News Articles

Nilson Fanini underscores evangelism at BWA meeting

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (BP)–Baptist World Alliance President Nilson do Amaral Fanini continued his drive to call 10 million Baptists to prayer for world evangelization during the a July 3-9 meeting of the BWA’s general council.
Fanini recapped the prayer initiative, “World Prayer 2000,” to 500-plus delegates from 30 countries at the BWA meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia.
“World Prayer 2000” asks Baptists to pray both for personal revival and for the evangelization of the world. “We need prayer power more than any other power,” Fanini stressed.
Fanini’s emphasis on prayer is a part of his three-fold goal: that every Baptist will win one more person to Christ before the year 2000, that every church will begin one new congregation before the turn of the century and that each member commit to World Prayer 2000.
In other business, the council approved an International Conference on Racism and Ethnic Conflict to be held in January 1998 in Atlanta to coincide with the birthday of slain civil rights leader and Baptist minister Martin Luther King Jr.
“We as Baptists must be in the forefront of reconciliation,” BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz told the council. “That is part of our tradition as Baptists.”
The council also called for a renewed commitment to human rights, peace in the Middle East and a ban on land mines.
According to BWA communications officer Wendy Ryan, the stance adopted in Vancouver on human rights noted the BWA “recognizes with gratitude that 1998 will mark the 50th anniversary of the United Nations’ ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ which has exerted a great moral influence in the cause of justice, peace and religious tolerance.” The BWA called on its member unions and conventions and their local churches “to unmask everything that does violence to human dignity and to seek justice for all peoples, especially those who have no voice, no power and no friends,” Ryan reported.
Concerning the Middle East, Ryan said, the council expressed concern “that the Middle East peace process has only partially been implemented and this threatens the stability of all the states in the region.” The BWA encouraged its member unions and conventions “to take all steps possible to urge their governments to strengthen the hand of the United Nations in its efforts to counteract aggression within the area and to ensure the full implementation of the March 1993 peace accords,” Ryan said.
Recounting more than 100 million anti-personnel land mines are deployed in 70-plus countries and a further 100 million stockpiled by governments, the council affirmed an agreement by more than 60 national governments to ban land mines. Ryan said the BWA encouraged Baptists worldwide “to investigate whether their respective governments have agreed to ban the production and use of land mines and if necessary to secure their commitment to join the community of nations pursuing the elimination of this scourge.”
In other actions, the council approved a BWA 1998 operating budget of just over $1.5 million and a funding goal of more than $2 million for projects of Baptist World Aid, the BWA’s relief and development arm.
It accepted three new member bodies: the Federation of Baptists in El Salvador, the Union of Baptist Protestant Churches in Benin and the Union of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Burkina Faso, bringing BWA to 191 member bodies.
Using the opportunity of the world Baptist family at its door, the 1,000-member downtown First Baptist Church of Vancouver brought together a wide range of local Baptists in an unprecedented show of unity on Sunday evening, July 6, in the Orpheum Theatre.
There are five major Baptist groups in the Vancouver area, two of them representing different shades of theological thought that resulted in splits which occurred in the 1920s. Two others grow out of German and Swedish roots. The fifth reflects mission work from the United States carried out in the past two decades with the assistance of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The groups are known, respectively, as Canadian Baptist Ministries, the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptists, the North American Baptist Conference, the Baptist General Conference of Canada and the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists.
Bruce Milne, senior minister at First Baptist and outgoing president of Canadian Baptist Ministries, the historically mainstream Canadian Baptist body, saw the general council as a good opportunity to bring the five bodies together in a show of cooperation.
Also a part of the service was a 120-voice choir drawn from 22 churches of several ethnic backgrounds.
The service ended with a sermon by BWA President Fanini, who concluded with an “invitation” for people who wanted to deepen their Christian commitments to come to the front of the theatre. About 100 people responded.
While praise, prayer, fellowship and reconciliation themes dominated the meeting, the firing of Willene Pierce, executive director of the BWA women’s department, created an undercurrent of tension.
In a statement made at the request of Fanini, Lotz said, “While the women’s department is an auxiliary of the BWA, we are part of the one family and are therefore very concerned about the development. We are called to a ministry of reconciliation and will work with and pray for both the women’s department and Willene Pierce.”
Before joining the women’s department staff in February 1995, Pierce had been WMU executive director-treasurer in Maryland/Delaware and, previously, a WMU staff member in Arkansas. Comment was not available from either a women’s department representative or Pierce July 10.