Baptist Centenary Congress Kicks Off

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) Centenary Congress kicks off today at the International Conference Centre (ICC) in Birmingham, with guest speakers former US president Jimmy Carter and Rick Warren.

This year’s Congress celebrates the 100th anniversary since the BWA was first formed in London in July 1905. The BWA has grown over the years and now has a fellowship of 211 Baptist unions and conventions, comprising a membership of more than 34 million baptised believers with a worshipping community of 80 million.

The Congress has been blessed with an exclusive line-up of guest speakers including Jimmy Carter, President of the United States from 1976 – 1980 and Rick Warren of Purpose Driven Life fame.

Carter will be a guest speaker at a Friends of the BWA lunch on Saturday afternoon and will also present a BWA Human Rights Award during the Saturday evening celebrations at the National Indoor Arena (NIA).

The former US president will also lead a bible study session at the NIA on Sunday morning.

Mr Carter has for some time now been leading bible studies at his own church, the Maratha Baptist Church in his hometown of Plains, Georgia. He said in an interview with the Baptist Times: "I hope I will be able to deal succinctly with the teachings of the Christian faith with the current considerations of the general populous in the secular world."

Bible studies are being run every morning of the Congress with the Thursday and Friday sessions being in offered in Spanish, Russian, German and Korean.

Afternoons will see numerous workshops and focus groups taking an in-depth look at a variety of current issues affecting the world at the moment. Thursday and Friday’s topics include poverty, AIDS, human trafficking and prostitution.

Tony Campolo, the famous evangelical educator from the US, will be focusing particularly on poverty, war and injustice, as he leads Thursday’s group.

British evangelical Steve Chalke will look at the role of the church in building the kingdom of God as he leads the Friday talks.

Rick Warren, fresh from his first European Purpose Driven Life Conference held in Nottingham last week, is the main speaker of the Saturday night celebrations in the NIA.

Other evening celebration speakers include Billy Kim, the current President of the BWA; Myra Blyth, Chair of the Churches' Commission for Racial Justice in Great Britain; Solomon Ishola, General Secretary of the Nigerian Baptist Convention; and Fausto Vasconcelos (Brazil), President of the Union of Baptists in Latin America and the new BWA director for Evangelism and Education and Study and Research.

If you are not able to make it in person, then live video streaming of the complete programme is making it possible for everyone to get a peek of what is going on.