Theology conference presenters confirmed

The main presenters and speakers for the 8th Baptist International Conference on Theological Education (BICTE) have been confirmed. The event will be held in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, from June 28-30 and immediately precedes the Annual Gathering that will run from July 1-6 at the same venue.

The conference will focus on Perspectives on Pneumatology within the worldwide Baptist Family.

Presenters include Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) General Secretary Neville Callam; Deji Isaac Ayeboyin, professor of Church History and African Christianity in the Department of Religious Studies, University of Ibadan in Nigeria; and William Brackney, Millard R. Cherry Distinguished Professor of Christian Thought and Ethics, and director, Acadia Centre for Baptist and Anabaptist Studies at Acadia Divinity College in Canada.

Other presenters are Graham Hill, lecturer in Pastoral and Leadership Studies and coordinator of Postgraduate Coursework Degrees and Ministry Research Awards at Morling Baptist Theological College in Sydeny, Australia; Doug Weaver, professor in the Department of Religion at Baylor University in the state of Texas in the United States; and Burchell Taylor, a BWA vice president, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in St. Andrew, Jamaica, and lecturer at the United Theological College of the West Indies.

Respondents are Otniel Bunaciu, president of the Baptist Union of Romania and dean of the Baptist Faculty of Theology, University of Bucharest; Honorina Dela Paz-Lacquian, associate dean at Asia Baptist Graduate Theological Seminary, Philippines; Ademola Ishola, former general secretary of the Nigerian Baptist Convention who is supervisor to Master's and PhD students at the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary; and Phyllis RodgersonPleasants, former seminary professor and currently a consultant and educator to local congregations and businesses.

BICTE is planned by the BWA and is normally held every five years. The last conference was held in Prague, Czech Republic, in 2008.

Registration and other information on BICTE can be viewed on the BWA website.

Baptist World Alliance®
© January 16, 2013

Nigerian Baptists express gratitude for BWA human rights visit

Baptists in Nigeria expressed thanks for a Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) human rights visit to the country in December.  "Words are inadequate to express our appreciation to you all for putting your lives on the line to come to us. That was quite an amazing love," said Olasupo Ayokunle, president and chief executive officer of the Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC).

The visit was in response to widespread violence in the West African country allegedly carried out by Boko Haram, a jihadist group that seeks to establish Shariah law in Nigeria, which has claimed responsibility for some of the bombings.  The group has carried out a series of bombings and shootings against Christian churches and government facilities. Casualties have included Baptist pastors and church members.

Led by BWA director of Freedom and Justice Raimundo Barreto, the team visited churches in the cities of Kaduna, Jos and Kafanchan that were affected by the violence, offering encouragement on behalf of the worldwide Baptist family.

A letter from BWA General Secretary Neville Callam to Goodluck Jonathan, the president of Nigeria, was presented to Ayim Pious Ayim, a senator and secretary to the president at a meeting at the offices of the president in Abuja, Nigeria's capital. The letter, which Barreto read aloud in the meeting, commended Nigeria as an important partner nation in the international arena, particularly in its signing of important United Nations instruments that seek to advance human rights and freedom.

Callam urged the Nigerian president "to ensure the protection and security of all citizens in the areas of conflict, to intensify efforts to encourage peace and reconciliation, and to bring to justice the perpetrators of the acts of wanton violence." The BWA leader also appealed for "increased support for peace building programs initiated by civil society organizations and religious institutions."

Ayim thanked the BWA for the concerns it has shown for the welfare of the country and acknowledged the important work done by Nigerian Baptists. He stated that the government is taking all possible measures to tackle extremism and promote peace and development across the nation.

The BWA delegation participated in a two-day seminar on Conflict Resolution and Peaceful Co-existence at the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution of the Nigerian Government's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja.

The team also visited the offices of the governors of the states of Kaduna and Plateau to urge further measures that would offer protection in the conflict zones, and to encourage continuous support of initiatives to promote reconciliation and peace.

A meeting was held with James Wuye, a Christian pastor, and Mohammed Ashafa, a Muslim imam, directors of the Interfaith Mediation Center in Kaduna, who are both internationally recognized for their interfaith peacemaking work.

Ayokunle told the BWA representatives that Nigerian Baptists will follow up on the initiatives of the BWA.  Talks are already underway within the NBC with hopes of exploring opportunities for dialogue and the building of greater understanding.  "Nigeria badly needs this at this time," said B. Uche Enyioha, chairman of the NBC.

In July 2012, the BWA passed a resolution calling for "a peaceful ending of all violence and abuse of human rights in Nigeria," and encouraged "our Baptist sisters and brothers to continue to seek ways to promote peace and respect for all persons in Nigeria." The BWA appealed to the government of Nigeria at all levels to ensure safety and security for all people in the country.

Other members of the BWA delegation were Daniel Buttry of American Baptist Churches USA's International Ministries and a member of the BWA Commission on Peace; and Rosalee Velloso Ewell, a director of the World Evangelical Alliance and a member of the BWA Commission on Baptist-Muslim Relations.

NBC has the largest Baptist membership in Africa, reporting 3.5 million members in some 10,000 churches. The Mambilla Baptist Convention has more than 26,000 members in more than 260 churches.

Baptist World Alliance®
© January 11, 2013

Baptists in Central African Republic request urgent prayer on conflict

Baptists in the Central African Republic (CAR) have requested urgent prayer from the worldwide Baptist family on the conflict in the country.

Singa-Gbazia Nicolas Aime Simplice, president of the Association of Baptist Churches of the Central African Republic, told the Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) that “the situation of the Central African Republic is precarious. A rebel coalition has already grabbed several [towns] and they are at the door of the capital,” he said. “Their aim is to overthrow the president of the republic and establish Islam as rigorously as in northern Mali.”

Simplice is referring to the insurgency in Mali that began in January 2012 against the Malian government for independence or greater autonomy for northern Mali.  At least some of the several Malian insurgent groups are Marxists.

The 2012–2013 CAR rebellion is an ongoing conflict between the government of the CAR and rebels, many of whom were previously involved in the CAR Bush War between 2004 and 2007. The rebels have captured some of the major towns in the central and eastern regions of the country. The offensive began in December when an armed group seized the towns of N'Délé, Sam Ouandja and Ouadda and later escalated.

Simplice said life has become difficult for those who have been displaced by the fighting in the CAR.  A number of Baptist churches, he told the BWA, have been badly damaged or destroyed in the conflict. Expatriates, he said, have fled the nation.

Simplice is calling on Baptists around the world to pray for peace and stability in his country.

There are four BWA member organizations in French-speaking CAR with a total of approximately 185,000 members in about 800 churches.

Baptist World Alliance®
© January 7, 2013

The evolving understanding of ordination among Baptists

The ordained ministry is rooted in the mission of the church as a corporate body, said Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) General Secretary Neville Callam. Ordained persons, Callam asserted, have no existence apart from their partnership with the general church membership under the lordship of Christ.

Callam made these declarations in a lecture he presented at the 38th Annual Assembly of the Baptist Convention of South Africa (BCSA) in December.

The BWA leader offered an interpretation of the understanding of ordination among Baptists, from the formative years of Baptist life in the Netherlands and England until the end of the 17th century and suggested that, since that period, Baptist understandings of ordination have continued to evolve.

He proposed that each Baptist convention and union work out clearly its own understanding of the meaning and purpose of ordination and to express these in their ordination rites. Callam said the contemporary situation seems to suggest the need for churches to introduce particular forms of ordained ministry to further the church's faithfulness to God's mission and to assist those who serve the church in a ministerial capacity.

The BCSA used the opportunity of the assembly to observe its 25th anniversary as an independent Baptist organization. The BCSA was once part of the Baptist Union of Southern Africa.

In addition to delivering the lecture, Callam preached at the assembly service in which persons were ordained to the ministry. He also met with several Baptist leaders, including Paul Msiza, former BCSA general secretary, a BWA vice president and chair of the Local Arrangements Committee for the Baptist World Congress that is to be held in South Africa in 2015; and Bongani Khumalo, chair of the BWA Constitution and Bylaws Committee.

Callam said "BCSA members are looking forward to welcoming the Baptist World Congress when it convenes in Durban, South Africa, in 2015." He noted that one of the young ministers in the convention, Thembelani Jentile, will be among the main presenters at the 16th Baptist Youth World Conference in Singapore from July 17-21 this year.

Other guests at the BCSA assembly were Regina Class, general secretary of the Union of Evangelical Free Churches (Baptists) in Germany and a BWA vice president; David Goatley, secretary-treasurer of the Lott Carey Foreign Missionary Convention and chair of the BWA Mission, Evangelism and Theological Reflection Advisory Committee; and Charles Jones of American Baptist Churches USA and a member of the BWA Congress Committee.

Baptist World Alliance®
© January 9, 2013

Callam appointed trustee of Mercer University

Baptist World Alliance® General Secretary Neville Callam has been appointed a trustee of Mercer University in the state of Georgia in the United States.

Callam joins the 45-member Board of Trustees that has responsibility for overall policy-making for the university. Mercer was founded in 1833 and is one of the largest Baptist-affiliated tertiary educational institutions in the world.

Mercer describes itself as "a faith-based institution of higher learning that seeks to achieve excellence and scholarly discipline in the fields of liberal learning and professional knowledge. The institution is guided by the historic principles of religious and intellectual freedom, while affirming religious and moral values that arise from the Judeo-Christian understanding of the world."

The board is responsible for establishing broad institutional goals and for securing resources to support the university's programs.

Baptist World Alliance®
© January 4, 2013