A global Baptist body kicked off the first day of its annual gathering Monday, bringing together hundreds of members worldwide to wrestle with some of the world's most challenging problems.
Baptist leaders from diverse backgrounds ranging from Christian professionals to denominational CEOs to mission leaders convened for the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) Gathering to discuss issues such as HIV/AIDS, genocide, poverty and missions.
The gathering, taking place July 2-7, estimates some 450 delegates from over 50 countries will participate in the event held in Accra, Ghana.
Participants will join in planning, worship, fellowship and discussions of the global social problems as well as missions.
Many in the Baptist family have increasingly focused on uniting behind social issues such as HIV/AIDS and poverty. Former president Jimmy Carter, for example, has organized a convocation next year which invites a broad-range of Baptists to counter the negative Baptist image and demonstrate Baptist unity centered around social concerns. A major part of the meeting will be promoting compassion agenda to address social justice and human rights.
Also, last month the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc. – the nation's largest African American religious organization – for the first time addressed HIV/AIDS at its annual conference.
The National Baptist Convention USA and the North American Baptist Fellowship – a key supporter of the Carter initiative – are both affiliated with BWA.
During the gathering in Ghana, special groups – including the Emerging Leaders Network, a group of mainly under-35 Baptist leaders, and pastors of Global Impact Churches – will convene throughout the week. Global Impact Churches are individual congregations that are BWA members making direct contributions to the Alliance's budget.
The highlight event will be a Memorial and Reconciliation Service at the Slave Castle at Cape Coast on July 5 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Britain's abolishment of slavery. The castle was formerly a holding area for capture and kidnapped Africans sent to the Americas during the slave trade.
BWA is also set to elect its new general secretary to succeed Denton Lotz, who retires in December after holding the position since 1988 on July 6. Neville Callam from Jamaica is the sole nominee.
The Baptist World Alliance began in London, England, in 1905 at the first Baptist World Congress. It is a fellowship of more than 200 Baptist conventions and unions claiming to represent a community of over 110 million Baptists.
In the United States, BWA members include the American Baptist Churches in the USA, the Baptist General Convention of Texas, the National Baptist Convention of America, and the North American Baptist Conference.