The confessional meeting was a time of sharing, fellowship, and discussing what is happening in the church family, as well as a time to strengthen collaboration among churches. The participants who were present during this meeting included central committee members/substitutes, advisors from ecumenical partners, a steward and WCC staff from the Baptist family. Their central point of discussion was on the upcoming Baptist World Alliance gathering on 12-18 July at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, and its relationship to the WCC agenda, which has a focus on combatting racism.
Walker-Smith gave further insight into what was discussed during their time of reflection.
What were the main topics of discussion for the Baptist confessional meeting?
Rev. Dr Walker-Smith: Baptists are a small minority in the ecumenical fellowship at WCC, although the Baptist voice has and is an important voice in the life of the churches.
Baptists are ecumenical and evangelical. We are a bridge between these two worlds that tend to be segregated from each other. As early as the very beginning of the WCC and the ecumenical momentum prior to this with the Student Christian Fellowship, Rev. Dr Benjamin Mays of the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc. and later the Progressive National Baptist Convention was the only person of African descent on the WCC central committee. He also convened one of the earliest global conversations on race in 1939. This was celebrated and acknowledged in the meeting.
What local ecumenical work is being done in relation to the assembly theme by the different Baptist families?
Rev. Dr Walker-Smith: Like other delegations, we are meeting in our denominational spaces to advance a pre-understanding of the assembly to better ensure active engagement.
Baptists are primarily local entities with congregational polity implemented by local leadership that may serve nationally and globally often at the same time. We are a “glocal” fellowship. This makes us uniquely positioned to lead “glocally” as a “priesthood of all believers.”
What else can you share from your discussions?
Rev. Dr Walker-Smith: We appreciated WCC staff helping to facilitate our convening together so that we can have a space to share our concerns and work that our different communities are engaging in, though from the same Baptist family from all over the world.
It was also good to have the Baptist steward with us, Ms. Sashimongla Longchar. She shared her appreciation for being a part of the meeting and making connections with other Baptists and young people who are contributing to the work of the council.
In conclusion, Walker-Smith added that “as Baptists, we are inspired and motivated to strengthen our voices closer together and be in closer fellowship for the ecumenical vision. We see our presence in the Baptist World Alliance as a possible forum to do this so that we can actively engage in the work of the WCC, and in the upcoming WCC 11th Assembly.”