Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Secretary Neville Callam presented a report on the work of the BWA at a meeting of the Committee of Secretaries of Christian World Communions (CS-CWC) in Geneva, Switzerland, in November.
The CS-CWC brings together heads of global Christian organizations to discuss their work and to fellowship together. It includes leaders from the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant, evangelical, Pentecostal and ecumenical traditions.
Callam told the gathering the process by which the BWA has been negotiating the challenges it faces as an international body that includes membership and participation of persons and organizations from diverse contexts. The BWA is a fellowship of 228 conventions and unions in 121 countries and territories comprising 42 million members in 177,000 churches.
Callam made special reference to the Covenant on Intra-Baptist Relations which was adopted by the BWA General Council in its July 2013 meeting in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. The BWA leader emphasized that the document considers how members of the worldwide Baptist movement understand each other, how they communicate with each other, and how they interpret their participation in the BWA. The covenant provides a set of values around which BWA members could find consensus and is meant to address issues concerning relations among participants in the organized life of the Baptist family. The values affirmed may also serve as a guide to those involved in national or regional structures serving Baptist life “translocally.”
The covenant will, hopefully, help protect against any one group or perspective holding a privileged place in the way the BWA conducts its affairs, especially in light of the fact that the BWA first emerged as essentially a North Atlantic alliance at its founding in 1905. The intention is that the international Baptist body, the only one of its kind on a global scale for Baptists, would not be a victim of cultural captivity. “The Covenant should contribute to the reduction of tension among believers from various cultures when they gather to discern the mind of Christ on difficult issues of concern to them in the worldwide Baptist movement,” Callam said.
The challenge, Callam told the CS-CWC, was how partners within the worldwide Baptist movement maintain accountability to each other in living out the values enshrined in the covenant, especially in its implementation now that it has been approved.
Callam also commended the Faith and Order paper on Moral Discernment in the Churches as a resource on which the BWA may draw as supplemental support for the BWA covenant. “I do not believe this report is useful only in the process of understanding and adjudicating conflict in ecclesial life around issues of morals,” he said. “It also provides insights that may greatly assist one’s understanding of what is happening when groups meet to deliberate on a wide range of issues of concern within a Christian context.”
Baptist World Alliance®
© December 5, 2013