Baptists and Catholics to begin third round of dialogue in 2017

The Baptist World Alliance is to begin a third round of theological dialogue with the Catholic Church in 2017. This was announced by General Secretary Neville Callam in his report to the BWA General Council at its meeting in Vancouver, Canada, in July.

“On the basis of discussions between BWA and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU), a third round of Baptist-Catholic dialogue will commence soon,” Callam wrote.

In May this year, preparatory meetings were held between Baptist representatives Frank Rees of Australia, Paul Fiddes from the United Kingdom and Timothy George of the United States “with a team from the Catholic Church to consider the focus and methodology for the upcoming phase of the Baptist-Catholic dialogue,” Callam stated.

“This joint preparatory meeting decided that the next phase of dialogue, which could commence in June 2017, should have clear continuity with the first two phases and should focus on the subject of common witness to Jesus Christ,” Callam elaborated. “A final statement on the purpose and plan for the upcoming dialogue is to be concluded in the near future.”

The first round of Baptist-Catholic dialogue occurred from 1984-1988 and the second round from 2006-2010. “We would be pleased to build on these two previous dialogues and explore new areas of discussion,” Cardinal Koch, president of the PCPCU, said in a letter to Callam in February. “These official dialogues were cause for great celebration and gratitude to God,” Koch declared.

The BWA and the Vatican have experienced close cordial relations in recent times, building on the goodwill that emerged out of the first two rounds of dialogues. In October 2013, Timothy George represented the BWA at the Thirteenth Ordinary General Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church on The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.

In October of the following year, 2014, Valerie Duval-Poujol, a French Baptist biblical scholar, represented the BWA at the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops that discussed important issues facing contemporary families.

Roy Medley, recently retired general secretary of American Baptist Churches in the USA, was a fraternal delegate of the BWA at the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church which took place in Rome in October 2015.

The BWA leadership was represented at the March 2013 inauguration of Pope Francis I.

A four-year dialogue between the BWA and the World Methodist Council is currently underway, which runs 2014-2017.

Baptist World Alliance®
©July 7, 2016

Plans begin for 2020 congress in Brazil

Riocentro, venue of 2020 Baptist World Congress in BrazilThe 22nd Baptist World Congress will be hosted in the city of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in July 2020. The event, dubbed Celebration 2020 will, for the first time, include the Baptist Youth World Conference, which was previously held as a separate assembly.

General Secretary Neville Callam, in his report to the General Council in its meeting in Vancouver, Canada, stated that the “BWA has signed a contract with the Rio Centro Convention Center, which will host the BWA 2020 quinquennial event in which the worldwide Baptist family will unite in celebrating God and discerning God’s will for the church’s ongoing life and mission.”

He indicated that payments to secure the location are being made and “BWA staff and the Congress Committee have commenced working on their mandate for the 2020 event.”

This will be the second Baptist World Congress to be held in Rio. The 10th congress was convened in the city in 1960, which saw the largest attendance in congress to date since the first was held in London, England, in 1905.

Evangelist Billy Graham preached to a packed Maracanã soccer stadium at the closing service which, at the time, had a capacity of nearly 200,000.

Baptist World Alliance®
©July 7, 2016

BWA receives new members

Ajoy Lama, 2nd right, of the Arunachal Baptist Church Council of India with, (from left) BWA First Vice President Jan Sethra, General Secretary Neville Callam and President Paul Msiza

Three organizations were granted membership in the Baptist World Alliance by the General Council at its meeting convened in Vancouver, Canada.

One new country has been added to the BWA roster. Founded in 1984, the Grenada Baptist Association has six churches and 400 members. Grenada is the newest country in the Caribbean to join the BWA family.

The Arunachal Baptist Church Council in Arunachal Pradesh state in Northeast India, established in 2008, comprises 95,000 members in more than 1,000 churches. It grew out of a merger of two Baptist groups in the state, one in the north and the other in the south, and becomes the 21st BWA member from India.

The Faith Evangelical Baptist Church in South Sudan has 7,000 members in 74 churches in both South Sudan and Kenya.  It was established in 2007.

The BWA now has 235 member organizations in 122 countries and territories.

Baptist World Alliance®
©July 6, 2016

BWA to combine divisional portfolios

The divisions of Mission, Evangelism and Theological Reflection (METR) and Freedom and Justice (F&J) are to be combined. This was affirmed by the BWA General Council at its meeting in Vancouver, Canada, in early July, after it was first approved by the Executive Committee in March.

“The person elected to succeed the current occupant of the METR director’s position will lead the Division on Mission, Evangelism and Justice (MEJ),” Callam told the General Council.

Current METR Director Fausto Vasconcelos retires at the end of August after holding the position for a little more than 10 years. The F&J director’s position has been vacant since 2014 after Raimundo Barreto resigned to take up a professorship at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey in the United States.

F&J was the newest BWA division after it was formally created in 2008.

Both divisions are being merged for primarily financial reasons when pledged donor funds failed to materialize after the global financial crisis that emerged in 2008. “Both the BWA Budget and Finance and the BWA Human Resources Committees concurred on the fact that funds were not available to enable BWA to call a successor to the first F&J director,” Callam informed the General Council.

It is expected that the MEJ position will be filled after a more detailed study of BWA staffing structure is completed.

Baptist World Alliance®
©July 7, 2016

Baptists to discuss International terrorism and refugee displacement

Aftermath of the July 2016 Baghdad bombings, picture via Tasnim NewsThe growing refugee crisis and terrorism will be among the issues to be discussed during the Baptist World Alliance Annual Gathering, primarily Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Europe and the mayhem caused by Boko Haram in Nigeria.

The Annual Gathering is being held from July 4-9 in Vancouver, Canada.

It is expected that the General Council, which convenes during the gathering, will consider resolutions that speak to terrorist acts of violence and the displacement of persons.

Presenters and discussants include Baptist leaders in countries that are grappling with the crisis caused by refugees fleeing war and conflict from other countries, as well as persons working with response groups.

The impact of violence, terrorism and war on children and women will come in for attention, while sessions will be devoted to discerning a biblical response to these and other concerns.

The Annual Gathering brings together more than 300 Baptist leaders, theologians, teachers, pastors and other representatives from more than 50 countries for worship, fellowship, study, theological reflection and decision meetings.

Baptist World Alliance®
©July 4, 2016