After four days of forums, committee meetings, and commission sessions punctuated by many happy reunions of friends from around the world, the official business of the Baptist World Alliance got underway Friday morning with the first two sessions of the BWA's decision-making group, the General Council also attended by a healthy number of observers.
In spoken remarks as well as his written remarks, Callam outlined a significant drop in participation due to changes implemented two years ago that reduced the number of persons on various committees and commissions, and dropped membership on the General Council's executive committee from 59 to 25 by eliminating a number of positions for vice-presidents. Callam said the changes were well-intentioned, but had proven detrimental by excluding many persons from BWA participation. He called for a study of changes designed to include more persons in BWA life.
Callam also expressed concern that 69% of member bodies of BWA made no direct financial contribution to BWA last year. We need to emphasize that member bodies should contribute to the extent they can as a way of demonstrating their commitment to BWA, he said. As an incentive, he said, the perhaps the BWA should limit travel scholarships to persons from bodies that contribute financially to the organization (a suggestion later affirmed by the council).
A budget report showed that income is down so far compared to 2011. Council members adopted a 2013 budget of $1,582,050, slightly less than the 2012 budget of $1,651,350, but still higher than 2011 income of $1,388,118.
The council officially recognized several retiring employees, and approved the personnel committee's recommendation that Rathang Chhangte be appointed as director of BWAid, and affirmed Isaac Durosinjesu Ayanrinola as the new Regional Secretary for the All Africa Baptist Fellowship.
Though the award had been announced earlier, at this session Edgar Palacios of El Salvador and Washington, D.C. was presented the Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award for 2012. Palacios acknowledged that many others had played a role in bringing peace to El Salvador, paid special tribute to his wife Amparo and to Lutheran Bishop Mirado Gomez, urged the BWA to continue to work for peace and justice in the world, and said "I was only a servant, a servant of the people. The Lord used me."
Other business matters, including the discussion and adoption of resolutions, will take place Saturday morning, July 7.
During the afternoon and evening, various commission meetings continued. I attended a session of the Social and Environmental Justice Commission that dealt with issues related to immigration. There, Luis N. Rivera-Pagan of Costa Rica presented "A Biblical and Theological Reflection on Migration," Edgar Palacios of El Salvador and Washington, D.C. talked about "Causes and Effects of Migration and the Role of the Churches," and Desmond Hoffmeister of South Africa and California shared a very personal account of his own migration from South Africa, though with an impersonal title: "A Field-biological Perspective on the Immigration Process."
See what you're missing?
At the end of the day, I participated in the closing session of the Theological Education and Leadership Formation Commission, presenting a paper on leadership lessons today's church leaders could learn from Israel's King David. That's pretty tame, though compared to other topics such as a paper by A. K. Lama on "Interpreting Scripture in Northeast India and in Arunachal Pradesh in Particular," and a lively panel discussion on "Issues and Suggestions for Theological Education Around the World."
When an opportunity for dinner finally rolled around at nearly 8:00 p.m., I was full of new ideas and ready to try more new dishes, but also really tired -- and around here, it's hard to order and finish a meal in less than 1 1/2-2 hours, not counting a walk to the restaurant.
Last night, it was a delicious Peruvian meal. Tonight? I'm thinking pastel de choclo, a traditional Chilean corn and chicken pie I've been wanting to try -- and I'm feeling very grateful for room service ...