Technology is here to stay

Technology is a reality that will have to be embraced by the church. This was the general consensus at a Technology and Ministry forum that was held during the Annual Gathering of the Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) on July 2.

Maribel Salamanca, communications director for the Union of Evangelical Baptist Churches of Chile, claimed that the church made use of technology from the time it was founded. But while she spoke of many of the benefits of modern technology, Salamanca also highlighted a number of risks.

Benefits of modern technology include enabling congregations to reach out to those who are unable to attend worship, such as the sick and homebound, as well as those "who would not think to attend church." Technology, Salamanca said, is useful in enabling a church to form online prayer chains and other similar initiatives, and the best part of it, much of technology, such as social media, is free to the user.

She, however, said that some churches risk having a stronger online rather than real life presence, lacking a connection in real community, such as with the elderly, who may not have access to, or are acquainted with technology. "What do we do with them?" she asked. She also related the disquiet experienced by some leaders of a congregation in Chile when the church chose to conduct the search for a new pastor entirely via the use of technology, including the interviewing process. The lack of a face to face encounter with the prospective candidates proved problematic and difficult, she said.

Robert Parham, executive director of Ethics Daily, said that "technology has long shaped how we read the Bible ... [and] how we connect to community." Such influence is evidenced through a movement from the use of the scroll, to that of text, and now to the screen, as seen from biblical times to the present. Parham claimed that "Jesus spoke in tweets long before tweets became cool, if by tweets one means short messages." He made references to some of Jesus' sayings such as "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," "No one can serve two masters," and "When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases." All these are in 140 characters or less, Parham asserted.

It is how technology is utilized that will determine its impact, according to Rand Jenkins, communications director for the Baptist General Convention of Texas in the United States. Jenkins claimed that technology is neutral. "HOW we choose to use it or not use it determines its beneficial or negative aspects." He said that if one is to communicate with a younger demographic, then modern technology has to be embraced by all, including the church.

Tony Cartledge, a professor at Campbell University Divinity School, a blogger at Baptists Today, and chair of the BWA Communications Advisory Committee, said that technology can be used to build community despite the concern that technology, such as widespread Internet use, creates isolation. He believes that the Internet in particular can be used to build community, and he gave the example of a congregation where he sometimes worships when he visits Washington DC.  Even though he lives and works in the state of North Carolina, more than 300 miles away, he is able to share in the life of the church because it "uses technology in a positive fashion" through regular updates, podcasts through which he can watch or listen sermons, read and share online sermons and Bible studies, etc.

The forum, moderated by Bob Terry, editor of The Alabama Baptist newspaper, is one of several activities that take place during the BWA Annual Gathering from July 2-7.

Baptist World Alliance®

© July 3, 2012

Thousands of Chileans welcome the BWA

Several thousand Baptists from across Chile welcomed the roughly 300 Baptist World Alliance® leaders and delegates at an evening of celebration in Santiago on the evening of July 2.

The BWA is having its Annual Gathering in Santiago from July 2-7.

Leaders from the two BWA member bodies in the South American country, the National Baptist Convention of Chile and the Union of Evangelical Baptist Churches of Chile, extended the formal welcome while an exuberant audience roared its approval. Responses from BWA President John Upton and General Secretary Neville Callam were warmly received, with Chilean Baptists expressing particular delight that Callam delivered his entire greeting in Spanish.

Performances by folk groups from the Baptist College of Temuco and the First Baptist of Concepcion, depicted aspects of Chilean culture, including from Easter Island, a Polynesian island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean that is a special territory of Chile.

The Bronces de Jerico Band, comprising mainly brass instrumentalists from Baptist churches across Santiago, Chile's capital, performed a wide variety of musical items including jazz, swing, traditional and folk. Osvaldo Quadros, a well known Brazilian-Chilean singer, who has converted to Christianity, also performed.

Upton told the audience that Baptists had supported and remembered Chileans through periods of recent crises, such as the massive February 27, 2010, earthquake, and the mining disaster that trapped 33 miners underground for more than two months, from August 5 to October 13, 2010. He expressed the joy of the BWA to be able to come to Chile for its Annual Gathering of global Baptist leaders.

Callam assured Chilean Baptists that they are part of one Baptist family sharing oneness with other Christian believers around the world. "We are one Baptist family, brothers and sisters, witnesses for our Lord Jesus Christ," Callam declared.

Baptist World Alliance®

© July 3, 2012

BWA launches interactive website

The Baptist World Alliance® has launched its second website within a month.

Bwalive.org is an interactive website where the public determines much of the content. According to the welcome page, "all persons... are encouraged to share your news, views, comments and opinions, as well as appropriate videos and photographs."

Included on the site are areas for video sharing, as well as a blog where persons may post their own views, comments and concerns.

Visitors to the site will learn about certain initiatives of the BWA, or causes or ministries supported by the BWA. Viewers will also be asked to show their support for these initiatives or ministries through various means, whether through giving, petition signing, representation to their government or other relevant actors, or through other means.

Visitors to the site may also propose initiatives that they would like the wider Baptist constituency to be aware of and support.

All videos, photos, comments and ideas that are submitted will be vetted by administrators of the website and are subject to approval.  Those that are contrary to the values and aims of the BWA, or that are plagiarizing, abusive, and in any other way deemed unsuitable or inappropriate, will not be approved.

The BWA launched its newly redesigned and reconfigured main website in the month of May (www.bwanet.org) with a new interface and added features. The international Baptist organization also launched a new mobile app that persons may download on to their Apple or Android devices.

The new interactive website can be seen at www.bwalive.org or linked directly from the main BWA website by clicking the "In Step with the Spirit" tab.

Baptist World Alliance®

© June 28, 2012

Preparations in high gear for 2015 congress

The Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) has signed two major contracts in preparation for the 21st Baptist World Congress in South Africa in 2015.

The Congress Committee, which met as part of the BWA Annual Gathering in Santiago, Chile, received reports that contracts have been signed with the International Convention Centre in Durban and a destination manager. Most of the meetings will be held at the convention center.

The destination manager will help to coordinate housing for the thousands of Baptists that are expected to attend the world congress, and will cover all liabilities related to housing, except for persons who choose "home stays" with fellow Baptists. Home stays are being coordinated by the Local Arrangements Committee (LAC), which assists the BWA in making local preparations.

The LAC comprises nominees from the four Baptist groups in South Africa that hold membership within the BWA, the Baptist Association of South Africa, the Baptist Convention of South Africa, the Baptist Mission of South Africa, and the Baptist Union of Southern Africa.

Emmett Dunn, the BWA staff person who coordinates plans for major meetings, also touted the new conference registration system instituted by the BWA.  The registration system allows persons to do online registration and is currently in use for other meetings, including the Annual Gathering in Chile and the Baptist Youth World Conference in Singapore in July next year.  The system will be the major means by which persons will register for the congress, which will be held July 22-26, 2015.

The Congress Committee will propose a theme to the BWA Executive Committee for its approval when it meets during the Annual Gathering, which is from July 2-7 in the Chilean capital. The adoption of the theme will enable the BWA to choose congress topics, design a suitable congress logo, and assign resource persons for the congress.

BWA President John Upton highlighted the importance of the Baptist World Congress in the life of Baptists around the world. "If you want to create a mess, forget who you are," Upton told members of the Congress Committee. "Many Baptists are forgetting who we are. The World Congress enables us to remember who we are and we hear it with this global voice. The BWA has done it beautifully for 105-plus years."

A number of other events will be planned around the Baptist World Congress, including pre-congress events such as the International Women's Conference, and post-congress activities such as mission trips in South Africa and other countries on the African continent.

Baptist World Alliance®

© July 1, 2012

Latin American youth conference convenes in Chile

A conference for Latin American Baptist youth leaders is being held in Santiago, Chile, from June 29 to July 1.

Sponsored by the Baptist World Alliance®, the conference will focus on resource and information sharing, leadership development, and on mission. Among issues to be explored are youth in crisis, evangelism and social media, and the goals and values of youth ministry.

The BWA will use the opportunity to urge these young leaders to encourage their peers to attend the 16th Baptist Youth World Conference that is to be held in Singapore from July 17-21, 2013.

At least 30 Baptist youth leaders from several countries are expected, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela, and elsewhere.

Presenters include BWA Youth Director Emmett Dunn, Dean Miller of the Virginia Baptist Mission Board in the United States, and Dale Stairs of the Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches in Canada.

The youth conference immediately precedes the BWA Annual Gathering which is being held in Santiago from July 2-7.

Baptist World Alliance®

© June 26, 2012