As theological debates on sexuality and marriage become more and more central, many Christian denominations are being asked to clarify their views.
Issues of social justice are discussed at the Annual Gathering of the Baptist World Alliance. The meeting is hosted on July 4-9 in Vancouver.
About 300 Baptist leaders, theologians, teachers, pastors and other representatives from more than 50 countries meet at the Canadian city of Vancouver for worship, fellowship, study, theological reflection and decision meetings.
The Annual Gathering launched on July 4, and will close on July 9.
The two main organs of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), its Executive Committee and its General Council, meet for deliberations during the event.
Their agenda includes mapping out resolutions on current global justice concerns like peacemaking, the ongoing terrorist attacks, the migration of large groups of people, and issues of poverty. The impact of violence, terrorism and military unrest on children and women will also come in for attention. In addition, the BWA is planning to review membership application from new regional Baptist families from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.
This is the first Annual Gathering to be chaired by the new BWA President Paul Msiza (South Africa). After having served for five years as Vice-President, Rev. Msiza was elected to head the global Baptist family on July 25, 2015, during the Baptist World Congress in Durban.
Msiza succeeded John Upton (USA), and is the first African to hold the office since William Tolbert (Liberia) served as President of the BWA from 1965 to 1970. Tolbert was later elected President of Liberia until he was overthrown and assassinated in a military coup a decade later.
The Annual Gathering will pay special tribute to its Youth Director Emmett Dunn who announced earlier in April that he will be stepping down. Elected on August 1, 1994, Dr. Dunn served as director for the World Baptist Youth Conference in Houston (1998: 7000 youth), Hong Kong (2004: 4000 youth), Leipzig (2008: 6000 youth), and Singapore (2013: 6000 youth). He was also instrumental for the holding of BWA Annual Gathering for nine consecutive years, and the organization of Baptist World Congresses at Birmingham, Honolulu, and Durban.
After 22 years as director of BWA Youth Department, Emmett Dunn will step down this month and will continue his ministry as pastor of West Hyattsville Baptist Church, Maryland.
On the eve of the Annual Gatherings delegates participated in Sunday worship services throughout Vancouver. BWA General Secretary Neville Callam was invited to preach at First Baptist Church, Vancouver.
“We should treat our fellow Christians who are hungry or thirsty as we would treat Jesus,” said Rev. Callam underscoring Christian hospitality in a world of distances and indifference. The congregation offered prayer that Baptists would be “light to those who live in spiritual darkness” and would “break down the barriers that divide,” through unity and love in Christ.
WHAT IS THE BAPTIST WORLD ALLIANCE?
Founded back in 1905, the Baptist World Alliance is a family of 232 conventions and unions representing 121 countries and territories.
European Baptists are represented on the BWA leadership body by Rev. Dimitrina Oprenova (Bulgaria), elected one of several Vice-Presidents in 2015.
The Alliance unites a total membership of 40 million Baptists representing 177 thousand local churches. The next World Baptist Youth Conference will converge with the upcoming Baptist World Congress, and will be held simultaneously in 2020, in Rio de Janeiro.