By Carrie Brown McWhorter
The Alabama Baptist
Baptists around the world are flourishing and maintaining a focus on missions, said leaders of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) at the organization’s annual gathering July 1–7 in Zurich, Switzerland.
Paul Msiza, senior pastor at Peniel Salem Baptist Church in South Africa and president of BWA, reported that Baptists around the world “are doing well. … Our focus on missions is exciting,” he said. And, “as Baptists we are committed to a holistic approach that involves both ‘word and deed.’”
Msiza said Baptists also recognize that “we live in a hostile world” and need to continue the work of advocacy — “to stand in the trenches with those who suffer. … We need to stand for justice” until, like Amos in the Old Testament said, “justice rolls down like waters.”
In his welcoming remarks to the 320 BWA participants representing 46 countries and 51 BWA member bodies, BWA General Secretary Elijah Brown stressed the power of Scripture to transform lives and the importance of building bridges as he welcomed the global Baptist community to Zurich, a key site in the Swiss Reformation.
Transformative and alive
“As we gather here in this city, of all cities, we are reminded of the transformative power of God’s Holy Word,” Brown said. “As we gather, would you join me in praying that God’s Word would be powerful and alive in our lives this week? For one of the themes woven throughout this week is the transformative power of the Scriptures.”
Brown said many people around the world, including Baptists, are suffering persecution. Many are “even now feeling the weight of God’s Word and those who would seek to chain it down. As we begin we also remember them. They may not be able to join us, but we will join them.”
Brown recently returned from a trip to South Korea, and he asked Baptists to be “especially mindful of our brothers and sisters in North Korea.” After sharing details of his trip to Korea, Brown asked participants to gather in small groups of prayer for North Korea and its people.
“I pray that throughout this annual gathering we will be a community who builds bridges,” Brown said. “We are recalling our bridges to our past. … We will be building bridges to one another in Jesus Christ. … We will be building bridges to our shared future in ministry. … For we still believe in the transformative power of God’s Word.”
In addition to its regular business (see story below), the BWA welcomed two new regional secretaries to the BWA leadership — Vee Tetseo of Asia-Pacific Baptist Federation and Jeremy Bell of the North American Baptist Fellowship. Kang-San Tan was welcomed as the new general director of BMS World Mission, a disaster-relief and development organization that works in many countries.
BWA’s 2019 Annual Gathering will be July 7–13 in Nassau, Bahamas.
BWA resolutions address global issues
In business sessions during the 2018 Annual Gathering, the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Council spoke out on religious liberty, dignity of women and family unity through three resolutions.
The first resolution expressed concern about the curbing of religious freedom in eastern Ukraine, where Russian forces have taken control and are aiding those who would reorganize the area into an independent republic, the “Lugansk People’s Republic” (LPR). The LPR has imposed laws requiring church registration and reporting on religious activities.
The “Resolution Opposing Violence and Abuse of Women and Girls” responded to issues raised by the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements.
Value of women
The resolution “affirms that women and girls are created in the image of God and invested with inestimable worth and dignity as gifts from God, and are essential to the health and vitality of families, churches, communities and national life.”
It calls on BWA member bodies to protect women and girls from abuse, noting the immorality of “harassment and violence” and the tendency of churches to cover up instances of abuse.
A third resolution was inspired largely by U.S. actions that have separated many children from their parents at the U.S. border with Mexico but recognized family separation as a global problem among immigrant and refugee communities.
The “Resolution on Preserving the Primacy of Family in Immigration” notes that “the human desire to preserve and protect one’s family from violence, disease, economic depravity and other threatening conditions is universal and drives millions of people to leave their homelands seeking better lives for themselves and their family members.”
The resolution “affirms the biblical mandate to welcome the stranger.” It calls for support of family solidarity and a challenge to “immoral policies that seek to undermine the rights and dignity of immigrants, migrants and refugees.”
Bob Terry, editor of The Alabama Baptist, is a member of the BWA Resolutions Committee.
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