One of the issues we at Word&Way prize each year is our annual institutional reports issue (Oct. 24). For several years, we had asked various Baptist entities across Missouri to send us a report of their previous 12 months of service. They responded, knowing our readers are their supporters and welcoming this collection of reports to their constituencies.
This issue is a lot of work for our staff, but we are grateful that entity leaders and communicators get behind this effort.
Word&Way readers over the past couple of years have noticed that we have gradually expanded our coverage area to add the work of Baptists in adjacent states to our news coverage. Not only that, we also have expanded a bit to a larger Baptist constituency philosophically.
The Oct. 24 issue is a good illustration. It includes news coverage from the past weekend’s ABC Central Region annual gathering in Hesston, Kan., and adds a few more ABC institutions to the mix of agencies whose annual reports we traditionally include. For instance, we have included reports from a new pair of American Baptist-related institutions this year. They are Ottawa University in Ottawa, Kan., and Moses Merrell Camp and Conference Center near Linwood, Neb.
Why the expanded Baptist focus?
One reason is that Word&Way believes it is uniquely positioned to reach out in this way. As an independent Baptist news source, we relate to broader groups of Baptists.
Word&Way has long been interested in sharing news of Baptists of the world through the Baptist World Alliance. In more recent years, we have watched the involvement of stateside Baptist groups who have gathered for fellowship and worship and have discovered ways to work on justice issues together on a regional basis.
Word&Way is positioned as a communications medium to help link these Baptists in their common concerns to make a difference for Christ in our world. We have observed that most Baptists have much more in common than their differences and that Baptists can make a greater impact for good when — empowered by the Holy Spirit — they work together. Nowhere is that more noticeable than in the areas of missions and evangelism, both notions dear to the heart and expression of virtually every organized Baptist group.
The fact is that Baptists vary in strength from state to state and from region to region. Local associations, state conventions and geographic regions are the direct result of Baptists collaborating over time to reach mutual goals. One of the values of BWA is that persecuted Baptists or minority Baptists in places around the globe realize they have the support of the broader family that includes believers from across the world sometimes and across the street at other times.
In short, Baptists at their best do not see themselves either as totally self-sufficient “lone rangers” or without the support of the larger body. At their best, Baptists realize they need each other, sometimes for different reasons. Heavily resourced congregations sometimes have a lot to learn from persecuted churches, for instance.
Jesus agonizingly prayed for unity in the body of Christ, in large part because unity was (and is) the primary birthmark of authentic faith. Unfortunately, disunity has made a profound dent in Christendom since the launch of the church.
Disunity marks relationships between individual Christians, between groups within churches, between churches, between denominations, etc. This isn’t God’s plan, but this disrespectful and divisive attitude has come to be what many people inside the church and outside expect to see when they look at those who profess faith in the one who seeks to reconcile all people to himself.
It is one thing to do warts-and-all news coverage of all things Baptist, including disagreements and all-out conflict. We’ve done that because we know we have to tell the truth and trust the people. But we also have the joy at Word&Way of sharing Baptist good news. By contrast, the latter is a joyful task. We are finding that no one group has a corner on seeking to know the will of God and being motivated to further seek and accomplish it, often in creative and refreshing ways.
The institutional reports on pages 9-15 of the Oct. 24 issue are good reading material. The reports are intended to reflect the very best work each is doing in its mission in our world. It is important that our readers learn more about each. Such awareness informs intercessory prayer and helps readers realize how important each is in its area of influence. We are thankful for each, including those who are new to us.
Bill Webb is editor of Word&Way.