Kuala Lumpur (BWA)--The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) is a special space for the celebration of multiculturalism within the worldwide Baptist family, but it is important that this gift be handled with care.
This was the message delivered at the General Council meeting by BWA General Secretary Neville Callam on July 8.
In his annual report, Callam explained how the 2010 Baptist World Congress was organized to reflect the BWA rich cultural diversity. The attempt to accomplish this was evidenced not only in the various cultural backgrounds of the many presenters, but also in the way the congress program was crafted. The particular way linguistic, liturgical and musical elements were utilized, he said, characterized the blending of a diverse cultural heritage within a communion of love directed toward honoring the triune God.
In any attempt to celebrate this diversity, Callam said, one is in perpetual danger of presenting the variety that exists in parallel streams in such a way as to suggest that each is asserting a competing claim. By mixing the elements closely, without highlighting their geographical source, one was able to evince a mosaic that offered a panorama of riches. This was offered up to the glory of God without the participants imprisoning the cultural gifts within the bounds of what he referred to as "an earthly territoriality."
BWA, he said, needs to work toward the blending of the elements in its cultural heritage in such a way as not to privilege some elements over against others or to emphasize the distinctiveness of the cultural elements chosen by yoking them to their place of origin. Whether this aim was fully realized in the congress, which Callam said he doubted, he called on the BWA to celebrate what the rich cultural diversity its members have received as a gift rather than to engage in what he termed a "display of comparative riches."
In his presentation at the Gathering taking place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from July 4 - 9, Callam shared perspectives from his travels within the worldwide Baptist family since the conclusion of last year's congress, which was held July 28 to August 1. He referred to the wide range of challenges being faced by Baptists and other Christians in many parts of the world and identified some of the creative ways in which believers in Christ are responding to these challenges in the way they fulfill ministry.
Drawing on an insight from David Bebbington's Baptists through the Centuries: A History of a Global People, Callam highlighted some ways in which the BWA is acting as "a significant vehicle for mutual support and the exchange of ideas." This, he said, is part of the vocation of the BWA that must always trump the tendency to overemphasize individualism in all its diverse manifestations.
Callam admitted that, as the BWA moves forward under the theme, In Step with the Spirit, the organization will not be able to attain perfection in the way it celebrates cultural diversity as a gift. He expressed the hope that, in the values that inform the BWA's efforts and the positive Christian motives reflected both in its vision and ministry, the quest for the richness in the cultural diversity of the worldwide Baptist family will be a sign of the way we understand the BWA's God-given vocation.