By Bill Webb
Last week's horrific bombings in London left the nation and the city shaken. The attacks reminded the world that terrorism continues among everyday people — even in countries where security measures are carried out with a high degree of expertise.
Airlines immediately began offering refunds on tickets purchased by would-be tourists to the United Kingdom. Families and individuals began to assess the risk of moving about in London following the explosions.
Within hours, leaders of the Baptist World Alliance signaled that they would move forward with the organization's centenary congress planned for later this month — July 27-31. They described their coming as an act of solidarity and ministry with a nation and a people rocked by violence.
The congress may lose some of the Baptists who had been planning to come before last week's attacks. That is understandable. But the decision to move forward with the event and urge even more Baptists to make their plans to attend is a good one. It speaks well of Baptists and their faith and their compassion.
In their earliest days in England, Baptists were not treated so well. Persecution was the lot of many, especially Baptist clergy. Many defied orders not to preach and not to congregate, but many of them chose the path of faithfulness and personal difficulty. Some made their way to America, only to find similar treatment meted out by authorities and other religious groups.
Baptists in America are no longer a minority. We wield considerable power in areas like politics and economics by virtue of our sheer numbers. We also have tremendous power and opportunity to minister to others. Thankfully, we do not worry about jails and stocks for practicing our faith.
Baptists in Great Britain don't face such obstacles today either, but they do not have the relative numbers of Baptists in America. For a few days in late July, Baptists in the United Kingdom will be bolstered by brothers and sisters in Christ from dozens of nations. Many will come from the United States, but many will come from nations where the name Baptist — and even Christian — evoke rage on the part of some.
All of these Baptists will come in spite of recent terrorist attacks — and many may come because of them.
For BWA visitors, it will be a time of celebrating our heritage. We trace a great deal of our beginnings to the British Isles. But it will be a time of payback, too — in the best sense of the word. World Baptists will identify with people in the secular culture of England, particularly those in the centenary congress city of Birmingham and nearby London.
If we Baptists are at our best — and surely we will be — then we will not fail to communicate the hope in Christ that binds us together and periodically brings us together in places like Birmingham.
When we gather in such large numbers, it is hard for others to overlook our good deeds, our prayers and our witness on their behalf.
David Coffey, general secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, said in the wake of last week's bombings: "In a world of violence, where there is too little respect for life, we want to stand alongside all those who are victims of such brutality, sharing their pain and anger, and embracing them with compassion. This is a time when we are called to answer the evil of violence with an unswerving commitment to the ways that make for peace and justice. We join our Christian hope with all who seek the common good at this critical time."
It may well be that representatives of the Baptist World Alliance will come to England in two weeks for such a time as this. We who have Christ have much to offer to others.