Kuala Lumpur (BWA)--The six regional fellowships of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) met in Kuala Lumpur to discuss matters of particular interest to each region, a number of which are preparing to host major events or undertake major initiatives.
There were discussions on the final preparations for the All Africa Baptist Fellowship (AABF) congress in Lagos, Nigeria, in November of this year. The congress is held every five years and the last AABF congress took place in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2006. A new nominee for general secretary is expected to be presented at the congress for election. Prospective candidates are currently being vetted. Harrison Olan'g, vice chancellor of Mount Meru University in Arusha, Tanzania, is the current general secretary. Proposed amendments to the constitution will also be voted on at the meetings in Lagos, and the congress will be asked to endorse a special mission initiative planned for Southern Sudan, which is expected to start in 2012.
Kuala Lumpur will host the next congress for the Asia Pacific Baptist Federation in May 2012, following on the last congress in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in 2007. The group also discussed some of the major disasters that have affected the region in recent times, such as the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the subsequent nuclear crisis; earthquakes in New Zealand; and flooding and other disasters in Australia.
Leaders of the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship (CBF) are exploring ways in which the Caribbean can become a mission force. One presentation proposed that Baptists in the Caribbean grasp mission opportunities among Caribbean immigrants in Europe, North America, and elsewhere. Attempts will be made to increase attendance and participation at major meetings, such as the Assembly, which is held every five years. BWA General Secretary Neville Callam encouraged the region to help to revitalize dormant members of the BWA and the CBF in the region.
The European Baptist Federation (EBF), which includes churches in the Middle East and Egypt, received an update on the situation in the region where there has been widespread unrest in recent months. Participants discussed the problem of religious freedom in some member countries of the EBF, such as Uzbekistan, where there will be a joint BWA/EBF human rights visit in September. The future of the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Prague, Czech Republic, was also an issue of major concern. The seminary, which is facing financial constraints, reportedly had a good academic year, with a record 10 students being awarded PhD degrees. The seminary is exploring options on its financial future.
The North American Baptist Fellowship (NABF) discussed ways to deepen its relationship with the BWA. BWA President John Upton, General Secretary Neville Callam, Vice President Harry Gardner, and Randel Everett, chair of the Congress Committee, participated in the discussions. Don Sewell, an NABF vice president, will visit with the Mexican Baptist Convention in July to explore ways of deepening relationships with Baptists in Mexico. It was noted that the 50th anniversary of NABF will be observed in 2014. At least one joint celebratory event will be planned in collaboration with the BWA.
In July 2012, the BWA Annual Gathering will be held in Santiago, Chile, and the Union of Baptists in Latin America (UBLA) discussed its role in encouraging Baptists from Latin America to attend the meetings. UBLA, which holds its congress every three years, the last in Lima, Peru, in 2009, will also host its next congress in 2012 in Asuncion, Paraguay.
More than 300 Baptist leaders and delegates are gathered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from July 4-9 for the BWA Annual Gathering. It involves yearly meetings of a number of BWA groups, including the General Council and the Executive Committee; executive sub-committees and divisional advisory committees; women's, men's, and youth departments; regional groupings; and commissions of the divisions of Freedom & Justice, and Mission, Evangelism & Theological Reflection, and others.