Baptists in North America more than made up for funding lost when the Southern Baptist Convention left the Baptist World Alliance last year, BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz told the group’s General Council Wednesday.
Lotz told Baptist leaders that churches in North America gave more than $500,000 to the BWA last year, according to a report by the Virginia Baptist newspaper Religious Herald posted on the BWA Web site.
Three years ago the SBC contributed $425,000 to the BWA’s annual budget. Southern Baptists reduced the allocation to $300,000 two years ago before defunding the global body altogether in 2004.
Based on the financial report, the General Council adopted a 2006 budget of $2.3 million, an increase of $320,000 (17 percent) over 2005.
In other meetings preceding the 2005 Baptist World Congress, which kicked off Wednesday night in Birmingham, England, with a celebration service featuring a sermon by BWA president Billy Kim, an estimated 750 women from 63 countries attending a Women’s Leadership Conference July 23- 26 at Aston University.
“In Africa a woman is treated like a child, slave, or piece of property,” said Dorothy Selebano of South Africa, the incoming president of the BWA Women’s Department. “Our culture teaches that a woman may not ask questions. She must do as she is told.”
Ksenija Magda of Croatia, a Ph.D. student at the London School of Theology, said the Bible has been misused to teach that women are inferior to men. Rather than viewing women’s identity through the paradigm of the Fall, she encouraged women to read the Bible through a new paradigm, Redemption.
“When we read the Creation story though the paradigm of Redemption we must recognize the good of God’s creation: Men and women are created as equals,” Magda told the conference. “They belong together to fulfill the task of creation.”
Bible study leader Amparo de Medina of Colombia said it is not the Bible’s message that has marginalized women, but rather “the prejudiced reading of its message.” She urged women to seek truth in Scripture beyond the lens of a culture that has been “influenced by sin.”
Participants adopted a declaration affirming that as women they are “called to exercise our diverse gifts and ministries in full partnership with our brothers in Christ” and denouncing “false and oppressive visions of God, ourselves, our families, the church, the Bible, ministry and reality” that lead to exploitation, injustice, violence and oppression against women.
Selebano is the first president from Africa in the women’s department’s 50-year history. She succeeds Audrey Morikawa of Toronto, Canada.
Another pre-Congress meeting attended by 100 people from 22 countries focused on problems of oppression around the globe. Baptist minister Michael Taylor, former CEO of Christian Aid, told delegates at a Wednesday Freedom Conference that the West needs to be more proactive in dealing with conflict and corruption in the Third World, where the people do not have the resources to tackle them by themselves.
“The only potentially realistic way to get western governments to tackle these issues is to build the strongest, most proactive networks of activists around the world,” Taylor said. “This will mean linking with other Christians and with people of other faiths, working together in different ways for the common good.”
Also on Wednesday, at a “Christ the Living Water” conference, BWA leaders unveiled a new, $1.2 million evangelism strategy.
BWA president Billy Kim, retired pastor of 15,000-member Central Baptist Church in Suwon, Korea, told delegates that money and organization alone will accomplish nothing without an underpinning of prayer.
“I would like to tell you as your colleague who has been involved in evangelism for 40 years now that the foremost thing for me has been prayer,” Kim said. “If we put prayer behind the strategy the Baptist World Alliance will be a force to reckon with.”
The next BWA Congress, scheduled in 2010, will be held in Hawaii.
Compiled by Bob Allen from reporting by Esther Barnes of Link & Visitor, a bi-monthly magazine for Baptist Women of Ontario and Quebec; Robert Dilday of the Religious Herald in Richmond, Va.; and Chris Hall of the Baptist Union of Great Britain.