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.

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