FALLS CHURCH, Va.—The Baptist World Alliance took steps toward implementing its new structure and fulfilling its new priorities during the global organization’s Executive Committee meeting March 7-9.
The event marked the first gathering of the Executive Committee—as well as about 15 related groups—since the BWA reorganized itself last summer at its every-fifth-year World Congress in Hawaii.
The reorganization streamlined the BWA’s governing body, the Executive Committee, reducing the size of its membership by more than 50 percent. The change was designed to improve the Alliance’s decision-making process, leaders said.
In addition, the BWA identified five major priorities, or “clusters of commitment” to guide its work. They are:
• Promoting worship, fellowship and unity.
• Nurturing the passion for mission and evangelism.
• Responding to human need through relief and sustainable community development.
• Defending human rights and justice.
• Promoting relevant theological reflection.
BWA General Secretary Neville Callam rolled out 43 goals associated with more than 200 tasks that will guide the Alliance in fulfilling those priorities. Together, the priorities and goals comprise a “work plan” for ministering in Jesus’ name around the globe, he noted.
Although the BWA works directly with its membership—222 Baptist unions and conventions worldwide—and not individual churches, the priorities are geared toward enabling the Alliance to strengthen congregations, Callam said.
“As the Body of Christ, the church is permanent, but the structures surrounding it are not,” he said. “BWA is an agency that seeks to further God’s work in the world. … Our program and work have the ministry of the churches at its core. … Participation of all our constituents will be required to make the plan work.”
Baptists’ ministry around the world is recognized and appreciated by national and global leaders, BWA President John Upton reported.
In South Africa, Upton attended a banquet where he met both national President Jacob Zuma and Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, king of the Zulu Nation.
“You Baptists spoke out for us (black South Africans, during Apartheid) when not many around the world would do so. I’m proud of you,” Zuma told Upton.
“You Baptists are stubborn,” kaBhekuzulu added. “We didn’t treat you well, but you kept coming—with your hospitals and schools. Thank you. You did good work.” The Zulu king told Upton he now is a Christian and a Baptist minister.
In another meeting, United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon of Korea expressed appreciation for how Christians care for and serve hurting people around the world, Upton reported. Ban asked for prayer, and former BWA President Billy Kim and Upton prayed for him on the spot.
In business sessions, the BWA Executive Committee:
• Granted membership to three organizations—the Association of Evangelical Baptist Churches in the Congo, the Baptist Churches Union Community of the Congo and the Free Baptist Churches in Burundi. Their addition brings BWA total membership to 222 organizations.
• Elected Wati Aier, principal of the Oriental Theological Seminary in Nagaland, India, as the recipient of the Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award.
Aier convened the Forum for Naga Reconciliation and worked for 20 years to mediate for peace between three armed nationalist groups in Nagaland, located in northeastern India. He has been credited as the central figure in reaching a peace accord between the groups, which was signed last year.
Aier is a former vice president of the Asia Pacific Baptist Federation, one of six regional fellowships of the BWA, and a former member of the BWA Commission on Freedom and Justice and the Academic and Theological Education Workgroup. He is a current member of the BWA Commission on Peace and the BWA Congress Committee.
• Agreed to conduct “bilateral dialogues” with Pentecostals and the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Such conversations, especially with the Pentecostals, will be enormously valuable in Latin America, where Pentecostalism is a rapidly growing faith group, noted Daniel Carro of Argentina, the Alliance’s first vice president.
• Received a 2010 financial statement that showed $2,038,098 in revenue, enabling the BWA to finish the year $15,084 in the black.
The positive financial report prompted the human resources committee to recommend the BWA resume paying the full amount of employee health insurance premiums and provide staff with a 4 percent pay increase, effective July of this year.
In recent years, financial constraints have forced the Alliance to freeze salaries, reduce retirement pension contributions and cut back on medical benefits.
• Learned that Paul Montacute, director of BWAid, the Alliance’s relief and recovery unit, will retire in July 2012. The Executive Committee is expected to elect a successor in March of next year.
• Voted to conduct the 2012 BWA Annual Gathering—a summer meeting of the Executive Committee, related groups and Baptists from various regions around the globe—in Santiago, Chile. The 2011 Annual Gathering will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.