When global Baptists gather this week in Santiago, Chile, they will explore relationships between Baptists and Muslims, hear a report from the United Nations conference of sustainable development and celebrate a Baptist founder who spoke 400 years ago for religious freedom – for those from every faith tradition.
An estimated 260 Baptists from 40 different nations are expected to attend the BaptistWorldAlliance (BWA) gathering.

Founded in 1905, the BWA is the largest network of worldwide Baptists with 221 member conventions and unions located in 120 countries. BWA has 42 million members in 177,000 churches.

The Southern Baptist Convention is not a member of the BWA, however.

The SBC withdrew from the BWA in 2004, accusing the BWA of holding stances contrary to the Bible, encouraging women to be pastors, having an anti-American tone and refusing to allow for a discussion about abortion.

One SBC leader justified the withdrawal from the BWA on the basis that it had member bodies that affirmed gay marriage.

The formal disengagement of the SBC has not hampered the advancement of the BWA and cohesion of worldwide Baptists.

The BWA’s two highest elected officers are John Upton, executive director of the BaptistGeneralAssociationofVirginia, who is president, and Daniel Carro, a professor of divinity at TheJohnLelandCenterforTheologicalStudies in Arlington, Va., who is the first vice president.

A native of Argentina, Carro is on the board of directors for the Baptist Center for Ethics, the parent company of EthicsDaily.com.

During the Santiago gathering, one significant session will explore the influence of Thomas Helwys, a Baptist founder, who wrote in 1612 a letter to King James of England, appealing for religious freedom.

Another religious freedom session will center on the Baptists in Chile and the situation in Uzbekistan.

A session of environmental justice will receive a report from Raimundo Bareto, BWA’s director of freedom and justice, based on his attendance at the United Nations sustainable development conference held in June in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, referred to as Rio+20.

Also in that session, Helle Liht, assistant to the general secretary of the European Baptist Federation, will present a paper titled “Beyond Rio.” I will speak to climate change, using the newest slide show prepared by Al Gore titled “24 Hours of Reality.”

A forum will be offered on technology and ministry, looking at the multiple roles of technology in church life.

Bob Terry, editor of the AlabamaBaptist, will be the moderator of the discussion. Panelists will include Tony Cartledge, contributing editor for BaptistsToday; Rand Jenkins, director of communications for the BaptistGeneralConventionofTexas; and Maribel Salamanca, director of communications for the UnionofEvangelicalBaptistChurchesofChile.

I will also be on the panel, speaking about EthicsDaily.com’s documentaries, onlinecurriculum, Facebook, Twitter and Skypeinterviews.

The annual gathering includes meetings of the General Council related to organizational matters – finances, bylaws, membership, resolutions and planning for the Baptist World Congress in Durban, South Africa, in 2015.

EthicsDaily.com has provided extensive coverage of BWA’s annual meetings in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Assuming that all the technological wrinkles work, EthicsDaily.com will keep global Baptists up to speed with articles, tweets and video clips.

RobertParham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friendhim on Facebook.

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