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 (http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c46d.html). 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 (http://www.bwanet.org) 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: http://www.bwanet.org/default.aspx?pid=1102

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: http://www.bwanet.org/default.aspx?pid=1097

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: http://www.bwanet.org/default.aspx?pid=1093