Things are winding down for Baptists gathered in Ocho Rios for the 2013 annual gathering of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), held July 1-6. For those who might be interested, here are a few highlights from the business sessions.
On July 5, the BWA’s General Council approved the admission of five new member bodies: the Baptist Mission of South Haiti (50,000 members in 488 churches), the Connection of Haitian Baptist Churches for Integral Mission (15,000 members in 58 churches, the Turks and Caicos Islands Baptist Union (500 members in 13 churches), the Baptist Church of Congo (2,850 members in 26 churches), and the Convention of Independent Baptist Churches in Brazil (67,908 members in 437 churches). This brings the number of member bodies in the BWA to about 230.
Glenn Stassen, professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary, was honored with the 2013 Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award. Stassen was lauded for more than 50 years of work as a tireless theorist and activist in the cause of peace and justice issues around the world.
The General Council approved 17 resolutions, most of them expressing appreciation for various persons or causes, but also in opposition to the U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba and to call for a peaceful resolution of violence and unrest in the Middle East, North Africa, Myanmar, and the Korean peninsula. Other resolutions called for corrective action regarding child sex abuse in the church, gender inequality, and basic human rights concerns around the world.
Some of the resolutions emerged from various commissions that met earlier in the week to discuss human rights, missions, theological education, ethics, the environment, and other subjects.
Special sessions were held to pay tribute to George Liele, a former American slave who planted churches in Jamaica and helped to bring an end to slavery there; to early Jamaican Baptist deacon and preacher Sam Sharpe, who also worked to end slavery; to African-American theologian J. Deotis Roberts; and to Duke McCall, long-time president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a lifelong supporter of BWA, which he served as president from 1980-85.
A report on dialogues between BWA representatives and Catholics was discussed, as well as ongoing dialogues with Muslims.
General Council members also approved a set of guidelines, two years in the making, of principles for respectful and fruitful dialogue among Baptist groups.
BWA’s 2014 annual gathering will be held July 6-12 in Izmir, Turkey, followed by a larger Baptist World Congress, held once every five years. That meeting will be held July 22-25, 2015, in Durban, South Africa -- the first time a Baptist World Congress has been held in Africa.