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Global Baptists Gather in Turkey

by Jim Hill

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of representing Churchnet at the Annual Gathering of the Baptist World Alliance. Forestal Lawton, Director of the Men’s Department of the BWA and Vice President of Churchnet, and Brian Kaylor, Communications & Engagement Leader for Churchnet, also attended the gathering, which was held in Izmir, Turkey. We had the opportunity to welcome a small group of Baptist congregations in Turkey, who recently formed an alliance. to the global Baptist family. Every year the gathering offers the opportunity for Baptists from around the world to come together for commission and committee meetings, fellowship, worship, and the general council meetings to conduct the business of the BWA.

One of the highlights every year is the presentation of the Human Rights Award. This year Ilie Coada, a Baptist pastor in Moldova, who worked tirelessly against human trafficking and the sex trade in his country, was presented with the 2014 Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award. The award is given for significant and effective activities to secure, protect, restore, or preserve human rights as stated in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other declarations on human rights. Coada established a relief association to manage his various projects. He opened a shelter for vulnerable girls, many of whom were raised in ophanages, to live and complete their education. He also founded a community center that offers after-school programs to more than 500 children. He began an elder-care program in connection with the children’s center so senior adults could share meals and build relationships with the children as adopted grandparents.

Another very important decision made at this year’s Annual Gathering was the election of a new president to lead the BWA during the next 5 years. Ngwedla Paul Msiza of South Africa was elected president of the BWA. He was elected along with 12 vice presidents by the BWA General Council. Msiza, 53, will take office at the conclusion of the 21st Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa in July next year. He will follow John Upton of the United States who will be completing his term. Msiza, a current Vice President, has been actively involved in the BWA since 2000. He sits on the General Council, the Executive Committee, the Nominations Committee, the Congress Committee, the Mission, Evangelism and Theological Reflection Advisory Committee and the Promotion and Development Advisory Committee. He was president of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship, one of six regional fellowships of the BWA, from 2006-2011 and general secretary of the Baptist Convention of South Africa (BCSA) from 2001-2010. I know he will provide excellent leadership for the BWA.

Following the conclusion of the General Council meeting, the BWA group had the privilege of visiting the ruins of Ephesus. It is one of the most fascinating of the Biblical sites and features incredible ancient ruins. This was my second visit to Ephesus and it was great to see the progress of the excavation. The Apostle Paul spent a great deal of time in Ephesus, which was the capital of Asia Minor. Ephesus and Izmir (Smyrna) were two of seven churches to which the book of the Revelation was addressed.

I hope you will consider attending the BWA World Congress planned for next year in Durban, South Africa. It will provide a wonderful opportunity to engage with the global Baptist family.

You can contact Jim Hill, Churchnet’s Executive Director, at (888) 420-2426 ext. 705 or at jimhill@churchnet.org.