Former Baptist World Alliance Leader Nilson Fanini Dies at 77

Brazilian pastor and evangelist Nilson do Amaral Fanini, who led the Baptist World Alliance from 1995 to 2000, died Saturday after having been hospitalized with pneumonia on Sept. 13.

Fanini, who was 77 when he died, had suffered a stroke while being treated for pneumonia and consequently fell into a coma that he never recovered from, according to the Associated Baptist Press.

On Sunday, missionaries of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Missions Board in Brazil urged for prayers for Fanini's widow, Helga, and his family, which includes a daughter, two sons, and four grandchildren.

"Our hearts go out to the family at this time, and I know that the Missionary family will do it's best to be there for 'solidariedade familiar'. He did love the missionaries and those that sent them," reported retired Southern Baptist missionary Bruce Oliver.

As a pastor, Fanini founded one of the largest churches in South America – the 7,000-member First Baptist Church of Niteroi, a suburb of Rio de Janeiro.

As an evangelist, Fanini led evangelistic crusades in over 80 countries, conducted thousands of baptisms, and preached to tens of millions in South America through his radio and television ministry, which reportedly received some financial aid from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to get started.

As BWA leader, Fanini – a graduate from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas – made evangelism the hallmark of his presidency. Though Fanini viewed the BWA's primary role as defending human rights, attacking social injustice, promoting peace, and helping those who were hungry and those with desperate needs, he placed evangelism at the heart of the fellowship of more than 200 Baptist conventions and unions.

Four years after Fanini stepped down as president, the Southern Baptist Convention withdrew its membership from the BWA over the worldwide organization's drift toward liberalism.

According to reports, the Fanini family is inviting all those who can come to Fanini's memorial service, which is scheduled to be held next Saturday, Sept. 26, at the Getsemani Baptist Church in Ft. Worth. All of Fanini's children live in Texas.

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