Caribbean Baptists meet despite tropical storm

 

Baptist leaders and delegates met on the island of Antigua for the Mid Term Assembly of the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship (CBF) despite the passage of Tropical Storm Isaac over the island.

Winds caused by the storm grew in strength over Antigua from in the early evening of August 22, the day of the start of the assembly. The VC Bird International Airport in the capital St. Johns closed in the afternoon, causing delays in the arrival of a number of assembly participants as well as cancellations as the storm wends its way through the Caribbean Sea, passing near to, or over, several Caribbean islands.

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Winston Baldwin Spencer, who brought greetings at the opening session, made a tongue in cheek reference to the passage of the tropical storm when he declared, “when the Lord is in the vessel, you can smile at the storm.”

Spencer, who has led the islands since 2004, encouraged Baptists from around the region “to pray for individuals like myself,” people in political leadership and public life, even while the church spurns partisanship. “The church should pray for leaders for God to provide [them with] vision and wisdom,” the prime minister admonished the gathering.

Making reference to the biblical quote that “Man shall not live by bread alone,” Spencer declared “that while there should be the dominance of spirituality and developing relationships with Almighty God,” said the biblical reference “suggests to me that man does live by bread.” He said the church has a secondary role to ensure “mankind lives in the best possible situation as they prepare for the second coming of Christ. This is an extension of what Christ expects the church to do.”

CBF President William Thompson, keynote speaker at the opening session, commended the prime minister for his request for prayer for himself and other political leaders. Thompson, while admitting that Christians face challenges, assured the gathering that “God has committed to sort out the mess in our lives” as God through Paul promises that “all things work together for good to them that love the Lord.” Not all things are good, he explained, because there are maladies such as hunger, hatred and persecution to contend with, but all things will work for good.

Mark Azille, president of the Antigua Baptist Association, declared the meetings historic as it was the first Baptists on the island were hosting a regional meeting. He expressed gratitude to the CBF, one of six regional fellowships of the Baptist World Alliance® (BWA), for the role the CBF played in helping to bring Baptists on the island together. Everton Jackson, CBF Executive Secretary/Treasury and BWA regional secretary for the Caribbean, visited Antigua in November 2010 to discuss the resuscitation of the association and its reconnection to both the CBF and the BWA.

Thompson and Jackson celebrated achievements of Caribbean athletes at the recently concluded Olympic Summer Games in London. Usain Bolt and Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica, Kirani James of Grenada,  Keshorn Walcott of Trinidad and Tobago, the Jamaica men’s 4x100 meter relay team and the Bahamas men’s 4x400 relay team – all gold medal winners – came in for special mention. The region, it was noted, won a total of 18 medals during the Summer Olympics.

The CBF Mid Term Assembly is held roughly at the halfway point between general assemblies, which are normally held every five years. The last general assembly was held in Montego Bay, Jamaica, in 2010.

 

Baptist World Alliance®

© August 23, 2012

Humanitarian crisis in Congo, BWA receives appeals for aid

The Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) is responding to appeals for assistance from Baptists in North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) due to a humanitarian crisis that has seen tens of thousands of Congolese fleeing their homes.

The United Nations Refugee Agency has reported that since April, its staff on the ground has witnessed tens of thousands of people fleeing their homes in North Kivu due to intense fighting between government forces and armed rebels. Many are seeking safety in neighboring countries such as Uganda and Rwanda, while others are looking for refuge in other parts of the DRC.

Baptists in the region told the BWA that conditions in camps housing displaced persons are deteriorating rapidly. Assistance from nongovernment organizations is not sufficient and there is urgent need for both medicine and food. "Many sick people are without help and sanitary conditions are not good," the BWA was informed. "Among those dying most are children. Many people are going to die not because of hunger but because of sickness."

The BWA, through Baptist World Aid, its relief and development agency, is appealing to Baptists to make donations to meet the urgent needs of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the DRC to assist with food, clothes and medicine in at least some of the eight IDP camps that have been established.

Donations may be made online at www.bwanet.org or sent to:
Baptist World Aid
405 North Washington Street
Falls Church, VA 22046
USA

Baptist World Alliance®

© August 20, 2012

BWA engaging long-time and new supporters

The Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) has implemented several initiatives that will serve to strengthen the financial health of the international Baptist organization. In the face of challenges in the world economy, the BWA seeks to exercise financial stewardship through the continued support of BWA stakeholders and tight management of expenditures.

BWA General Secretary Neville Callam reported that he sought "funding for BWA ministry initiatives from extra-budget sources" and took "aggressive steps...to rein in expenditure partly by opting for more efficient operational systems and mechanisms."

He emphasized that the BWA instituted a new system that enables donors to make their contributions online. "It is noteworthy that at least 100 of our first-time donors last year used our online giving mechanisms," he said.

All this is being done, Callam asserted, to encourage the international Baptist community to do more to identify with the work and mission of the BWA. He celebrated the fact that in 2011 BWA member bodies in Africa, Asia Pacific, the Caribbean, and Europe saw improvements in giving over the previous year, and has strongly encouraged them and the other regions to build on this improvement.

Jeff Bloomer, who represented BWA Treasurer Carolyn Fossen at recent meetings of the General Council in Chile, urged council members to take personal responsibility by making their own contributions and to encourage others, including member organizations to which they belong, to do so.

Callam noted that the General Council decided that only member organizations that contribute to the BWA will normally receive travel and support scholarships for BWA meetings.

In highlighting the goodwill that the BWA enjoys among Baptists, Callam said, "we have a truly compelling vision and mission that Baptists appreciate and will want to support."

Baptist World Alliance®

© July 24, 2012

Great Commission should be part of daily life

Baptist World Alliance® General Secretary Neville Callam recently reaffirmed that commitment to the Great Commission should be taken as a given in the life of the Christian believer, and that this also includes bearing witness to Christ in one's daily life.

Callam was speaking at the African American Fellowship and Evangelism Conference hosted by the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) in Lewisville, held July 17-19.

"The Great Commission rests on the unassailable conviction that the church's mission to evangelize the world is part of the taken-for-granted, run of the mill, reality of the daily life of each Christian and of the Christian community," Callam said. Describing this commitment as a "compelling obligation," Callam insisted it is not one that can be "reasonably avoided" by preoccupation with personal ambition or distractions caused by the pursuit of creature comforts, or even by difficulties or challenges in one's life.

The African American Fellowship is one of several ethnically based groups operating within the BGCT. Callam addressed the group at their opening banquet, held annually in honor of James W. Culp, Sr. Culp was the BGCT coordinator of the Black Church Development Division from 1982 to 2001. The number of historically African American churches affiliated with the BGCT grew from 80 at the start of his tenure to more than 700 when he retired.

Those attending the event included Michael Evans, president of the African American Fellowship, who presided, David Hardage, executive director of the BGCT, and Charles Singleton, BGCT African American Ministries director.

Baptist World Alliance®

© August 2, 2012

British Baptists engage in Olympic mission outreach

Baptists in the United Kingdom (UK) are part of a ministry outreach by a network of churches focused on the Summer Olympic and Pralympic Games that take place in London from July 27 to August 12 and from August 29 to September 9, respectively.

The Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB) is one of the sponsors of the initiative, known as the "More than Gold" network, and is working to help Baptist churches to "seize the moment."

According to Ian Bunce, head of the Mission Department of the BUGB, More than Gold is "a consortium of churches and Christian agencies working together as a single response to the Olympics." It collates information and resources to help local churches to, among other things, host approximately 500 athletes' families, provide 5,000 volunteers, give one million drinks, hold 2,000 creative arts events, and host 100 big screen events.

"We also have a lot of Olympic chaplains working at the venues," Bunce told the Baptist World Alliance®. "Street pastors, who have strong Baptist roots, are also very heavily involved.  We have had someone working in London full time for the past 18 months to help the church to get ready to welcome the world," Bunce elaborated.

The lead chaplain for the Olympics is John Boyers, former chaplain for the Manchester United soccer club, who is leading a multi-faith chaplaincy team.

Baptist churches are invited by the BUGB to provide volunteers for the service and hospitality programs; to engage with their community through guest events, sports outreach and creative arts; and to join other churches to run community festivals and hospitality centers.

Churches are being encouraged to organize events around the Torch Run relays throughout the UK leading up to the opening of the Olympic Games. The route takes the Olympic Torch through more than 1,000 communities and within 10 miles of most of the UK's population. Events that churches may host include large screen festivals, barbecues, street parties, picnics, breakfasts, children's games, sports quizzes and sport competitions.

According to the BUGB, "the Olympic Torch Relay can be used as a catalyst by hundreds of churches to mobilize united and creative prayer for their communities and the nations."

Baptists are also encouraged to welcome and utilize the resources of short term church mission teams that are visiting London from other countries leading up to and after the games.

The BUGB has also entered into partnership with BMS World Mission and the Baptist Union of Wales to produce Undefeated, a resource designed for a one-hour church service "to celebrate the faith and excellence of Paralympians, address issues of global injustice, and improve [the churches'] inclusion of people with disabilities."

The Paralympic Games are an international multi-sport event for athletes with a physical disability.

The aim of Undefeated is to enable Baptists to discover what the Bible says about disability, to celebrate the contributions made by people with disabilities in British Baptist churches, to become more inclusive in their welcome toward people with disabilities, to be inspired by the faith of athletes who compete in the Paralympics, and to remember international issues of justice and disability.

Baptist World Alliance®

© July 19, 2012