Baptist-Catholic Dialogue Convenes in Durham, North Carolina

Baptist-Catholic Dialogue Convenes in Durham, North Carolina

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA, USA – December 16, 2021)

Participants from around the world gathered December 6-10 for the Baptist-Catholic International Dialogue, a series of strategic bilateral conversations between the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU). These meetings represented Phase III of the international dialogue, which experienced a hiatus in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Implementing a hybrid meeting format, this year’s participants were able to complete the fourth annual session in the five-year series.

The full Joint Commission met virtually on Monday, December 6, and Friday, December 10. From December 7-9, two working groups from the commission pursued a common agenda, which was developed in complementary ways related to their respective meeting formats. A North American working group consisting of commission members from Jamaica, USA, and Canada (joined virtually by commission members from Argentina) met in Durham, North Carolina, where they were hosted by Duke Divinity School and its Baptist House of Studies. A virtual working group hosted by the PCPCU met during the same dates with participation by commission members from Australia, India, United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Poland.

“In an increasingly divided world, it is vitally important for the Christian traditions to find ways to work together across their divisions to offer a common witness to their Lord Jesus Christ ‘so that the world may believe’ (John 17:21),” said Commission Member Rev. Dr. Steven R. Harmon. “The embodied relationships forged in the work of ecumenical conversations are at least as important to the quest for Christian unity as the more ‘official’ dimensions of the dialogue, so we were especially grateful that some of us were able to renew our growing friendships in person, even as we are also grateful for the technology that enabled us to collaborate with our colleagues in other parts of the world in time zones from Melbourne to Mumbai to Rome.”

The Baptist delegation was led by co-chair Rev. Dr. Frank Rees, Associate Professor and Chair of the Academic Board at the University of Divinity in Australia, and the Catholic delegation was led by co-chair Bishop Arthur Serratelli, Bishop Emeritus of Paterson, New Jersey, USA. The dialogue was centered on the theme of “Forms of Common Witness,” giving attention to recognizing ways in which Baptists and Catholics have already been engaging in a shared witness to the dynamic of the Gospel and envisioning ways in which the two communions might more intentionally and more fully collaborate in offering the world a common witness to Christ.

This discussion built on the first meeting’s consideration of “Sources of Common Witness” in Waco, Texas, USA, in 2017. The second meeting drew representatives from six continents and took place in Rome, Italy, in 2018 with a focus on the “Contexts of Common Witness.” The third meeting convened in Warsaw, Poland, in 2019 and examined “Challenges to Common Witness.” These sub-themes are dimensions of the overall theme of the third phase of dialogue: “The Dynamic of the Gospel and the Witness of the Church.” The Baptist-Catholic joint commission will meet annually through 2022 for this third phase of conversations.

The Baptist delegation for this year’s meeting consisted of members and persons specially invited as observers. Participating in this round of conversations were Rev. Dr. Paul S. Fiddes (UK), Dr. Derek Hatch (USA), Rev. Dr. Glenroy Lalor (Jamaica), Rev. Dr. Tomás Mackey (Argentina), Dr. Elizabeth Newman (USA), Rev. Dr. Lina Toth (Lithuania/UK), observers Dr. Valérie Duval-Poujol (France), Rev. Dr. Curtis Freeman (USA), and BWA Director of Integral Mission Rev. Everton Jackson (Jamaica/USA).

The Catholic delegation consisted of members Dr. Peter Casarella (USA), Rev. Dr. Stephen Fernandes (India), Rev. Dr. William Henn OFM Cap. (Italy), Rev. Prof. Przemslaw Kantyka (Poland), Sr. Dr. Marie-Hélène Robert NDA (France), Rev. Dr. Jorge A. Scampini OP (Argentina), and Sr. Dr. Susan Wood SCL (USA).

The secretaries for the co-chairs are Rev. Dr. Steven R. Harmon, Professor of Historical Theology at Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, USA on behalf of the BWA and Msgr. Juan Usma Gómez on behalf of the PCPCU. Msgr. Usma Gómez succeeded Rev. Avelino González-Ferrer as Catholic Co-Secretary for the dialogue in July 2021.

This year’s gathering is the continuation of a longstanding commitment to dialogues. A first phase of international conversations took place from 1984-1988, resulting in a report in 1990 titled “Summons to Witness to Christ in Today’s World.” A second phase of the conversations met from 2006 through 2010 and produced a report in 2013 titled “The Word of God in the Life of the Church.”

“Dialoguing with other Christian World Communions is in keeping with Jesus’ priestly prayer that we be one as he and his Father are One. The current dialogue between Baptists and Catholics is a reflection of this as both sides do not only seek to develop better theological understanding but to also find practical ways to collaborate as God’s missional people,” said Rev. Jackson.

He continued, “Christian dialogue is guided by the principles of mutual respect and tolerance and an awareness that no single Christian communion is the subtotal of the Body of Christ, but just a part as demonstrated by Paul in his usage of the symbol of the body in 1 Corinthians 12. It is the conviction of Baptists that we belong to the universal church, and as such should at all times strive to develop better understanding and working relationships with other Christian communions. In so doing, we are able to present to a fragmented world a placard of unity despite our diversity.”

The Joint Commission will hold its next meeting from December 12-16, 2022, in Rome, Italy (barring any unforeseen developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic) and will be hosted by the PCPCU.

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Introducing the BWA Women Director
In attached photo, left of screen, front-back: Sr. Dr. Susan Wood S.C.L. (USA), Rev. Everton Jackson (Jamaica/USA), Dr. Derek Hatch (USA), Rev. Dr. Glenroy Lalor (Jamaica), Rev. Dr. Steven R. Harmon (USA); on screen, top row, L-R: Dr. Valérie Duval-Poujol (France), Rev. Dr. Paul S. Fiddes (UK); on screen, middle row, L-R: Sr. Dr. Marie-Hélène Robert N.D.A. (France), Rev. Dr. Tomás Mackey (Argentina), Msgr. Juan Usma Gómez (Columbia/Vatican); Rev. Dr. Lina Toth (Lithuania/UK); on screen, bottom row, L-R: Rev. Dr, Jorge A. Scampini O.P. (Argentina), Rev. Dr. Stephen Fernandes (India), Rev. Dr. William Henn O.F.M. Cap. (Italy); right of screen, front-back: Bishop Arthur Serratelli (USA), Dr. Peter Casarella (USA), Dr. Elizabeth Newman (USA), Rev. Dr. Curtis Freeman. Not pictured: Rev. Dr. Frank Rees (Australia), Rev. Prof. Przemslaw Kantyka (Poland)
Baptist-Catholic Dialogue Convenes in Durham, North Carolina

Baptist World Alliance Women Honors Moreen Sharp

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA – November 5, 2021)

Moreen Sharp concluded her term of service as Baptist World Alliance Women (BWAW) Interim Executive Director on November 1. Stepping into the role in 2016, Sharp has helped the ministry navigate the challenges of a global pandemic and the transition of the quinquennial Global Conference of Baptist Women to a virtual event in July 2021.

“Moreen has been a transformative leader who has lead BWA Women through a historic first fully virtual Global Conference of Baptist Women, strengthened the integration of BWA Women as an essential ministry of the BWA, and touched the lives of countless women through ministries around the world,” said Elijah Brown, BWA General Secretary. “She has done so in the spirit of Romans 14:17 – a leader who serves in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

Having previously served as the Continental Union President of Baptist Women of North America (formerly the North American Baptist Women’s Union), Sharp has a long history of service to women around the world. She reflects on her time as BWA Women Executive Director with great joy.

“I have treasured the friendships that I have found. I’ve treasured the experiences that we’ve had together and something that I’ve treasured even more is seeing women’s love for God and the way they’re serving God around the world,” said Sharp. “It is an amazing group of women, and it has been my special privilege and joy to be able to serve in this role.”

BWA President Karen Wilson has served with Sharp since becoming president in 2020.

“To have worked with Moreen and been part of seeing women thrive across the world has been a huge privilege. Her heart for women of every culture, her leadership, her untiring dedication and faithfulness have seen literally tens of thousands of women thriving because of what she has brought to the role she has so diligently carried out,” said Wilson. “Moreen’s ability to connect with anyone has been a huge blessing to Baptist World Alliance Women, and she has been a friend and valued colleague throughout the time we have worked together. BWAW will continue to be blessed, for many years, from what she has sown into this ministry.”

Sharp will continue to play a vital role in global women’s initiatives through her leadership as President of Canadian Baptist Women and as a Vice President of the board of Canadian Baptist Ministries. She is succeeded by J. Merritt Johnston who was appointed to serve as BWA Women Executive Director after a global search and interview process.

“It is an incredible honor to accept the mantle of leadership from such an amazing servant of the Lord,” said Johnston. “Moreen has made a global and eternal impact through her faithfulness to serve women around the world. She has been a blessing to me personally and to countless others, and I am committed to continue her legacy of Christ-centered, grace-filled ministry to lead BWA Women into the next season.”

Click to share a memory, tribute, or word of thanks regarding Sharp’s ministry.

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VIDEO: Moreen Sharp shares a word of thanks and encouragement after concluding her term of service as BWA Women Executive Director on November 1.
VIDEO: Global leaders share appreciation for Moreen Sharp and her leadership of Baptist World Alliance Women from 2016-2021.
Baptist-Catholic Dialogue Convenes in Durham, North Carolina

BWA Women to Host Day of Prayer

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA – October 29, 2021) 

Baptist World Alliance Women (BWAW) will host the annual Baptist Women’s World Day of Prayer on Monday, November 1. Each year on the first Monday of November, Baptist women around the world gather in homes, churches, and communities to pray together for the world. This unified and dedicated time of prayer has been offered since its initiation in 1951, representing 70 years of impact.

“It is called Day of Prayer because literally as the world turns, women are praying from the eastern hemisphere all the way around to the west. We are linking arms, standing in solidarity together as Baptist sisters on this special day,” said Moreen Sharp, BWA Women Interim Executive Director.

This year’s theme is “Courageous Life” taken from Hebrews 13:6 – “So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” The event prayer guide includes a Bible study focused on this passage written by BWA Women President Karen Wilson.

“Courageous living requires us to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power, to stand firm, to dress well for the battles we will face, to be prayerful and faith-filled, and to fearlessly make known the mystery of the Gospel to a world in great need,” said Wilson. “What a privilege this year to pause and pray and to ask God to intervene for sisters all over the world. We will also pause to give to play our part in helping those who are in greatest need at this time.”

Women are encouraged to participate in a global offering that is utilized to support a series of women’s initiatives. This year’s projects include support of a women-led farm in Thailand that utilizes profits to care for orphans and widows as well as investment in the “Lighters of Hope in Darkness” initiative in the Philippines, which includes online resource kits that help identify, prevent, and address mental health issues.

Another featured project is the Multifunctional Center of the Baptist Women’s Union in Douala, Cameroon, which was established with the goal of improving Baptist women’s standard of living through practical training. By creating a library space in the Center, women and girls will have access to books and opportunities to learn. Since public libraries no longer exist in the area, project leaders also hope to transform lives through education and evangelization as non-Baptist members utilize the space.

The final project, The Sewing Club in Vanuatu, originated in response to the economic effects of the pandemic and the devastation suffered from Cyclone Harold in 2020. Vanuatu Baptist Women started the club to assist young mothers who were financially struggling. Through the club, women are able to make clothes for their families and create products to sell, giving them much needed income. The club also includes a time of food and fellowship, a Gospel-centered discussion, and lessons on budgeting finances.

In addition to these impactful projects, funds raised will also be utilized to support the global work of BWA Women and the ministries of the seven Baptist women’s continental unions.
Women are also encouraged to follow the BWA Women social channels on Monday, November 1, for updates from Day of Prayer gatherings happening around the world.

To learn more, visit BWAWD.org/day-of-prayer. To support the global ministry of BWA Women, click to make a contribution online.

Baptist-Catholic Dialogue Convenes in Durham, North Carolina

Baptist World Alliance Women Appoints New Executive Director

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA – October 27, 2021)

Following a global search and interview process, Baptist World Alliance Women (BWAW) has appointed J. Merritt Johnston to serve as the ministry’s executive director. She will begin her service in this part-time executive level role on November 1 while continuing to provide oversight for Communications and Media for the Baptist World Alliance.

Johnston has served in ministry leadership roles for more than 20 years, including the formation of a nonprofit while in college, providing care as a hospital chaplain, guiding communications for a seminary, serving with an international broadcast ministry, and shepherding women as the women’s minister at a multi-site church.

“Words cannot express how honored and excited I am to step into the storied history of BWA Women – a community sharing the Gospel, responding in times of need, and standing for human rights in more than 140 countries and territories,” Johnston said. “The past bears witness to the power of women serving the Lord together, and I look forward to what God has in store as we further our mission to network women to impact the world for Christ.”

The appointment follows a global search led by an international committee that included Karen Wilson (BWAW President), Elijah Brown (BWA General Secretary), Karlene Edwards-Warrick (President of the Caribbean Baptist Women’s Union – CBWU), and Lynn Green (General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain).

“There are times in leadership when you sense God providing in ways that far exceed your hopes and dreams. The appointment of Merritt Johnston as the new Executive Director for Baptist World Alliance Women is one of those times,” said Wilson. “This role brings a global responsibility, and Merritt is extremely passionate about standing with women in every culture to see them thrive. I am personally excited about the opportunity of working alongside Merritt as she serves women all over the world and as God uses her to bring vision and leadership in this space.”

Moreen Sharp, BWAW Interim Executive Director, has been instrumental in leading BWAW since 2017 and is facilitating a smooth transition through a series of onboarding initiatives.

“Having worked with Merritt as a BWA team member leading up to this point, I have come to deeply appreciate her – not only as a team member and colleague but as a friend. She has a wonderful team spirit, a gracious attitude, is very industrious, and amazingly gifted,” said Sharp. “Add that to her deep heart for God and her pastoral and caring heart for women, and I know we have a wonderful woman stepping into this role. She will take BWA Women up to a whole new level, and I am blessed to be able to pray for her as she continues this great work of helping women thrive around the world.”

Johnston holds a Master of Divinity and a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies, both from Grace School of Theology; and a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication/Journalism, Performance Studies, and Psychology from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, located in Texas, USA. She is married to Jeremy, and they have three children.

“With more than 20 years of experience in leading, teaching, coaching, and collaborating with women and ministry leaders in countries around the world, Merritt lives a deep walk with Jesus Christ with a passionate calling and a spirit of high capacity servant leadership,” said Brown. “She will build upon the historic BWA Women’s legacy in Holy Spirit listening, deepening community, and strategically building partnerships that share the Gospel and strengthen women around the world.”

To learn more about BWA Women, visit BWAWD.org.

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Introducing the BWA Women Director

After a global search, J. Merritt Johnston has been appointed to serve as Executive Director of Baptist World Alliance Women. To view an introductory video, visit our BWA YouTube Channel or click the image above.

Baptist-Catholic Dialogue Convenes in Durham, North Carolina

Baptist World Alliance Welcomes New Members

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA – October 22, 2021)

The Baptist World Alliance unanimously voted to extend membership to four Baptist groups during its Virtual General Council meetings that convened from October 19-21. The addition of Equatorial Guinea Baptist Church, Baptist Alliance of Barbados, Kawthoolei Karen Baptist Churches, and Baptist Evangelical Churches Federation of Guadeloupe increases the total membership of the worldwide body to 245 Baptist conventions and unions within 128 countries and territories.

Equatorial Guinea Baptist Church, the first BWA member body in Equatorial Guinea, is a union of 148 members in four churches throughout the Central African nation. In each city where a church is located, the union also operates a school. Established in 1982, the union’s current leadership includes President Antonio Acuché Rimoy and General Secretary-Treasurer Benjamin Eyene Esono Akara.

“We are not a very large convention, but our goal is to continue spreading the Gospel to every corner and person in this country,” said Akara. “[BWA membership] means to be able to belong to the body of Christ around the world and in this way to know, encourage, and support each other to continue with the work that the Lord has entrusted to us in unity.”

Baptist Alliance of Barbados is a group of 190 members in five churches in Barbados founded in 1986. Led by President Andrew Boyce and Executive Secretary Shondell Bovell, the convention has various ministries including Christian Education, Youth, Women, Men, and Evangelism.
“Having experienced the benefits of relationships developed at the regional level through membership with the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship, we eagerly anticipate and look forward to those benefits which can be derived from relationships developed globally by way of the BWA,” said Boyce. 

Kawthoolei Karen Baptist Churches (KKBC) is a group of 18,208 members in 87 churches along the Thai/Myanmar border. Born out of the oppression and persecution of ethnic minorities in Myanmar in the early 1980s, KKBC formed in 1983 and is comprised of Internally Displaced Persons living on the border. The group’s leadership includes Chairman Robert Kaytoe and General Secretary Saw Peacefully Thomas. KKBC was accepted as a member of the regional fellowship, the Asia Pacific Baptist Federation, in February of this year. 

“Joining BWA will build up Kawthoolei Karen Baptist Churches to navigate holistic mission for the border community – both in Thailand and in Myanmar – and globally for Jesus Christ,” said Saw Wado, International Communication Liaison for KKBC. 

During the introduction of each member body to the General Council, Wado spoke movingly about the value and encouragement of being welcomed into the global Baptist family. “Solitude has a place and is good for a season, but ultimately God saw that it was not good for mankind to be alone. So he created a companion that was like him to share a common sense of belongingness. The same can be said of our belongingness to the Baptist World Alliance. We belong. We are accepted. We are remembered.”

Baptist Evangelical Churches Federation of Guadeloupe is a group of 1,100 members in 15 churches in Guadeloupe. The federation, formed in 1970, will be the first BWA member body in Guadeloupe. Leadership includes President Dominique Dick and Executive Secretary Caryl Andrew. Dick is also president of the regional body, the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship, the first from the French-speaking Caribbean.

“Our mission is training men and women and also evangelizing in every way that we can,” said Dick. “It is a privilege for us to be known worldwide, be it that we are a very small island in the Caribbean.” 

All of the conventions and unions accepted into membership by the BWA submit supporting documents including a statement of faith, organizational history, and a reference from their regional Baptist fellowship. The BWA’s Membership Committee reviews the applications and makes recommendations to the General Council for vote.

“We thank God for increasing our fellowship. The Membership Committee is humbled to help shepherd these four new member bodies officially into the BWA family,” said Karl Johnson, chair of the BWA Membership Committee. “A home for all Baptists, their inclusion furthers the BWA’s reach around the world, and we pray for their work and witness in their countries and regions. We pray also that they will continue to experience the different ways in which you will allow their light to shine to bring glory to God.”

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Baptist Alliance of Barbados is a group of 190 members in five churches in Barbados founded in 1986.
Equatorial Guinea Baptist Church, the first BWA member body in Equatorial Guinea, is a union of 148 members in four churches
Kawthoolei Karen Baptist Churches (KKBC) is a group of 18,208 members in 87 churches along the Thai/Myanmar border.
Baptist Evangelical Churches Federation of Guadeloupe is a group of 1,100 members in 15 churches in Guadeloupe.