Looking Forward

July 04, 2013

Once again my time at the Annual Gathering of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) started with a morning worship gathering. Today's theme, "Beyond Self-centeredness," seemed to heavily feature two ideas: creation (because we see our place in light of God's work) and considering the future (instead of just doing what we want now despite the consequences to come for ourselves or others). The service was led by Charlemagne Nditemeh of Cameroon (the photo is one I took of Nditemeh during the service), with the sermon delivered by Karen Kirlew of Jamaica. Additionally, scripture passages were read in Portuguese by Nelson Teixeira of Brazil and in English by Julie Belding of New Zealand. All three songs during the service came from Jamaica, and each of them mentioned the beauty of creation - including references to the ocean and the mountains. So afterward I responded to that message by going for a swim in the ocean as the mountains watched nearby.

In the afternoon, I attended the meeting of the North American Baptist Fellowship (NABF). The NABF is one of six regional fellowships in the BWA and each of them held a meeting this afternoon. Most of the discussion involved thinking about the future of NABF, which has historically maintained a minimal presence. With next year bringing the 50th anniversary celebration of the group - thereby making it less than half as old as the BWA - plans are being made to celebrate that milestone and make plans for the future of the group. Speakers during the meeting included NABF President Jim Hill (my boss at Churchnet), General Secretary George Bullard, and BWA President John Upton (who as a Virginian is part of the NABF). Plans for the next BWA World Congress (held every five years) were also discussed; it will be in South Africa in 2015. Churchnet had a nice presence for a small organization with Hill there as president along with Vice President Forrestal Lawton (who heads the BWA's Men's Department), and myself (the photo is of the three of us at the NABF meeting with Hill on the left and Lawton on the right).

For the evening session, I attended a forum on "Intra-Baptist Relations" (the photo is of BWA General Secretary Neville Callam, a Jamaican, during his remarks at the forum). The session featured the presentation of a document designed to offer suggestions on how Baptists from different cultures, languages, and backgrounds can better come together. Apparently there have been some tensions in the past that this document hopes to help relieve. Future plans include building upon the principles outlined by offering resources to help conventions and churches communicate, relate, and work together. The document includes statements about language and communication that are excellent points. Here are a couple highlights:
However, the BWA commitment to open dialogue and honest communication in the midst of our profound diversity also presents the BWA with perhaps the greatest challenge to the unity we are called to maintain. That challenge comes in the form of the difficulty of achieving clear, precise and commonly-understood communication through the use of language, especially when translation from one language to multiple languages is involved. ... The members of the BWA celebrate the gift of language that reflects our rich diversity. Language is an index of one's identity and affirms one's history and culture.
There are other good parts to the document, but this excerpt clearly captures the importance of thinking about language. Hopefully the document will help the BWA in this gathering and future ones. After the session, I walked over to the beach to enjoy the last fleeting moments of daylight. There is something about being able to stare far off into the horizon. It almost creates the sensation that there is nothing else out there. But perhaps that is part of the faith journey - knowing that one must go forward even if the destination cannot yet be seen. You can see more photos I snapped of the three sessions and the ocean here.


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