August 22, 2009

Baptists Aid Typhoon Victims in Taiwan

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance

Baptists in Taiwan and around the world are assisting victims of Typhoon Morakot, which made landfall in the southern part of the island just before midnight on Friday, August 7.

By Tuesday, August 18, 126 people have been confirmed dead, but government officials expect the death toll to rise to more than 500.

Joseph Tseng Ching-En, General Secretary of the Chinese Baptist Convention (CBC) in Taiwan, reported to the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) that "most of [of the victims] were swallowed and buried by landslides." Many of them, he said, were overwhelmed by a river that had flooded and overflowed its banks.

At least six Baptists have died or are feared dead. Five members from one Baptist family are confirmed dead, while another Baptist member, a police officer, went missing after trying to rescue persons affected by the typhoon. His body is yet to be recovered, though the police patrol car he was driving has been located.

Tseng told the BWA that 15 Baptist churches are in the disaster zone, most of which cannot be contacted by the convention due to blocked roads, bridges that were destroyed, and the loss of electricity and telephone services. Churches that could be reached were badly damaged or destroyed.

The CBC has 209 churches and more than 14,000 members.

Baptist World Aid (BWAid), the relief and development arm of the BWA, is coordinating the global Baptist response and is making an initial donation of US$10,000 to CBC as support for the relief work currently being undertaken by the Taiwan convention.

"We have been watching with concern the traumatic impact that this typhoon has wrought on your country," Paul Montacute, director of BWAid, wrote to Tseng. "On behalf of David Coffey, the BWA President, and Neville Callam, the BWA General Secretary, I send to you, your convention and your country, our deepest condolences at this time."

Japan, the Philippines and China were also affected by the typhoon.


August 10, 2009

BWA Divisions Reorganized

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance

The Division of Study & Research and the Division of Evangelism & Education have been disbanded by the Baptist World Alliance and have been replaced by the Division of Mission, Evangelism and Theological Reflection (METR).

The newly-created division will consist of seven commissions - Evangelism, Theological Education & Leadership Formation, Baptist Heritage & Identity, Doctrine & Christian Unity, Christian Ethics, Ministry, and Baptist Worship & Spirituality.

Each commission will comprise 25 "regular members" and not more than 25 "corresponding members," the former expected to attend at least three of the five meetings in each quinquennium, and the latter attending at least one meeting in the five-year period. Every commission will have a chair, a deputy chair, a secretary and an assistant secretary.

The Division of Freedom and Justice, created by vote of the General Council in July 2008, will be comprised of four commissions - Religious Freedom, Peace, Social & Environmental Justice, and Human Rights Advocacy, which will have a similar structure to the commissions of METR.

Commissions of the BWA are the contexts within which Baptist leaders, theologians, professors, scholars and writers from around the world deliberate on theological, doctrinal, ethical, historical and social issues of concern to Baptists. The commissions normally convene during the BWA Annual Gathering, held in a different country each year.

For the full release:

New BWA President and Vice Presidents Nominated

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance

John Upton, executive director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) in the United States, has been nominated to be president of the Baptist World Alliance.

The next Baptist World Congress, to be held in Hawaii in 2010, will vote on the General Council's nomination. If elected, Upton will be president of the BWA from 2010-2015, succeeding David Coffey of Britain, who was elected during the Centennial Congress held in Birmingham, England, in 2005.

Upton has had a long association with the BWA, and has served on the two governing bodies of the international Baptist organization, the General Council and the Executive Committee. He is currently chair of the Congress Program Committee, which assists in planning the 20th Baptist World Congress to be held at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu from July 28-August 1, 2010. In addition, Upton has served on the Baptist World Aid Committee, the Commission on Christian Ethics, and the Executive Committee of the North American Baptist Fellowship, one of six regional fellowships of the BWA.

The president-elect attended the Baptist-affiliated Averett College (now Averett University) in Danville, Virginia, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, in the USA, and the Taiwan Language Institute. He received a Doctor of Divinity degree from the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Kerrala, India.

Twelve persons were also chosen by the General Council as nominees for vice presidents, after recommendation by the Officers Search Committee. The 12, two selected from each of the six regions of the BWA, will be voted on at the Congress in Hawaii.

The nominees for vice presidents are Daniel Carro of Argentina and Joel Alberto Sierra Cavazos from Mexico; Harry Gardner of Canada and William Epps from the United States; Olu Menjay of Liberia and Paul Msiza from South Africa; Victor Manuel Gonzalez Grillo from Cuba and Burchell Taylor from Jamaica; Regina Claas of Germany and Nabil Costa of Lebanon; and John Kok of Malaysia and Ross Clifford of Australia. Carro, an Argentinean living in the USA, was nominated to be BWA first vice president.

For the full release:

General Secretary Reelected for New Quinquennium

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance

The general secretary and regional secretaries of the Baptist World Alliance have been affirmed in their positions for the next quinquennium, lasting from 2010-2015, while others were elected to fill vacancies.

Both the Executive Committee and the General Council, which convened during the BWA Annual Gathering in Ede, Netherlands accepted the recommendation of the Personnel Committee that BWA General Secretary Neville Callam be reelected for the quinquennium 2010-2015.

Regional leaders, Tony Peck for Europe, Bonny Resu for Asia and the Pacific, and Alberto Prokopchuk for Latin America, were also affirmed to lead their regions until 2015.

George Bullard was elected to fill the vacancy for North America, following the resignation of Alan Stanford in January 2009. Harrison Olan'g of Tanzania, who served as Interim Regional Secretary for Africa since the death of Frank Adams in December 2006, has been formally confirmed by the BWA as interim secretary.

Peter Pinder of the Caribbean, the longest serving regional secretary, having been elected in 1995, has given notice of his retirement from the office. A new regional secretary for the Caribbean is expected to be named sometime in 2010.

Raimundo César Barreto Jr. of Brazil was elected to serve as the first director of the Division of Freedom and Justice. The division was established on September 1, 2008, following the decision of the General Council in July 2008 to create the newest division of the BWA.

For the full release:

August 4, 2009

Leena Lavanya Accepts BWA Human Rights Award

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance

Leena Lavanya Kumari of Narasaraopet, Andhra Pradesh, India, accepted the 2009 Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award on Saturday, August 1, in Ede, Netherlands.

The award was recognition of Lavanya's philanthropic work, human rights advocacy, and church planting endeavors in Narasaraopet and surrounding towns and villages. Lavanya's Serve Trust Ministries operates a home for the aged, a home for lepers, homes for HIV/AIDS-infected children and adults, and an HIV/AIDS counseling center.

Lavanya, described as "a living saint steeped in prayer and a love for the scriptures," also runs a computer training school for unemployed females and impoverished youth, as well as an elementary school for children living in one of the depressed areas of Narasaraopet. In the town of Chilakaluripet, Lavanya operates training programs for female sex workers and their daughters with the hope that these women and their daughters would break the cycle of prostitution.

She began her ministry after attending the Baptist Youth World Conference in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1993, in response to a challenge by noted speaker Tony Campolo for youth to fully surrender their lives to Christ.

Lavanya is the granddaughter of a former BWA vice president and seminary professor, and the child of committed Baptist Christians. Her parents were present in Ede to share in her receipt of the BWA Human Rights Award.

On Friday, July 31, BWA President David Coffey received the "Baptist of the Year Award" for 2008 from the Baptist Center for Ethics, based in Nashville, Tennessee, in the United States. Robert Parham, founder and executive director, presented the award to Coffey.

For the full release:

BWA Makes Important Constitutional Changes

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance

The General Council of the Baptist World Alliance voted to amend its constitution and bylaws on Friday, July 31.

As of now, the BWA will, for the first time, have a first vice president, and the Executive Committee of the BWA will comprise 25 members, reduced from more than 60 persons.

The new Executive Committee now has greater oversight responsibilities, including "overseeing the development and implementation of the overall program of the BWA" and "generally overseeing the financial affairs of the BWA."

The five approved "clusters of commitment," adopted by the General Council in 2007, are now included in the BWA bylaws, stating that "the BWA will focus on the following areas: worship and fellowship, mission and evangelism, religious liberty and human rights, relief and sustainable community development, and theological reflection."

A new Nominations Committee was formed, and will replace the Officers Search Committee, which proposed the names of the BWA president and vice presidents. The Nominations Committee will also play a vital role in naming all persons who serve on BWA committees and commissions. The committee is made up of two nominees from each region and three "at large" members. The BWA president and general secretary are ex-officio members of the Nominations Committee.

After the constitutional changes were made, the Nominations Committee was immediately formed and its first meeting convened on the evening of Friday, July 31, to begin deliberations in naming persons to be members and leaders of commissions and committees for the 2010-2015 quinquennium. The nominees will take their positions following the 20th Baptist World Congress to be held in Honolulu, Hawaii, July 28 to August 1, 2010.

For the full release:

Samuel Sharpe, Prophet and Liberator

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance

He was hailed as a prophet during morning worship, and declared as a liberator in the afternoon.

Samuel Sharpe, an educated Jamaican slave and Baptist deacon, led a rebellion that some scholars say hastened the end of chattel slavery in the British colonies in the Caribbean in 1838. The rebellion, which began as a sit-down strike in December 1831, quickly turned violent, against Sharpe's wishes. In the end, more than 600 slaves, including Sharpe, were hanged by the British colonizers by the time the rebellion was put down in May 1832.

On the morning of Wednesday, July 29, the Baptist World Alliance, during its Annual Gathering in Ede, Netherlands, recognized Sharpe as a Baptist prophet, along with British missionary and anti-slavery crusader, William Knibb, and Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights leader in the United States.

Before his execution, Sharpe declared, "We must be content to die for the benefit of the rest. I, for one, am ready to die, in order that the rest may be free.... I depend for salvation upon the Redeemer, who shed his blood upon Calvary for sinners."

For the full release:

Baptists and Transformation

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance

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-month 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 problem the Baptist family needs to give its attention to.

For the complete release:

BWA Annual Gathering Blog

News and photos from the Amsterdam 400 celebration are available on the BWA blog,

Major Baptist Celebrations Last Week in Amsterdam

Last week both the European Baptist Federation (EBF) and the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) celebrated the 400th Anniversary of the founding of the Baptist movement.

The EBF hosted Amsterdam 400 from July 24-26 an event that included various activities to mark the significant occassion including the participation of BWA General Secretary Neville Callam, BWA President David Coffey, multiple workshops and seminars, and other speakers and choirs from around Europe.

The BWA Annual Gathering was held in Ede, which is 38 miles or 62 kilometers from Amsterdam, from July 27 to August 1. The Gathering focused on the 400th year of Baptist witness in worship, forums, study groups and workshops. A special quadricentennial service was held on Thursday, July 20, at the United Mennnonite Church in Amsterdam. The liturgy for the quadricentennial service is now available from the BWA website ( for use by Baptist congregations around the world in their own 400th anniversary celebrations.

July 25, 2009

Callam Calls on European Baptists to Commit to Evangelism

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance
July 24, 2009

Remembering the past is important to nourishing "individual and communal identity," said Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Secretary Neville Callam during the Opening Celebration of Amsterdam 400 on Friday, July 24.

The Amsterdam 400 event is being held to mark the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Baptist movement. The first Baptist church was formed in Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, in 1609 by British exiles fleeing religious persecution in their country.

Callam said that "memory forms our sense of self and our understanding of community," and "creates the sacred space where human beings encounter their maker."

Citing verses from Exodus chapter 8, which state that the Jews should "take care that you do not forget the Lord your God.... If you do forget the Lord your God and follow other gods... you shall surely perish," the BWA leader told the gathering of largely European Baptists, "Our penchant for not remembering puts us at great risk. The selective memories that we harbor may mislead us and contribute to our malformation. We must remember and we must remember aright." Callam told European Baptists that a commitment to evangelism is part of that memory. Noting that the 400th anniversary of the Baptist faith also coincides with the 125th anniversary of the death of Johann Gerhard Oncken, Callam urged Baptists of Europe to adopt Oncken's famous declaration, "Every Baptist a missioner."

Oncken, from Germany, died in 1884 and was a pioneer Baptist missionary variously referred to as the "Father of German Baptists" and the "Apostle of European Baptists." He directed and guided the growth of Baptists throughout Germany and across much of Europe for half a century, helping to found 280 Baptist churches, more than 170 of these in Scandinavia and the Slavic states.

"Perhaps, the greatest challenge Christians in Europe face is the evangelization of their continent, and Baptists have an important part to play in this work," Callam announced. The global Baptist leader urged Europeans to adopt "the vocation to evangelize those who do not have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ."

Other speakers during the Amsterdam 400 celebration, taking place July 24-26, include BWA President David Coffey and Raquel Contreras, a BWA vice president, former president of the Union of Baptists in Latin America, and president of the Union of Evangelical Baptist Churches of Chile.

Amsterdam 400 was planned by the European Baptist Federation (EBF), one of six regional fellowships of the BWA. Sessions during the event include meetings of the EBF Council and plenary sessions focused on mission, freedom, community, and discipleship.

July 16, 2009

Iraqi Churches Targeted and Bombed

By Elijah M. Brown

According to CNN, over this last weekend “at least four people were killed and 32 wounded as six Baghdad-area churches were bombed within 24 hours.” (

St. Joseph’s church in western Baghdad was bombed as well as two churches in central Baghdad, two churches in eastern Baghdad, and one church in southern Baghdad.

In addition to the bombings, on Sunday morning, in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk approximately 150 miles north of Baghdad, assailants “using guns with silencers… opened fire on Rizko Aziz Nissan outside his home in central Kirkuk at 8:15 a.m. Nissan was an Iraqi Christian” and a local official.

On Monday morning, in the northern city of Mosul “a car bomb detonated near a church in the al-Faisaliya district [and] wound[ed] three children.” (

Eight separate attacks. Three different towns. Three days of violence. And each attack specifically targeted churches or a local Christian official.

In the midst of all of the controversy surrounding the Iraq war, let us remember our Christian brothers and sisters who are suffering in Iraq. Though underreported and often overlooked, in recent years no other community in Iraq has suffered and been affected as much as the Christian community. The estimated one million Christian community has been repeatedly targeted, internally displaced, and forced to flee in fear of their lives.

And the sad truth is that international Christians are more inclined to overlook or simply fail to engage with their persecuted brothers and sisters. There has never been a greater need to pursue international religious freedom and to actively stand in solidarity with those who are at the blunt end of discrimination, persecution and injustice. As we gather in our churches this week, would you hold a time of remembrance for the fallen and persecuted Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq?

Let us remember our brothers and sisters in Iraq.

And then, let us do more than just remember.

July 14, 2009

President-Elect to be Chosen in Ede

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance
July 13, 2009

A president-elect will be chosen by the Baptist World Alliance during the Annual Gathering to be held July 27 to August 1, in Ede, Netherlands.

The nominee for president-elect will be presented to the General Council by the BWA Officers Search Committee, chaired by Raul Scialabba of Argentina. The General Council, which convenes during the Annual Gathering, will vote on the recommendation. The 20th Baptist World Congress to be held in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 2010, will formally elect the next president of the BWA.

The newly elected president will serve for the period 2010-2015, and will succeed David Coffey of Britain, who was chosen during the Centennial Congress in Birmingham, England, in 2005.

A first vice president-elect of the BWA is also expected to be chosen in Ede, along with 11 other vice president-elects. These 12 persons will become the nominees for BWA vice presidents to be voted on at the Congress in Honolulu. It will be the first time in the history of the BWA that a first vice president will be chosen, if the expected constitutional amendments to effect the change are made during the meetings in the Netherlands.

The General Council will also receive the recommendation of the Personnel Committee on its nomination of Raimundo César Barreto Jr. of Brazil to be the first director of the Division of Freedom and Justice (F&J) for the BWA. The F&J Division was established on September 1, 2008, following the decision of the General Council in July 2008 to create the newest division of the BWA.

July 10, 2009

Myanmar Baptists Plan Major Bicentennial Celebration

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance
July 10, 2009

Baptists in Myanmar are laying the groundwork for a massive jubilee celebration, to be held in 2013, to mark the bicentennial anniversary of the founding of Baptist witness in that South Asian country.

Myanmar, which had its name changed from Burma in 1989, has the largest Baptist convention on the Asian continent, with more than 1.1 million members, most of whom are ethnic minorities such as the Chin, Kachin and the Karen.

Adoniram and Ann Judson, who were among the first American Baptist missionaries to travel overseas, arrived in what is now Myanmar in 1813. They labored in that country for almost 40 years, establishing a number of Baptist churches and translating the Christian Bible into Burmese.

The celebratory events begin in 2009 with the theme "Thy will be done in Myanmar." Each succeeding year will have its own emphasis and theme on faithfulness, transformation, preservation and holiness, culminating in 2013. Some 10,000 persons are expected to attend the major celebration in Yangon, the country's former capital, formerly known as Rangoon.

In addition, each of the 18 language and regional conventions that make up the Myanmar Baptist Convention (MBC) will have its own regional celebration. A major publication, a chronicle or history of Baptist witness in the country, will also be published, following on a similar publication several decades ago.

The Myanmar celebration will include Burmese who live in other countries.

July 8, 2009

Constitutional Changes Expected in Ede

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance
July 8, 2009

A number of significant constitutional changes are slated to be made during the Baptist World Alliance Annual Gathering in Ede, Netherlands, from July 27 to August 1.

The proposed amendments will be brought before the General Council, which convenes during the Annual Gathering.

The size of the BWA Executive Committee, now numbering more than 60, would be reduced to 25. The number of BWA vice presidents is to be cut from the current figure of 19 to 12 - two nominated by each of the six regions - while, for the first time, one of the vice presidents will be designated first vice president. None of the vice presidents, except for the first vice president, will sit on the Executive Committee.

Chairs of program committees, such as Communications and Promotion & Development, will no longer have a seat on the Executive Committee. However, chairs of standing committees such as Budget & Finance and Personnel will continue to serve as members of the executive. These standing committees will, in effect, be subcommittees of the Executive Committee.

Program committees are expected to become advisory committees, assisting BWA directors in their work, and will no longer have an executive or governance function.

The new Executive Committee, which is to be elected into office during the 20th Baptist World Congress in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 2010, is intended to become "more deliberative," and to take on broader responsibilities.

If the expected constitutional amendments are made, a new Nominations Committee will be formed. This committee will replace the Officers Search Committee, which proposes the names of the BWA president and vice presidents, and will play a vital role in naming all persons who serve on BWA committees and commissions.

The proposed constitutional changes came after a long process of meetings and deliberations by the Implementation Task Force (ITF), formed in 2005 to study and implement proposals coming from the 21st Century Committee, which was created in 2000 to study the effectiveness of the ministries of the BWA.

After the ITF report was received and voted on by the General Council in Prague, Czech Republic, in July 2008, the Constitution and Bylaws Committee took on the task of proposing the relevant constitutional and bylaw changes that will be considered in Ede.

A formal notification of the intended constitutional changes, or a notice of motion, has been circulated to all BWA member bodies. This formal notice will be the basis of discussion on the proposed constitutional changes in Ede.

July 6, 2009

Baptists and Catholics in Italy Reach Agreement on Marriage

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance
July 2, 2009

Baptists and Roman Catholics in Italy signed an agreement on "mixed" or interchurch marriages between members of the two Christian faith traditions.

Called "A Common document for a pastoral approach to marriages between Catholics and Baptists in Italy," the agreement addresses Baptists and Catholics who marry each other, in order to help these couples in their preparation for marriage and family life. It also seeks to deepen couples' awareness of their rights and obligations toward each other, and clarify their relationship with their respective churches.

With this document, said Anna Maffei, president of the Christian Evangelical Baptist Union of Italy (UCEBI), "we offer to our communities and our pastors a practical guide so that the confessional difference that remains between the future spouses may not be experienced as an obstacle but as enrichment."

Maffei, who signed the agreement on the behalf of Italian Baptists, said that "respective churches should not be competitors anymore but places of listening and encouragement to communion," highlighting "all that is unifying in spirit and love of God."

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), who signed for Italian Catholics, declared that "the document is a common step in the journey of ecumenism between the Catholic church and the Baptist churches in Italy in a particularly sensitive field" and is "likely to pave the way for further developments."

The agreement holds special significance for Baptists. "As the number of Baptists in Italy is very small, only in a few marriages are both spouses Baptists. In fact Baptists often marry Catholics and this becomes an interchurch marriage," states an accompanying document released by the UCEBI. "In order to clarify the situation, it has become necessary to reach an agreement between the Baptist Union and the Catholic Church."

There are approximately 6,400 Baptists who hold membership within the 116 churches of the UCEBI. In contrast, more than 87 percent of the population of more than 60 million in Italy identify themselves as Roman Catholic.

For the full release:

US Baptists Sign Letter to President Obama

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance
June 30, 2009

Several Baptist leaders in the United States signed a letter sent to United States President Barack Obama calling for a just and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for the establishment of "two viable, secure and independent states."

The Baptists, who signed the letter along with several other Christian and Jewish religious leaders, stated that "now is indeed the time for immediate and bold American leadership."

In reference to the president's commitment to a two-state solution, the letter welcomed "your call for people on both sides to recognize the pain and aspirations of the other. Because of this conflict many have lost the ability to see the other as human beings worthy of dignity and respect."

The Baptist signatories, who included David Goatley, president of the North American Baptist Fellowship, and Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA, urged Obama to "go beyond the mere principle of two states and lay out a just and equitable solution that provides dignity, security and sovereignty for both peoples."

Special concern was expressed for the small Christian community in Palestine, which is fast dwindling due to the conflict. "In the birthplace of our faith, one of the world's oldest Christian communities is dwindling rapidly.... Mr. President, it is apparent that unless there is an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, Christians in the Holy Land may cease to exist as a viable community."

The letter also urged that immediate relief be offered to Gaza, even while calling for the end of rocket attacks on southern Israel

More than 50 religious leaders signed the letter that was sent to the White House in the month of June. Other Baptist leaders signing the letter included T. DeWitt Smith and Tyrone Pitts, president and general secretary of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, respectively; William Shaw, president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc; and Jimmy Allen, coordinator of the New Baptist Covenant.

June 26, 2009

Leading Asian Theological Educator Dies

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance
June 26, 2009

Lilian Lim Hui Kiau, President of the Asia Baptist Graduate Theological Seminary (ABGTS), died on Thursday, June 25, in Singapore.

Lim was the first Baptist woman in Asia to be elected to lead a major theological seminary when she was named head of ABGTS, a consortium of nine theological schools in eight countries, in 2005.

Described by colleagues as "a simple lady with a simple faith," Lim was previously Professor of New Testament and Academic Dean at the Baptist Theological Seminary (BTS) of Singapore, one of the nine schools that form the ABGTS consortium. She received her theological training at BTS and at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) in Louisville, Kentucky, in the United States. She earned her PhD from SBTS in 1994.

She served on the executive of the Singapore Baptist Convention and the Asia Pacific Baptist Federation (APBF), one of six regional fellowships of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). She was also a member of the board of directors of Global Women, a mainly Baptist organization dedicated to empowering women for service and mission globally, and to creating partnerships across national borders and artificial divisions.

Lim was a member of the BWA team participating in the ongoing Baptist-Roman Catholic Conversations between the BWA and the Vatican. She presented papers on various topics at BWA and APBF events, including at the BWA-sponsored Baptist International Conference on Theological Education in Prague, Czech Republic, in July 2008. She wrote one of the Bible studies that will be used during the 20th Baptist World Congress to be held in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 2010.

A memorial service will take place at Calvary Baptist Church in Singapore, on Sunday, June 28, followed by cremation.

Haitian University President Calls on Nation to Work Together

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance
June 25, 2009

Jules Casseus, president of the Northern Haiti Christian University (UCNH), made an impassioned call to Haitians to work together for national reconstruction.

"The future of this country depends on us Haitians-not foreigners - and it is up to us to save the homeland," declared Casseus, who was speaking at the recent graduation exercise of UCNH, formerly known as Haiti Baptist Theological Seminary and renamed in 1993.

UCNH, founded by the Baptist Convention of Haiti, a member body of the Baptist World Alliance, is a private, Christian four-year university located in Limbe, in the largely under-served rural north of Haiti, about one hour outside the city of Cap-Haitien. It is one of only a handful of colleges located outside of a major Haitian city, and seeks to meet the need for higher education among the less wealthy. The university's major programs are agriculture (agronomy), business & computer science, fine arts & Christian leadership, and theology.

Casseus, the author of several books, including "Haiti What Kind of Church....What Kind of Freedom?" and "Elements of Haitian Theology," decried individualism, mismanagement, and environmental degradation in the Caribbean country. "The case of Haiti remains a clinical case," he said. "We hurt ourselves by our ignorance, our individualism and our irresponsibility that make our living conditions worse."

Deforestation and soil erosion continue to cause severe problems; agricultural production continues to decline and give way to imports; and "the accelerated migration of our Haitian brothers seems to have no limit. They continue to leave the country en masse," Casseus said.

"Those responsible for public administration continue to put their personal advantage before the country and corruption is rampant," he declared. "The principles of respect for others, the right and duty of the citizen, human rights, and justice is no longer observed," Casseus pronounced.

In a call to action, he told the students, faculty, staff and guests at the graduation ceremony, "We must continue to deploy more efforts to reach the new Haitian society that we dream of for the twenty-first century, and the third centenary of our first black republic."

June 25, 2009

Ruth: The Story of a Refugee

By Elijah M. Brown

Last week, on Saturday, June 20, the world once again commemorated the annual World Refugee Day ( Under the banner: “Real People, Real Needs,” we were reminded that there are still 42 million uprooted people around the world, many of whom face a “shortage or lack of the essentials of life – clean water, food… and protection from violence and abuse.”

These are real people with real needs. And you and I can make a difference.

Behind the overwhelming numerical statistics are individuals who can be influenced by individuals. One connecting with one.

And the Bible is no stranger to promoting the potential of one in partnership with the displaced and uprooted. The book of Ruth is a case study in such an ethic.

Ruth is the story of a young woman who found herself in Israel, a country that differed in culture, religion and background from the one in which she was raised. And what is more, there was a long history of suspicion, hostility and violent armed conflict between the peoples of Moab and Judah. Imagine yourself as a young, single woman with the responsibility of providing for an older relative, with only limited access to land or finances, separated from family and friends, and suspiciously viewed with ethnic hostility in all of your daily interactions.

Ruth was forced to glean the leftover grain that was first missed by harvesters and servants, and it is in this context of difficultly and poverty that the Biblical story introduces Boaz. Having compassion, Boaz extended an open hand to Ruth and helped her with financial and material goods. Over the course of the grain and barley harvests this initial relationship grew.

Ruth is usually told as a story of love and marriage or as a foreshadowed celebration of King David or of Christ himself. These interpretations may be true. But what is often lost in these themes is the reality that this is a story about crossing boundaries, of an immigrant who came from a country that was deemed “suspicious,” about showing compassion and financial generosity specifically to the displaced within our communities.

There are 42 million living as displaced in our world today. Ruth reminds us that these are real people with real needs and that while we each have a Biblical ethic to be generous with our resources, we are also given the opportunity for something so much deeper: friendship.

Real people, real needs. One connecting with one.

June 23, 2009

400th Celebration to Focus on Worship

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance
June 23, 2009

Worship will be at the heart of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) Annual Gathering to be held in Ede, Netherlands, from July 27 to August 1, as the BWA celebrates the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Baptist movement.

The first Baptist church was established in 1609 by English exiles in Amsterdam in the Netherlands .

Morning worship throughout the week will focus on the work of outstanding Baptists throughout the past 400 years, including Baptist pioneers Thomas Helwys and John Smyth; missionary leaders such as George Liele, William Carey, Ann Judson, Johannes Oncken, and Lottie Moon; outstanding preachers such as Charles Spurgeon, George Truett, Rubens Lopes, and William Tolbert; and Baptist prophets Martin Luther King, Jr., Samuel Sharpe, and William Knibb.

BWA General Secretary Neville Callam said that “the contribution of pioneers in the Baptist movement will be recognized, along with the outstanding work done by missioners, visionaries in the prophetic mold, preachers and teachers.”

A special quadricentennial service will be held on Thursday, July 30, at the United Mennonite Church in Amsterdam. The worship service will feature a Litany of Thanksgiving to be led by mostly young Baptist leaders. Denton Lotz, former general secretary of the BWA, will be the keynote speaker at this service.

Worship materials that will be used throughout the week are being translated into several languages in recognition of the number of nations that will be represented at the Gathering in Ede . Approximately 350 delegates and participants from 45 countries are registered to attend.

The order of service for the quadricentennial service will be posted on the BWA website ( on July 30 for Baptist churches to download and use in their own 400th anniversary celebrations. It will be available in at least seven languages, namely German, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili and English.

Callam encourages “Baptists everywhere to hold similar services where they live, drawing upon the resources offered as they see fit.”

June 20, 2009

Lotz Receives International Religious Liberty Award

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance
June 19, 2009

Denton Lotz, former general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), received the International Award for Religious Liberty on Thursday, June 18, in Washington , DC , in the United States .

Lotz, who was named General Secretary Emeritus upon his retirement from the BWA in 2007, was awarded for making “religious freedom a major focus of his ministry as church leader and church statesman,” at the 7th Annual Religious Liberty Dinner, which was sponsored by Liberty magazine, the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), and the Seventh Day Adventist Church .

In his response, Lotz, who is president of the IRLA, stated that the award was recognition of the role that Baptists have played in the defense of religious liberty since the founding of the Baptist movement 400 years ago, in 1609. Baptists, he said, were often persecuted because of their anti-establishment stance and their defense of the liberty of conscience. “Baptists were a persecuted group,” he told the roughly 300 guests gathered in the ballroom of the Capital Hilton hotel in Washington . “We believe that where religious freedom is denied, all other freedoms are denied,” he explained.

Keynote speaker for the dinner was Emanuel Cleaver, II, United States Congressman from Kansas City in the state of Missouri , and co-chair of the International Religious Freedom Caucus in the US Congress. “Religious freedom is a God-given gift, a sacred right,” said Cleaver, an ordained United Methodist Church minister and the first African American elected as mayor of Kansas City . “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, yet persecutions and atrocities are still taking place," Cleaver stated.

For the full release:

June 15, 2009

Leading Baptist Scholars to Participate in BWA Annual Gathering

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance
June 15, 2009

The Annual Gathering of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) to be held in Ede , Netherlands , from July 27 to August 1, will include the participation of several leading Baptist scholars in historical theology and church history.

These scholars will lead discussions on the history of Baptist witness in different regions of the world as part of the 400th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Baptist movement.

These Baptist scholars include Timothy George, a specialist in historical theology and dean of Beeson Divinity School of Samford University in Alabama in the United States, who will speak on the history of the Baptist movement in North America; Horace Russell, former president of the United Theological College of the West Indies in Jamaica and retired professor of historical theology at Palmer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania in the United States, who will reflect on Baptist history in the Caribbean; and Dinorah Mendez, Mexican church historian, who will assess the progress of Baptist work in Latin America .

Also leading discussions will be Peter Morden of Spurgeon’s College in London, England, who will assess the development of Baptist witness in Europe; Solomon Ishola, General Secretary of the Nigerian Baptist Convention, who will examine the growth and development of Baptist work in Africa; and Ken Manley, former principal at Whitley College of the University of Melbourne in Australia, who will appraise the history of Baptist life in Asia and the Pacific.

An analysis of the Baptist contribution to social transformation will be presented by William Brackney, Director of the Acadia Centre for Baptist and Anabaptist Studies, a cooperative project between the Acadia Divinity College and the Acadia University Library in Nova Scotia , Canada .

A final forum will focus on efforts at peacemaking in which Baptists have played a significant part. This forum will be led by Karen Bullock, Director of the PhD program at B.H. Carroll Theological Institute in Texas in the United States and chair of the BWA Commission on Baptist Heritage and Identity.

For full release:

June 4, 2009

Rest: Necessary for Effective Ministry

By Craig Vernall

Greetings everyone. It's long overdue for me to make a contribution. Please forgive me for my lack of participation. Maybe as you'll read on you'll understand my tardiness.

The BWA Annual Gathering last year in Prague was another exciting and valuable time for all of us. The opportunity to reconnect was a privilege that I find so rewarding. What some of you aren't aware of is that in the period of time leading up to the Prague conference I'd been hospitalized with some problems that were essentially related to being too busy – stress related really.

Upon my return, the leadership in the church where I pastor encouraged me to take some long term leave. So with my wife Michaela and our 14 year old son, I travelled to stay at Lake Wanaka in the South Island of New Zealand. Our two older daughters were both living overseas last year. The instructions we were given by our leadership team was to have nothing to do with any level of contact or responsibility that we'd been involved with. This was very difficult. Yet this was put in place to give us rest and allow us the opportunity to be restored. In the beginning we were concerned that we'd be needed but God in his grace allowed others to fill in the gaps and we were very happy with the results.

For me it was a time to unwind and allow the smoke to clear in my life and get my health restored. The area around Lake Wanaka is very beautiful and mountainous and I enjoyed spending many hours a day walking the hills and enjoying Gods creation. The church gave us nearly four months away and then were willing to embrace us upon our return and celebrate that we were back able to lead with new energy. It has been wonderful to experience this grace and to know that many hundreds of people were praying for us. During the time away we had many precious times with the Lord and with each other. Our girls returned from overseas to have Christmas with us. Our eldest daughter announced that she is getting married in October. I felt very old when a very nice young Christian man asked me if he could marry our daughter. We will be blessed to have Karl (from Australia) in our family after October this year.

Since our return we have been resuming our normal work yet being careful not to take on too much. I am once again involved in our union’s leadership as the Chairman of our Assembly Council. This year we're restructuring the leadership and direction of the New Zealand Baptist Union. This is a work I really enjoy and find myself in a good place to make a valuable contribution.

I am looking forward to meeting with everyone again and hearing the stories of God’s grace upon your lives and how he wishes to use us to bring Christ to this hurting world. I trust that you are each doing well and can see the fruitfulness of God upon your lives.

Last year the New Zealand Baptists enjoyed having Teddy and Diddy Oprenov speaking at our pastors’ annual retreat in May. In November, Rachel Tan was the key note speaker at our Annual Assembly. What a blessing it has been to have such wonderful friends ministering in our nation. These are the stories that we have to share with each other as the fruit of our times together. We are very blessed to have each other.

**Craig Vernall is a Baptist pastor in New Zealand and was recognized by the BWA as an emerging leader in 2007.

June 3, 2009

BWAid Assists Cyclone Victims in Bangladesh and India

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance
May 28, 2009

Baptist World Aid (BWAid), the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), has sent grants totaling US$12,000 for cyclone emergency relief to Bangladesh and India .

Cyclone Aila affected southern Bangladesh and eastern India on Monday, May 25, and has claimed almost 200 lives, a death toll that is expected to rise as rescuers reach remote villages cut off by flood waters.

“Our team visited the area and found the present need is drinking water and dry food,” said Leor Sarkar, general secretary of the Bangladesh Baptist Fellowship. “All the water wells are under water or are mixed with saline water and there is no source of sweet water as the salt water covered the whole area,” Sarkar reported. “We’re now distributing drinking water and food to save their lives.” A number of persons, he said, are living on boats.

Sarkar, who is a member of the BWA Commission on Church Leadership and the Promotion and Development Committee, informed the BWA that 27 Baptist churches “in Khulna , Bagherhat, Satkhira, Noakhali and Laxmipur districts have been affected by this disaster.”

A portion of the money sent by BWAid will be used to purchase food items for approximately 2,000 families in Bagherhat, Khulna and Potuakhali districts.

The same general area was affected by Cyclone Sidr in 2007, killing approximately 3,500 persons.

For the full release:

May 19, 2009

Baptists Visit Displaced Camp in Sri Lanka

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance
May 19, 2009

Baptist leaders of Sri Lankan Baptist Sangamaya (SLBS) visited a refugee camp in the South Asian country in the wake of the war between government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), or Tamil Tigers.

The visit to temporary shelters in Vavuniya, a town in Northern Province , occurred on May 11 and 12, and included the distribution of supplies to approximately 500 families by the SLBS. These supplies, which included water, milk and footwear, were purchased with a grant of US$5,000 from Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance.

E.K.Yasaratne, General Secretary of SLBS, who joined other religious leaders on the tour of the camp, informed the BWA that the relief coordinator for the refugee camp requested additional supplies such as gripe water, soap, towels, disinfectors, milk bottles and mosquito nets that are “useful for baby care, as many children were handicapped.” An attempt is being made “to find a mechanism to supply the above items requested by the coordinating officer” as soon as possible to be sent to the camp, he said, and appeals are being made to “churches and well-wishers” for further assistance.

An estimated 250,000 refugees, mainly Tamil, are in camps in Northern Province following the escalation of the civil war in the country between the LTTE and the government over the past few months. The civil war first erupted in 1983 as the Tamils, who accuse the Sinhalese government of discrimination, fought for an independent state in the north and east of the island. Since the beginning of the conflict, approximately 70,000 persons have been killed. An estimated 7,000 civilians have been killed and approximately 17,000 have been wounded since January 2009.

April 22, 2009

School in Refugee Camp Celebrates 25 Years

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance
April 22, 2009

The Kawthoolei Karen Baptist Bible School and College (KKBBSC) in the Mae La refugee camp in Thailand celebrated its 25th anniversary from March 25-29.

The school was founded by Saw Simon, the recipient of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) Human Rights Award in 2000, and offers general education to refugees and training to church leaders.

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. Mae La houses an estimated 50,000 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 school restarted with 32 students and has since grown in enrollment to more than 300.

Included in the celebration were the 23rd graduation exercises of the KKBBSC, where 39 students graduated, and the 25th Annual Mass Meeting of the Kawthoolei Karen Baptist Churches (KKBC), comprising the more than 240 churches that were founded in the refugee camps.

“We are really grateful to God for what He has done for us, is doing for us, and will be doing for us,” a release from the school said. “We also thank our brothers and sisters around the world for supporting us and praying for us.”

For the full release:

South African Baptist union urges South Africans to vote, pray

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance

The Baptist Union of Southern Africa (BUSA) is urging its members to vote in national and provincial elections set for April 22 in South Africa .

“Every citizen of South Africa is given an opportunity to vote for the party of their choice to become the government. If good people do not vote, only bad people will vote, and the results will be disastrous,” the Christian Citizenship Committee of BUSA said in its voting guidelines to Baptist churches in South Africa .

“Many good people are disillusioned and discouraged...they feel politics is so hopelessly corrupt, it is useless becoming involved in it,” the BUSA guidelines said, “but we must seek the peace and prosperity of the city and state in which God has placed us.”

“We want competent leaders to lead our land,” the guidelines read, even if these leaders are not religious. “Some of the finest political leaders in history have not necessarily been deeply religious or spiritual people…. In His common grace, God has given certain skills to particular people.”

Even while urging Baptists to vote, the Baptist union called on Baptists to “pray that South Africa ’s democracy may be strengthened,” and for “more men and women to be elected who have a real desire to serve the nation and not just their own interests.”

The elections on April 22 will elect a new national assembly as well as the provincial legislature for each province. The national assembly will select the person to become president of the Republic of South Africa.

For the full release:

April 2, 2009

Police Raid Baptist Home in Azerbaijan – Again

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance
April 2, 2009

Three Baptist women were detained and fined for “illegally spreading Christianity and other faiths” in the South Caucasus country of Azerbaijan on March 25.
The three, who are from Baku , the capital of Azerbaijan , were charged after police raided a Baptist religious gathering in a private home in the central town of Agdash , where children were receiving religious instruction.

According to Forum 18, a religious freedom watchdog group based in Oslo, Norway, “In the afternoon of 25 March, eight men raided the Agdash home of long-standing Baptist Vera Zhuchaeva, who is in her seventies,” and detained the three women, who claimed that “officers insulted them for their faith.”

Forum 18 reported that parents had been invited to send their children to Zhuchaeva’s home to listen to Bible stories during the Novruz spring festival, a holiday celebrating the arrival of spring. Approximately 12 children were present.

A report out of the office of the European Baptist Federation (EBF), one of six regional fellowships of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), stated that the police confiscated more than 500 pieces of Christian literature, 40 CDs, and a CD recorder.

The EBF report also stated that the raid and the detention of the Baptists has had widespread media coverage, which has included the disclosing of the addresses of those detained and fined.

Elnur Jabiyev, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Azerbaijan, described the public disclosure of the addresses of the detainees as dangerous. “Nationalists will know their addresses. The police should not have given journalists this information,” Jabiyev said.

Azerbaijan has come under increasing scrutiny from the international Baptist community in recent times. Two Baptist pastors, Zaur Balaev and Hamid Shabanov, were arrested in 2007 and 2008, respectively, after police raided their house churches. Both were found guilty on what were regarded as trumped up charges. Balaev was released in March 2008 after serving six months of a two-year sentence, while Shabanov, though convicted in February of this year, was not imprisoned as he had spent time in jail and under house arrest before and during his trial.


April 1, 2009

Called to a Global Context

By Elijah M. Brown

On March 13th an important – though mostly unannounced – milestone was reached: the 20th Anniversary of the proposal of the World Wide Web. As a recent Economist article notes, Tim Berners-Lee first proposed the World Wide Web in a document that went by the rather unassuming title, “Information Management: A Proposal.” The original idea was to use the web to link together documents and understanding related to particle physics from around the world into a connected platform for collaboration. Two decades later the web has moved far beyond science and has radically transformed life and society as we know it.

Even with the web, however, our natural tendency is not to think globally, but to think locally and personally. What is going on in my community? How does this affect me or my ministry? What about my church, my calling, my setting?

What if we began to think globally? What if we changed the equation from how can my ministry grow to how can my ministry, in its current form, partner with others to transform the world for Christ?

Such a mindset raises a new set of questions:

  • What area(s) of the world is the Lord calling me to intentionally adopt as a focus for pursuing transformation?
  • Who is already at work in that area or among that subgroup? How can I listen and learn from those already engaged?
  • Who are my potential partners and how can I deepen my relationship with them?

On this 20th Anniversary of the World Wide Web what strikes me is that the proposal stemmed from one individual. One individual who understood the power of collaborative thinking and global connectivity. In the economy of the Kingdom, size and amount of resources are not the chief ingredients. It is yielding to the Spirit – not size – that matters most.

The question is not, “Does my ministry have a global calling to reach new areas for Christ?” Rather, the question is, “Where, Lord?”

The World Wide Web started with one individual. Now just imagine how God could use you. Be encouraged. And let us together answer the question:

“How can we begin to think and minister globally?”

(Twenty Years of the World Wide Web. What’s the Score?

March 26, 2009

How Do We Find Our Voice Again?

By Elijah M. Brown

I recently encountered a pointed question from Baptist pastor Bob Roberts: “How do we find our voice again?” This question struck me because I have recently found myself in the midst of a season of uncertainty. Uncertainty about my ministry, my future direction, next steps, and ongoing financial provision. In recent days, I have felt uncertain, and to be honest, a bit lost.

In his book Transformation: How Glocal Churches Transform Lives and the World, Roberts reminds us that it is possible for individuals, churches and even whole denominations to lose their voice, their passion, their purpose, their impact. In the midst of consumerism, size, success and megamania, intimacy all too often gives out to religion and we become lost in the midst of busyness and clamoring culture. How do we find our voice again?

Engage personal transformation. There is no substitute for intimacy with Christ; individual and corporate cries of prayer and listening that are honest, desperate and soulful; and authenticity to God’s Word. When I have lost my voice I know of no other substitute than regular and honest prayer that asks, “Lord, would you renew and transform my vision and passion?”

Pursue cultural transformation. As Roberts notes, “Converts grow a church, but disciples change the world.” Our divine commission is to begin building God’s Kingdom today in every structure, every government, every urban center, every location, every church. I hunger for a renewed corporate vision of millions of Christians living the Gospel in an approach that moves beyond information, condemnation, and even conversion. What is needed is transformation. What if our standard for measurement was the degree that individuals and cultures had been transformed?

Remember the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God is almost always bigger than we imagine. It is bigger than our own spirituality, bigger than our own churches, and, yes, even bigger than our own denomination. Millions of individuals are for the first time calling out to Christ. The Church is exponentially exploding in every corner of the globe. We are living in the midst of a great – some even say the greatest – revival in history and it’s not located in Europe or the United States. Today’s great revival leaders are primarily our brothers and sisters in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Whenever I feel lost I remember that the Kingdom of God is itself never lost. The Gospel is loosed and is sweeping across the geographies of Asia, Africa and Latin America. When I feel personally lost, I remember it’s a Kingdom, God is at work, and then with humility I ask for the privilege to join Him where He is moving.

(Bob Roberts, Jr. Transformation: How Glocal Churches Transform Lives and the World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996)

March 24, 2009

Callam Endorses Turkey as a Christian Heritage Site

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance
March 24, 2009

Turkey may become a heritage site for Christian pilgrims. These plans were announced at a press conference on Monday, March 23, in Izmir , which is modern day Smyrna .

The Association of Izmir, a group of persons from various faith traditions in Turkey, is petitioning the government of Turkey to endorse a program that would promote pilgrimage by Christians to Ephesus, Philadelphia, Laodicea, Pergamum, Sardis, Thyatira, and Smyrna (Izmir) – all of which are mentioned in Revelation chapters two and three and are located in what is modern western Turkey.

Baptist World Alliance General Secretary Neville Callam, who was invited to address the press conference, told journalists of his hope that “people in this part of the world will recognize the importance of these sites to Christians.”

Callam stated, “For Christians, this is a holy land, and being a heritage site would help Christians to connect with western Turkey.”


More than 120 Baptists Baptized in Jordan

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance

More than 120 persons were baptized in the Jordan River on Friday, March 20, by pastors from the Jordan Baptist Convention.

The baptism was the culmination of an afternoon of celebration in which the Baptism Center at Bethany beyond Jordan was dedicated for use by Baptists and other evangelical Christians.

Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Secretary Neville Callam, who gave the main address, said, “Today, as we assemble by the Jordan … we unite to mark the opening and dedication of this Baptism Center – a place where people from all parts of the world may assemble for a journey and an experience.”

The BWA leader expressed the hope that “the waters of the Jordan extinguish the crippling fires of hopelessness that burn in the hearts of those who have no knowledge of God.”

Also speaking at the dedication ceremony was former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair, who established a faith foundation upon demitting office as British Prime Minister, commended King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein and Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammed for exhibiting courage in the inauguration of the Baptism Center . The Center joins buildings of other churches, including the Orthodox Church, which have recently been constructed on the official Baptism Site of Jesus Christ. Blair stated, “In dedicating this site, let us renew our faith in our God, our Lord, and in His message.”

BWA President David Coffey and Fawaz Ameish, Jordan Baptist Convention president and BWA vice president, expressed gratitude to King Abdullah and Prince Ghazi for facilitating the construction and dedication of the center.

An estimated 1,700 persons attended the dedication and opening ceremony.

For the full release:

March 4, 2009

New Director for Freedom and Justice to be Appointed

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance

March 4, 2009

Raimundo César Barreto Jr. of Brazil is being recommended for the position of Director of the Division of Freedom and Justice (F&J) for the Baptist World Alliance (BWA).

The recommendation, which was made by the Executive Committee of the BWA on March 4, will be presented for a vote at the next meeting of the General Council (GC) in Ede , Netherlands , in July.

If appointed by the GC, Barreto would be the first person to become director of the F&J Division, which was established on September 1, 2008, following the decision of the GC in July 2008 to create the newest division of the international Baptist organization.

An ordained Baptist pastor since 1993, Barreto holds a doctoral degree in Christian Social Ethics from Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey in the United States , as well as degrees from the M cAfee School of Theology at Mercer University in Atlanta , Georgia , also in the US , and from the North Brazil Baptist Theological Seminary in Recife . He also studied at the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague , Czech Republic .

He has worked extensively in academia in Brazil and in the US , including at the North Brazil Baptist Theological Seminary, the Northeast Baptist Theological Seminary in Feira de Santana , the Christian Education Seminary in Recife , Lancaster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania , and at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Barreto has conducted research on Christian and social justice issues in Latin America . He has special interest in working with organizations in human rights, and in advocating for those who have special needs.

Currently the pastor of Igreja Batista Esperança ( Hope Baptist Church ) in Salvador , Bahia state, he worked as General Coordinator for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Social Ethics in Brazil , among several other appointments in church and community organizations.

The F&J Division addresses issues of human rights and religious freedom, and will coordinate the relationship between the BWA and the United Nations, with which the BWA holds membership in several UN agencies.

Barreto is married to Eliã, a nurse working in public health, and is the father of two sons, Caio, 14, and Cauã, 2.


Leena Lavanya to Receive BWA Human Rights Award

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance

March 4, 2009

Leena Lavanya of India is the 2009 recipient of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award.

Lavanya, referred to by some as the “Baptist Mother Teresa,” is being recognized for her work among the poor and dispossessed of India . Her “Serve Trust” organization operates several ministries, including homes for the aged, lepers, and adults and children living with HIV/AIDS.

Serve Trust operates a school for children in one of the most depressed areas of Narasaraopet, a town of approximately 100,000 in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. In another town, Chilakaluripet, Lavanya operates training programs for female sex workers and their daughters with the hope that these women and their daughters would break the cycle of prostitution.

Chilakaluripet reportedly means “the place where prostitutes live,” and is populated by descendants of women who were once concubines of kings, who have since evolved into a caste where their role and function is prostitution. HIV/AIDS infection is high among this population, where many men depend on the earnings of the women by being pimps or part of the mafia.

In addition to operating a free HIV/AIDS counseling center, Lavanya distributes rice and lentils to female sex workers and blankets to Hindu beggars, many of whom live on the streets or in depressed communities.

Lavanya is the granddaughter of B.R. Moses, a former BWA vice president and seminary professor, who raised her until she was 18 years old, in keeping with a Telugu tradition of grandparents raising the first grandchild. The Telugus are a people group that lives in several states, mostly in Southern India , among whom Baptists have a significant presence. Her maternal uncle, Bontha Moses Sudheer, is a pastor and a member of the BWA Commission on Freedom and Justice.

Lavanya began her ministry after attending the Baptist Youth World Conference in Harare , Zimbabwe , in 1993, in response to a challenge by noted speaker Tony Campolo for youth to fully surrender their lives to Christ.

The Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award will be presented during the meeting of the BWA General Council in Ede , Netherlands , in July.


March 2, 2009

BWA Executive Committee Meets

More than 100 individuals from around the world are meeting in Falls Church, Virginia for the Executive Committee Meeting of the Baptist World Alliance.

For news and photos see:

February 27, 2009

Online Registration Begins for 2010 Baptist World Congress

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance

February 26, 2009

The Baptist World Alliance is now receiving registrations online for the 20th Baptist World Congress in Honolulu , Hawaii , in 2010, via the Baptist World Congress website,

Every person attending the congress must register. Online registration closes June 30, 2010.

Participants such as choirs and dance groups may also apply to participate at the event.

The congress, the major international gathering of Baptists which is held every five years, is expected to have a projected 15,000 persons in attendance. It will be held July 28 to August 1 at the Hawaii Convention Center .

The congress theme, “Hear the Spirit,” will be explored in worship celebrations, Bible studies, workshop presentations, and through artistic expressions.

Congress attendees will be exposed to Hawaiian music, Hawaiian culture, and the relationship of the theme to “Aloha” – the common Hawaiian greeting that has multiple meanings.
The major sessions will incorporate the use of several languages, music from around the world, speakers representing various regions and continents, and imageries from various cultures.
Registration may also be done by regular mail by printing the registration form available on the congress website.


February 20, 2009

Baptist Pastor Convicted in Azerbaijan

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance

February 20, 2009

Washington , D.C. (BWA)--Hamid Shabanov, a Baptist pastor in the South Caucasus country of Azerbaijan , was found guilty of possessing an illegal weapon and was given “a two-year corrective labor sentence.”

Shabanov, who pastors a house church of approximately 60 members in the town of Aliabad , was arrested on June 20, 2008, after police claimed to have found an illegal weapon in his home after a raid.

Denying the allegations against Shabanov, and claiming that the weapon was planted by the police, Elnur Jabiyev, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Azerbaijan (BUA), stated that the arrest “was a provocation by the police,” and that it was “a deliberately targeted action.” The BUA leader asserted that “the police’s aim is to halt Baptist activity and close the church in Aliabad.”

“I will continue to fight against this sentence and to clear my name,” Shabanov said after his conviction on February 11. The two-year corrective labor sentence is equivalent to eight months in prison, thus Shabanov, who has already spent more than seven months in detention or under house arrest, will not be locked up. He was ordered to pay a fine to cover the rest of the sentence, 27 days.

Azerbaijan authorities have been accused of committing serious procedural violations in their case against Shabanov. Family and townspeople in Aliabad insisted that the weapon that Shabanov allegedly possessed was planted by the police.

After his arrest, the trial against Shabanov began on July 22, 2008, but the case was referred back to the prosecutor by the judge on July 29 for further investigation. Another hearing was called on August 22 without the knowledge of Shabanov, his lawyer, or family. This hearing extended his detention by a further two months which ended on October 21.

The trial was scheduled to begin on October 28, but despite his lawyer travelling 450 kilometers (280 miles) from Baku , the capital of Azerbaijan , the trial did not begin as the police failed to take Shabanov from jail to the court.

In addition, neither the pastor’s family nor lawyer had received the indictment. “They haven’t even given us the case materials,” Shabanov’s lawyer said.

After another hearing on January 26, Shabanov’s trial began on February 4 and the verdict was handed down on February 11. In between his arrest in June 2008 and the trial in February, Shabanov spent 20 weeks in prison until November, after which he was placed under house arrest.

Shabanov is the second Baptist pastor in Aliabad to be convicted of a crime. Zaur Balaev was arrested in May 2007 and given a two year sentence after being convicted in August of that year for beating up five policemen and damaging a police car door. Members of Balaev’s church and residents in the town disputed the charges against Balaev, who was released in March 2008 after protests from the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), the European Baptist Federation (EBF), and former United States President Jimmy Carter.

The EBF, one of six regional fellowships of the BWA, led a delegation to Azerbaijan in January to meet with government, diplomatic, and religious leaders, partly in response to the cases against Balaev and Shabanov.

Azerbaijan , a Muslim-majority country, gained its independence after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. There are 22 Baptist churches and 3,000 baptized believers in the country of 8.7 million people.


February 19, 2009

Believers are Always Changing

By Amanda Haines, a Vice President of the BWA Youth Department

Change is always occurring around us. There are drastic changes in the seasonal weather, changes in the economy, there are new political leaders, and monetary currency seems to continuously change. There are numerous changes in our everyday lives. Out of these numerous changes there are many that we cannot control. But even still there are things that we can change. We can change ourselves. We as believers in Christ are changing everyday. We are told to pick up our cross daily and follow Him. When we pick up our crosses, we are crucifying our flesh every day, and when we daily crucify our flesh, a change is taking place in us.

The word of God tells us in Romans 12:2, And be not conformed (which is also a word that means molded or changed) to this world but be transformed (another word that means change) by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and acceptable and perfect will of God.

We must be changed from the inside out. One of the vital stages of being changed on the inside is to change our mind and our thinking. We cannot change our minds alone. We need the Holy Spirit of God to help us change. As we decide to pick up our cross and follow Him and turn from the flesh-satisfying conformity of this world, the power of the Holy Spirit will transform us and renew our minds. This is how we will do the good the Lords asks of us on this earth. And because of this transformation we can rest assured that the good that is done on earth through us is within the acceptable and perfect will of God.

As believers of Christ, our heart’s desire is to be just like Him. Though we each begin far from Christ, this is an area we can change. As you continue to pick up your cross and follow the Savior you will experience God changing you into a great disciple used for his glory.

February 18, 2009

It’s Time – A Song for Lasting Peace

By Maurice Mondengo

It’s time
A way for lasting peace

It’s time, yes, it’s time
Let’s sow seeds of peace
In the hearts of the children
So that tomorrow when our children grow up
With or without us
They will live peacefully.

Let’s always speak of peace
Close to our children, let’s speak of peace
So that tomorrow when they grow up
Our children also will speak of peace.

Let’s always live peacefully
Close to our children, let’s live peacefully
So that tomorrow when they grow up
Our children will live in a peaceful world.

Let’s always avoid violence
Close to our children, let’s avoid any violence
So that tomorrow when they grow up
Our children will live in a world without any violence.
Little children often do imitate our acts
Tomorrow with or without us
They will repeat what we do in their presence
That’s why we should work for peace.

It’s time, yes, it’s time!
Let’s build a peaceful world
A world of freedom and responsibility
In the hearts of our children
It’s time, yes, more than ever.

Let’s work for the nonviolent way
Based on the spirit of justice
In the hearts of our children
It’s time, yes, more than ever.

If we feel a need of saving this broken world
Let’s now sow seeds of hope, joy, peace, justice and love
In the hearts of our children
And tomorrow, the world will be a better place to live.

February 17, 2009

A Simple Letter and the Power of Partnerships

By Koffi Soke Kpomgbe

“A cat in a bag or a basket cannot be haggled over,” says a proverb in my own home-town.

I was recently asked by a church in Missouri, United States, to carry a letter on their behalf to several villages in Togo where daily life and existence is far from easy. Together with Pastor Robert Adrackey of the Akepe Baptist Church, we were able to visit four Baptist congregations in four different villages. At each of the four locations the message was the same: sharing and reading this letter from a church in Missouri followed by a short prayer.

I lack the words to convey the joy and satisfaction that was expressed by these four churches. The simple fact to hear that friends on the other side of the ocean were thinking of us, praying for us and announcing an upcoming mission trip to our area, was enough to quench the thirst of these brothers and sisters in the rural villages.

To return to the above proverb. One would not purchase a cat in the market until it has been personally seen and touched. In other words, it is impossible to express the depth of meaning and encouragement that such partnerships mean in areas that are otherwise often isolated.

This joy stemmed from the reading of a simple letter.

And how can I read something if no one wrote down anything for them? And how can one write to another, unless you have the love of people in your heart? And how can you send missionaries, value partnerships or have a love of people in your heart, unless you understand the Great Commission and a common Lord and Savior who desires that all enter into a relationship with Him?

On behalf of all the villages that exist at the end of bumpy and dusty roads, thank you.

To the many who actively seek to build international community and pray for brothers and sisters around the world whom they may never even meet, thank you.

Even in the sharing of a simple letter; it is the power of partnership, a power that all of us can extend to one another. You may never know the joy you have brought and the strength you have increased.

Let us be people who actively practice the power of partnership.

** Click on the facebook link on the right for pictures from several churches in Togo.

February 16, 2009

Baptists in Australia Offer Bushfire Assistance

Eron Henry, Associate Director of Communications
Neville Callam, General Secretary
Baptist World Alliance

February 11, 2009

Baptists in Australia have established an emergency relief fund to aid persons affected by the worst natural disaster in the history of the southeastern state of Victoria.

Bushfires that started on February 7 have claimed more than 180 lives, with at least 80 persons missing, and have destroyed more than 900 homes. There are fears that the death toll will rise to more than 300.

Three closely related Baptist bodies, Baptcare, the Baptist Union of Victoria (BUV), and the Baptist Union of Australia (BUA), established an Emergency Bushfire Relief Fund with an initial grant of AUS$50,000.

The fund will be used primarily for food, clothing, accommodation, and personal needs, as well as for bereavement counselling.

In addition to the fund, Baptist churches in Victoria are being used as emergency shelters, and local congregations are offering pastoral care to victims of the fires, which have badly affected farms, forests, and wildlife. More than 1,200 square miles have been destroyed by the inferno.

“We’ve watched in horror this past weekend as news of the tragic bushfires in rural Victoria have taken their toll on lives and property,” said a release from the BUA. “As a network of nearly 1,000 churches the Baptist Union of Australia is calling Baptist churches across our nation to prayerfully consider their response to this disaster.”

“Please join us in praying for those in need, and for all those seeking to offer practical care and support,” the BUV requested in its release to Baptists in Victoria and elsewhere.

For the full release:

February 12, 2009

Peace on Earth, a Responsibility for All

Excerpts from a Sermon by Maurice Mondengo, a Baptist pastor from the DRC

In this morning’s sermon I would like to focus on Luke 2:14, a verse that highlights two essential truths.

The first is that we are called through worship to give “glory to God in the highest.” However, the worship that we can currently offer is but a series of rehearsals for that great coming day when after this life we join with the angels of the Lord and sing a new song in Heaven. It is only after this life that we can sing and praise the Lord in our white robe washed by the blood of the Lamb of God. This is our hope and joy. Giving “glory to God in the highest” is the expectation of that coming reality.

The second truth is that of “peace on earth,” a responsibility and privilege that is to be pursued in the here and now. Every man, woman, race, tribe, church, and nation in the world has been given the challenging work to keep, build and cultivate peace on earth. Keeping such peace requires that we focus on three areas:

First, peace on earth depends upon peace in our own mind. I know in our world today of physical sickness, economic tsunamis, and refugee and immigration displacement, it is often difficult for us to have peace. Jesus knows our weakness in this matter and how fear robs us of peace in our minds. That is why the Bible is full of the expressions we know well, “Fear not,” and, “Let peace be with you.”

Second, peace with others. We are challenged to keep or build peace with others every single day. We know that we live in a culture of injustice, a culture of war and violence, a culture of confusion, and a culture of saying, “It’s not my business.” However in Psalms 85:10 the Bible states, “Justice and peace have to embrace each other.” Christians are called to embrace justice and peace in our way of living, doing, praying and working in the world. I am not referring to a justice that protects only those who are rich and have power. I am not referring to a justice that would protect the weak and poor only because they are weak and poor. This is justice that is justice for all because it is right.

Third, peace on earth depends, finally, on the strength of our ability to keep or rebuild peace with God. While working for peace on earth, are we at peace with God? Peace of mind is a good thing. Peace with others is also good. But both are not enough. We need to have peace with God as well.

Glory to God in the highest, but peace on earth. Let peace be on earth.

February 10, 2009

Mission: Six Truths Relevant for Today

By Elijah Brown

I have been thinking lately about the meaning of mission in our contemporary setting. Mission is multidimensional in terms of theology and practice and incorporates various activities from evangelism, service in love, and engagement in societal transformation. Various Baptist groups have long argued that one model or another should function as the primary motif.

David Bosch, however, reminds us that mission is often more of a “mosaic” of complimentary diversity in which different models can function as a source of refinement and enrichment. Bosch identifies six “salvific events” that function both as underlying healthy theology and as representative model of holistic praxis.

First, is The Incarnation of Christ. God in his great love was incarnated within a particular setting and context. The Gospel was commissioned with a relevancy that while it was universal, was also highly particular. Mission is about embracing the reality of Jesus Christ and a principle of universal scope which must remain at the same time, relevant in its specificity.

Second, The Cross. While many often articulate a robust theology of the cross and rightly recognize its importance in terms of redemption and salvation, the cross also speaks to the importance of sacrifice and is a model of kenosis that is to be emulated.

Third and Fourth, The Resurrection and The Ascension. In the midst of death and destabilization, Christians are those who announce a gospel of life in the here and now. Though it has not been fully initiated, the reality of God’s kingdom is real and guided by eschatological principles, the basis on which we are to engage this world.

Fifth, Pentecost. The Spirit draws individuals to Christ while giving Christians the boldness to live courageously. At the same time “the Spirit may not be held hostage by the church, as if the sole task were to maintain it and protect it from the outside world” (517). The Spirit is continually and actively involved in culture and history throughout the world. Bosch – with some legitimacy – claims that we have now “entered into the era of the Spirit” (516). Should this be accurate, many Baptists who have traditionally been weaker in a full understanding of the Spirit, may have a particular need to reexamine this salvific event.

Sixth, The Parousia. The Kingdom of God has already begun, and is within the church already present. However it is not yet fully implemented and it is the knowledge that what we see today is but a darkened mirror of the life and freedom to come that provides us a vision of hope. The Kingdom of God is therefore challenge for today and the joy of what is to come.

Mission will remain diverse in the practical applications adopted by individuals, churches and conventions and unions. This diversity can be a source of strength when we ask ourselves: is my theology and practice built upon and modeled around a motif that embraces incarnation, the cross, the resurrection and ascension, Pentecost and the Spirit, and the parousia of the kingdom that already is and is yet to come?

**See David Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1991, 511-519.

Learning to Share the Good News

By Koffi Soke Kpomgbe

From January 8-23, 2009, a 14-member team from the South Korean Campus Crusade for Christ participated in a mission trip to Togo. As I traveled with this team serving as their principal translator, we visited collegiate campuses in Kara and Lome. At both, the team hosted “A Korean Night” in which there were Togolese and Korean traditional dances, modern dances, acapella singing, drama sketches and Taekwondo demonstrations.

In Togo, many Christians actually view Taekwondo as a violent game with nothing of significant value. Many of the local pastors in the areas we visited gave severe criticism to the proposed agenda of cultural activities when they saw that Taekwondo would be on the agenda. However, the program proceeded as planned and I have never seen some of the collegiate guys as touched as what I witnessed during this presentation. There was zero violence in the Taekwondo performances and souls were saved.

We also visited a village in the Bassar region where many people gathered to participate in a program of dances and martial art performances. Again, this same strategy proved effective as the Korean team shared about Christ and many responded. Viewing this encounter, I had no other option except to respond by praising the Lord.

It makes me wonder: do we as Christians in our own social context look at those who have different practices and question whether they are worthy or truly part of the Kingdom?

As the harvest is great, let us ask the Master of the Field to teach us new and different strategies.

While we are part of one family each one of us can share Christ in our own unique way.

**Click on the Facebook link on the right for pictures.