BWA leader recalls the past, challenges for the future in opening remarks

ZURICH, Switzerland -- Elijah Brown stressed the power of Scripture to transform lives and the importance of building bridges as he welcomed the global Baptist community to the historic city of Zurich Tuesday, July 3, in his opening remarks to the Baptist World Alliance General Council.

As we gather here in this city, of all cities, we are reminded of the transformative power of God’s Holy Word,” said Brown, who is general secretary of BWA, the largest international Baptist fellowship.

The Christian Reformation began in Germany and Switzerland 500 years ago, with Zurich being the key site in the Swiss Reformation. Zurich also is the city where early Reformation leaders persecuted and killed other, more radical, Reformers like the Anabaptists.

The global body is being co-hosted by the Swiss Baptist Union and Evangelical Reformed Church of Zurich. Brown thanked them for their “gracious hospitality and for all you have done to help bring us together for this important milestone.

“Here in the city where Huldrych Zwingli preached, where Scriptures were translated anew, the Reformation was shaped, and at times the Anabaptists hid, we are gathered to join in the ongoing celebration of 500 years of Protestant Reformation.”

Brown spoke from 2 Timothy 2:8-9, which ends with the phrase, “God’s word is not chained.”

God’s messengers can be put in chains, practices can become outdated, and cultures and turn, but “the Word of God cannot be chained. God’s holy, perfect, inspired Word cannot be chained,” Brown said.

He listed the five key principles of the Reformation in Latin and English -- sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), solus Christus (Christ alone), and soli Deo gloria (to the glory of God alone).

“This is who we are,” Brown said. “And this is who we at the BWA strive to be. Would you sit in this room for just a moment? Would you feel hundreds of years coursing through this city, echoing through our foremothers and forefathers, and calling us ever more. ...

“As we gather, would you join me in praying that God’s Word would be powerful and alive in our lives this week? For one of the themes woven throughout this week is the transformative power of the Scriptures. It is what we will be celebrating tonight in the Grossmünster Church,” the church where Zwingli was pastor.

In the midst of this celebration of God’s transformative work through the centuries, the BWA leader said many people around the world, including Baptists, are suffering persecution. Many are “even now feeling the weight of God’s Word and those who would seek to chain it down. As we begin we also remember them. They may not be able to join us, but we will join them.”

Brown recently returned from a trip to South Korea, and he asked Baptists to be “especially mindful of our brothers and sisters in North Korea.” After sharing details of his trip to Korea, Brown asked participants to gather in small groups of prayer for North Korea and its people.

“I pray that throughout this Annual Gathering we will be a community who builds bridges,” Brown said. “We are recalling our bridges to our past. ... We will be building bridges to one another in Jesus Christ. ... We will be building bridges to our shared future in ministry. ... For we still believe in the transformative power of God’s Word.


Nigerian youth leader dies

The All Africa Baptist Youth Fellowship marked three days of mourning June 5-7 after the death of Francis Iliya Bakut, the national president of the Nigeria Baptist Convention Youth Conference.

Bakut died June 4 after bringing fraternal greetings at the opening of the 2018 youth week anniversary at First Baptist Church in Garki Abuja.

AABYF, in its weekly prayer guide, called for the day of mourning with the "highest level of sorrow, sadness and unstoppable streams of tears."

Russian-language church in Virginia moves into first building

By Ferrell Foster

The gospel is being preached in Russian each week in a suburb outside Washington, D.C., USA, and the church recently moved into its first building after 16 years of ministry. Pastor Victor Visotsky has led the congregation, New Life Russian Church, from the start.

Visotsky, with his wife and two children, came to the United States in 1991 at age 25. They moved to Pennsylvania from Narva, Estonia, in the Soviet Union, which was coming to an end.

In Estonia, Visotsky’s family had been Baptists. His great-grandfather had been an Orthodox deacon who became one of the first Baptists in the Ukraine years before. Baptists in Estonia had limited freedom. Visotsky’s parents were fined for having prayer meetings in their home after the KGB searched and confiscated Christian materials, including their Bibles. They fortunately were not imprisoned as some others were.

After arriving in the U.S., Visotsky completed two degrees and worked as an engineer while becoming a deacon in a Russian language church in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

Seventeen years ago, Visotsky was asked to come to the Virginia suburbs outside Washington to start a Russian language church. He was hesitant. The cost of living was higher, and he knew no Russian-speaking people in the area.

As they prayed for guidance about what to do, Visotsky’s parents moved to Pennsylvania from Estonia. His mother saw a doctor and learned that she had advanced cancer. The doctor gave her two weeks to live. The family prayed. After a few months, his mother returned to the doctor and learned the cancer had disappeared.

It was a miracle, and the Visotsky family understood it as, “God telling us, ‘I’m opening a door for you’” in the D.C. area, Visotsky said. “Praise god, my mother is still alive 16 years later.”

Columbia Baptist Church in Falls Church, Va., supported the new ministry in “many ways,” the pastor said. The Russian-speaking group met for a time at the church building, but Visotsky said that many former Russians were still nervous about attending church openly after decades of living in a Communist state that restricted Christian activities.

The early church had more success by holding Bible studies in their home and serving chai (tea). After a time, they rented space in Fairfax, Va., before securing their own building in Sterling, Va., in November 2017.

Visotsky still preaches in Russian, with an average attendance of about 140 people each Sunday. They translate worship services into English. The church has led former Muslims, Communists, Jews, and others to faith in Christ.

The church’s witness also stretches around the world, as people go on mission trips to  Kazakhstan, Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, and other places. They also support missionaries to France, Russia, and central Asia.

Henry completes service as BWA communications associate

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- Eron Henry, associate director of communications for the Baptist World Alliance, has completed his time with the umbrella organization for Baptists after 12 years of faithful service. Henry is originally from Jamaica.

“Countless lives were impacted for Jesus Christ because of his service,” said BWA General Secretary Elijah Brown. “His contribution to the life of the BWA was far reaching.”

BWA “wishes to thank Henry for the theological grounding he provided and the joyful spirit he exuded,” Brown said, expressing his “deep appreciation for the global impact given for the glory of Jesus Christ.”

During Henry’s time with BWA, he led in building, maintaining and growing the BWA’s social media footprint through Facebook (groups/bwanet), Twitter (@TheBWA), and Instagram (@the_BWA). He led in twice redesigning the BWA website (, revamping Baptist World magazine, and winning two DeRose-Hinkhouse Awards from the Religion Communicators Council.

Henry produced 45 Baptist World magazines, about 662 news releases and 134 BWA Connects digital newsletters while at the BWA. He also edited 35 BWA books. Henry made more than 50 ministry visits around the world, sharing the love of Jesus Christ and the work of BWA. He led numerous press conferences, press rooms, seminars, and training events. He also wrote and edited speeches, reports, and messages.

Prior to his time with BWA, Henry worked in several communications and media posts in Jamaica. This included leading the Jamaica Baptist Union Media Commission, with responsibility for two weekly radio programs, a newspaper and book publishing. Henry also served as a weekly news columnist for the Daily Gleaner newspaper and as news analyst with Radio Jamaica. He also authored a novel, Reverend Mother.

Henry runs his own blog, Ole Time Sumting: A lighthearted peak into Jamaica’s past (, which was recognized with an Award of Merit by the Religion Communicators Council in April 2018.


BWA Partners for New Position to Work with an Emerging Generation

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- The Baptist World Alliance has named Jeff Carter director of Horizons and Congress Mobilization. This new position is part of a partnership with Canadian Baptist Ministries and enhances the commitment and capacity of the BWA to work with an emerging generation of Baptist leaders.

As director, Carter will give leadership to two major initiatives, according to Elijah Brown, BWA general secretary. First, Carter will help transition Horizons, an online youth leadership training program, from the European Baptist Federation to the BWA.

“Already translated in 11 languages and used in 30 countries, Horizons has trained thousands of individuals and, through the BWA, will have a truly global reach,” Brown said. “Horizons will provide high caliber training and coaching for those seeking to serve an emerging generation of Baptist leaders.”

Carter also will help provide leadership in mobilizing member bodies, churches, and individuals to participate in the upcoming BWA Celebration in July 2020. This 22nd BWA Congress will be in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and is expected to draw 4,000 Baptists from around the world to participate in worship, celebration, prayerful reflection, and missional action.

Themed “Together,” this celebration will be an “unparalleled opportunity for Baptists of all ages to celebrate with one another, learn from one another, and partner with one another in impacting the world for Christ,” Brown said.

Pre-registration is set to begin later this year.

Carter is a graduate of Nova Scotia Agricultural College, Acadia Divinity College, and McMaster Divinity College (Doctor of Ministry). His dissertation examined the virtual community and the millennial generation and how they engage with authentic Christian community online. He recently completed a Ph.D. at the University of Wales examining, in part, the Internet and its effect on the spiritual health of young people.

First Moncton Baptist Church ordained Carter as a Canadian Baptist minister in 1992. Since 2002, Carter, his wife Deann, and their family have served as CBM global field staff alongside the European Baptist Federation. 

Carter is a long standing member of BWA’s Youth Executive Committee and served on the International Planning Committee for two BWA Youth Conferences. He is now on the planning committee of the BWA 2020 Celebration.

Carter will begin with the BWA in September.

CBM Executive Director Terry Smith noted of Jeff and Deann Carter’s impact: “Over the past 14 years, I have watched with admiration the success of the Horizons training program for youth workers in strengthening the witness of local churches throughout Europe and the Middle East. I have also talked to many of the leaders of the European Baptist Fellowship who attest to the fact that Horizons has been a strategic, bridge-building resource, reaching even further in order to help shape a new generation of church leaders.”

Brown noted: “I am grateful to Terry Smith and CBM for the opportunity to collaborate in partnership and to work together to enhance Kingdom impact. At a time when over 65 percent of all of the world’s Christians are under the age of 45, I am excited that Dr. Carter, who has extensive experience and a joyful spirit of service, will help strengthen the ability of Baptists around the world to receive vital training. I invite us to look forward in prayerful anticipation to the launch of this initiative and to working alongside Dr. Carter as he encourages us to come together as a global family mobilized for action in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 2020.”

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