(FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA, USA – January 6, 2023) Following a global search process, the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) has selected Jenny Stewart of Australia/United Kingdom as its first Director of Ministries and Chief Operating Officer.
Working closely with the General Secretary/CEO, this new position will provide leadership to the five BWA ministry areas – Worship, Fellowship, and Unity; Mission and Evangelism; Aid, Relief, and Community Development; Religious Freedom, Human Rights, and Justice; and Transformational Leadership and Theological Reflection. The role will be responsible for collaborating together with each ministry’s personnel regarding strategy and finances, ensuring alignment with the BWA’s overall mission for meaningful impact.
“We are blessed to welcome Jenny Stewart to the BWA team and look forward to how the Lord will use her gifts and experience to further God’s global mission,” said BWA General Secretary Elijah Brown.
Stewart comes to the position with wide-ranging experience in finance, communications, event coordination, and nonprofit management. With a financial and accounting management background, she has served several ministries in her career. From 2002-2010 she was the Events Manager and Communications and Publications Manager for the Baptist Union of Great Britain, followed by her role as the Operations Director for Scripture Union International from 2010-2019.
Stewart has been active in the ministry of the BWA since 1998 when she attended her first BWA meeting, the International Worship Conference held in Berlin, Germany.
“It was an incredibly challenging and blessed experience as the Baptist family from around the world came together and shared their worship traditions with each other – new and old. We all had so much to learn. It certainly encouraged me to continue my BWA involvement as I could see how much more we could impact the world for Christ by working together and learning from each other,” said Stewart.
She was a key leader in the planning of the centennial Baptist World Congress held in Birmingham, England, in 2005, and she has served in a contract role as Special Projects Coordinator (SPC) for the BWA since 2020. As SPC, Stewart worked with the General Secretary on projects including governance, membership, and department reviews; development of an updated Human Resources Policy and Manual; and assistance with transitioning the 2020 Congress from an in-person to virtual event. Before her recent contract role, Stewart also served extensively on BWA committees.
“It is a great honor for me to accept the appointment to the role of Director of Ministries/Chief Operating Officer for the BWA,” said Stewart. “I am grateful for the gifts and experiences God has given me over the years and I see them all coming together in this role. I look forward to using them as I play my part in supporting General Secretary Elijah Brown as well as facilitating both individuals and the various BWA groups to be well connected and to flourish in their ministry as we continue to grow and explore new ways to achieve our mission together.”
Stewart’s appointment, with a start date pending obtaining the necessary work visa, was announced in July 2022 at the Executive Committee meeting preceding the Annual Gathering held in Birmingham, Alabama (USA). Later in the week, she was also included in a special General Council commissioning prayer time. Having successfully obtained her work visa, she has relocated and is serving at the BWA Headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia, effective January 1, 2023.
(FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA – October 14, 2022) For more than 70 years, Baptist women around the world have united every November for Baptist Women’s World Day of Prayer. This year a new tradition will be added to the historic event as Baptist World Alliance Women (BWA Women) kicks off the 2022 Day of Prayer this Saturday, October 15, with an online global worship experience.
“Time and distance have long been limiting factors in our ability to gather on a global level, but we are grateful to leverage technology this year that in many incredible ways defies past limits,” said J. Merritt Johnston, BWA Women Executive Director. “What a legacy to honor and a history to join as we gather in new ways to pray in homes, churches, and communities around the world. I believe women will be encouraged and inspired to worship in multiple languages, study God’s Word alongside global leaders, and hear ministry updates from across the globe.”
Participants can choose from one of three worship times listed below.
ASIA and PACIFIC: 12:00 pm AEDT (Sydney Time)
AFRICA, EUROPE, and the MIDDLE EAST: 12:00 pm CEST (Paris Time)
CARIBBEAN, LATIN AMERICA, and NORTH AMERICA: 12:00 pm EDT (New York Time)
Those interested in joining are encouraged to register for the Day of Prayer online platform, which is another new addition to this year’s resources. Through the platform, women can network with women’s ministry leaders around the world, participate in prayer-focused devotions, discover how others are celebrating Day of Prayer, and collaborate to further the global mission. The worship services will also be available for viewing on the BWA Women YouTube channel. All are encouraged to visit YouTube.com/bwawomen to subscribe.
Traditionally celebrated on the first Monday of November, Baptist Women’s World Day of Prayer has grown in recent years to include the months of October and November with observances from BWA Women continental unions, national Baptist women’s unions and associations, as well as individual churches in every region of the world.
BWA Women leaders have created numerous resources for Day of Prayer including a 40-day prayer calendar, testimonies from each continent, and a detailed prayer guide with prayer requests and praises from each of the seven continental unions. The guide also includes a Bible study written by BWA Women President Karen Wilson focused on this year’s theme and biblical text: “Victorious Life” taken from 2 Corinthians 2:14 – “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in the triumph of Christ, and through us reveals the fragrance of the knowledge of him in every place.”
“We are to bring this aroma of Christ to a world in great need of such a fragrance. When we are present, the fragrance is vivid. However, even when we depart, the fragrance still lingers. Then, regardless of the state of our world, the challenges that arise, or the conflicts around us, victory is found in bringing the nature of God – the true knowledge of God – to every situation,” said Wilson.
Women are also encouraged to participate in the annual Day of Prayer global offering that is utilized to support initiatives in each of the seven continental women’s unions and BWA Women’s five global ministry areas: (1) Worship, Fellowship, and Unity; (2) Mission and Evangelism; (3) Aid, Relief, and Community Development; (4) Religious Freedom, Human Rights, and Justice; and (5) Advancing Theological Reflection and Transformational Leadership.
This year’s projects include healthcare training for those responding to the crisis in Myanmar, evangelistic outreach through women’s conferences in Iraq, expansion of a crisis hotline ministry in Latin America, crisis pregnancy care in Canada, education for girls and young women in Cameroon, women-focused literacy training in Papua New Guinea, equipment for a safe shelter in Jamaica, and support for a hope house ministry in Azerbaijan offering care for victims of gender-based violence and sex trafficking. In addition, the offering will help support BWA Women’s continued response to the global refugee crisis resulting from the war in Ukraine, economic crisis in Venezuela, military coup in Myanmar, and beyond.
“Just the thought of women from all over the world uniting in prayer to pray for the lost, pray for those suffering, and to especially pray for a fallen world where you see so many struggling each day. It totally and completely excites me to know I can and will be a part of this event,” says Donna Rackley from Columbia, Mississippi (USA). Jane Ridge from the United Kingdom adds, “It’s a time of bringing Baptist women together to focus on praying for all women worldwide. It is a very spiritual time, especially knowing the whole world is praying too.”
Women are encouraged to follow BWA Women on Facebook and Instagram on Monday, November 7, for updates from Day of Prayer gatherings around the world. To learn more or to access Day of Prayer resources, visit BWAWomen.org.
Gathering for the first time in person since 2019, over 600 Baptist leaders from more than 65 countries participated in worship, prayer, learning, relationship building, and shared ministry at the 2022 Baptist World Alliance (BWA) Annual Gathering. Offered as a hybrid event, hundreds met on the campus of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, with more than 150 others participating virtually. With a strategic focus on racial justice, the Annual Gathering included two racial justice forums with globally recognized racial justice advocates as well as group reflections presented by the BWA’s 14 commissions.
The thematic focus and content development for the Gathering was largely facilitated by the BWA Racial Justice Action Group launched in October 2020 with unanimous affirmation from the BWA Executive Committee. Co-chaired by BWA General Secretary Elijah M. Brown and BWA First Vice President Karl Johnson from Jamaica, the Action Group embarked on a two-year journey to:
Focus the 2022 BWA Annual Gathering around the theme of racial justice featuring keynote speakers, the work of all 14 BWA Commissions, pilgrimages, and other points of prayer and action
Engage in theological reflection related to the call for racial justice today within society and the church with special consideration of the subject of reparations
Develop tools for ongoing engagement within the BWA, BWA Member Bodies, and Churches so that the pursuit of racial justice will remain an ongoing priority
Alongside the Co-Chairs, the founding Action Group members include Cassandra Jones (Chair of the BWA Commission on Racial, Gender, and Economic Justice, USA), Everton Jackson (BWA Director of Integral Mission, Jamaica), Michael Okwakol (former BWA Vice President and Founder/President of African Church Empowerment Ministries, Uganda), and Silvia Rapisarda (Pastor of Chiesa Battista di Catania, Italy). Marsha Scipio (Trinidad and Tobago/USA) was added in February 2021 upon her appointment as Baptist World Aid Director.
The opening worship celebration on Monday, July 11, included a poignant message from John K. Jenkins Sr., senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Maryland, USA, who quoted from Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely form the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.” Drawing from a long history of Baptist advocacy for racial justice, the BWA seeks to be a strong voice at this critical time, outlining a series of actions throughout the Gathering.
RESTORATIVE RACIAL JUSTICE STATEMENT
In collaboration with relevant BWA Commissions and a wider sets of key stakeholders, experts, and leaders, the Action Group developed a statement entitled “Restorative Racial Justice: A Call to Flourishing Freedom” that was unanimously affirmed by the Executive Committee on July 9, 2022, and presented to the BWA General Council on Tuesday, July 12.
“As we seek to follow justice and justice alone, our prayers of faith in Jesus Christ lead us to pursue intentional actions of repair and restoration, including in reparation,” said Brown.
Arising from this document, the BWA Resolutions Committee developed a resolution on restorative racial justice, acknowledging that the global issue “demands a renewed commitment to the enduring principles of racial justice and human freedom, based on the fundamental theological conviction that all people are created in God’s image and thus deserve to be treated with respect and justice and enjoy flourishing freedom.” The resolution concluded with a recommendation that all Baptists study the newly released Birmingham Statement on Restorative Racial Justice and prayerfully engage in their respective communities. A second resolution focused on slavery reparations was also approved, affirming “the biblical basis for reparations” and acknowledging the continued impact of slavery on “many communities and nations today” – including many in which there are BWA member bodies.
“I want to say something about this moment,” said Karl Johnson, BWA First Vice President. “I learned from Lee Spitzer [BWA Historian] that this body has passed some 60 resolutions dealing with racism and racial justice in the past, but not one has ever been passed on the subject of reparations. Today is a historic day in the life of the Alliance.”
RECOGNITION OF EMMANUEL McCALL
To honor his decades of faithful service to the global Baptist family and impactful advocacy in the area of racial justice, Emmanuel McCall was inducted into the General Secretary’s Global Leadership Council, whose other members include Billy Kim and David Coffey.
“These are individuals who represent the best of the BWA and whose sacrificial ministry of truly global impact within Baptist life affords them a permanent place of honor within the BWA,” said Brown. “Today I am honored to induct a third individual into the General Secretary’s Global Leadership Council. He will be the first to be inducted who was not previously a President of the BWA but whose ministry in BWA life has been an incredible investment.”
An attendee at 43 BWA Annual Gatherings, McCall is a former BWA Vice President and served as the Chair of the Local Arrangements Committee for the International Summit on Baptists Against Racism and Ethnic Conflict in 1999. McCall has also been honored for his advocacy in the United States by Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and is the first inductee in the Global Leadership Council from North America.
“Dr. Emmanuel McCall has given his life to the pursuit of racial justice and authentic reconciliation between people. His leadership in this area within, before, and beyond his involvement in our fellowship is the reason we have named our initiative for racial justice and leadership The Emmanuel McCall Initiative. The entire Cooperative Baptist family joins me in gratitude for his courageous faithfulness and in celebration of this recognition today by the Baptist World Alliance,” said Paul Baxley, Executive Coordinator of Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
Baptist World Aid and the BWA Forum for Aid and Development hosted a special luncheon focused on “Decolonizing Aid: A Matter of Justice.” Unequal power dynamics in the international aid sector have led local activists to become increasingly vocal about how power and resources are manipulated by those in the Global North.
“Decolonizing aid calls us to address and dismantle racist and discriminatory structures and practices that are hidden in plain sight. It challenges the humanitarian aid sector to transform itself by shifting power and resources to local agencies,” said BWAid Director Marsha Scipio.
The event featured guest speaker Mueni Mutinda (Kenya/Canada) who has served extensively in Africa in the areas of conservation farming, gender-based development, and climate change. A response panel featuring activist and nonprofit leader Asha Sanchu (India), Executive Secretary-Treasurer of Lott Carey Mission Convention Emmett Dunn (Liberia/USA), and Executive Director of Baptist Mission Australia Scott Pilgrim (Australia) offered reflections and fielded questions from the audience.
RACIAL JUSTICE FORUMS
The Racial Justice in the Public Square Forum convened on Tuesday, July 11, with a one-hour panel designed to help churches and followers of Christ learn how to partner with community and national leaders to meaningfully pursue racial justice in the public sphere. The forum focused on:
Education, led by Andy Westmoreland, immediate past President of Samford University
Community and civic engagement, led by Randall Woodfin, Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama
National political engagement, led by Allan Boesak, a prominent South African leader in the struggle against apartheid
“When we say justice, we say Jesus,” said Boesak. “The more we say Jesus, the more we have to say justice. And the more we have to say justice, we have to say Jesus. Because without Jesus – without his love, his strength, his mercy, and his power and his grace, we’ll never be able to continue the fight for justice.”
The forum concluded with small group breakout sessions to further listen and learn alongside those working for racial justice in their contexts. Boesak spoke again on Thursday, July 14, on the topic of Racial Justice and Christian Witness before several hundred attendees embarked on a pilgrimage to Montgomery, Alabama, to visit The Legacy Museum and Lynching Memorial.
SERVICE OF RECOMMITMENT
Gathering at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, attendees participated in a powerful service of recommitment. Bryan Stevenson, founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and a leader in the establishment of the memorial, served as the keynote speaker relating stories from his own experiences with racial injustice.
“I am convinced that the opposite of poverty is justice,” said Stevenson.
A combination of General Secretaries and Officers from the six BWA regional fellowships voiced a commitment to stand for racial justice, and President Tomás Mackey led a litany uniting the global family in a declaration of purposeful engagement. Each placed a stone with an inscribed word of commitment into a bowl which was then poured over with water by General Secretary Brown as BWAid Director Scipio read the words of Amos 5:24: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
“Gathering as God’s people from the East and West, North and South, representing the global Baptist family, we make this solemn vow in the presence of the Triune God to recommit to upholding justice generally but more specifically racial justice as a visible sign of the presence of the Kingdom of God,” said Mackey as he lead the litany.
Attendees were given the opportunity to earn a racial justice leadership certificate during the event by participating in both racial justice forums as well as a minimum of five BWA commission presentations. Twenty-one individuals completed the necessary requirements and were awarded the certificate during the final General Council session.
As part of the longstanding pledge to pursue racial justice, the BWA has committed an immediate $100,000 USD to empower restorative racial justice engagement within and by our BWA family. This will include:
$30,000 USD in grants available to the six BWA regions to help research, establish, and highlight racial justice champions within the region.
$30,000 USD in grants available to BWA member bodies that would help at least one member body in each region empower restorative racial and ethnic justice initiatives, training, education, or advocacy.
$10,000 USD to help foster listening, learning, relationship building, and global engagement among grant recipients and to help sponsor at least two grant recipients or beneficiaries to an upcoming BWA Annual Gathering or Congress.
$30,000 USD in pursuit of advocacy work at the United Nations, other multilateral institutions, or in national capitals on behalf of restorative racial justice and reparations.
Meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, on July 12, the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Council unanimously approved the Missionary Baptist Conference, USA (MBC), as the newest member of the global Baptist body.
With 10,000 members in 59 churches, MBC has planted churches and ministries in North America, Africa, Oceania, and the Caribbean.
The group, which describes itself as a “multi-ethnic missional Baptistic Revivalistic movement in the Black Baptist tradition,” traces its heritage to Ethiopian Baptists of Jamaica and the witness of George Lisle, Hagar Simpson, Hannah Williams, and other enslaved persons working in Jamaica.
Led by President John Harris, General Clerk Carrie Jarrell Turning, and Vice President for Intra-Baptist Relations Jill Awuni, MBC states it “is a national and international body of Baptist followers of Jesus Christ, individuals and autonomous congregations who bear witness to the gospel of Jesus the Christ through cooperative resources, ministry, and missions, as well as answering God’s call for reconciling this fragmented world.”
The MBC mission aligns strategically with the BWA’s commitment to network Baptists worldwide with the unified purpose to impact the world for Christ.
“Membership in the BWA means that the Missionary Baptist Conference, USA, takes seriously the high priestly prayer of Jesus ‘that they all may be one’ (John 17:21),” said Harris. “In covenant with other Baptistic bodies globally, together we are faithfully living out the convictions of our common Baptist faith and witness, proclaiming the good news of the Gospel in Jesus Christ, and fulfilling the great commission. MBCUSA believes cooperation among Baptists is necessary to advance the Kingdom of God ‘on earth as it is in heaven.'”
MBC also recently joined the North American Baptist Fellowship (NABF), one of six regional fellowships of the BWA.
“We believe that the Missionary Baptist Conference, USA, is a welcome addition to the broad work and ministry of the North American Baptist Fellowship and therefore the Baptist World Alliance,” said Jeremy Bell, General Secretary of NABF. “They are an active and growing work that is committed to collegial engagement and ministry.”
The addition of MBC brings the total membership of BWA to 246 conventions and unions in 128 countries and territories. MBC is BWA’s 21st member body in the United States.
Samuel C. Tolbert, Jr. was unanimously elected Vice President for the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) at the global body’s Annual Gathering in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, on Thursday, July 14. The election comes after nominations were solicited from North American Baptist Fellowship and all BWA member bodies in North America.
Currently serving as president of the North American Baptist Fellowship, one of six regional bodies of the BWA, Tolbert has had significant impact as a Baptist leader in North America.
Tolbert has been pastor of Greater St. Mary Missionary Baptist Church in Lake Charles, Louisiana for nearly 40 years. He is also a member of Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention, a BWA member body, and serves as president of the National Baptist Convention of America, International, Inc., which is also a BWA member body with over 12,000 churches and 3 million members.
Tolbert will serve as BWA Vice President from 2022-2025. He joins 14 other Vice Presidents from all regions of the world who network and support the work of the BWA.
“I am indeed honored and excited to serve as a BWA Vice President,” said Tolbert. “I look forward to a tenure of networking with BWA constituents to impact the world for Jesus Christ. The Baptist global family is strategically positioned to pray, listen, and learn how to respond to challenges.”
In addition to his leadership in Baptist life, Tolbert is also a recognized civic leader. He served as a Commissioner for the Lake Charles Housing Authority, served 12 years as a representative of District “A” on the Lake Charles City Council, and served as a member of the Board of the Louisiana Economic Development Corporation.
Tolbert holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Historic Bishop College (formally of Dallas, TX, USA), Master of Divinity from Payne Theological Seminary (Wilberforce, Ohio, USA), and earned a Doctor of Ministry from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, USA.
Having a heart for missions, Tolbert has organized, led, partnered and participated in many global mission trips – spreading the Gospel in The Bahamas, Canada, England, France, Germany, Ghana, Guyana, Haiti, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, South Africa, Switzerland, and Zimbabwe.
Tolbert has been married to Matilda Edwards Tolbert for more than 30 years, and they have two daughters.