Saturday, August 1, 2009

BWA Annual Gathering concludes

Leena Lavanya receives the BWA Human Rights Award
while her parents, BWA leaders, look on

BWA President-elect John Upton, right,
with some of the vice president-elects

Neville Callam, left, after being unanimously endorsed
as BWA General Secretary for 2010-2015

A unanimous vote electing John Upton as BWA president-elect

The BWA Annual Gathering concluded on Saturday, August 1, after some significant actions by the General Council (GC), the highest decision making body of the BWA outside of the Baptist World Congress.

The GC on Friday, July 31, elected John Upton of Virginia in the United States, as the president-elect of the organization. Upton, who is executive director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia and of the Virginia Baptist Mission Board, will be the nominee for BWA president at the next Baptist World Congress, to be held in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 28 to August 1, 2010.

Twelve vice president-elects were chosen, one of whom, Daniel Carro from Argentina, is the first vice president-elect. It will be the first time that the BWA will be electing a first vice president.

The BWA 400 Legacy Fund was also launched to raise a reserve fund that would help to secure the financial future of the BWA. Individuals, churches and organizations would be invited to make contributions in multiples of 4, 40, 400, or 4,000 in their own currency to the fund.

BWA General Secretary Neville Callam also called for the creation of two commissions – one dealing with Baptist-Muslim conversations, the other to address intra-Baptist relationships.

A number of important constitutional changes were made by the BWA.

On Saturday, August 1, the GC accepted the recommendation of the Personnel Committee that BWA General Secretary Neville Callam be reelected for the quinquennium 2010-2015.

The Appointment of Raimundo C├ęsar Barreto Jr. of Brazil as director of the Division of Freedom and Justice was also approved. He is to begin serving on March 1, 2010. Other important personnel appointments were also made.

Leena Lavanya Kumari of India received the Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award. The award was recognition of Lavanya’s philanthropic work, human rights advocacy, and church planting endeavors in Narasaraopet and surrounding towns and villages in Andhra Pradesh.

The restructuring of the divisions of Study and Research and Evangelism and Education was also approved. Both divisions have been replaced by the Division of Mission, Evangelism and Theological Reflection.

More than 350 delegates from more than 50 countries attended the six days of meetings.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

400th celebrations continue

The Baptist World Alliance continues the 400th anniversary celebration of the birth of the Baptist movement during the Annual Gathering being held in Ede, Netherlands from July 27 to August 1.

On Wednesday July 29 morning worshipers read the words of Sam Sharpe, a Jamaican slave who led a rebellion in 1831-1832, William Knibb, a British missionary who was an anti-slavery crusader in the 1820s and 1830s, and Martin Luther King Jr., United States civil rights leader. All three were hailed as Baptist prophets.

On Thursday, July 30, Thomas Helwys and John Smyth were celebrated as Baptist pioneers, as the founders of the first Baptist church in Amsterdam in 1609.

Thursday afternoon, the delegates who attended the Gathering traveled from Ede to Amsterdam, roughly 40 miles or approximately 60 kilometers, to the United Mennonite Church for a special quadricentennial service. Denton Lotz, former general secretary of the BWA was keynote the speaker.

During the days into the nights, various groups continue to meet for important discussions. The executive committee considered several matters that shall be brought to the General Council on Friday and Saturday, including significant changes to the constitutional bylaws of the BWA, important personnel appointment, and restructuring of several BWA divisions.

Forums discuss the roles of Baptists in the different regions of the world over the past 400 years, while commissions and workgroups discuss various theological, doctrinal, and social topics.

The week is drawing to its climax with the meeting of the General Council, the highest decision making body of the BWA outside of the Baptist World Congress, where, among many other important decisions, a president-elect will be nominated to be presented for selection at the World Congress to be held in Hawaii in 2010.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Baptists and transformation

Baptists have had a long history in transforming lives and society.

William Brackney, Director of the Acadia Centre for Baptist and Anabaptist Studies in Nova Scotia, Canada, recounted the transformative work of Baptists over the past 400 years, beginning with Baptist pioneers John Smyth and Thomas Helwys, the founders of the first Baptist Church in Amsterdam in the Netherlands in 1609, and their quest for the liberty of conscience and worship.

Baptist missionaries such as Adoniram Judson to Burma, William Carey to India, Johann Gerhard Oncken to continental Europe, Lott Carey to Liberia, and others, have helped to transform lives and these societies in profound ways, oftentimes in the face of great challenges, such as the 17 months imprisonment of Judson by the Burmese.

Transformative work has also been done by Baptists in opposition to slavery by their involvement in the emancipation and abolitionist movements.

Brackney, who was speaking at a forum on Tuesday, July 28, during the Baptist World Alliance Annual Gathering being held in Ede, Netherlands, said Baptists need to do more to counter a modern day scourge – human trafficking. Stating that more than 12 million people are believed to be victims of the commerce of human beings for the sex trade, forced labor, and other activities, Brackney declared that this is one activity the Baptist family needs to give its attention to.

Another forum on the history of Baptist life in Europe, Asia and the Caribbean was held on what was the second day of the Gathering, which is being held from July 27 to August 1.

Tuesday morning’s worship highlighted the ministry of outstanding Baptist preachers over the past 400 years, with excerpts read from a sermon by Charles Spurgeon of England in 1872, George Truett of the United States in a sermon from 1917, William Tolbert of Liberia from a sermon delivered in 1970, and Rubens Lopes of Brazil in a sermon delivered in 1973.

Monday, July 27, 2009

BWA Annual Gathering begins

The Annual Gathering of the Baptist World Alliance began on Monday, July 27, in Ede, Netherlands.

Approximately 400 Baptist leaders from more than 50 countries are meeting in the town of just over 107,000 people, some 38 miles or 62 kilometers from Amsterdam, the country’s capital.

Several key committees, including the Women’s Department Executive Committee, Baptist World Aid Committee, the Study and Research Executive Committee, as well as the Constitution and Bylaws and the Personnel Committee, met.

The Congress Program Committee, which helps to plan the 20th Baptist World Congress set for Hawaii from July 28-August 1, 2010, received reports and continued making preparations for the largest international gathering of Baptists. More than 10,000 persons are expected to attend the event planned for Honolulu, the capital of the state of Hawaii. The list of speakers, Bible Study leaders, and workshop topics are being finalized.

A communications training seminar was also held on the opening day of the Gathering with the topics “How to respond to a crisis – the guiding principles,” and “How to prepare an effective press release.”

The Emerging Leaders Network, a group of Baptist leaders mainly in their 20s and 30s, both lay and clergy, also met and shared fellowship.

Tuesday begins with worship and an orientation session for first time attendees to a BWA Annual Gathering.

European Baptists called to discipleship

BWA President David Coffey

New EBF President Valeriu Ghiletchi

Outgoing EBF President Toma Magda (right) presents a plaque to Albrecht Boerrigter,
General Secretary for the Union of Baptist Churches in the Netherlands,
expressing thanks to Dutch Baptists for hosting Amsterdam 400,
while EBF General Secretary Tony Peck looks on

Some of the Dutch volunteers

A choir made up of persons attending the 400th celebrations

If we are to be effective disciples, then “there are privileges we have to relinquish,” said Baptist World Alliance President David Coffey.

Coffey made this declaration at the concluding session of Amsterdam 400, the European Baptist Federation (EBF)-sponsored celebration event that marked the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Baptist movement. The first Baptist church was founded by British exiles in Amsterdam in 1609 after fleeing religious persecution in their country.

Coffey, addressing the subject of discipleship, stated that, as “Jesus relinquished his hold on privileges,” so should his followers be prepared to “relinquish privilege for the sake of service.”

Speaking to Baptists, mainly from the European continent but also including Baptist leaders from the Middle East and Central Asia, Coffey told the several hundred attendees that “there is a service we are called to give” in the same way Jesus “shared the joys and sorrows of family life” and “became the healing hands of Galilee, touching blind eyes to make them see, [and] embracing lepers to make them clean.”

“The hands that filled the oceans with water became the serving hands in the Upper Room,” the BWA leader declared. “The hands that flung stars into space became the working hands in the carpenter’s shop.”

The EBF meetings, which were held at the RAI International Exhibition and Congress Center in Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, began July 24 and ended on the 26th.

The closing session included the introduction of new EBF President Valeriu Ghiletchi, bishop of the Union of Christian Evangelical Baptists of Moldova, and an elected member of that country’s parliament. Ghiletchi was elected president during the meeting of the EBF Council, which convened during the Amsterdam 400 celebration. He succeeds Toma Magda of Croatia who became EBF president in 2007.

In addition to the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Baptist church, Amsterdam 400 was also the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the formation of the EBF. The regional body was founded in 1949 to unite European Baptists as Europe emerged from the devastation of the Second World War. The organization was also instrumental in keeping Baptists in touch with each other to offer encouragement during the era of communism in Eastern and Central Europe.

The EBF, one of six regional fellowships of the BWA, represents more than 50 Baptist conventions and unions and some 13,000 churches with approximately 800,000 members.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Compassion in mission

Raquel Contreras

BWA and EBF leaders
pose with models in period costumes on Bakkerstraat

EBF President Toma Madga and General Secretary Tony Peck
unveil plaque marking birthplace of Baptist movement

Walking through Amsterdam

Christian mission should be undergirded by compassion, said Raquel Contreras, a vice president of the Baptist World Alliance, during Amsterdam 400, on Saturday, July 25.

Contreras, who is also the former president of the Union of Baptists in Latin America and current president of the Union of Evangelical Baptist Churches of Chile, stated that “compassion often takes second place behind administrative needs and theological reflection.” But compassion is important as it is the way to “identify with the other.” Love is the ultimate expression of the compassionate lifestyle, she said. “It is impossible to have a lifestyle of compassion if there is no love among us. Compassion is the reflection of our Christian lifestyle.”

The Latin American Baptist leader also cautioned against using compassionate acts, such as medical teams, as “bait for mission,” that is, using these only as a means of attracting persons in order to reach them with the gospel. While such compassionate acts are important in meetings needs, they should be part of an overarching program to doing mission – a practical expression of the love of God for people. “Compassion should foster partnership for mission,” she said.

Earlier in the day, the EBF sponsored a tour throughout Amsterdam, including to Bakkerstraat, the likely location of the first Baptist church, which was formed by British exiles escaping religious persecution in their country, in 1609.

Reports were also heard about ministry in Poland, among the Roma people in Romania, Baptist ministry in Middle Eastern countries, the work of the EBF in combating human trafficking, and the effects of war on the work of the church in Lebanon.

The EBF-sponsored Amsterdam 400 is being held July 24-26.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Amsterdam 400 begins


Dutch band and singing group

Tony Peck and Toma Magda


The European Baptist Federation (EBF) kicked off the 400th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Baptist movement at the RAI International Exhibition and Congress Center in the Netherlands on Friday, July 24.

BWA General Secretary Neville Callam was guest speaker at the Opening Celebration of Amsterdam 400, as he challenged the several hundred worshipers to remember the past as well as the future – evangelizing and holding onto the promises of God’s salvation.See story on Callam's address.

Worship was led by a music band and singing group of Dutch Baptists, formed for the occasion. EBF President Toma Magda of Croatia and General Secretary Tony Peck of Britain, extended welcome, as did Callam on the behalf of the BWA. Albrecht Boerrigter, General Secretary for the Union of Baptist Churches in the Netherlands offered welcome for Dutch Baptists.

Alle Hoekema, a board member of the Society of Mennonites in the Netherlands, brought greetings on the behalf of the Mennonite World Conference, and expressed gratitude to Baptists for helping to spur the mission movement among Mennonites. Hoekema shared briefly on the history of collaboration between both groups and the close theological convictions shared by both Baptists and Mennonites.

Magda and Peck recounted the work and history of the EBF, which also celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, in mission and evangelism, such as the EBF Indigenous Mission Project; religious freedom, including its visit to Azerbaijan in January; human rights, such as the program to combat human trafficking; humanitarian aid, including assistance to victims of conflicts in Gaza and Georgia; and theological education, in particular its work through the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague, Czech Republic.

Theo Angelov, EBF general secretary from 1994-2004, offered prayer.

The Amsterdam 400 celebrations continue until Sunday, July 26.