Prominent Baptist layman memorialized

Christians need to avoid the extremes of utopianism and cynicism if they are to live in a world marked by ambiguity, said Timothy George, founding dean and professor of Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, in the United States.

George delivered the homily at the memorial service for Charles “Chuck” Colson on May 16. Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship International and a member of First Baptist Church in Naples, Florida, died on April 21 from complications resulting from a brain hemorrhage.

George, who is chair of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) Commission on Doctrine and Church Unity, told the congregation that believers have the assurance of God’s promise in a world characterized by both light and darkness. He indicated that persons such as Colson, John Stott, Martin Luther King, and Billy Graham provide witness of God’s rich provision. These persons, he said, are signposts along the road of God’s providential care on life’s pilgrimage.

In her tribute, Colson’s daughter, Emily, described her father’s commitment to his family and spoke of the conviction he shared while he was yet alive, that “death is the culmination of life; it is a homecoming, a celebration.”

The service featured tributes from Danny Croce of New Hope Correctional Ministry and  Albert Quie, former Governor of the US State of Minnesota and former member of the US House of Representatives.

BWA General Secretary Neville Callam, who attended the memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC, said “it was a fitting tribute to one of the many outstanding Baptist laypersons whose witness to Christ's transforming power continues to be a wonderful source of inspiration.”

Colson was a special counsel to US President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973. He was imprisoned for seven months for his role in the Watergate affair that led to the resignation of Nixon in 1974. After his release, he became a noted Evangelical Christian leader and cultural commentator. Most notably, he founded Prison Fellowship International in 1976, an outreach ministry to prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families. He also helped to form Justice Fellowship to push for legislative reforms in the US criminal justice system.


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© Baptist World Alliance
May 17, 2012


Callam calls for rethink on ethnicity

Christian unity may require rethinking the use of the language of ethnicity, said Baptist World Alliance General Secretary Neville Callam, at a lecture in Texas in the United States.

Callam, who delivered the annual T. B. Maston Lectures in Christian Ethics at Hardin-Simmons University’s (HSU) Logsdon Theological Seminary in Abilene, Texas, in April, argued “that terms like ‘ethnic’ or ‘ethnicity’ are not as unproblematic as some may think.”

In his first lecture, titled, Ethnicity: Establishing Borders of Exclusion, Callam identified three principal understandings of ethnicity and suggested that terms such as “ethnic” and “ethnicity” may be understood as mythical concepts that play a major role in social differentiation, and may actually be used to promote negative stereotypes.

While the meaning of “ethnic churches” is not used in the same way by those who adopt it, it appears “that [the] designation is reserved for churches formed by immigrant people or for persons deemed to be minorities in their residential context,” Callam said. Callam asked that care be taken in the use of the language of ethnicity and offered suggestions on how this can be achieved.

In his second lecture, entitled Communion: Celebrating Inclusive Community, Callam posited that Holy Communion is a community meal that potentially can  overcome boundaries that Christians construct through the use of ethnic categories.

The meaning of the Holy Communion as a community-defining and solidarity-conferring meal, he said, “implies that Christians need to deconstruct their understanding of ethnicity in order to enable the acknowledgement of our common bond in Christ Jesus.” In this way, he continued, “the Lord’s Supper will be a celebration of grace, a banquet of love, and a festival of solidarity.

The T. B. Maston Lectures in Christian Ethics is an annual lecture series presented by Logsdon Seminary and The Logsdon School of Theology of HSU. The lectures seek to honor the legacy of Dr. T.B. Maston, longtime professor of Christian ethics and pioneering Baptist ethicist, known for his writing and teaching in the areas of biblical ethics, race relations, family life, church and state, and character formation.


© Baptist World Alliance
May 9, 2012

Caribbean immigrants struggle to find church home in the US

Delroy Reid- Salmon, president of the Caribbean Diaspora Baptist Clergy Association, addressing a Caribbean conference of Caribbean immigrants in NY recentlyCaribbean Baptist immigrants have difficulty fitting into Baptist churches in the United States. This was revealed at a recent conference of Caribbean immigrants in New York City.

The April National Gathering of Caribbean Diaspora Baptist clergy, leaders and churches was billed as "a missional event to acknowledge and initiate discussion on the emergence, contribution and role of Baptists in the continuum of the Caribbean Diaspora."

A common theme expressed by Caribbean immigrants at the conference was the difficulty to find a "church home" upon migrating into the US. Raymond Anglin, a general secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union (JBU) during the 1980s, stated that he "experienced a kind of culture shock upon moving to the United States." The Baptist churches he encountered in Florida and Georgia were "different from his experience in Jamaica in terms of authority, leadership, the attitude to androle of women, and in understanding of training."



Anglin, who says he now "has a fulfilling ministry as a Presbyterian pastor," indicated that his background in Jamaica prepared him for his current situation, as it "gave him an ecumenical dimension of ministry."

Delroy Murdock, pastor of a United Methodist Church in New York and a former Baptist pastor from Jamaica, said that, upon coming to the US, he "could not find a Baptist church that looked anything like those in Jamaica." Edward Jenkins, another Methodist pastor in New York who was a Baptist pastor in the Caribbean, said that he sees himself "as a Baptist in a Methodist church."

Banmattie Ram, a Baptist pastor from Guyana, said most of the Baptist churches she encountered in the US "were different from her experience in the Caribbean," but stated that "one must do ministry wherever one is."Sam and Lola Simpson being recognized for their pioneering work in planting churches that minister to Caribbean immigrants in NY. Making the presentation is noted Caribbean church historian, Horace Russell, left

Karl Johnson, general secretary of the JBU, said that the JBU is currently exploring ways of engaging in mission with Baptists in the Diaspora. He acknowledged that "the JBU has not grasped the opportunity presented by Caribbean people in the Diaspora." He said that the JBU had "dropped the ball and needed to repent and return to a mission consciousness."

Everton Jackson, Baptist World Alliance (BWA) regional secretary for the Caribbean and executive secretary/treasurer of the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship (CBF), said that "there are tremendous possibilities for cooperation between CBF and the Caribbean Diaspora churches." This is possible, he said, because Caribbean people, whether in the Caribbean or elsewhere, "share a common history" as well as "common needs for affirmation, self actualization, [and] a theology that speaks to our context."

Jackson informed participants at the conference that the CBF has plans to enter into collaboration with the United Theological College of the West Indies (UTCWI) to establish a Centre for Caribbean Baptist Studies at the institution. The UTCWI, an ecumenical college that is part of the University of the West Indies, the main university in the English speaking Caribbean, trains many of the Caribbean Baptist pastors.

Eron Henry, associate director of communications for the BWA, indicated that Caribbean Baptists in general, including those in the Diaspora, have played important roles in the BWA and have held significant positions within the international Baptist organization. Henry made special mention of current BWA General Secretary Neville Callam, Caribbean Baptists who are BWA vice presidents, and those who sit on committees and commissions of the BWA.

Delroy Reid-Salmon, president of the Caribbean Diaspora Baptist Clergy Association, which convened the conference, announced that his group is spearheading the establishment of a chair in the name of Horace Russell at the UTCWI. Russell is a past president of the school in the 1970s and later became a vice president and professor of historical theological at Palmer Theological Seminary near Philadelphia in the US.

Samuel Simpson, a Jamaican immigrant to the US, was honored for helping to pioneer the formation of Baptist churches that ministered to Caribbean immigrants in New York City, beginning in the 1960s. He recently retired as pastor of the Bronx and Wake Eden Baptist churches, two of the churches he founded.

© Baptist World Alliance
May 9, 2012