As theological debates on sexuality and marriage become more and more central, many Christian denominations are being asked to clarify their views.
Around 300 representatives participated in the annual Baptist World Alliance gathering in Thailand. The Venezuela humanitarian crisis and the needs of refugees were also highlighted.
Five resolutions related to current issues came out of the Baptist World Alliance annual gathering, which gathered about 300 representatives in Bangkok, Thailand (2-7 July).
The organisation representing 45,000 churches and 238 unions in 124 countries expressed “concerns” on human slavery and sex trafficking, refugees in East Africa, the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and religious liberty in both Russia and the United States, according to a news release.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND REFUGEES
The first resolution called upon to work “towards the prevention of slavery and human trafficking, and caring for those impacted.” Baptist Christians are encouraged to “collaborate with other Christians and all people of good will who are also concerned about bringing an end to this personal, social, and economic injustice.”
The dramatic situation of refugees was highlighted in the second resolution, which took note of “the deteriorating circumstances in some nations of East Africa resulting in a significant expansion of refugees seeking food, shelter, and safety”. Prayer and active support was requested of believers.
The BWA prayed for peace in Venezuela, and addressed the “climate of political and social instability and violence, which has led to a deteriorating socio-economic situation, including a shortage of food and medicines.”
The body “condemns all forms of violence and calls for respect for democracy to guarantee a just way out of the grave situation affecting the nation.”
Furthermore, Venezuelan authorities should “allow humanitarian aid into the country, and grant access to those who wish to assist the worst affected sectors of society.”
CONCERNED ABOUT LIBERTIES IN RUSSIA
The treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia is another cause of concern for Global Baptists. Churches in the country “for standing for the principle of religious freedom for everyone, even for those with whom they have deep differences.”
The Russian Baptist union “expressed to President Putin its ‘profound concern’ at this violation ‘of freedom of conscience of tens of thousands of citizens of the Russian federation who confess the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses.’”
Baptists in Russia asked federal authorities “to restore the religious rights of all people, especially the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” and to uphold “the rights of all religious groups in Russia, especially religious minorities, to legally exist and to worship in freedom.”
The Baptist alliance also criticises the government of the USA. “The current travel ban on residents of several Muslim-majority nations” has “raised serious concerns about religious freedom.”
“The BWA believes that no law should be used to discriminate on the basis of religion.”
Donald Trump was urged to affirm the country’s “historic commitment to religious freedom for all people.” Baptists in the US are to “to understand the implications of religious discrimination and to stand firm for cherished Baptist principles of religious liberty.”
A HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST, NEW SECRETARY GENERAL
The 2017 gathering also elected a new secretary general for the World Baptist Alliance: Elijah Brown.
Based in Texas (USA), Brown is a Human Rights activist who is “a champion of religious freedom”, according to the BWA.
He described his ministry as based on three principles: “absolute dedication to the study of the Bible and life-alignment to the teachings of Scripture, a firm belief that the Holy Spirit is always at work in the world and that our responsibility is to listen to how we can lovingly join in his activity, and in the beauty of the local church as an agent for transformation and reconciliation as the bride of Christ.”
Brown will assume the position of general secretary on January 1, 2018, succeeding Neville Callam, a Jamaican, who retires from that position in December after more than 10 years of service.