Former Director of BWA Women’s Department, Beth Hayworth Echols, Passes Away at 96

Former Director of BWA Women’s Department, Beth Hayworth Echols, Passes Away at 96

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA – December 16, 2020)

Beth Hayworth Echols, former director of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) Women’s Department and passionate advocate for her global neighbors, died December 10 at her home in McLean, Virginia, USA, at the age of 96. While serving at the BWA from 1986-1995, she was known as Beth Hayworth MacClaren. The BWA calls upon all Baptists to remember and honor her legacy of hospitality and human rights advocacy and to pray for her family during this time.

“Beth Echols had a heart for the world. Long before she took over her role as Executive Director of the BWA Women’s Department, she was loving and caring for international people right around her. This made her a natural fit for the role of Executive Director,” said Moreen Sharp, Interim Executive Director for BWA Women. “Her tenure was a time of great change in the BWA as well as on the global scene, but she provided a strong foundation – working faithfully with her team, addressing women’s issues, and drawing women together to make an impact in the world. Her work paved the way for the future, and we have been blessed by her faithfulness.”

Born in 1924, Echols grew up on a tobacco farm in North Carolina, often completing her chores while reading any book she could find. Her childhood church, Abbots Creek Missionary Baptist Church, instilled in her the unshakable belief that God loved her and all the children of the world – a belief that guided her professional path.

Echols had hoped to become a foreign missionary. When that door remained shut after her graduation from Mars Hill College, she enrolled in the Women’s Missionary Union Training School in Kentucky and graduated in 1949 with a Bachelor of Religious Education. After graduation, she began her long career of employment at Baptist organizations, always looking for ways to serve her neighbors at home and abroad.

Like many young female Baptist leaders, her first job in Baptist life was through the Baptist Student Union (BSU). Her first ministry position was as the BSU director for Eastern State College where she was responsible for nurturing the spiritual environment for 500 Eastern students who were Baptist. In 1953, she moved from Eastern into a statewide leadership position as the Associate Student Secretary for Kentucky’s Student Union Department. Echols describes her greatest accomplishment in this position as creating the first retreat for international students, which became an annual event in Kentucky and spread to other state BSU departments. Echols would first connect with BWA in this role while attending the 1958 Baptist World Youth Conference in Toronto, Canada. In total, Echols worked 11 years in Kentucky, frequently speaking to students across Kentucky and in neighboring states.

In 1960, Echols left Kentucky to become the associate state director of student work for the Louisiana Baptist Convention (LBC). The LBC had recognized the need for ministry to international students, and Echols was eager to grow this work on college campuses across the state. In this role, she reconnected with the BWA at the Baptist World Youth Conference in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1963.

Echols’s work with international college students was a direct challenge to segregation in Louisiana and came to the attention of the (white) Citizens’ Council in 1964. African students often asked Echols about the mistreatment of African-Americans by so many who claimed to be Christians. To address these concerns, Echols began inviting American students, both black and white, to the events for international students. By the 1964 retreat, several students from Grambling College and other schools in Baton Rouge and New Orleans were attending.

The Citizens’ Council heard that Baptists had hosted a mixed-race event over the 1964 Thanksgiving holiday break, and two of their leaders came to Alexandria to demand answers. Echols was the only employee willing to speak with them, and the article they wrote about the meeting eventually cost her a job she loved.

The December 31, 1964, issue of the Citizens’ Council newspaper, The Councilor, led with the story “Baptist Student Leader Praises Negro Agitator.” The article describes, but does not name, the international student conference as follows: “A recent Baptist-sponsored conclave of college students held in New Orleans had a strong Basin Street flavor, with dark skinned boys and light girls meeting on a social basis.” The article quotes Echols as believing that “Martin Luther King will go down in history as the Greatest Christian of our Time,” and that, even in the context of interracial marriage, she believed that everyone had a right to choose whom to marry. The article summarizes the meeting: “Miss Hayworth was genial and in no mood to offer excuses. With straightforward honesty she told her segregationist visitors that she admires Dr. King, believes in intermarriage and actively participates in social integration. She said she based all these beliefs on her own interpretation of the scriptures.”

Among the 117,000 nationwide subscribers were numerous Louisiana Baptist pastors and lay leaders who began writing the state convention in early 1965 demanding an explanation. Some were supportive of Echols’s views and encouraged the denomination to take a strong stand against the Citizens’ Council, but most were highly upset that a denominational employee would bring shame upon the convention in this way. Despite the support from several Southern Baptist Convention leaders and Louisiana churches like St. Charles Avenue Baptist in New Orleans, she could not withstand the backlash. Some of the critical letters contained death threats while others threatened a reduction or elimination of their Cooperative Program giving if she remained a staff member.

The Councilor would run at least two more articles on the subject, so by the summer of 1965 Echols knew she could not stay in Louisiana. She described 1965 as her briar patch and was ever grateful for the Baptist World Alliance meeting in Miami, Florida, USA, that summer where she accepted Jane and Bob Denny’s offer to live with them in Arlington, Virginia, USA, and seek employment opportunities in the nation’s capital.

Echols began her D.C. career at Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC), then called Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs. For seven years, she was the BJC’s assistant director of information services, which also allowed her to be a staff writer for Baptist Press. As an accredited newswoman in the 1960s, Echols was a pioneer covering Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, and other political news coming out of the capital. Her articles at Baptist Press, particularly those related to hunger, poverty and women’s issues, were published in religious and secular news outlets across the country.

Echols left BJC to work in local churches in the D.C. area. In 1979, Echols came to McLean Baptist Church in McLean, Virginia, USA, where she began an international ministry that continues to this day. Echols remained an active member of McLean Baptist when she accepted the position of director of the Women’s Department of the Baptist World Alliance in 1986.

Her love of people, travel, and all things international were more fully fulfilled at the BWA. She visited more than 50 countries during her tenure and was a prolific writer keeping up with Baptist women around the world. In addition to introducing the stories of international Baptist women to North American audiences by writing their stories for American and Canadian publications, Echols stabilized the member connections of the Women’s Department.

At the 1989 BWA Commission on Christian Ethics in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, she presented a trailblazing paper on the issues Baptist women around the globe were facing. Dividing the report into global geographic regions, Echols discussed the basic survival issues women face, their roles in their churches, views on ordination and obstacles to overcome. Echols noted, “Women want to move from what they perceive to be ‘servitude’ to ‘partnership’ and, with men, find a true servanthood within the church.” Echols also created and published the first Women’s Department directory in 1993. Tracking down the names and contact information of all the women’s unions and their leaders who were part of the formal and informal BWA network was an enormous undertaking.

Echols officially retired from BWA on July 31, 1994, at a gala party in Uppsala, Sweden, with Baptist women from around the globe in attendance. Since her successor had not yet been named, Echols remained at the BWA through March 1995, finally stepping down from paid professional ministry at the age of 70.

Patsy Davis, who later served as Director of the BWA Women’s Department from 1998 to 2015, shared that “Beth was a God-gifted woman who used her gifts to love and minister to Baptist women around the world. She was a friend, mentor, and a fun person to be with.”

Another milestone for Echols early in her BWA tenure was to be ordained to the Gospel ministry on June 26, 1988, by McLean Baptist Church. Ordination was something she had considered but never before pursued. Echols agreed only after prayerfully considering its potential impact on the various international Baptist women leaders she was leading, supporting, and encouraging. In a scenario reminiscent of her Louisiana departure, a number of male Baptist leaders tried to stop her ordination by calling her and contacting the leadership of BWA to lodge their objections. This time they did not succeed, and she was ordained almost 40 years after finishing her seminary studies.

Upon her retirement, Echols’s commitment to international ministry was honored in various ways. The Women’s Department established a fund in her honor to assist African Baptists in purchasing a headquarters for the All Africa Baptist Fellowship and provide relief in Rwanda. In 2000, McLean Baptist Church dedicated a large Sunday School classroom to Echols’s ministry, renaming it the World Missions Center. The room is decorated with more than 300 items Echols acquired while working for the Women’s Department. Still in use, it is a beautiful testament to the diversity and commonalities of Baptist groups from around the world, and the legacy of one woman whose ordinary acts of consistent obedience brought them into a little more harmony with one another.

“Beth was a faithful and courageous leader who fought the good fight. We have much to be grateful for in reflecting on her life and much to aspire to in reflecting on her legacy,” said Elijah Brown, BWA General Secretary.

Echols is preceded in death by her first husband, Robert MacClaren (1986), and her second husband, Pat Echols (2012). She is survived by family in Virginia and North Carolina and many friends around the globe. Memorial service details are forthcoming. Donations to memorialize Beth Hayworth Echols can be made at BaptistWorld.org/give. Those wishing to share a tribute are invited to do so by visiting BaptistWorld.org/honoring-beth-echols.

Note: Special thanks to Rev. Jennifer Hawks for her diligent work in researching and chronicling the life of Beth Echols and for her service as the primary author of this release.

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Beth Echols, former director of the BWA Women’s Department, passed away December 10, 2020, at the age of 96. (Photo Courtesy of Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty)
Baptist World Alliance to Host Virtual World Congress

Baptist World Alliance to Host Virtual World Congress

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA – July 24, 2020)

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) is transitioning the 22nd Baptist World Congress to a fully virtual event on July 7-10, 2021. This decision was made in prayerful response to the COVID-19 global pandemic and as a result of collaborative discussions with global Baptist leaders.

The Baptist World Congress is a quinquennial event originally scheduled to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in July 2020. The event was postponed in March 2020 due to rising coronavirus cases and upon review of travel and health advisories nationally and globally. With the pandemic still impacting so many communities worldwide, the BWA Executive Committee voted to transition to a virtual event during their executive session in October.

Leadership affirmed it to be the best decision in light of health and safety concerns for registrants, international travel restrictions, and the importance of offering a Congress experience that reflects diversity and prioritizes accessibility for as many people as possible. With the transition to a virtual experience, the 22nd Baptist World Congress will become the first fully-online, globally-accessible event in the ministry’s 115-year history.

“2020 has been a year of unexpected challenges, but it has also been a year of innovation. The physical doors of many churches remain closed, but praise God that new spiritual doors have opened to live out our Gospel-centered mission through the use of technology,” said Elijah Brown, BWA General Secretary. “We saw this firsthand when thousands from our global Baptist family gathered online for worship, prayer, and engagement at Pentecost. Now I am eagerly awaiting what the Lord has in store as we host a Congress for the 21st Century. Open to Baptists worldwide, this multilingual, multinational event will unite us together in Jesus Christ and his gospel mission.”

Centered on the theme “Together,” the 22nd Baptist World Congress will include:

  • Daily sessions with worship, fellowship, prayer, and spiritual challenge led by global Baptist leaders
  • 30+ Breakouts with recognized ministry experts featuring live Q&A
  • Virtual roundtables focused on worship, mission, aid, religious freedom, and transformational leadership
  • An easy-access virtual platform with the ability to facilitate networking and community building by region and/or ministry focus
  • 3 powerful pre-conferences including the “Life” Global Conference of Baptist Women, Youth Leadership Conference, and the “Together with the Persecuted” Religious Freedom Summit
  • Multilingual opportunities for engagement
  • A powerful opportunity for Baptists worldwide to stand together at this critical time across borders, languages, and ethnicities

The BWA staff and global Congress leadership are committed to offering a virtual event that builds upon the years of strong planning already invested, ensuring that returning attendees and newcomers alike experience the meaningfulness of this gathering.

“After this unprecedented season of physical isolation, we need the encouragement of our Baptist sisters and brothers more than ever,” said Carolina Mangieri, BWA Director of Global Events and Fellowship. “I am prayerful that this transition will enable more people than ever before to experience the beautiful unity amidst diversity of our global Baptist family.”

Since the first Baptist World Congress gathering in 1905, the event has had a long-standing impact on its attendees and the world, and Congress leaders prayerfully anticipate that the new platform will only serve to further the event’s unchanging purpose – networking the Baptist family to impact the world for Christ.

“This virtual opportunity to gather will allow us to seek the wisdom and strength of the Lord during such a special time in the world,” said BWA President Tomás Mackey. “Together we will share the experiences that have enriched us in so many different communities, and thereby strengthen our hope. We will be sensitive to the pains of peoples and individuals, interceding for one another, and plan for ministry that will help in these circumstances. I invite all Baptists to unite together with brothers and sisters around the world to celebrate the Lord’s work among us.”

With more than 1,000 people already registered from over 40 countries, the 22nd Baptist World Congress is poised to become a milestone in this pivotal time in history. “I look forward to July 2021 and invite all Baptists to join in what may well be the most globally diverse gathering of Baptists in 400 years,” said Brown.

Additional questions are answered in a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document available on our new virtual Congress website as is ongoing registration: BWA2021.org.

Together: 22nd Baptist World Congress 2020
Click to view a special invitation from Baptist World Alliance General Secretary Elijah Brown.

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Baptist World Alliance Begins Global Search for Aid Director

Baptist World Alliance Begins Global Search for Aid Director

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA – July 24, 2020)

As Baptist World Aid (BWAid) celebrates its 100th year of ministry, the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) announces a global search for the next Director of Baptist World Aid. This Director will provide leadership to the core BWA ministry area of aid, relief, and community development in order to fulfill the mission of the BWA: “Networking the Baptist family to impact the world for Christ.”

“In 2020, BWAid celebrates the centennial anniversary of the first Baptist World Aid gift. Having touched millions of lives over the preceding 100 years, BWAid is still making an impact around the world through 132 emergency grants to Baptists in 82 countries this year alone,” said Rev. Dr. Elijah Brown, BWA General Secretary. “The Director of BWAid will continue to build upon this storied legacy for a strategic future that continues to empower compassionate and collaborative response to needs around the world.”

Key priorities for this position:

  1. Clear commitment to personal spiritual growth, local Baptist church participation, and love for mobilizing others to engage in ministry
  2. Personal and passionate calling and commitment to aid, relief, and community development
  3. Demonstrate strong networking, facilitation, and administrative skillset that can lead the development and implementation of programs that network BWA member bodies, churches, and individuals
  4. Capacity to help the BWA grow strategically, creatively, and collaboratively
  5. Implement leadership, programs, administration, and facilitation of (1) BWAid and BWAid grants; (2) BWA Forum on Aid and Development (BFAD); and (3) other assigned program areas

While the Director of BWAid must demonstrate a broad understanding of development sector programs and practices, a clear passion and skillset in the area of network facilitation and growth is critical in this role.

“The Baptist World Alliance engages with a huge global network of leadership, churches, and communities of faith. There is a massive opportunity and need to mobilize this enormous constituency to practically engage with the world’s most vulnerable people and address humanitarian needs, but also help them build the movement’s capacity and passion in service of Christ to participate in the sustainable shift beyond the injustices of long-term poverty,” said John Hickey, BWA Vice President and CEO of Transform Aid International. “The new Director of Baptist World Aid will play a vital role representing the BWA, collaborating closely with a significant network of talented leadership across national, regional, and global bodies and agencies in the Baptist movement and beyond in this vital cause.”

The BWA is conducting a global search and actively welcomes applicants from every region of the world. The application deadline is September 30, 2020.

Those wishing to apply or to share details about this job opportunity are encouraged to visit the BWA Director of Baptist World Aid Informational Page.

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Prayer for Justice and Mercy for Nations and Peoples in Conflict

Prayer for Justice and Mercy for Nations and Peoples in Conflict

2007 BWA General Council Recommendation

We express concern for nations and peoples who are caught in a terrible circle of hatred, violence, injustice, and suffering, who live in fear in police states where terrorist acts and military incursions are regular events.

We further recognize that the oppression and depravities by one group leads to anger and violence by the other which is then escalated by the first.

We call for God’s people to pray for justice and mercy upon these troubled nations and peoples. We recommend that this issue be considered for further study and action by the BWA.

Citations

Original Source Bibliography: Callam, Neville, editor. Baptist World Alliance 2007 Yearbook: Minutes of the General Council Meeting and Directory. Falls Church, VA: Baptist World Alliance, 2007.

Original Source Footnote/Endnote: Neville Callam, ed., Baptist World Alliance 2007 Yearbook: Minutes of the General Council Meeting and Directory (Falls Church, VA: Baptist World Alliance, 2007), p. 98.

Online Document Full Citation: 2007 BWA General Council Recommendation Prayer for Justice and Mercy for Nations and Peoples in Conflict; https://o7e.4a3.myftpupload.com/resolutions.

In-text Online Document Citation: (2007 BWA General Council Recommendation).

Prayer for Justice and Mercy for Nations and Peoples in Conflict

Resolutions Submitted by Outside Groups

BWA Executive Committee Resolution 1974-08.4

Ronald Goulding reported that a copy had been received from Ronald Watts of Canada of a resolution on “Torture and Human Rights” that had been passed by the Baptist Convention of Ontario at their General Assembly. Since this is one of several resolutions already received on the subject of religious liberty and human rights,

MOTION by Ronald Goulding was seconded, and passed

EC74 that this resolution (from Baptist Convention of Ontario) be acknowledged with appreciation and put with those already received, and others expected to come, and referred to the Resolutions Committee to be appointed at the 1975 World Congress, and presented at the Congress as one general resolution.

Keywords

BWA; Human Rights; Torture.

Citations

Original Source Bibliography: Denny, Robert S., editor. Baptist World Alliance: Minutes of the Meeting of the Executive Committee Held at Louisville, Kentucky, August 6-9, 1974. Washington, D.C.: Baptist World Alliance, 1974.

Original Source Footnote/Endnote: Robert S. Denny, ed., Baptist World Alliance: Minutes of the Meeting of the Executive Committee Held at Louisville, Kentucky, August 6-9, 1974 (Washington, D.C.: Baptist World Alliance, 1974), p. 54.

Online Document Full Citation: BWA Executive Committee Resolution 1974-08.4 Resolutions Submitted by Outside Groups; https://o7e.4a3.myftpupload.com/resolutions.

In-text Online Document Citation: (BWA Executive Committee Resolution 1974-08.4).