2015 congress logoWhen thousands of Baptists gather in Durban, South Africa for the 21st Baptist World Congress July 22-26, it will mark the first such meeting ever held on the African continent.

Organizers from the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) hope more than 4,000 Baptists from around the world will gather for the inspirational worship, music, workshops, and fellowship typically featured by a global gathering of colorful Baptists. Advance registrations are lower than anticipated, however, according to a report given to the BWA Executive Committee, which met March 2-4 in Falls Church.

Emmett Dunn, who leads youth work and conference organization for the BWA, said slow registrations were due in part to ongoing fears of the Ebola virus – even though Durban, in the southeastern corner of the continent, is thousands of miles from where the now-abating outbreak occurred in West Africa.

Duro2Duro Ayanrinola, general secretary of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship, told the BWA Executive Committee March 4 that potential visitors should have no fear. Ayanrinola, who lives in Nigeria, outlined ways in which Baptist groups have worked to educate church members and help prevent the spread of the virus. The Ebola crisis has passed, he said.

African Baptists are looking forward to hosting the meeting, Ayanronola said with a smile: “They are already cooking for you, and the aromas are delightful.”

Ayanrinola urged members of the Executive Committee to allay fears in their home countries and encourage persons to attend the historic Congress. “You are not guests in Africa, but family,” he said. “Come over to Africa,” he urged, to have fellowship with brothers and sisters. “Come over to Africa,” he concluded, “and praise the living God!”

Paul Msiza of South Africa, who will become BWA president for the next five years.

Paul Msiza of South Africa, who will become BWA president for the next five years.

Paul Msiza, a pastor from the South African capital Pretoria and former president of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship, will become president of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) at the end of the Congress. He will be the second BWA president from Africa: William Tolbert of Liberia served from 1965-1970 and went on to become president of his country in 1971, holding that office until he was assassinated in 1980.

Cultural interchange and colorful worship highlight the BWA World Congress, which is held every five years (called a “quinquennium”) in a different part of the globe. The last three meetings were held in Australia (2000); the United Kingdom (2005), and the United States (2010). Smaller annual gatherings are held in the intervening years.

Speakers, choral groups, soloists, and workshop leaders for the upcoming Congress will represent each of the six geographical regions of the BWA. Keynote speakers include Joel Gregory of North America; Anthony Carroll of the Carribbean; Donald Ndichafah of Africa; Dimitrina Oprenova of Europe, Peter Chen from the Asia Pacific region, and Luiz Roberto Silvado, from Latin America.

Information about the Congress, including a link for registration, can be found here. Good news:  “Early Bird” registration, which saves $50, has been extended through April 15.

I’m looking forward to an amazing experience. Why don’t you come over to Africa, too?


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