|From the General Secretary |
Re-engaging the Prophetic Imagination
By Neville Callam
During this year, people from diverse religious backgrounds may wish to mark the 400th anniversary of the appearance of a literary work that was the product of acute prophetic imagination. That essay provides us with a telling reminder of the cost we may have to pay for bearing faithful witness to the truth of the Gospel in an unfavorable environment.
It was in 1612 that Thomas Helwys produced A Short Declaration on the Mystery of Iniquity. What a vital contribution this early Baptist leader made through his essay dealing with the legitimacy of the state and the role of its agents!
At a time when it was risky to challenge the powers that be, this Baptist leader, recently returned from overseas, was willing to address a controversial book to a feared king questioning the ruler's position of unrivalled authority. What courage!
Affirming that the king "has no more power" over the consciences of those over whom he reigned, Helwys declared: "For our lord the king is but an earthly king, and he has no authority as a king but in earthly causes. And if the king's people be obedient and true subjects, obeying all human laws made by the king, our lord the king can require no more." He continued: "The King is a mortal man, and not God, therefore he has no power over the mortal soul of his subjects to make laws and ordinances for them and to set spiritual lords over them."
Helwys could have claimed for Christians alone the right to freedom of conscience. Yet, this Baptist leader looked beyond narrow partisanship and affirmed an understanding of human nature that needs to be affirmed anew today. Helwys stated that:
"For men's religion to God is between God and themselves. The king shall not answer for it. Neither may the king be judge between God and man. Let them be heretics, Turks [Muslims], Jews, or whatsoever, it appertains not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure. This is made evident to our lord the king by the scriptures."
Contrary to what some authors have said, Helwys was not the first person to issue a call for freedom of conscience to be respected by all. Therefore, we need not make exaggerated claims in order to show our appreciation of Helwys' outstanding contribution in the cause of religious liberty. What we may need to do, instead, is to ask ourselves if we have always maintained respect for the principle of religious liberty that Helwys promoted.
In this 400th year of the publication of A Declaration on the Mystery of Iniquity,we may wish to remember that, when the church and its members hear and respond to the promptings of the Spirit of God, we are able to affirm the value God places on human beings. This will lead us to affirm certain fundamental rights that fall due to each person, irrespective of ethnicity or religion and keep the heritage of Helwys alive.
|What BWA Member Bodies are Doing|
Jordan Baptist Convention
The Jordan Baptist Convention (JBC) is comprised of 22 churches with approximately 1,350 members. An estimated 3,000 to 5,000 of Jordan's 6.5 million people attend the convention's Baptist churches.
Baptist work in the country began in 1951 with missionaries from the United States. The JBC was established six years later, in 1957.
Baptists founded a hospital in the town of Ajloun that was sold to the government of Jordan in the 1980s. A Baptist camp is still at the hospital, operated by the JBC, with activities almost year-round.
The JBC also operates two schools, in Amman and Ajloun. The Amman school has 1,250 students, with more than 500 enrolled in the high school. Muslims make up 40 percent of the K-12 student body (from kindergarten to grade 12). Sixty percent of the students are Christians. The student body is five percent Baptist.
Among the graduates of the Amman school are members of the royal family.
The JBC operates a bookstore which, along with the schools, "provide a setting in which evangelism can be carried out in a way that is not threatening."
In March 2009, the JBC played a key role in the official opening and dedication of the Baptism Center at Bethany beyond Jordan where more than 120 persons were baptized in the Jordan River by pastors from the JBC.
Baptist World Alliance General Secretary Neville Callam was keynote speaker at the commissioning of the center, which is for use by Baptists and other evangelical Christians. A plaque at the entrance reads, "The Commission of the Site of the Baptism of Jesus Christ welcomes here visiting pilgrims from the member churches of the Baptist World Alliance."
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Agape Baptist Church
Fort Worth, Texas, United States
The Agape Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, in the United States, was established in 2005.
The young congregation has immersed itself in mission work. It ministers alongside Karen refugees from Myanmar, and hosts the Agape Ebenezer Karen Baptist Church which grew out of a Sunday morning Bible study for the Karen speaking people. The Karen Bible study and worship service has steady, average attendance at or near 100 people.
Agape reaches out to refugees in other ways, providing host families, household furnishings and other necessities, and transportation to doctors' offices, hospitals, grocery stores, and Asian markets. The congregation assists in helping refugee children registered in schools, provides school uniforms and supplies, runs a food bank for new arrivals, and assists in the search for jobs.
In addition, the church conducts weekly English as a Second Language, General Education Diploma (GED), literacy and computer classes.
The church, which helped to found Crossway Korean Baptist Church for Korean immigrants, and is in the process of developing Chinese and Hispanic congregations, describes itself as "a missional church, attempting to meet needs locally and around the world."
Agape, a Baptist World Alliance Global Impact Church, commits itself to conducting God-centered, Bible-based worship; discipleship led by the Holy Spirit; an unconditionally loving fellowship; local, national, and global mission; and to historical Baptist principles and practices.
"We take seriously the Great Commission, therefore we desire to be a missional church, personally, financially, and collectively participating in home and foreign missions. We seek the leadership of the Holy Spirit in all our endeavors and ministries."
|In Memoriam:Joshua Thompson |
Joshua Thompson, a past president and general secretary of the Baptist Union of Ireland (BUI), renamed the Association of Baptist Churches in Ireland in 1999, has died. He was 87 years old.
Thompson was the longest serving general secretary in the history of Irish Baptists, becoming general secretary at age 28 in 1952 and serving until his retirement in 1978. He later served as president of the Baptist union from 1992-1993.
Under his leadership, the Irish Baptist College was transferred to the union in 1963 and was relocated from Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland, to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. Thompson was instrumental in the appointment of new leadership at the college and the increased student enrollment. He served the college as secretary and was a lecturer in Baptist Principles.
In 1968, Thompson co-founded the Irish Baptist Historical Society in association with Harry Gribbon. He acted for a period as secretary of the Historical Society and was its journal editor until 2002.
Thompson authored Century of Grace: The Baptist Union of Ireland: A Short History 1895-1995. The book was published to mark the 100th anniversary of the union and has become the definitive history of Baptists in Ireland.
Thompson chaired the Re-organization Committee of the union that brought to fruition major changes that led to the restructuring of the association.
The Irish Baptist leader served as Baptist chaplain at Queens University Belfast and earned a doctor of philosophy degree from the University of Oxford. After retiring as BUI general secretary, he became pastor of Windsor Baptist Church in the university area of Belfast. Due to deteriorating health, he retired from all activities in 2002.
He leaves wife, Joan, and daughters, Jocelyn and Lindsey.
|In Memoriam:Alexander Vervay|
Alexander Vervay, former president of the Union of Evangelical Christian-Baptist Churches of Tajikistan, died on November 20, from a heart attack. He was 57 years old.
Vervay was pastor of the "mother" Baptist church in Dushanbe, the capital and largest city of Tajikistan. He served as president of the union for more than 15 years. The union is affiliated with the European Baptist Federation (EBF), one of six regional fellowships of the Baptist World Alliance.
Under his leadership, the Baptist union doubled the number of churches in the country and expanded children's, prison, and other types of ministries.
Vervay led the union through difficult periods as Tajikistan went through five years of civil war between 1992 and 1997 after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Tajikistan is a former republic of the Soviet Union and is 98 percent Muslim.
Religious freedom in the Central Asian country has eroded in recent years. By law, religious communities must be registered by the State Committee on Religious Affairs and with local authorities. This has posed special challenges for the Baptist union and its churches. Religious groups that do not have a physical structure are not allowed to gather publicly for prayer. Failure to register can result in large fines and the closure of a place of worship.
Most Tajik Baptists are German and Russian, and many fled from the country during the civil war. Vervay is of Russian and German descent and roughly half his congregation in Dushanbe are German. "He was one of those 'left behind' when so many Russian-German Baptists emigrated from Tajikistan in the early 1990s," said EBF General Secretary Tony Peck. "He went on to give wise and visionary leadership to the Dushanbe church and the union."
Funeral services were on November 25.
Vervay leaves wife, Lyudmila Werway; sons, Veniamin, Dmitriy, and Yuriy; and daughters, Yulya, Olga, and Anya
|In Memoriam:Erasmus, Pass & Ngodela |
|Andreas Erasmus |
South African Baptists have lost a number of their leaders during 2011.
Anti-apartheid campaigner Jon Jonsson, president of the Baptist Union of Southern Africa (BUSA) from 1967-1968, died on May 26, 2011, and was featured in the June 2011 BWA Connect
Two other presidents of the BUSA died in 2011. Andreas Johannes Erasmus was elected BUSA president in 1970. Erasmus grew up in the Dutch Reformed tradition in Zambia and later became a Baptist where evangelism became his passion. He served as pastor of the then Fish Hoek Baptist Church before going onto City Baptist Church in East London and other pastorates in Queenstown and Oudtshoorn, all in South Africa.
|Theodore Pass |
Theodore Pass, BUSA president from 1974-1975, served in the Christian ministry for more than 60 years. After serving as pastor of several churches in Gauteng, Swaziland and Natal, he became mission secretary of the BUSA and helped to plant churches in a number of Indian immigrant communities in South Africa.
Mostly self-taught and an avid reader, Pass lectured at Durban Bible College and served for five years as the principal of the Baptist Theological College in Cape Town. He was a member of the Baptist union's Executive Committee for a number of years before being elected president in 1974.
Sobusa Elias Ngodela, immediate past president of the Baptist Convention of South Africa, died on September 19, from cancer. Funeral services were held on September 25.
Ngodela studied at the United Theological of the West Indies and the University of the West Indies on the island of Jamaica in the Caribbean, graduating in 2002. He returned to South Africa to pastor churches, and was subsequently elected president of the convention.
He leaves wife Maria, and daughters Happy and Sindiswa.
|Thank You |
To Mary Raymond, former member of the BWA Commission on Church Leadership and the Christian Education Workgroup, for gift to the BWA in memory of her step mother, Valentine Veit.
With Wahba Gayeed, former president of the Egyptian Baptist Convention, whose sister, Mary, died in November, from cancer
With Judy Campbell, accounting specialist with the BWA, and John Campbell, her husband, on the loss of Anne Campbell, mother in law and mother, respectively, on December 16
|Paul Montacute, Director of Baptist World Aid, retires in July 2012.
The Baptist World Alliance is currently conducting a search to fill the position. Applications may be sent to [email protected]
or faxed at 1-703-893-5162. Application deadline is January 10, 2012.
|Movements and Changes|
Chojun Kiyuna, elected president, succeeding Hikofumi Tomari, and Tsubasa Jokura, elected general secretary, succeeding Masao Tamaki, of the Okinawa Baptist Convention
Baptist Union of Wales
(English Wing) John Davies, elected president, succeeding Stephen Lee
(Welsh Wing), Glyndwr Prideaux, elected president, succeeding Vivian WilliamsBack to top
Baptist World Aid
|BWAid grants for the month of December 2011|
Grants recorded in United States dollars unless otherwise noted
Operational Cost - School and Orphanage Construction - 20,400.00AsiaIndiaHIV and AIDS information and awareness
Youth Tea Plantation Project - 14,000.00Back to top
Monthly Prayer Guide
Each week, the staff of the Baptist World Alliance prays for conventions and unions throughout the world.
We invite all other Baptist conventions and unions, and individual Baptists everywhere, to join us in these prayers.
For the month of January we will remember the following:
Egyptian Baptist Convention
Association of Baptist Churches in Israel
Jordan Baptist Convention
Convention of the Evangelical Baptist Churches in Lebanon
Baptist Convention of Syria
Believers scattered throughout Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Yemen, Iran & Iraq
Believers scattered throughout Cyprus, Greece & TurkeyJanuary 22-28
Believers scattered throughout Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia
European Baptist Federation
Aid conference on Social Involvement, Prague, Czech Republic, January 11-14
Children and Youth Workers Conference, Beirut, Lebanon, January 13-18
Religious Freedom Conference, Prague, Czech Republic, January 30- February 3