BWA engaging long-time and new supporters

The Baptist World Alliance® (BWA) has implemented several initiatives that will serve to strengthen the financial health of the international Baptist organization. In the face of challenges in the world economy, the BWA seeks to exercise financial stewardship through the continued support of BWA stakeholders and tight management of expenditures.

BWA General Secretary Neville Callam reported that he sought "funding for BWA ministry initiatives from extra-budget sources" and took "aggressive steps...to rein in expenditure partly by opting for more efficient operational systems and mechanisms."

He emphasized that the BWA instituted a new system that enables donors to make their contributions online. "It is noteworthy that at least 100 of our first-time donors last year used our online giving mechanisms," he said.

All this is being done, Callam asserted, to encourage the international Baptist community to do more to identify with the work and mission of the BWA. He celebrated the fact that in 2011 BWA member bodies in Africa, Asia Pacific, the Caribbean, and Europe saw improvements in giving over the previous year, and has strongly encouraged them and the other regions to build on this improvement.

Jeff Bloomer, who represented BWA Treasurer Carolyn Fossen at recent meetings of the General Council in Chile, urged council members to take personal responsibility by making their own contributions and to encourage others, including member organizations to which they belong, to do so.

Callam noted that the General Council decided that only member organizations that contribute to the BWA will normally receive travel and support scholarships for BWA meetings.

In highlighting the goodwill that the BWA enjoys among Baptists, Callam said, "we have a truly compelling vision and mission that Baptists appreciate and will want to support."

Baptist World Alliance®

© July 24, 2012

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

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

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