Washington, D.C. (BWA) — The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) will lead a service of dedication for the new Baptism Center in Jordan at its official opening on March 20, 2009.
The center is located on the bank of the River Jordan on land closely approximate to the region known as Bethany beyond Jordan, where it is believed that John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ.
“The opening of the Baptism Center is an answer to our prayers and we express again our deep gratitude to King Abdullah for the gift of the Center as a place of Christian worship and pilgrimage,” said BWA President David Coffey. “I hope that many Baptists and other Evangelical Christians will visit the site as pilgrims and some will choose to confess their faith in Jesus Christ in the waters of baptism.”
Coffey and BWA General Secretary Neville Callam will lead the dedication service along with representatives of the Baptist community in the Middle East and other dignitaries. During the dedication, a plaque will be unveiled at the entrance of the center bearing the inscription, “The Commission of the Site of the Baptism of Jesus Christ welcomes here in particular foreign visiting pilgrims from the member churches of the Baptist World Alliance.”
The center will be owned and managed by the Baptism Site Commission of Jordan, and joins buildings of many other denominations that have recently been constructed on the official Baptism Site of Jesus Christ. The Center will be available for use by all Christian traditions that practice believer’s baptism by immersion.
The offer of a designated plot of land for a Baptism Center was made by Jordan’s King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein in September 2007 during Coffey’s visit with the leader. An agreement was reached between Coffey, who visited the site in May 2008, and Jordan’s Prince Ghazi Bin Mohammed, chairperson of the Board of Trustees for the Baptismal Site, that the location would be used for the construction of a Baptism Center to be dedicated and opened in the spring of 2009.
Nabeeh Abbassi, immediate past president of the Jordan Baptist Convention, and Nabil Costa, European Baptist Federation Middle East representative and executive director of the Lebanese Baptist Society, also participated in the planning discussions. The Baptism Center “is an act of appreciation for Christian presence in the region,” said Costa.
“In a time of severe conflict in the Middle East, where the numbers of Christians are rapidly declining, the opening of the Center is a significant sign of tolerance and peaceful relations with those of other faith traditions,” said Coffey.
The Jordan Baptist Convention has a membership of 20 churches with 1,200 members. In the five BWA member conventions in the Middle East region, there are a total of 83 Baptist churches with 5,450 members.
Other events are planned in Jordan prior to and following the dedication of the Baptism Center on March 20.
On March 19, the BWA will hold an informal meeting between Baptist and Muslim scholars to discuss the BWA response to “A Common Word Between Us and You,” a letter written by 138 Muslim scholars and leaders. (The BWA response is available on the BWA Web site at http://www.bwanet.org/default.aspx?pid=979.)
Following the dedication, on March 21, the European Baptist Federation, the BWA regional fellowship for Europe and the Middle East, will hold a conference of Bible teaching and fellowship for Arab Baptist leaders from the Middle East.