The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) pivoted to Sub-Saharan Africa at its annual gathering this year in Izmir, Turkey, with the election of a new president from Africa and plans for the 2015 World Baptist Congress in South Africa.
The move is a wise one, especially given the explosive growth of Christianity in that part of the world.
Giving greater voice to African Baptists will better inform Northern Hemisphere Baptists—read U.S. Baptists—about the real needs, challenges and successes from the world generally “blacked out” in American media.
We really know little about Africa. If we hear or read about Africa in the media, we most often read about violence, hunger, widespread disease and ineffective government.
We seldom read success stories. We rarely learn about the complexity on the ground.
We would be better served to know a lot more. The more informed we are, the better we, Americans, can engage in constructive collaboration, instead of misguided perceptions and unhelpful expectations.
Of course, the “African voice” is hardly one voice. Nigerians disagree among themselves and with other Africans, for example.
As is true worldwide, no Baptist speaks for every Baptist.
Following the global Baptist gathering in Durban, South Africa, Paul Msiza will become the BWA president for 2015-20.
Msiza served as president of the All Africa Baptist Fellowship, a regional fellowship of the BWA, from 2006-11.
He was general secretary of the Baptist Convention of South Africa from 2001-10. He is the pastor of Peniel-Salem Baptist Church in Pretoria.
By all reports, he is an energetic, articulate, invested and collaborative leader who inspires other leaders.
While I don’t personally know him, I have observed him at BWA gatherings. What I have seen is a man with a quick smile, a positive spirit and engaging personality, all needed traits for the next face of global Baptists.
In addition to Msiza, two other Africans were among the 12 vice presidents elected: Michael Okwakol of Uganda and Ernest Adu-Gyamfi of Ghana.
A BWA resolution condemning the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls by Boko Haram, an Islamic extremist group, is another expression of the pivot toward Africa.
While the BWA resolutions and forums prioritized concern about religious freedom and human needs, such as the flow of immigrants or refugees, BWA is losing its program officer responsible for freedom and justice issues with the departure of Raimundo Barreto.
Nonetheless, human rights and humanitarian concerns are at the heart of the BWA.
For more information about the Izmir gathering, see contributing editor Brian Kaylor’s news reports here and video interviews here. He provided a “photo news” story that is available on EthicsDaily.com’s Pinterest page.
Both Kaylor and East Texas Baptist University professor Elijah Brown tweeted throughout the meeting with many of their tweets appearing in the EthicsDaily.com Twitter hub.
EthicsDaily.com provided extensive, 24/7 coverage of the gathering, the only media platform to do so.
By doing so, EthicsDaily.com continued its longstanding commitment to telling the goodwill Baptist story and connecting global Baptists.
Robert Parham 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 friend him on Facebook.