Is the Baptist World Alliance truly international?

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) was founded in 1905 principally by English speaking Baptist communities together with a handful of European nations. Over 105 years later it has become a major Christian world communion with representative member bodies in almost every nation of the globe. Between 2005 and 2010 I served on a group seeking to truly internationalise the “leadership” of this word Christian communion to equip it to represent the real Baptist family of the 21st century.  Sadly, it has proved to be a hard task!

Recently the BWA sought to initiate conversations with world Pentecostalism. Baptists interact with Pentecostalists in all continents of our world, but we could not, it seems, create an international team for this important dialogue!

Who represents us?

Neville Callam – graduate, Harvard, USA

Fausto Vasconcales – doctoral degree, South Western Seminary, USA

Timothy George, Dean, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, USA

Bill Brackney, Acadia University, Nova Scotia, Canada

Curtis Freeman, Duke University, North Carolina, USA

All the above are excellent academics, but where is the representation from Africa, Asia, Central Asia, Europe (east and west), Central America and the like where Baptist – Pentecostal encounter is so important?

–  Keith


  • Steve Harmon

    Keith, your point is a good one and well taken. This small planning team for the “pre-conversations,” however, will in all likelihood not be identical to the full delegation for the formal series of conversations. The 2006-2010 BWA-PCPCU conversations is likely the precedent: a small and arguably less representative group involved in pre-convesations, but a larger and more globally inclusive delegation for the formal conversations.

  • Curtis Freeman

    Keith and IBTS Friends:

    Thanks for the worry about this question of diversity. It is one shared by all of the participants in the pre-conversations. Let me try to clarify that this meeting was not really a conversation, except in a preliminary way. It was a set of pre-conversations arranged and hosted by the chair of the Commission on Doctrine and Christian Unity–Dr. Timothy George. He was charged by the BWA General Secretary, Dr. Neville Callam, to come up with the theme, topics, purpose, schedule, etc.

    Such pre-conversation meetings have been convened before for this purpose. For example, there was a pre-conversation meeting in DC before the Baptist-Catholic conversations. The team and observers were international on both sides. Moreover, none of the Baptists came with the understanding that they were there for any reason except to do precisely what you’ve well articulated.

    From my understanding, it is the intention of the BWA to put together a Baptist delegation that will be representative of the global community of Baptists, and it is expected that the Pentecostals will do the same. The first meeting in the summer will be in Quito, Ecuador, which was so planned to address precisely the concerns you’ve raised. I have every confidence that everything you’ve raised will be addressed.

    Grace and Peace,
    Curtis Freeman

  • Curtis Freeman

    By the way, Bill Brackney is the Millard Cherry Chair at Acadia. So there weren’t two Canadians from Acadia University!

  • Curtis Freeman

    Friends: Here is a recent piece reporting the General Secretary’s call for diversity in international dialogues and conversations. All the best, Curtis Freeman

    Callam calls for balanced representation in international dialogues
    March 23, 2012

    Washington (BWA)–At the Forum on Bilateral Dialogues held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Baptist World Alliance (BWA) General Secretary Neville Callam said the composition of teams participating in bilateral dialogues at the international level must reflect the diversity of the Christian world.

    Callam made the remarks on March 10 at the Forum where he represented both the BWA and the Committee of Secretaries of Christian World Communions. He was chosen for this task when the group of international church leaders met last October in their annual meeting in Silver Spring, Maryland, in the United States.

    The BWA leader said “attention needs to be paid to the relative strength of representation from the Global North and the Global South.” He also called for the agenda of bilateral dialogues to reflect more intentionally the typical concerns of churches in the Global South.

    The Forum on Bilateral Dialogues provides opportunity for churches and families of churches to exchange information and consult one another on emerging issues, trends and concerns that are related to bilateral dialogues.

    The gathering in Dar es Salaam was the10th forum. It brought together 35 Christians World Communions representatives who are involved in bilateral dialogues at the international level.

    Commenting on the Forum, Callam said it “lived up to its reputation as a meaningful space for deliberation on the coherence of bilateral dialogues and the way in which the Holy Spirit uses them to advance the process toward the realization of the visible unity of the church.

  • Keitrh G Jones

    Thanks for this, Curtis. As we Yorkshire folk say “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Dare I add one thought – yes, the Global south must be there, but what about the church majority – women ? Noteably lacking from the affirmation of the BWA General Secretary. The Global east – Slavic countries, the Balkans, Middle East and Central Asia also deserve a look-in. Yet, my main point remains – let Baptist women have their true place at the table of dialogue.

  • Curtis Freeman

    Thanks for responding, Keith. All good points. I didn’t know that was a Yorkshire saying, though I have learned that you mean something quite different than we Americans by the word “pudding.”

    Both delegations of the Baptist-Catholic conversations were well represented by women. We’ll see how the BWA-PWF dialogues shape up. But I think your point was heard.

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