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

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

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

BWA urges action on Nigerian crisis and climate change

The Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) has made an appeal for the crisis in Nigeria to come to an end.

In a resolution passed by the General Council, the international Baptist organization denounced the levels of violence in the West African country caused by Muslim extremists and noted "that these horrendous acts of inhumanity in Nigeria have promoted fear to freely worship and assemble."

The BWA cautions the Nigerian government that it needs "to ensure safety and security for all people in Nigeria," and urged "Baptists around the world to raise these concerns with their governments, religious leaders and persons of influence."

Boko Haram, a jihadist group that seeks to establish shariah law in Nigeria, has carried out a series of bombings against Christian churches and government facilities such as police stations. By early 2012, the group was responsible for more than 900 deaths. In the most recent incidents since June, the group claimed to be responsible for the suicide bombings of several churches in the northern Nigerian state of Kaduna, killing more than 50 people.

In a specific appeal to Baptists in the most populous country in Africa, the BWA is "encouraging our Baptist sisters and brothers to continue to seek ways to promote peace and respect for all persons in Nigeria."

The Nigerian Baptist Convention is one of the largest Baptist groups in the world, comprising more than 2.5 million members in more than 9,300 churches. The Mambilla Baptist Convention has approximately 23,000 members in more than 250 churches.

In a resolution on climate change, Baptists are being encouraged to teach and model creation care, identify "simple and practical means" to incorporate an ecologically responsible lifestyle, and to support "the framework for action" that came out of the recent United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The Rio conference, held June 13-22 and in which the BWA participated, issued a document, The Future We Want, which seeks to achieve certain environmental goals at the international, national, regional and local levels.

The BWA confesses that though Baptists like other Christian traditions believe and affirm that the earth is created by God and that the Bible teaches care and respect for that creation, humans "have not always been faithful stewards of God's creation owing to ignorance, neglect, arrogance and greed... and have often exploited, consumed and abused creation for selfish advantage." It notes the "lack of progress toward a global consensus on the urgent need to reduce human contribution to climate change that is having dramatic impact on God's creation," which has special impact on the poor who "are most affected by climate change and are least able to adapt."

The BWA says there is need for increasing commitment by Baptist churches, conventions and unions "to act as agents of change and reconciliation with God's creation."

The General Council forms part of the Annual Gathering that met in Santiago, Chile, from July 2-7.

Baptist World Alliance®

© July 8, 2012