(BWA) – Commissions and workgroups of the Baptist World Alliance will focus largely on the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Baptist movement during the BWA Annual Gathering to be held in Ede, Netherlands, from July 27 to Aug. 1.
Commissions and workgroups are the contexts within which Baptist leaders, theologians, professors, scholars and writers from around the world deliberate on theological, doctrinal, ethical, historical and social issues of concern to Baptists.
The Commission on Baptist Heritage and Identity will receive a paper on the history of Baptists in the Netherlands by Teun van der Leer, rector of the Baptist Seminary of the Netherlands. Commission members will also benefit from a presentation related to the Amsterdam archives by Dutch Baptist historian, Kirsten Timmer.
The first Baptist church was founded in Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, in 1609.
In the Academic and Theological Education Workgroup, presenters will lead conversations about how certain theological convictions that mark Baptist life over the past 400 years are reflected in different regions of the world. Discussions will be based on a paper presented by Ian Randall, director of research at Spurgeon’s College in England, at the 7th Baptist International Conference on Theological Education that was held in Prague in the Czech Republic in July 2008.
The Church Health and Effectiveness Workgroup will focus on “The Church in Europe after Christendom” and “The Future of the Church in the Eyes of Emerging Leaders.” The discussions are aimed at unveiling “a vision of hopeful possibilities for the future of Baptist work,” according to BWA General Secretary Neville Callam.


Bill Tillman, professor of Christian ethics at Logsdon School of Theology at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas, will present an evaluation of “The Contribution of Baptists to Christian Ethics” at meetings of the Commission on Christian Ethics. The Commission on Freedom and Justice will discuss “Defending Religious Freedom: A Baptist Principle.”


The Commission on Doctrine and Interchurch Cooperation will focus on a range of issues, including a discussion on “Baptists and Themes of Liberation” and “Baptist Approaches to the Interpretation of Scripture.”

Other issues will be addressed at commission and workgroup meetings. These include “Discipline and Restoration of Leaders who Fall,” “Rembrandt and Anabaptist Connections,” “Climate Change/Global Warming,” “Ethics of Stem Cell Research,” “Cry for Justice” and “Threats to Religious Freedom.”
Meetings will receive reports on the Baptist-Muslim Dialogue and the ongoing Baptist-Roman Catholic Conversations between the BWA and the Vatican. A discussion will be held on the possibility of forming a denominational leaders’ network.
Callam expressed the hope that “commission and workgroup discussions will help yield a vision of what will be required if Baptists are to more effectively fulfill their divine calling in the future.”

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