Hundreds of Baptist leaders around the world gathered in Seoul Korea for the weeklong General Council meeting of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), July 26, 2004. While the annual General Council itself is global in scale, the attendees focused their discussions on the upcoming global Baptist World Centenary Congress – a historic gathering set to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the BWA’s birth.
The Baptist World Alliance, the largest fellowship of international Baptist bodies, began in 1905 in Birmingham, England, to strengthen the unity of traditional Baptist churches and expand the Baptist tent across all nations. Since then, the 7-million-member Baptist community has grown to more than 110 million across dozens of countries.
The Baptist World Centenary Congress, historically scheduled for Birmingham England, will celebrate that growth as well as set greater plans for expansion and evangelism, July 27-31, 2005.
“This Congress will be a launch pad for evangelism of the BWA,” said Billy Kim, President of the BWA, during the BWA General Council’s opening service on Wednesday.
The General Council members approved “the topics of salvation, compassion, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, cleansing and living water” as the main themes of the Congress.
The Council also approved the list of speakers, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and renowned author of the “Purpose Driven Life” series Rick Warren.
Additionally, Council members discussed ways to emphasize the diversity within the Baptist tradition through music, dance and other festivities.
“A complete worship experience for each evening has been planned for each evening,” said Tony Peck, incoming General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation (EBF), of the upcoming Congress.
Specifically for the opening evening of the Congress, the Council approved “drama and the beloved kaleidoscope of national colors that represent the global Baptist family as representatives from many nations march in.”
With some 13,000 internal Baptists expected to attend, the Council members agreed to the “11 Bible studies Spanish, Russian, German, Korean, and English” to be taught by pastors from “Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa, the West Indies and the Caribbean.”
Leaders from Nagaland, Mexico, Ghana, the United States and England will also lead the songs, hymns, and worship choruses known around the world; more than 40 choirs and musical groups from around the world has been contacted to participate in the Congress.
The General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, David Coffey, said British Baptists are already “praying and planning on an unprecedented scale” and that “the fire is lit and the flames are spreading” in his country.
BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz praised and thanked British Baptists for their prayers and effort
“This Centenary Congress will indeed be a significant watershed experience for Baptists as we enter a new century of living, praying and working together in the BWA,” said Lotz.
John Sundquist, the Program Chair of the Congress, commented on what he hopes will happen during the 2005 meeting.
“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name, make known among the nations what He has done and proclaim that His name is exalted,” Sundquist said, quoting Isaiah 12:3-4.
“It is in that spirit that we ask the Lord to give us a wonderful Centenary Congress,”
The General Council meeting will end on July 31.