Worship and Advocacy

July 08, 2014

Turkish politicians and Baptist leaders
(photo credit: Brian Kaylor)
Today has been an interesting day of old and new culture with quite a lot of worship and advocacy issues mixed in. This morning, the Annual Gathering of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) in Izmir, Turkey started off with a worship service that was followed by a ceremony featuring several local and national Turkish leaders. Those bringing greetings to the global Baptist family were Turkey's Culture & Tourism Director Abdülaziz Ediz, Justice and Development Party Izmir Deputy Rifat Sait (who is part of majority party and represented the Turkish Prime Minister), Aytun Ciray (who is vice president of Turkey's main opposition party, the Republican People's Party), and Mayor of Izmir Aziz Kocaoglu. Each of them referenced the importance of religious freedoms and Ciray cited Baptist preacher Martin Luther King, Jr. Hopefully our presence helps Turkish Baptist gain better recognition and protection from Turkish politicians. Ertan Çevik, pastor of Izmir Baptist Church and President of the Alliance of Baptist Churches in Turkey, also spoke at the ceremony along with BWA General Secretary Neville Callam and BWA President John Upton. The ceremony attracted several Turkish reporters, sparking several stories already.

St. Polycarp Church
(photo credit: Brian Kaylor)
During lunch, I realized that the nine people at the table came from seven countries: Germany, Ireland, Iraq, Israel, Netherlands, Syria, and the United States. It led to fascinating discussions and represents what the BWA is all about. This afternoon, those attending the BWA gathering had an opportunity to tour the inside of St. Polycarp Church, which is rarely opened to tourists (I earlier wrote about seeing the outside). It is a fascinating and beautiful building filled with murals and statues. The oldest Christian church in Izmir and dating to 1620, it was like walking back through hundreds of years of worship. It was moving to stand there, see the memorials of those in the past, and think of many others who stood there over the years. I appreciate the hospitality of our Turkish sisters and brothers who welcomed into their holy space.

Turkish pastor Orhan Pıçaklar, General Secretary of
the Alliance of Baptist Churches in Turkey
(photo credit: Brian Kaylor)
The day wrapped up for me with two panel sessions. The first featured Aundreia Alexander of the American Baptist Churches USA talking about advocacy for and with refugees and stateless people. She rightly noted an area where Christians should be involved. My Ethics Daily article tomorrow will provide greater detail about her comments. Later, I attended a fellowship hosted by the European Baptist Federation featuring their mission partnership program. Churchnet currently supports a Ukrainian church planter through this program. The stories from Ukraine, Turkey, Hungary and elsewhere were inspiring. Speakers came from Scotland, U.S., Ukraine, Turkey, and Romania. The EBF is engaged in exciting work to support church planters working among their own people groups across Europe and the Middle East. The EBF is understanding the changing cultures of its region and working to reach more people with the gospel. An inspiring day, I am left thinking more about our need for both worship and advocacy. You can view more photos from my third day in Izmir here.

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