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.

See: http://www.bwanet.org/default.aspx?pid=1162

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Study & Research and the Division of Evangelism & Education have been disbanded by the Baptist World Alliance and have been replaced by the Division of Mission, Evangelism and Theological Reflection (METR).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: http://www.bwanet.org/default.aspx?pid=1155

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: http://www.bwanet.org/default.aspx?pid=1143

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 C├ęsar 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: http://www.bwanet.org/default.aspx?pid=1154

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: http://www.bwanet.org/default.aspx?pid=1156

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: http://www.bwanet.org/default.aspx?pid=1150

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: http://www.bwanet.org/default.aspx?pid=1133

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: http://www.bwanet.org/default.aspx?pid=1132

BWA Annual Gathering Blog

News and photos from the Amsterdam 400 celebration are available on the BWA blog, www.bwagathering2009.blogspot.com.

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 (www.bwanet.org) for use by Baptist congregations around the world in their own 400th anniversary celebrations.