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

New and potential changes in the BWA

Both the General Council and the Executive Committee, the two main governing bodies of the Baptist World Alliance® (BWA), which convened during the Annual Gathering in Chile that was held July 2-7 in the capital city of Santiago, are entertaining potential changes to the 107-year-old international Baptist organization.

The General Council authorized the General Secretary to circulate a notice of motion that will be decided on at the next sitting of the council in Jamaica in July 2013. If approved, the motion will allow all BWA vice presidents to be members of the executive, a reversal of a decision that was made in 2008 in Prague, Czech Republic. The notice of motion came after representation by the vice presidents to the executive.

The council, acting on a recommendation from the executive, granted authority to the BWA general secretary to appoint additional persons to commissions, in consultation with the BWA president and the respective chair of each commission. This revises a 2008 decision that restricted membership in BWA commissions to 25 persons each.

Previously, General Secretary Neville Callam made appeals at Executive Committee meetings in March in the United States and during the Annual Gathering in Chile that the BWA should act to deepen and broaden participation within the global umbrella organization that represents Baptists in 120 countries.

Members of the General Council in Chile responded positively to technological advances already underway at the BWA. The capacity of the BWA to conduct live streaming of its future meetings was warmly received, as well as efforts to reflect the life and work of Baptists around the world through its redesigned main website (www.bwanet.org) and a new, interactive website (www.bwalive.org).  It is expected that some sessions of the July 2013 Baptist Youth World Conference in Singapore and the Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa, in 2015, will be streamed live to a global audience.

In addition, the BWA now has a mobile app and uses teleconferencing systems that allow persons who are not onsite to participate in BWA meetings and deliberations.

Baptist World Alliance®

© July 17, 2012

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

Baptist Youth conference speakers confirmed

The Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) has confirmed the main speakers for the Baptist Youth World Conference in Singapore from July 17-21 next year.

More than 6,000 youth from some 100 countries are expected to attend the plenary sessions each morning and evening, "fringe events" with musical performers and other participants, and "family Bible Study groups," as well as other activities.

Speakers include Edmund Chan, pastor of the Covenant Evangelical Free Church in Singapore; Christian Rommert, head of the German Baptist Youth Department; Lucas Leys of Argentina, director of the Hispanic Division of Youth Specialists and vice president of publishing at Vida Publishers, the Spanish language division of Zondervan publishers; and Rachael Tan, a member of faculty at the Taiwan Baptist Theological Seminary and associate dean at the Asian Baptist Graduate Theological Seminary.

Other speakers include Thembelani Jentile, senior pastor for the Mamelodi Baptist Church in South Africa; Dave Overholt, founding pastor of the "Church on the Rock" in Canada; and Diana Francis, president of the Student Christian Movement of Bahamas and host of a youth television program.

Youth are invited to share in a number of mission projects before and after the conference planned by the Singapore Baptist Convention and conventions and unions in other countries in South East Asia.

Registration, travel and accommodation details for the youth conference can be obtained at the BWA website at www.bwanet.org.

Baptist World Alliance®

© July 16, 2012

“It was a dream to work for the BWA”

BWA honors retirees

A number of retiring staff members of the Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) were recognized for their period of service to the BWA during the Annual Gathering in Santiago, Chile, that was held from July 2-7.

Paul Montacute of Britain has been director of Baptist World Aid (BWAid) since 1993 and was previously director of the BWA Youth Department beginning in 1990.

Lee Hickman of the United States has been assistant to the BWAid director for 25 years.

Linda Falimy of Indonesia came to the BWA in 1991 as assistant to the director of communications and was appointed database specialist in 2006.

Judy Campbell started out with the BWA in 2001 as events coordinator and later became financial assistant.

Alberto Prokopchuk was BWA regional secretary for Latin America and general secretary for the Union of Baptists in Latin America for 11 years, starting in 2001.

Harrison Olan'g was BWA regional secretary for Africa and general secretary of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship between 2007 and 2011.

Montacute declared that his time at the BWA "was the best of times. There was never a day that was like the previous day."

Lee, Montacute's assistant for all the time he was BWAid director, described her time with the BWA "as an adventure. You never know what your day will be," she said. "I've lived through earthquakes, tsunamis, and many disasters in my work with BWAid. But working for the BWA has been a privilege."

Falimy stated that "it has been a good time, ever since I came when we were in our previous offices in McLean" (in the state of Virginia in the US). The international offices of the BWA have been in Falls Church, also in Virginia, since 2001.

Campbell, an American, said that, for her, "it was a dream to work for the BWA. I loved every moment of it and I am grateful for the opportunity to have served." Campbell made special reference to her role as registrar at BWA meetings for 10 of the years she was with the international Baptist organization. "I looked forward to meeting people from all over the world who influenced me in so many ways."

Prokopchuk declared that serving the BWA "has been one of the most blessed experiences and enriching part of my life and ministry." He thanked the Annual Gathering for the prayers, kindness and love "that I have received during all these years."

Montacute, Campbell and Falimy retire at the end of July and Hickman retires in December. The terms of both Prokopchuk and Olan'g had come to an end and they did not seek re-election to their respective positions.

Baptist World Alliance®

© July 8, 2012