Community Dialogue

March 09, 2014

Neville Callam
Over the weekend I attended a gathering of the North American Baptist Fellowship (NABF), a regional fellowship of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). Called "FutureBaptists," the two-day event at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia focused on reflecting on Baptist history to consider the future work upon which Baptists in North America should focus. BWA General Secretary Neville Callam spoke at the event about the importance of community amid diversity. He urged those present to work toward a future marked by ecumenical fervency, evangelistic fervor, and Trinitarian faith. In small group dialogue sessions, Callam shared about the BWA's new document on "Intra-Baptist Relations," which I wrote about in Baptist World when the BWA adopted it in Jamaica last year. Although the NABF has not been as active as many of the other regional BWA fellowships, hopefully it can in the future serve as a stronger connector between local Baptist bodies and the global Baptist community.

Moreen Sharp talking about BWA women's ministries

One focus of the FutureBaptists event was how the NABF could better connect with the broader BWA community, with several BWA ministry leaders offering brief reports (such as about youth, women's, and men's ministries). Another focus of the event came as participants broke into small groups to dialogue about key issues that the NABF should focus on over the next few years. About half of the event was spent in these small group sessions, with each group then offering a presentation about their ideas. The event drew a fairly small crowd (with only about 90 people present), in part due to planning decisions regarding format and promotion. Yet, I found the discussions mostly interesting and hopeful. The real test will be to see what emerges from the gathering.

A dialogue group

Part of the idea of FutureBaptists was to build on past models of Baptist collaboration. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of the NABF and the 200th anniversary of the creation of the Triennial Convention (the group now known as American Baptist Churches, USA). The Triennial Convention was formed in Philadelphia to bring Baptist churches together to support missionary endeavors. Its creation transformed Baptists in the U.S. as they came together for their first unified missions effort. As BWA President John Upton, who also serves as Executive Director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia, noted during his remarks at the gathering, collaborating with other Baptists transforms us.

John Upton

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