|From the General Secretary |
Thinking about the church and its mission
By Neville Callam
Recently, I had the pleasure of reading Graham Hill's book, Salt Light, and a City: Introducing Missional Ecclesiology. I started reading this book a mere two days after the Standing Commission on Faith and Order voted to approve what is expected to be a significant convergence text on the church. This text, which should soon appear in print, is the product of years of serious multilateral theological engagement by the Faith and Order Commission.
It is clear that Hill's book also represents years of serious research and reflection. The book, the first of a planned multiple volume series, probes some of the existing understandings of the nature of the church and its missional activity with a view to developing a coherent vision of its central subject from the perspective of Protestant evangelicalism.
In the first section, Hill offers an overview of understandings of the church reflected in the writings of selected theologians. Perspectives from the various church traditions are discussed in concise chapters on "twelve important theologians" -- Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Karl Rahner and Hans Kung from the Catholic Church; Thomas Hopko, Vigen Guroian and John Zizioulas from the Orthodox Church; Letty Russell, Jurgen Moltman and John Webster from the Protestant Church community; and John Yoder, Barry Harvey and Miroslav Volf from the Free Churches.
In the second section, Hill offers a preliminary vision of the missional church that is informed by his "biblical, Reformed evangelical, Christ-centered, Free Church, charismatic, trinitarian, ecumenical, and missional convictions." This vision comes out of a dialogue with the perspectives skillfully summarized in Part 1 of his book.
Hill's is an important work that will be read by Christians who care that the corporate practice of Christian discipleship and mission that they affirm and teach is rooted in a defensible biblical and theological foundation.
Before criticizing Hill for engaging in dialogue with theologians from parts of the world where, he says, "Christianity finds itself now on the margins of a culture in which it once enjoyed a central place", let us carefully note -- and eagerly await -- his promise of a second volume in which he will focus on theological reflections on the church and its mission as reflected in the writings of theologians from other parts of the world. Those whose theological contribution he intends to discuss include Leonardo Boff, Jon Sobrino, Juan Segundo, Samuel Escobar, Rene Padilla, Kwame Bediako, John Mbiti, Oliver Onwubiko, Tite TiÚnou and Peter Phan, "to name a few."
It will be interesting to see how Hill analyzes the interaction of context/culture/experience and confessional/theological tradition in his assessment of the understandings of the church reflected in the writings of such scholars. Since the same interplay is at work in the ecclesiologies Hill analyzes and proposes in Salt, Light and a City,one waits to see whether there will be similarity in the recognition of the role played by these factors in the formulation of the theological positions analyzed in Hill's upcoming publication.
For the time being, however, it is important for Baptists to read and reflect on the first text in which Hill offers much that justifies the time needed to read his book. Hill offers a window into existing understandings of the church and their implication for mission "from a Euro-American perspective" emerging in western cultures where churches "are mostly experiencing decline, marginality, and liminality." He also engages the creative process of developing a constructive Australian missional theology that is "self-consciously western."
The Faith and Order text, which one expects to reflect contributions and perspectives from the worldwide Christian community, focuses on the church and its unity in the service of its mission. This text is also informed by the ecclesiologies with which Hill engages in conversation -- and indeed some of the scholars whose work Hill has accessed and plans to draw upon actually participated in the deliberations of Faith and Order.
By the time we conclude our reading of Hill's Salt, Light and a City and its upcoming companion volume, which together will harvest what Hill regards as the best fruits of conversations with theologians from the West and from the Majority World, the full sweep of Hills' vision of the missional church will become clear. Only then will we be able to ascertain how Hill's vision compares with that conveyed in the Faith and Order Commission's differently-focused text on the church.
Hill's book is a must read for church leaders and teachers who care about the church and its mission. I welcome Salt, Light and a City and,with the same enthusiasm, await his upcoming volume.
|What BWA Member Bodies are Doing|
Baptist Union of Papua New Guinea
The Baptist Union of Papua New Guinea (BUPNG) exists "to serve the people of Papua New Guinea" and "seeks to facilitate the spiritual, physical, social, economic and environmental well being of the people it seeks to serve in their locality."
Papua New Guinea (PNG) is a Pacific country in Oceania that occupies the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and other offshore islands.
The Baptist union, which was formed in 1977, was born out of work done by Baptist missionaries from Australia beginning in 1949. There are now approximately 80,000 Baptist members in 465 churches in the BUPNG. The BUPNG, in turn, is divided into four smaller unions, and is comprised of 26 associations.
The union seeks to encourage "appropriate investments" in spiritual, educational, health and community development. This is in order "to facilitate integral human development," which "should ensure a holistic approach to improving the quality of life in all its fullness." Thus, the union has as its vision the transformation of "the lives of people in Papua New Guinea in their relationships with God, one another and their environment."
BUPNG operates a number of elementary, primary, community and high schools located in the Western Highlands, Enga and Sandaun provinces. Some schools are located in remote locations that are geographically isolated and cut off from the main provincial towns and services.
BUPNG manages three health facilities in regions that are remote from usual communication. Because PNG reportedly has the highest incidences of HIV and AIDS in the Pacific region, the Baptist union appointed a project manager, a training coordinator and three field coordinators to address the growing pandemic. The focus is on HIV/AIDS awareness, prevention, treatment, care and counseling.
Projects overseen by the Community Development Unit of the BUPNG include seminars in community capacity building, management and leadership workshops, drought preparedness, and adult literacy, among others. Training is provided in carpentry, sewing, electronics, as well as agro-forestry farming.
"The church has a mission because Jesus commanded us to carry his message of salvation to the whole world," the union states. "God wants all men and women everywhere to be set free from the bondage of sin and to find forgiveness and peace in his love. The mission of the church is to reconcile lost people, lost world and lost creation back to God."
Antioch Missionary Baptist Church
Pomona, California, USA
Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Pomona, California, in the United States, declares that "We are a church on the go reaching, teaching, caring and sharing for the Lord where every member is a minister, every leader is a learner, every visitor is a guest, and every child of God is a brother or sister in Christ."
Their aim, among other things, is to "help the total church to become aware of its mission obligation; to aid the sick and shut-in, the poor, the elderly; to minister the love of Christ to our community; and to support local, national and world mission.
The Baptist World Alliance Global Impact Church has instituted a number of programs and ministries to fulfill its mission. These include CUSH, the Committed to Unite and Strengthen Humanity Foundation, which provides comprehensive health, education and human services to multi-cultural (ethnic) families and individuals of the Greater Pomona Valley.
This is accomplished through a preventive health education and wellness program; academic tutorial and enrichment; career development; recidivism, the reduction of ex-offender re-entry into the judicial correctional system; financial planning; food services; and emergency relief through the provision of food, clothing and shelter.
Recently, in May, members of the congregation participated in the 3rd Annual Lupus Walk for hope that raised funds for the Lupus Foundation of America.
The congregation continues to be "Christ Centered and Bible Based," making "disciples for Christ, ministering to the hurts and hopes of the community, and providing opportunities for authentic expressive worship."
|In Memoriam: Julian Pentecost|
Julian Pentecost, former editor of the Religious Herald, the newspaper for Baptists in the state of Virginia in the United States, died on May 31. He was 87 years old.
Pentecost served as pastor of various congregations in Virginia before becoming editor of the Herald in 1970, retiring in 1992. He was elected president of the Baptist General Association of Virginia in 1968.
He held several trusteeships within the Southern Baptist Convention, including trustee of the Home (now North American) Mission Board and the Foreign (now International) Mission Board. He was also a trustee of the University of Richmond and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, which is based in Louisville, Kentucky.
Pentecost was a former president of the Southern Baptist Press Association and was a founding director of Associated Baptist Press, an independent Baptist newswire service.
The Virginia Baptist leader served the Baptist World Alliance in various capacities, including as a member of the Communications Committee, the Church Life Committee, and the Commission on Baptist Doctrine and Interchurch Cooperation.
He earned degrees from the University of Richmond and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Predeceased by wife, Mary, who died last November, he leaves son, Julian Jr., and daughters, Anne and Nancy.
Funeral services were held June 4 at River Road Baptist Church in Richmond, the capital of Virginia.
|In Memoriam: Else ěhrn|
Else ěhrn, president of the European Baptist Women's Union from 1977-1982 and a vice president of the Baptist World Alliance Women's Department during that same period, died on April 1. She was 90 years old.
A children's nurse, ěhrn was the daughter-in-law of Arnold ěhrn, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance from 1948-1960.
She was active in the Baptist women's movement in her native Norway and was elected treasurer of the Women's Union of Norway in 1973.
She leaves husband, Jacob, children, grand- and great-grandchildren.
Funeral services were held April 10 at Porsgrunn Baptist Church.
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|Baptist World Aid|
|BWAid grants for the months of April and June 2012
Grants recorded in United States dollars unless otherwise noted
Andaman Islands (India)
Self Help Group 33,250.00
ThailandSchool in Refugee Camp 25,000.00
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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 months of July and August we will remember the following:
Colombian Baptist Denomination
Baptist Convention of Ecuador
National Baptist Convention of Venezuela
July 8-14Federation of Baptist Associations of Costa Rica
Baptist Association of El Salvador
Baptist Federation of El Salvador
Baptist Convention of Nicaragua
Baptist Convention of Panama
Baptist Association of Belize
Convention of Baptist Churches in Guatemala
National Convention of Baptist Churches in Honduras
National Baptist Convention of Mexico
July 22-28Antigua Baptist Association
National Baptist Missionary and Education Convention of Bahamas
Barbados Baptist Convention
Bermuda Baptist Fellowship
Baptist Convention of Eastern Cuba
Baptist Convention of Western Cuba
Fellowship of Baptist Churches in Cuba
Free Baptist Convention of Cuba
Dominican Baptist Convention
Baptist Convention of Guyana
Baptist Convention of Haiti
Baptist Haiti Mission
Jamaica Baptist Union
Baptist Union of Trinidad and Tobago
July 29-August 4
Canadian Baptist Ministries
Canadian National Baptist Convention
American Baptist Churches in the USA
Baptist General Association of Virginia
Converge Worldwide (Baptist General Conference)
Baptist General Convention of Missouri
Baptist General Convention of Texas
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
Czechoslovak Baptist Convention of USA and Canada
Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Missionary Convention, USA
National Missionary Baptist Convention of America
National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc
National Baptist Convention of America
North American Baptist Conference
Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc
Russian-Ukrainian Evangelical Baptist Union, USA
Seventh Day Baptist General Conference USA and Canada
Union of Latvian Baptists in America
General Association of General Baptists
DC Baptist Convention
Australian Baptist Ministries (Baptist Union of Australia)
Baptist Union of New Zealand
Fiji Baptist Convention
Baptist Union of Papua New Guinea, Inc
Baptists scattered throughout French Polynesia, Kanaky, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu
Union of Evangelical Christians and Baptist Churches of Estonia
Union of Baptist Churches in Latvia
Baptist Union of Lithuania
August 26-September 1
Baptist Union of the Czech Republic
Baptist Union of Poland
Baptist Union of Slovakia
Caribbean Baptist Women's Union Annual Conference, July 18-22, Bahamas
Caribbean Baptist Fellowship Youth Festival, July 25-29, Kingston, Jamaica
Caribbean Baptist Fellowship Officers, August 21, Antigua
Caribbean Baptist Fellowship Executive Committee, August 22, Antigua
Caribbean Baptist Fellowship Mid-Term Assembly, August 22-26, Antigua
All Africa Baptist Youth Fellowship Assembly, August 1-5, Harare, Zimbabwe
Baptist Women's Union of Africa Assembly, August 13-18, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo