Vol 1 No. 4 Year of BWA

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Baptist World Alliance which first met in the
Exeter Hall in London in 1905.  That long ago event represented about 7 million Baptists
worldwide coming from a little over 2 dozen countries.  Now the Baptist World Alliance is
representative of 211 denominations in 200 countries which include 46 million baptized
believers and over 100 million adherents making it the largest body of Protestant believers in
the world.  The story is only partly told in the numerical growth of this part of God’s family,
there are also great expectations of what God will be doing in the future.

Before we look at the present and future, let me take you back to the opening night of the
BWA assembly where an actor playing the first Chairperson of that 1905 founding
convention, Alexander Maclaren, spoke to those of us assembled in Birmingham.  “Alexander
Maclaren” told us that we must remember two things that were foundational to our Christian
heritage and faith: first, we must do everything in the name of Jesus and secondly, we must
do everything in the power of the Holy Spirit.  I could not think of any better reminder or
greater encouragement to begin a series of meetings than that—it is instructional for personal
formation and for the deepening of our communities.  This exhortation was followed by some
gentle advice from the Archbishop-elect of York who brought greetings from the Anglican
church in Britain and then said to the assembled throng: “Stay close to God, stay close to
humanity and bring both God and humanity together.  Both these servants of God were not
aping spiritual clichés but laying a foundation for the week.  You got the sense in the first two
days of the BWA (which, incidentally meets every 5 years) that this was far more than the
meeting of a network but the re-covenanting of a people before God.

The theme of this week is “Jesus Christ Living Water” and that theme is being embellished in
talks on justice and mercy, visuals, and music in every form that remind us of our thirst yet
draw us to the source of how that thirst can be met in Jesus.  There is such amazing diversity
here with over 100 countries represented in the 13,500 delegates.  There are about 150
Canadians and we are well served and represented by Bruce Milne, a just-retiring BWA vice-
president and Gary Nelson, our general secretary and newly appointed vice-president.  I’m
going to ask them to share their impressions a little later on in the summer.

When the BWA first met in 1905, there were 3,000 delegates representing the developed
world in which 85% of all Christians lived.  This week in Birmingham is a reminder that a shift
in the face of Christianity has occurred with only 40% of Christians coming from the
developed world and 60% coming from the 2/3’s developing world.  Our diversity yet unity in Christ came, for me, in the high point of the first night’s service, when our actor friend
Alexander Maclaren, a woman from Africa and a young developmentally-challenged man
from England (who signed for us) led us in the Apostle’s Creed—one faith, one Lord Jesus
indeed.  Much, much more, next week…

Warmly in Christ

Jeremy Bell