Baptist leaders gather for international meeting

Baptist leaders from around the world are traveling to the United States to attend meetings of the Baptist World Alliance® (BWA).  The meetings bring together members of the Executive Committee, sub-committees of the Executive and BWA advisory committees.

Reports will be presented on the latest developments in three major international meetings that are being planned – the 8th Baptist International Conference on Theological Education to be held in Jamaica in June, the Baptist Youth World Conference planned for Singapore in July, and the 21st Baptist World Congress that is to take place in South Africa in July 2015. Each of these major meetings is held once every five years.

Two important documents are to be presented for consideration. Principles and Guidelines for Intra-Baptist Relationships, prepared by the Special Commission on Intra-Baptist Relations, aims to provide a framework for  BWA's response to the diversity of language, culture, opinions and perspectives in meetings and in the various operations of the international body.

A second document provides a profile of the role of the regional secretaries within the BWA. The Executive's response to this profile will have implications for relations between the BWA and the six regions of Africa, Asia Pacific, Caribbean, Europe, Latin America and North America.

The report on the second round of dialogue between Baptists and Catholics will also be made available to Executive Committee members ahead of its presentation at the Annual Gathering in Jamaica in July.

Reports will be received on the financial health of the BWA.  Indications are that the BWA has successfully weathered the financial storms that have affected world economies in recent years and is seeing improvements in its financial position, even as it continues to meet human needs around the world and to increase its profile in the fight for freedom and justice.

Meetings are to be held March 3-6 at the BWA international offices in Falls Church, Virginia, a suburb of the US capital of Washington, DC.

Baptist World Alliance®
© February 25, 2013

BWA leaders laud Pope Benedict XVI

Leaders of the Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) expressed their appreciation for Pope Benedict XVI after the announcement of his intention to resign on February 28.

"I have deeply appreciated the inclusion by the pope of other Christian fellowships, such as the BWA, in serious discussions of matters that have confronted the Christian world," said BWA President John Upton.  "The pope has always been gracious in his welcome to the Vatican and respectful of the insights and opinions of other Christian communities."

General Secretary Neville Callam acknowledged "the ministry that Pope Benedict XVI has exercised, in particular his contribution to ecumenical relations." Callam took note of the pope's theological works and his pastoral ministry that have "provided the Christian community with a rich storehouse of spiritual reflections worthy of detailed study."

"I applaud the pope's openness to bilateral dialogues that have both strengthened understandings and furthered Christian witness," Upton said.  "The pope has demonstrated his love of the church and he will be remembered fondly for his scholarly and gentle leadership."

Callam recalled the private audience the pope gave to participants in the dialogue involving Baptists and Catholics during their meetings in Rome in 2007. In receiving the delegates, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his hope that the dialogue would result in "increase of understanding and cooperation between Catholics and Baptists."

Baptists and Catholics have participated in theological dialogue since 1984. The first round extended from 1984-1988 and the second from 2006-2010. Callam acknowledged the pope's support of the second round of the dialogue.

The BWA General Secretary said the pope's ecumenical openness was on full display during the 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church where the Baptist community was represented by Timothy George, dean and professor of divinity, history and doctrine at Beeson Divinity School in the state of Alabama in the United States.

"We convey best wishes on a well deserved retirement," Callam stated. "His immense contribution to world Christianity will not be forgotten and we pray for him God's blessings in the coming years."

Baptist World Alliance®
© February 14, 2013

Preparations advanced for Baptist Youth Conference in Singapore

Preparations are in high gear for the 16th Baptist Youth World Conference in Singapore from July 17-21. More than 6,000 youth from approximately 100 countries are expected to attend.

A major feature of the conference is a series of workshops for youth, youth leaders and young adults.

More than 20 workshops will be targeted toward the thousands of youth going to Singapore. Among these are Practical Advice for Growing in Faith, The Role of Christian Youth in the Fight against HIV/AIDS, and establishing ministries through the creative arts, sports and creation care. Others will examine how to live out one's faith in school, how to study the Bible, the dynamics of worship, social media, women in the sex trade, the environment, and peace and justice issues.

Some sessions will focus on youth telling their stories of life and ministry in difficult and sometimes dangerous circumstances.

Youth leaders workshops include Integrating Youth into the Church, Engaging Youth who are Involved in Risky Behavior, Balancing Career and Youth Ministry, Encouraging and Leading Young People in Short Term World Mission, and discussions exploring why youth are leaving the church.

Young adults will discuss Living a Life of Mission at Home, Connecting with Young Adults Outside the Church, Maximizing Ministry, and Discovering God's Purpose, among others.

Facilitators and presenters are drawn from around the world such as India, Singapore, Nepal, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Argentina, Germany, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and other countries.

Registration for the Baptist Youth World Conference may be done online at www.bwanet.org.

Baptist World Alliance®
© January 30, 2013

BWA brings Haitian Baptists together

A Jesus Christ Bread of Life (BOL) conference planned and sponsored by the Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) brought seven groups, including two that are already member organizations of the BWA, to focus on holistic development as an expression of authentic Christian witness and evangelism. This is the first time in living memory that such a diverse group of Baptists in Haiti has met to participate in an event.

"It was a very good conference," said BWA General Secretary Neville Callam, who presented a paper on the Haitian Baptist story within the broader context of Baptist history. Callam was impressed by the vision exhibited by Haitian Baptists and is of the view that Christian ministry in the Caribbean country has both a rich heritage and a bright future.

In his paper Callam, who is Jamaican, reminded Haitian Baptists of the strong historical links between Baptists in the Caribbean. He named a number of Jamaican Baptists who served as missioners in the French- and Creole-speaking country, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic. "Here in Haiti, we celebrate the way God has blessed the church and we are thankful for the growth of the Baptist community," Callam said.

Callam also updated Haitian Baptists on Baptist witness around the world, particularly in mission, the meeting of human need, and in the fight for freedom and justice.

The BWA general secretary and Fausto Vasconcelos, the BWA director responsible for mission and evangelism, reported that the seven groups represented at the conference decided to form an Alliance of Baptists for Haiti, an umbrella organization where the groups, while maintaining their independence, may share opportunities in fellowship and ministry. This is of significance, Callam declared, as Haiti has more Baptists than all of the rest of the Caribbean combined.

A well known Haitian Baptist was honored during the BOL conference. Emmanuel Feliz, a retired government civil servant and judge, served time in prison for his quest for human rights during the rule of François 'Papa Doc' Duvalier. Feliz now distributes solar radios throughout Haiti, carries out a preaching ministry and focuses on training church leaders in personal evangelism. He is also a presenter on a radio station in Haiti.

The BOL conference, which ran January 30-February 2, was held at the Christian University of North Haiti in Haut Limbe. Presenters included Vasconcelos; Everton Jackson, BWA regional secretary for the Caribbean and executive secretary/treasurer for the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship; and Andre Jean, professor of Old Testament, Old Testament Theology, Hebrew and Pastoral Leadership at the university, among others.

Jesus Christ Bread of Life is an international training program by the BWA aimed at renewing Baptists' understanding of the mission of God and to stimulate the desire to bear witness to that mission in each local context.

Previous BOL conferences have been held in Brazil, Paraguay, Nigeria and Cambodia.

Baptist World Alliance®
© February 6, 2013

Baptist World Alliance Day to be observed in May

Baptist World Alliance (BWA) Day 2013 will focus on the theme Hear the Spirit – Liberation, and will be observed on May 4 and 5, depending on whether Baptists worship on Saturday or Sunday.

On BWA Day, Baptists are encouraged to worship together and pray for one another. The observance began in the 1920s and was first known as Baptist World Sunday. Originally celebrated in February, it now occurs on the first Saturday and Sunday in May. Churches may, however, celebrate the day at a time that is more convenient.

Worship resources are available on the BWA website at www.bwanet.org.

Baptist World Alliance®
© January 28, 2013