BWA urges Baptists to pray for and respond to global concerns

At its Annual Gathering in Bangkok, Thailand, the Baptist World Alliance passed resolutions expressing concerns on human slavery and sex trafficking, refugees in East Africa, the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and religious liberty in both Russia and the United States.

Baptist bodies, churches, and individuals are called upon to work “towards the prevention of slavery and human trafficking, and caring for those impacted.” Baptists are encouraged “to collaborate with other Christians and all people of good will who are also concerned about bringing an end to this personal, social, and economic injustice.”

The BWA took note of “the deteriorating circumstances in some nations of East Africa resulting in a significant expansion of refugees seeking food, shelter, and safety” and requests “Baptists around the world to remember the people of East Africa in prayer and to provide support as possible.”

The global Baptist body “states its concerns at the climate of political and social instability and violence in Venezuela, which has led to a deteriorating socio-economic situation, including a shortage of food and medicines.” It “condemns all forms of violence and calls for respect for democracy to guarantee a just way out of the grave situation affecting the nation.”

Venezuelan authorities were being encouraged “to allow humanitarian aid into the country, and to grant access to those who wish to assist the worst affected sectors of society.” The BWA offers prayer for peace to return to the South American nation.

Global Baptists are concerned about the treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. Baptists in the country were commended “for standing for the principle of religious freedom for everyone, even for those with whom they have deep differences.”

BWA endorsed the move by the Russian Baptist union “for having expressed to President Putin its ‘profound concern’ at this violation ‘of freedom of conscience of tens of thousands of citizens of the Russian federation who confess the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses.’”

The president, government and judiciary of the Russian Federation, were asked “to restore the religious rights of all people, especially the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” and to uphold “the rights of all religious groups in Russia, especially religious minorities, to legally exist and to worship in freedom.”

The BWA said “the current travel ban on residents of several Muslim-majority nations” to the United States “raised serious concerns about religious freedom” and that “the BWA believes that no law should be used to discriminate on the basis of religion.”

The president and government of the US were urged to affirm the country’s “historic commitment to religious freedom for all people.” Baptists in the US are to “to understand the implications of religious discrimination and to stand firm for cherished Baptist principles of religious liberty.”

Approximately 300 Baptist leaders, pastors, theologians, seminary presidents, professors and interested Baptists from more than 40 countries met in Bangkok, Thailand, from July 2-7, for worship, fellowship, study and decision meetings.

Baptist World Alliance®
©July 8, 2017

Paul Msiza reacts to Elijah Brown’s election as world Baptist leader

The following is a statement by Baptist World Alliance President Paul Msiza, on the election and induction of Elijah Brown, 36, on July 7 as the global organization’s new general secretary. Brown begins his tenure on January 1, 2018, succeeding Neville Callam who retires from the position in December.

We thank God for the leadership of Dr. Neville Callam, for the 10 years he led us so well. Now we receive with thanksgiving the new general secretary elect, Elijah Brown.

God has moved in a miraculous way to call and to select a young man, full of energy, very excited. A Christian committed to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose faith stands upon the Lord and the Savior of the church.

It is a joy to receive Elijah as he prepares to serve the BWA come the beginning of next year, 2018.  I’m looking forward as president to work with him. I’m looking forward to it with excitement, to see how the Lord will lead us as we begin this new journey with Elijah.

I’m confident God will use him just as God has used Neville; use him to grow the BWA, to continue to expand the mission of God through the BWA.

The BWA is behind him and will support him. He was received with great excitement, a sign that this is God’s hand upon him. We trust that the Lord will keep him and give him good health to take care of the work that is set before him.

Especially, I’m looking forward to seeing how his ministry as a young person will impact the young people, the young adults, to see them getting involved in the whole life of the BWA.

We bless the Lord for this choice and we pray that God will continue to bless us as the Baptist World Alliance.

Paul Msiza
President
Baptist World Alliance

Baptist World Alliance®
©July 7, 2017

Elijah Brown to be next BWA general secretary

Induction prayer for Elijah Brown, new BWA general secretary as of January 2018American Elijah Brown, originally from the state of Texas, was elected to be the next general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). Brown was formally approved by the General Council on Friday, July 7, in Bangkok, Thailand, at its meeting during the BWA Annual Gathering.

He will assume the position of general secretary on January 1, 2018, succeeding Neville Callam, a Jamaican, who retires from that position in December after more than 10 years of service.

The general secretary is the CEO of the BWA and has overall responsibilities for the administration and operations of the organization, and is its chief representative to global organizations and institutions, ecclesial and secular, and to governments.

 

Brown, 36, has had a decade long involvement in the international umbrella organization for Baptists, starting in 2007 when he was named one of 35 global emerging leaders by the BWA. He is currently BWA regional secretary for North America and general secretary for the North American Baptist Fellowship.

He is a member of the BWA General Council; the Constitution and Bylaws Committee; the Nominations Committee; the Congress Committee; and the Mission, Evangelism and Justice Advisory Committee. He is vice chair of the BWA Commission on Religious Liberty and is a member of the Commission on Theological Education.

Brown, executive vice president of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, a Christian human rights organization based in Virginia, in the United States, was previously associate professor of Religion at East Texas Baptist University where he was founding director of the Freedom Center.

The son of a pastor, Brown was ordained to the Christian ministry in July 2002 and was associate pastor at Taylor’s Valley Baptist Church in Temple, Texas. He said his “lifelong commitment to ministry [is] shaped by three principles.” These are: “absolute dedication to the study of the Bible and life-alignment to the teachings of Scripture, a firm belief that the Holy Spirit is always at work in the world and that our responsibility is to listen to how we can lovingly join in his activity, and in the beauty of the local church as an agent for transformation and reconciliation as the bride of Christ.”

Brown declared: “I understand my own calling to be one of global, collaborative engagement that believes in the local church, takes seriously the word of God, listens to the Holy Spirit and seeks to build networks that act together in areas of mission, justice and deepening theological education as Christ-centered witnesses within the public square, especially in areas of conflict, persecution, refugee marginalization and injustice.”

John Upton, former BWA president and chair of the General Secretary Search Committee, said, “Elijah understands the BWA, values human rights, is a champion of religious freedom, connects with all generations, is a passionate speaker, a skilled administrator.” Upton noted that the new BWA leader “is well published and deeply respected in academic circles. Elijah combines motivation, inspiration and innovation with great skill and effectiveness.”

Brown earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Texas with a double major in religion and history, and a Ph.D. in Divinity with a focus on World Christianity from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Brown’s specialty lies in human rights and religious liberty. His dissertation focused on issues related to world Christianity, including mission and church growth, peacebuilding and conflict resolution, and the interaction of religion and politics. He helped to launch the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative and became its executive vice president and CEO.

He has conducted research on, led training events in and done human rights advocacy work in South Sudan, Nigeria, Eritrea, Iraq, Nepal and other countries. He has submitted reports to the United Nations and the US Department of State, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and several foundations and groups.

Brown is married to Amy and is father to Hudson, Sahara and Keziah.

Baptist World Alliance®
©July 7, 2017

Callam welcomes Elijah Brown’s appointment

Current Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Secretary Neville Callam has welcomed the election of Elijah Brown as his successor.

Brown will be the ninth BWA general secretary since its founding in 1905. He will assume the position on January 1, 2018, after Callam’s retirement in December this year.

“Elijah is the product of a home with deep roots in the Texas Baptist family,” Callam noted. “His parents named him Elijah Matthew as a sign of their own passionate Judeo-Christian commitment.”

Callam indicated that Brown is thoroughly suited for his new role, pointing to his scholastic preparation. “His early formation in Texas is supplemented by years of study in the United Kingdom and research experience in Kenya, Uganda and Sudan.”

Brown’s longstanding involvement in BWA life, covering a full decade, gives him deep insight into the international organization. “His years of association with BWA, which began with his appointment to the first group of young people forming the Emerging Leaders’ Network, have contributed to widening the horizons of his mind and equipping him for service within a multi-national, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic milieu.”

Callam said the newly elected leader “has been gifted by God,” and has “a passion for social justice, including religious liberty, which influenced him to serve in the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, a religious liberty advocacy agency, where he gained managerial experience.”

In expressing full confidence in his successor, Callam declared that he “expects Elijah's service with the BWA to be marked by robust advocacy in the cause of social justice and enthusiastic engagement witnessing to the transformative power of the Gospel.”

Brown will be the fourth American to serve as BWA general secretary. Previous Americans were Walter Lewis from Missouri (1939-1948); Robert Denny from Kentucky (1969-1980); and Denton Lotz from New York (1988-2007).

Baptist World Alliance®
©July 7, 2017

Callam lauded for service to Baptists

A plethora of tributes were offered to Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Secretary Neville Callam during the BWA Annual Gathering, held July 2-7 in Bangkok, Thailand.
The Jamaican, the first black person and the first who is neither an American nor a European to lead the BWA, retires in December after more than 10 years of service in the position.

At a dinner held in his honor, Callam, who is from the small town of Gibraltar in Jamaica’s interior, was hailed as being “morally, ethically and spiritually strong as the fabled Rock of Gibraltar.” He was described as a “saint, friend, leader, colleague” who is “moral, compassionate, inclusive.”

The Baptist leader was commended for shepherding the global organization safely through the Great Recession, a period of global financial hardships and economic decline that emerged in 2008 and continued for several years.

Despite periods of economic uncertainty, the BWA under Callam’s leadership raised more than US$26 million, including almost US$12 million to Baptist World Aid, more than US$8 million from churches, institutions and individuals, and more than US$5 million to the General Fund.  He implemented a comprehensive Donor Recognition Program and the 400 Legacy Gift program.

At the same time, the BWA undertook bold initiatives. A new Division on Freedom and Justice was launched after years of discussion and debate. The division was later merged with another division to form the Division on Mission, Evangelism and Justice.  Several commissions were formed, including those on Interfaith Relations, Racial and Gender Justice, Social and Economic Justice, Peace and Reconciliation, Religious Liberty, Human Rights Advocacy and Creation Care.

In emphasizing the importance of evangelism, Callam secured funding, capitalized at US$250,000, for an evangelism award to be given out every five years.

Administratively, the Jamaican spent much of his decade of service streamlining the administration and operational organs of the BWA. He facilitated the revision of the Fiscal Policy Manual and the Human Resources Manual, established the BWA recording studio, redesigned the website, incorporated a conference registration system and updated the IT infrastructure.

The gathering was told that “the unity of the church and of all Christians” is particularly close to Callam’s heart. He has spent much time and effort nurturing “the cultivation of a corporate worship life and practice among Baptists.” In fulfilment of these dreams, he led a collaborative effort that resulted in the publication of the Covenant on Intra-Baptist Relationships. That document, available in 25 languages on the BWA website, has been viewed or downloaded 60,000 times.

BWA membership grew over the past 10 years, with 24 new member organizations, now numbering 238. New countries and territories such as South Sudan, Chad, Grenada, Turks and Caicos Islands and Vietnam were added to the BWA fold.

Described as an “intellectual giant of the faith but a humble servant,” he was lauded for being “resolute in his convictions of the efficacy of the life in Christ” and for being a “man of faith who lives, perceives, thinks and decides theologically.”

Callam came to the general secretary’s office after serving as a BWA vice president. He had wide ecclesial experience, having held every major position in the Jamaica Baptist Union, including serving twice as president, acting as general secretary and being elected treasurer.

He was a leader in Jamaica’s religious community, primarily through the Jamaica Council of Churches, and was a pioneer in religious and public broadcasting on the island. He was founding chair and general manager of TBC FM, The Breath of Change; founding board member of the National Religious Media Commission, operators of Love FM; and founding chair of the Public Broadcasting Corporation of Jamaica.

Regionally and globally Callam actively participated in the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship, where he was a vice president, and the World Council of Churches, where he was a longstanding member of the influential Commission on Faith and Order, chairing several of that commission’s committees.

Representatives from each of the six regions of the BWA spoke in Callam’s honor at the dinner in Bangkok, including BWA vice presidents Michael Okwakol of Uganda, Dimitrina Oprenova of Bulgaria and Naomi Tyler-Lloyd of the United States.

Others who spoke were Tomás Mackey from Argentina, Devon Dick from Jamaica and Frank Rees of Australia. Ashley Becker spoke on the behalf of the BWA staff.

Video tributes were received from former BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz and Ganoune Diop of the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions, among others.

All video tributes, including those to be included in a second celebration planned for October in Virginia in the United States, will be available on the website.

Baptist World Alliance®
©July 6, 2017