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Greeting to the 20th Congress of the Baptist World Alliance

Greeting to the 20th Congress of the Baptist World Alliance From the World Council of Churches By the general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit Geneva, 28 July 2010

28 July 2010

Gathering under the theme “Hear the Spirit!” from 28 July to 1 August in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Geneva, 28 July 2010

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.

Romans 15.5

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 

It is indeed a privilege to offer the 20th Congress of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) greetings on behalf of the World Council of Churches (WCC). The WCC is fellowship of 349 Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant and United churches in over 120 countries all seeking to make their unity in Christ visible so that the world might believe in God’s amazing love for all creation. Many of the denominations gathered in Hawaii are among the churches sharing fellowship in the WCC and we give thanks to God for their witness and leadership.

I am grateful that the Rev. Dr Bernice Powell-Jackson, one of the eight Presidents of the WCC, is with you to deliver these words of encouragement and to stand with you in prayer and deliberations through the week. The Rev. Dr Powell-Jackson and I were recently together in Haiti, where we witnessed first hand the endurance of the Baptist believers in following Christ and the encouragement of the Baptist churches in rebuilding the community.

The theme under which you are gathered in Honolulu is a charge to prayerfully listen for what the Spirit of God is saying to the world today. It is a call to hear anew the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, to see with fresh eyes the mission to which God is leading us and to be renewed with a sense of unity and purpose as a family of churches.

The Baptist churches have a rich history of sharing the Gospel with conviction, building up the body of Christ and serving the people of God. The Baptist World Alliance, like the WCC, grows out of the 19th century missionary movement marked by events such as the inaugural Baptist Congress in 1905 and the Edinburgh Missionary Conference of 1910. And much like the WCC, the BWA exists as an expression of the “oneness of Baptist people in the Lord Jesus Christ … for sharing concerns and skills in witness and ministry”.

This ecumenical missionary spirit that spoke to the churches over one-hundred years ago was inspired by Jesus’ prayer that his followers would be one, as Christ is one with the Father, so that world might believe (John 17.21). The unity for which Christ prayed is a gift from God, given by grace through the life, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior. As Paul reminds the Romans, God grants endurance and encouragement, but also a spirit of unity among Christ’s followers so that the Gospel will be known throughout the world.

The call for Christian unity and common witness is as urgent today as it was two thousand years ago; and as it was one-hundred years ago. The divine invitation to be united in Christ for the sake of God’s mission in the world is a prayer we are called to answer. The WCC looks to the Baptist World Alliance with the hope of growing in partnership for this purpose. The Baptist churches play a key role in global Christianity, being both ecumenical and evangelical in spirit and witness. As we discover new relationships in the service of Christian unity, we look to the Baptist churches for guidance and wisdom, prayer and leadership.

In the days ahead, as you listen for the Spirit, as you pray together, as you testify to one another and as you discuss the future of the Baptist World Alliance, it is the earnest prayer of the World Council of Churches that that God may bless this Congress with a spirit of unity, that Christ may inspire this Congress in witnessing to the love of God and that the Holy Spirit may be heard through the songs, prayers and statements of this Congress.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
General secretary
World Council of Churches