This week the Baptist World Alliance hosted its first virtual General Council, including an officer installation and commissioning service on Thursday (July 23). During the session, Tomás Mackey of Argentina assumed the role of BWA president and will serve a five-year term.
The service included a tribute to outgoing BWA President Paul Msiza of South Africa in recognition of his five years of service. Msiza assumed office at the conclusion of the 21st Baptist World Congress in July 2015, becoming only the second African to fill the role. Before becoming president, Msiza had been actively involved in the life of the BWA. The 2015 Congress was the first BWA Congress held on the African continent
During Msiza’s presidency, the BWA added nine new member bodies, bringing the BWA membership to 47 million Baptists within 241 member bodies in 126 countries and territories. He traveled extensively during his five-year term, including the preaching of the gospel in 25 countries, ambassadorial meetings with national dignitaries and religious leaders, presiding over BWA general councils and executive meetings, and fellowshiping with thousands of Baptists around the world. He also led the BWA through significant change, including the transition of BWA general secretary leadership from Neville Callam to Elijah Brown, as well as the current challenges created by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“Paul has been an incredible servant of the Lord,” said General Secretary Brown. “He has been a friend, a companion, a confidante, a champion for the BWA, and a preacher of excellence and faithfulness in God’s word. He has traveled the world tirelessly and led ably.”
In his final presidential address during the general council, Msiza called upon Baptists to continue their commitment to stand together in a “world still plagued by many problems.” He addressed ongoing civil wars and the reality that “many still live in places where their basic human rights are being denied.”
He also spoke against racial injustice, citing how “the horrific killing of George Floyd has called the attention of the world to the level of racism that is still within our communities.” He raised concern about the wide-ranging and long-lasting impact of COVID-19, citing that more people will now die from hunger than from the virus itself and the “the gap between the poor and the rich is so wide and painful.”
“Regardless of all these challenges, the Christian witness and the Baptist work continues to grow,” said Msiza. “But all these challenges are a wake up call to the Christian church and to us as a Baptist World Alliance. We have a great task ahead of us as we move into the next quinquennium. We need to know the task requires us to mobilize our membership to engage in a relevant mission that will put Christ at the center of everything we do, a mission that will reveal God’s love to the hurting world.”
In addition to Msiza’s address, the general council included a Scripture reading led by the 2015-2020 vice presidents: Ernest Adu-Gyamfi (Ghana), Jerry Carlisle (USA), Jules Casseus (Haiti), Tapan Chowdhury (Bangladesh), Miyon Chung (Korea/USA), Michael Okwakol (Uganda), Dimitrina Oprenova (Bulgaria), Jorge Quinteros (Chile), Jan Sæthre (Norway), Luiz Roberto Silvado (Brazil), Naomi Tyler-Lloyd (USA), and Anslem Warrick (Trinidad and Tobago).
The closing session of the General Council on July 23 marked the end of the 2015-2020 quinquennium and included a special time of commissioning for President Tomás Mackey. Mackey has been actively involved in the BWA for more than 30 years, most recently sitting on the general council and the executive committee, as well as serving as a member of the BWA delegation to the theological conversations with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and chairing the Commission on Theological Education.
“I am excited to serve in our body that has such a significant role in our world at this special time in history — to work in a body that brings together a Baptist family from all continents to be in the service of the kingdom of God,” said Mackey. “Pray that I may help Baptists around the world to assert Christian discipleship into everyday realities.”
Mackey has been actively involved in Unión Bautista de Latinoamérica, preached at numerous UBLA Congresses, and served as a delegate to the Association of Seminaries and Theological Institutions. He served as dean of the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 1993-2004, and as a professor since 1979.
“Tomás and I commenced serving with the BWA in the same year of 1991, and it was a joy to work with him in planning for the 1995 Congress in his home country of Argentina,” said David Coffey, BWA President (2005-2010). “Tomás knows that the Lord has brought him to serve the BWA ‘for such a time as this.’ I believe that through his ministry of encouragement Tomás will inspire our global family to engage with the unique pastoral and missional opportunities of this kairos moment.”
The start of the 2020-2025 quinquennium also includes the installation of vice presidents that represent all six of the BWA’s regional fellowships. Jamaica Baptist Union General Secretary Karl Johnson of Jamaica will serve as First Vice President. Other Vice Presidents include:
- Samson Ayokunle, Nigerian Baptist Convention President, from Nigeria (All Africa Baptist Fellowship)
- Fernando Macedo Brandão, Executive Director of the Brazilian Baptist Convention National Mission Board, from Brazil (Union of Baptists in Latin America)
- Otniel Ioan Bunaciu, Professor, from Romania (European Baptist Federation)
- Joel Dorsinville, Caribbean Baptist Fellowship Vice President, from Haiti (Caribbean Baptist Fellowship)
- John Hickey, Transform Aid International CEO, from Australia (Asia Pacific Baptist Federation)
- Noemi Janson, Colombian Baptist Denomination President, from Colombia (Union of Baptists in Latin America)
- Dave Kwok, Church Planter and Practicing Public Accountant, from Hong Kong (Asia Pacific Baptist Federation)
- Jennifer Lau, Associate Executive Director of Canadian Baptist Ministries, from Canada (North America Baptist Fellowship)
- Elizabeth Mvula, Vice President of the Baptist Convention of Malawi, from Malawi (All Africa Baptist Fellowship)
- Albert Reyes, President & CEO of Buckner International from USA (North American Baptist Fellowship)
- Lina Mikhael Sawan, University Lecturer and Sunday School Leader, from Lebanon (European Baptist Federation)
- Rachael Tan, Assistant Professor of New Testament at Taiwan Baptist Theological Seminary, from Taiwan / The Philippines (Asia Pacific Baptist Federation)
- Elijah Wanje, Pastor, from Kenya (All Africa Baptist Fellowship)
Those wishing to view the opening or closing sessions of the General Council can do so by visiting the BWA YouTube Channel.