Callam lauded for service to Baptists

A plethora of tributes were offered to Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Secretary Neville Callam during the BWA Annual Gathering, held July 2-7 in Bangkok, Thailand.
The Jamaican, the first black person and the first who is neither an American nor a European to lead the BWA, retires in December after more than 10 years of service in the position.

At a dinner held in his honor, Callam, who is from the small town of Gibraltar in Jamaica’s interior, was hailed as being “morally, ethically and spiritually strong as the fabled Rock of Gibraltar.” He was described as a “saint, friend, leader, colleague” who is “moral, compassionate, inclusive.”

The Baptist leader was commended for shepherding the global organization safely through the Great Recession, a period of global financial hardships and economic decline that emerged in 2008 and continued for several years.

Despite periods of economic uncertainty, the BWA under Callam’s leadership raised more than US$26 million, including almost US$12 million to Baptist World Aid, more than US$8 million from churches, institutions and individuals, and more than US$5 million to the General Fund.  He implemented a comprehensive Donor Recognition Program and the 400 Legacy Gift program.

At the same time, the BWA undertook bold initiatives. A new Division on Freedom and Justice was launched after years of discussion and debate. The division was later merged with another division to form the Division on Mission, Evangelism and Justice.  Several commissions were formed, including those on Interfaith Relations, Racial and Gender Justice, Social and Economic Justice, Peace and Reconciliation, Religious Liberty, Human Rights Advocacy and Creation Care.

In emphasizing the importance of evangelism, Callam secured funding, capitalized at US$250,000, for an evangelism award to be given out every five years.

Administratively, the Jamaican spent much of his decade of service streamlining the administration and operational organs of the BWA. He facilitated the revision of the Fiscal Policy Manual and the Human Resources Manual, established the BWA recording studio, redesigned the website, incorporated a conference registration system and updated the IT infrastructure.

The gathering was told that “the unity of the church and of all Christians” is particularly close to Callam’s heart. He has spent much time and effort nurturing “the cultivation of a corporate worship life and practice among Baptists.” In fulfilment of these dreams, he led a collaborative effort that resulted in the publication of the Covenant on Intra-Baptist Relationships. That document, available in 25 languages on the BWA website, has been viewed or downloaded 60,000 times.

BWA membership grew over the past 10 years, with 24 new member organizations, now numbering 238. New countries and territories such as South Sudan, Chad, Grenada, Turks and Caicos Islands and Vietnam were added to the BWA fold.

Described as an “intellectual giant of the faith but a humble servant,” he was lauded for being “resolute in his convictions of the efficacy of the life in Christ” and for being a “man of faith who lives, perceives, thinks and decides theologically.”

Callam came to the general secretary’s office after serving as a BWA vice president. He had wide ecclesial experience, having held every major position in the Jamaica Baptist Union, including serving twice as president, acting as general secretary and being elected treasurer.

He was a leader in Jamaica’s religious community, primarily through the Jamaica Council of Churches, and was a pioneer in religious and public broadcasting on the island. He was founding chair and general manager of TBC FM, The Breath of Change; founding board member of the National Religious Media Commission, operators of Love FM; and founding chair of the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica.

Regionally and globally Callam actively participated in the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship, where he was a vice president, and the World Council of Churches, where he was a longstanding member of the influential Commission on Faith and Order, chairing several of that commission’s committees.

Representatives from each of the six regions of the BWA spoke in Callam’s honor at the dinner in Bangkok, including BWA vice presidents Michael Okwakol of Uganda, Dimitrina Oprenova of Bulgaria and Naomi Tyler-Lloyd of the United States.

Others who spoke were Tomás Mackey from Argentina, Devon Dick from Jamaica and Frank Rees of Australia. Ashley Becker spoke on the behalf of the BWA staff.

Video tributes were received from former BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz and Ganoune Diop of the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions, among others.

All video tributes, including those to be included in a second celebration planned for October in Virginia in the United States, will be available on the website.

Baptist World Alliance®
©July 6, 2017

BWA receives three new members

Zomi Baptist Churches of the Americas being congratulated by BWA leadershipThree organizations were received into the membership of the Baptist World Alliance at its meetings in Bangkok, Thailand, from July 2-7, bringing two new countries into the BWA fold.

The Baptist Evangelical Church of Chad became the first BWA member organization in the Central African nation. Formed in 2005, it comprises 200 members in five churches.

The Turkish Baptist Alliance was established in 2014 and has five churches with 220 members. It is the first BWA member group from Turkey.

Formed in 2014, the Zomi Baptist Churches of America is an association of 2,500 members in 33 churches in the United States. There are now 20 member organizations in the US.

 

Membership in the BWA now stands at 238 organizations in 124 countries and territories.

Baptist World Alliance®
©July 6, 2017

 

Elijah Brown nominated for general secretary

American Elijah Brown, originally from the state of Texas, is being nominated to be the next general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance.

Neville Callam, a Jamaican, retires from that position in December after more than 10 years of service.

Brown was formally approved by the BWA Executive Committee in Bangkok, Thailand, on Tuesday, July 4, and his name will be presented to the General Council on Friday, July 7, for a final vote.

Brown, 36, has had a decade of involvement in the international umbrella organization for Baptists, starting in 2007 when he was named one of 35 global emerging leaders by the BWA. He is currently BWA regional secretary for North America and general secretary for the North American Baptist Fellowship.

He is a member of the BWA General Council; the Constitution and Bylaws Committee; the Nominations Committee; the Congress Committee; and the Mission, Evangelism and Justice Advisory Committee. He is vice chair of the BWA Commission on Religious Liberty and is a member of the Commission on Theological Education.

Brown serves substantively as executive vice president of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, a Christian human rights organization with offices in Falls Church, Virginia, in the US. Prior to that, he was associate professor of Religion at East Texas Baptist University, where he was founding director of the Freedom Center.

He earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Texas with a double major in religion and history and a PhD in Divinity with a focus on World Christianity from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Brown’s specialty lies in human rights and religious liberty. His dissertation focused on issues related to world Christianity, including mission and church growth, peacebuilding and conflict resolution, and the interaction of religion and politics. He helped to launch the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative and became its executive vice president.

He has conducted research on, led training events in and done human rights advocacy work in South Sudan, Nigeria, Eritrea, Iraq, Nepal and other countries. He has submitted reports to the United Nations and the US Department of State, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and several foundations and groups.

Brown is married to Amy and is father to Hudson, Sahara and Keziah.

Baptist World Alliance®
©July 4, 2017

Refugee medical doctor receives human rights award

Human Rights Award recipient, Cynthia Maung, 2nd right, with, from left, BWA President Paul Msiza, Regina Claas, chair, Awards Committee and General Secretary Neville Callam

Cynthia Maung, a medical doctor who has spent nearly 30 years treating refugees who fled “oppression and repression in Myanmar,” was presented with the 2017 Baptist World Alliance Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award during the global organization’s Annual Gathering in Bangkok, Thailand, in early July.

Maung was hailed as a “woman of faith” who “draws heavily on her Baptist heritage,” committing herself “selflessly to the welfare of the poor and oppressed.”

Originally from the town of Moulmein in Myanmar (Burma), Maung fled her homeland along with thousands of other Karen refugees. In 1989 she, along with six volunteers, established the Mae Tao Medical Clinic in a dilapidated building in Mae Sot, which lies on the border of Myanmar and Thailand.

 

The clinic, which has since moved to a more secure location, has grown to more than 600 staff treating up to 150,000 patients per year, including locals, migrant workers and refugees.

Maung and her staff helped to bring a malaria epidemic under control and treat outbreaks of pneumonia and other diseases. They tend to trauma victims of gunshots and landmines and offer maternity care and HIV counseling.

In addition to its medical services, where it trains medical interns, nurses and hygienists, the clinic addresses issues of domestic violence and human rights, and feeds more than 500 people twice each day.

Maung garnered a global network of more than 50 supporters, such as churches, NGOs, international organizations, educational institutions and individual donors.

She had previously received the Jonathan Mann Award, sponsored by Swiss and US health organizations, in 1999; Southeast Asia’s Ramon Magsaysay Award for community leadership in 2002; the Sydney Peace Prize in 2013; and the South Korean POSCO TJ Park Prize in 2015. She was named one of Time magazine’s Asian Heroes in 2003.

Maung actively participates in the Kawthloolei Karen Baptist Churches and Asia Pacific Baptist Federation women’s work.

Baptist World Alliance®
©July 5, 2017

Baptists gather in Thailand

Approximately 300 Baptist leaders, pastors, theologians, seminary presidents, professors and interested Baptists from almost 50 countries are traveling to Bangkok, Thailand, for worship, fellowship, study and decision meetings.

The Annual Gathering of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) takes place July 2-7 and will include meetings of the General Council and the Executive Committee, the two governing bodies of the BWA.

A highlight of the week will be the election of a new general secretary for the BWA who will succeed Neville Callam, who retires in December after more than 10 years of service in that position. 

A dinner will be held in Callam’s honor on Thursday, July 6, in addition to a special event to be held in the state of Virginia in the United States in October. The Callam Unity Fund has been established to strengthen the bonds of oneness and unity among Baptists and beyond.

Callam’s newest book, From Fragmentation to Wholeness: Race, Ethnicity, and Communion, published by Judson Press, will be made available during the Annual Gathering.

The 2017 Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award will be presented to medical doctor Cynthia Maung who has devoted nearly 30 years to providing healthcare to refugees from Myanmar living on the country’s border with Thailand. Maung was among the displaced Karen who fled Myanmar and settled in Mae Sot on the border between the two countries.

In addition to committee meetings, commissions will host presentations on a wide array of subjects in theology, mission and evangelism. Internationally recognized Baptist scholar, Anthony R. Cross, will be the presenter at a special forum on baptism.

Other subjects to be covered by commissions are Spiritual and Moral Formation of Christians, Contextualization of Theological Education and Constructing a Spirituality for the Dislocated, among others.

Justice issues related to human rights, religious freedom, social oppression, poverty, gender, the environment and other areas of concern will also be explored, such as How to Create Environmental Awareness Among Churches, Reframing our Relationship to Creation and Understanding the Global Issue of Modern Slavery.

A crisis management and communication training seminar will explore how to conduct a threat assessment and the basic principles to be applied in the event of a crisis.

A special welcome event is being planned by Thai Baptists.

Baptist World Alliance®
©June 28, 2017