CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI, Canada (BP)–When Baptist leaders gather from the far corners of the world at the General Council meeting of the Baptist World Alliance, it is always a time of rich fellowship, action and challenge for the growth and strength of Baptist worldwide witness.
This year’s annual council held July 2-7, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada’s birthplace, was no exception. With more than 570 delegates, from 48 countries and twice as many unions and conventions, this was the largest gathering of Baptist leaders this event has ever seen.
Led by the President of the BWA, Billy Jang Hwan Kim, and Denton Lotz, general secretary, the council emphasized the themes of unity, religious freedom, reconciliation, racial justice and evangelism in reports that were given from around the world.
Just recently returned from a visit to Kalimantan, Indonesia where he saw burned churches and heard reports of hundreds of Christians killed, the BWA President urged Baptists to work and pray for peace and religious freedom.
The BWA General Secretary continued to call on Baptists to work together in unity and for racial justice and reconciliation. He also said Baptists must hold up the centrality of Jesus Christ, and the Trinitarian faith of Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. “There is no God talk without Jesus,” Lotz said.
Several reports from around the world gave a compelling picture of the world in which Baptists minister and have to reach with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“In Europe, the roots of hatred run so deep,” said Theodor Angelov, general secretary of the European Baptist Federation. With the combined years of war in Ireland, the Balkans, Chechnya and other places, “we have more than 700 years of conflict,” Angelov said, “however we have seen that the sacrificial work of our people and leaders is what brings peace.”
In his introductory report to the Council, Andre Bokundoa bo-likabe, president of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship said that in Africa, Baptist pastors work against a background of violence from war, and all types of conflict.
To deal with these issues, General Secretary Frank Adams, said the AABF will create an All Africa Peace Fellowship.
Several leaders commended the BWA for its work for peace and reconciliation and urged the organization to do more, and especially in trying to avoid disasters such as happened in Rwanda.
Isaac M. Mwase, associate professor of philosophy at the Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark., said “bodies such as the BWA are strategically placed to provide a moral imperative for such organizations as the United Nations to intervene in such places as Rwanda and Sudan.”
As Baptist leaders shared about their growth, Bonny Resu, executive secretary of the Asian Baptist Federation said Asian Baptists are among the fastest growing evangelicals, and exciting new missionary ventures are being undertaken in places where ordinary evangelists cannot go.
The indigenous missionary force in Asia is growing. For example, in the Baptist churches of Mizoram, India, out of 160,000 members, there are 320 missionaries. Resu appealed to mission organizations from the West “to partner with fellow Baptists as we work together to reach Asia for Christ.”
To address these and other questions of global mission in Baptist life, the International Mission Secretaries group that met in conjunction with the council announced their support of a proposed global Baptist summit on mission and evangelism to be held in 2003. The IMS, now composed of heads of international missionary agencies in the western world, will also expand its membership to include all those involved in cross-cultural mission beyond their own borders.
“Evangelism is really alive in the Caribbean,” said Peter Pinder, executive director of the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship. As Baptists throughout the region accept the call to take the Gospel to other places, Neville Callum, BWA vice-president from Jamaica reported on a partnership between Jamaican Baptists and those in Panama.
Describing the continent of North America as ” a continent that increasingly needs to be evangelized,” Robert Ricker, executive director of the North American Baptist Fellowship announced the NABF plans a Consultation on Evangelism for North America and Canada at a time to be announced. Ricker said, NABF wants to be known for its evangelical witness in a post-Christian culture.