Former BWA director honored

Tony Cupit, former director of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) divisions of Evangelism and Education and Study and Research (both now merged into the division of Mission, Evangelism and Theological Reflection), was conferred with an honorary doctorate by the John Leland Center for Theological Studies.

Described by Leland as "among the great international figures in Baptist life today," Cupit, an Australian, was keynote speaker at the June 9 graduation ceremony for the class of 2012. He was honored "for his extraordinary leadership in ministry over some forty plus years."

The citation praised Cupit as a pastor, missionary, Bible translator, author, church executive and international Baptist leader whose ministry exemplified the model of transformational leadership in global ministry.

Cupit was BWA director from 1991 to 2005. Prior to that, he served the  Australian and international Baptist communities in a number of capacities, including as a missionary to Papua New Guinea where, among other things, he and wife Margaret played leading roles in translating Christian scripture into the indigenous language.

In his address, Cupit recounted the sacrificial discipleship of Christians in various parts of the world, past and present, including Baptists. He told the gathering that "the church in the world, including its Baptist expression, continues to be a martyr church." Recounting past and recent episodes of martyrdom and persecution, he said "if taking up a cross is metaphorical for us, let us always remember it is a reality for our brothers and sisters in Christ in different places throughout the world."

Cupit explained that "Jesus connected his messiahship with suffering and death" which, at first, "was incomprehensible to the disciples." He encouraged the graduates to "take up Jesus' cross," asserting that "the easy way is not the way of Jesus" because Jesus offered his followers a "life of denial, hardship and sacrifice."

Twenty persons graduated from the Leland Center. The theological school traces its origins to a meeting of the General Council of the BWA in Prince Edward Island, Canada, in 2001. A group of five attendees, some invited by Cupit, agreed to the idea of setting up a theological college in the Washington Metropolitan Area.

Leland participates in the Washington Theological Consortium (WTC), a group of 17 seminaries and related institutions in the Washington, DC region that allows for inter-faculty collaboration, ecumenical dialogue, and shared resources. Students attending the Leland Center may choose from among 300 different course offerings within the consortium, while students and faculty alike have access to more than two million volumes available through WTC libraries.

Leland's main campus is located in Arlington in Northern Virginia, a suburb of Washington, DC, with satellite locations elsewhere in Virginia.

© Baptist World Alliance
June 12, 2012

Technology is risky but helpful, pastors say

One of the challenges facing the church today is the culture of technology, said Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Secretary Neville Callam.

Callam was speaking May 22 at a reception he hosted for pastors in the Washington Metropolitan Area at the international offices of the BWA in Falls Church, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, DC.

Callam, drawing on studies conducted by Albert Borgmann, a professor of philosophy at the University of Montana in the United States, said technology is not a neutral tool nor an unambiguous gift, but that, according to Borgmann, "technology is inhospitable to Christianity." Technology "competes with grace as the dominant background of life," Borgmann claims, because "cyberspace ... has swamped [us] and softened [us] ... and has left us with a world that raises in a radically new way the question of how God is present to us today."

Callam supported Borgmann's description of cyberspace as "the glamorous fog that settles on all that is. It muffles when it does not deaden the sweet sound of amazing grace." Christians, he said, need "to dispel the seductive mist of cyberspace and to see it as a challenging backdrop" so that "grace can emerge with new vigor."

The church may need to make use of available technology, even while being aware of the risks and dangers Borgmann and others have identified, Callam asserted. Callam went on to introduce some of the initiatives the BWA is pursuing in the area of technology.

Pastors at the reception, many of whom are technologically savvy, echoed some of the concerns expressed by the BWA leader. Technology, if not applied properly, can be a distraction, it was observed. Churches should not view technology as a means to solve all their problems and it should not be seen or used as a means to "better market the church."

One struggle that congregations have is to find persons to run a church's media and technology program who are both technologically competent and theologically sensitive.

The value of technology was acknowledged by the group of pastors, who were from Northern Virginia, Southern Maryland and Washington, DC.  Technology can help to enhance worship services, such as broadcasting reports, live or delayed, from fellow congregants and other Christians who are on the mission field. Technology is also useful in helping to tell personal and inspirational stories and testimonies, and in establishing connectivity among Christians and the wider community.

Social media can help to bring people together, even in times of disaster. One story was of a Washington, DC, area congregation that, a few years ago, held a worship service – via social media – after a heavy blizzard that made travel to church dangerous and difficult.  In another instance, another congregation, this time in Mexico, held a worship service over the Internet after the government placed a moratorium on public gatherings due to the swine flu outbreak.

Despite concerns on what constitutes sacred space and about the theology of worship, the role and place of technology in the life of teens and young adults, and even among older persons, cannot be denied.

Several churches represented at the reception reported having "technology labs" to assist persons in their congregations to get acquainted with technology. Useful information can be had by pastors being part of social media, as that is how a pastor may discover, sometimes to his or her surprise, "what is happening in the life of church members."

BWA General Secretary Callam hosts two "coffee receptions" each year for Baptist pastors in the Washington Metropolitan area, usually in the spring and in the fall.

© Baptist World Alliance
May 29, 2012

Callam names BWA team for dialogue with Pentecostals

Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Secretary Neville Callam has named the team that is to represent the BWA in the international Baptist-Pentecostal dialogue that begins in Quito, Ecuador, in August.

In March of this year, the Executive Committee of the BWA gave authorization to Callam to "gather a small team of competent theologians and church leaders reflecting the cultural diversity of the world Baptist family to undertake an international theological dialogue with Pentecostals."

Team members have been drawn from the six regions of the BWA:  Henry Mugabe from Zimbabwe (Africa); Miyon Chung from South Korea (Asia); Burchell Taylor from Jamaica (Caribbean); Nigel Wright from the United Kingdom (Europe); Richard Serrano of Venezuela (Latin America); and William Brackney from Canada and David Goatley from the United States (North America).

Mugabe is a visiting professor of theology at the Richmond Theological Seminary  in the United States and is former president of the Baptist Theological Seminary of Harare; Chung is professor at the Torch Trinity Graduate School of Theology, is vice chair of the BWA Mission, Evangelism and Theological Reflection (METR) Advisory Committee, and a member of the BWA Commission on Doctrine and Christian Unity; Taylor is pastor of the Bethel Baptist Church in St. Andrew, teaches several courses at the United Theological College of the West Indies, and is a vice president of the BWA, among other BWA appointments.

Wright is principal of Spurgeon's College; Serrano is president of the Baptist Theological Seminary in Venezuela; Brackney is director of the Acadia Center for Baptist and Anabaptist Studies at Acadia Divinity College, a member of the BWA Commission on Christian Ethics and the Commission on Doctrine and Christian Unity, among other BWA appointments; and Goatley is executive secretary-treasurer of the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention and, among other BWA appointments, sits on the General Council and is chair of the METR Advisory Committee.

Callam said that the "BWA is highly respectful of the leaders of all Christian World Communions and the families of churches they serve."   The BWA, he explained, "expects that the dialogue with the Pentecostals will offer an opportunity both to formulate clear statements on doctrinal agreements that Baptists share with Pentecostals," and to "engage constructively around the issues on which we are not yet agreed."

This is the seventh theological dialogue in which the BWA will be engaged. The first was with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches from 1973-1977 followed by talks with the Roman Catholic Church from 1984-1988; the Lutheran World Federation from 1986-1990; the Mennonite World Conference from 1989-1992; the Anglican Communion between 2000 and 2005; and the Roman Catholic Church (Second Round) from 2006-2010.

This first round of the Baptist-Pentecostal Dialogue continues through to 2015.

© Baptist World Alliance
May 24, 2012

BWA assists school reconstruction in refugee camp

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) has sent US$25,000 in emergency financial assistance to a school in the Mae La Refugee Camp in Thailand to assist in the school's reconstruction after it was destroyed by fire on April 28.

The Kawthoolei Karen Baptist Bible School and College, located in the Mae La Refugee Camp near the Thai-Myanmar border, faces uncertainty as to the start of the next term, which was set to begin in  June. The school offers general education to refugees and training to church leaders. More than 300 students are enrolled.

BWA, through Baptist World Aid, its relief and development arm, is providing 50 percent of the estimated reconstruction cost of US$50,000. Additional funds of at least US$10,000 are needed for furnishing, equipment and school supplies.

BWA General Secretary Neville Callam assured Baptist leaders in the refugee camp that "all of your friends in the Baptist World Alliance will stand by your side as you... proceed with the work to renew the structures for life, training and service at Mae La."

Representatives of the BWA have visited the Mae La camp several times, the most recent in June 2011 with a delegation that included BWA President John Upton and Women's Department Director Patsy Davis. Upton said that despite the dedication and strength he saw in the camp, the eyes of the refugees, particularly those of youth and children, betrayed loss and sadness. He said what worries refugees the most is that they will be forgotten, and he appealed to Baptist leaders around the world not to forget the refugees, a significant number of whom are Baptists.

Mae La houses an estimated 50,000 displaced persons and is one of the largest of several refugee camps for displaced persons from Myanmar who fled conflicts in the South Asian country.

The Kawthoolei Karen Baptist Bible School and College was founded by Saw Simon, the recipient of the BWA Human Rights Award in 2000. Simon and his family fled across the Thai border after the school, which was originally located in Rangoon (Yangon), the former capital of Myanmar, was destroyed. He later restarted it at the Mae La camp in 1984.

Video footage of the fire can viewed on the BWA website.

Contributions to the reconstruction effort may be made via the BWA website or mailed to:
Baptist World Aid
405 North Washington Street
Falls Church, VA 22046
USA

© Baptist World Alliance
May 25, 2012

BWA launches new website

A newly redesigned website for the Baptist World Alliance is now online. The site officially went live on May 11 with a new interface.

The website features new elements and easier access for users.  It will create savings for the BWA making it unnecessary to create special websites for major events, such as the Baptist Youth World Conference in Singapore in 2013 and the Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa, in 2015.

Donations through the website are now easier and simpler for those who wish to offer financial gifts to the BWA online.

A blog by General Secretary Neville Callam is one of the new features. Readers are encouraged to submit comments on the blog.

Space is provided for news, information and articles in other languages. BWA member Baptist conventions and unions are encouraged to submit relevant information for this segment of the website.

Other features include a Find a Church map that allows those planning a visit to another country to find a church for worship while traveling.  BWA member organizations are encouraged to submit lists of their churches to be included in the Find a Church database. An interactive map of all BWA member bodies is also available on the site.

The Baptist World Alliance mobile app for iPhone, iPod, iPad and Android devices is also available and can be downloaded here free of cost.

The newly redesigned website can be viewed at http://www.bwanet.org.

© Baptist World Alliance
May 18, 2012