Washington (BWA)--John Peterson, a former vice president of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), died on March 22 in Alexandria, Virginia, in the United States. He was 76 years old.
Peterson, pastor of the Alfred Street Baptist Church (ASBC) in Alexandria from 1964 until his retirement in 2006, served the BWA in various capacities, including as vice president and as member of the General Council, the Executive Committee, the Personnel Committee, the Constitution and Bylaws Committee, and the Promotion and Development Committee.
He is a former chair of the Budget and Finance Committee and was the first chair of the BWA Special Commission on Baptists Against Racism from 1990-1995. This commission helped to plan a major anti-racism summit in Atlanta, Georgia, in January 1999.
"Peterson was deeply committed to the Baptist World Alliance, with whose mission he identified wholeheartedly, in whose leadership he shared his outstanding gifts, and of whose program he led his church to be a strong supporter," said BWA General Secretary Neville Callam.
"As chair of the Budget and Finance Committee he played a significant role in helping us to negotiate the purchase of our new headquarters building in Falls Church, Virginia," said Denton Lotz, former general secretary of the BWA.
During the civil wars in Liberia that occurred in the 1980s and 1990s, Peterson represented the BWA in negotiating with the rebels for the return of several Baptist properties that the rebels had confiscated, including Rick's Institute, a Baptist school in Monrovia, Liberia's capital.
Peterson was engaged in the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s, and played a role in helping to integrate schools in Alexandria, a suburb in the greater Washington, DC, metropolitan area. "Schools had to be integrated forcefully. That was a terrible time. I worked very closely with the integration of schools," Peterson said in an interview following his retirement. He was deeply involved in a number of other organizations, including the Northern Virginia Urban League.
ASBC experienced significant growth during Peterson's tenure as pastor, from fewer than 200 to approximately 2,400 members. The congregation hosts an annual college fair and provides a significant number of scholarships to college-bound students. The church became mission focused, with various ministries to the wider Alexandria community, including a jail and prison ministry. Mission outreach was extended to other countries, such as to Liberia in West Africa.
Under Peterson, ASBC established or strengthened links with the Baptist General Convention of Virginia, the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc., the Progressive National Baptist Convention, the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention and the BWA. A number of ASBC members are on the staff of the BWA or have served on committees and commissions.
"As pastor of several BWA staff members and other persons who hold significant offices in the BWA, Peterson extended his pastoral care to cover the entire BWA staff in generous and memorable ways," Callam stated. "We thank God for his life and witness; we celebrate his faithfulness in ministry; and we commend his example to everyone."
Peterson leaves wife, Joyce, son, John Jr., and daughter, Jewelette.
A private memorial service will be held at ASBC on April 1 and a funeral service on April 2.