more than one million members, can be welcomed back into the BWA "without condoning the divisions and conflicts" that have affected Telugu Baptists for the past several years. The Telugus have been bitterly divided over administrative and property issues and were suspended from the BWA in 2004. The BWA expressed its support for all attempts made at reconciliation and the settling of disputes.

Baptist World Alliance®

© July 12, 2012