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Annual Gathering from


With respect to Syria, “governments [should] refrain

or selling

armaments to the forces in confl ict in Syria and instead support the efforts of those who are working toward a negotiated peace and provide essential humanitarian resources to assist refugees in this situation of confl ict.” The United Nations and governments should “work cooperatively to assist those countries (in North Africa and the Middle East) in the protection of all the rights of all their citizens.” Confl icts in Myanmar continue to raise concerns within the BWA, the most recent in Kachin State. Many Kachins are Baptist Christians. In June 2011, a seventeen-year cease-fi re between the Myanmar army and the Kachin Independence Army broke down and, although the president of Myanmar ordered the military on December 10, 2011, to stop their offensive, the war in the Kachin State has escalated. As a result, large numbers of innocent civilians have been killed and many women have been raped as part of a strategy of violence. “More than 200 Kachin Baptist villages have been lost and at least 66 places of worship have been destroyed. The war has forced more than 100,000 civilians to fl ee their homes and live in camps as Internally Displaced

resolution notes.

Baptists are being urged “to stand with our Kachin Christian brothers and sisters in Myanmar and around the world to fi nd solutions to this confl ict,” and “to support

Guiding Document on Intra-Baptist Relations By Brian Kaylor

Ratifi ed M

eeting in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, during the fi rst week of July, members of the Baptist World Alliance General Council unanimously ratifi ed a document designed to guide how Baptists from different cultures, languages, and backgrounds treat one another. The document, Principles and Guidelines for Intra-Baptist Relationships, comes after more than four years of refl ection and consideration by a special commission created by BWA General Secretary Neville Callam. Led by Daniel Vestal and Edward Wheeler, the commission brought its fi nal document for a vote at the 2013 BWA Annual Gathering. “The Baptist World Alliance exists to express, as the constitution says, ‘the essential oneness of Baptist people’ across the world,” Callam stated during the Annual Gathering as he explained the need for the document. “The question is how do we live into that oneness when there is so much diversity characterizing us? And how do we manifest that oneness in the midst of this diversity that is theologically admissible and that is potentially enriching?”

Before the General Council vote, members of the special commission and other

BWA leaders led an open forum to provide a time and space for conversations about the document. As Baptists entered the large meeting room for the forum, they found a table with copies of the document in 20 different languages. BWA leaders announced their intention for the document to be translated into even more languages in the future to broaden its use.

“This gives us a chance to truly be the physical body of Christ,” BWA President John Upton said during the forum about the document.

Although noting that the diversity of the global Baptist community created Peoples (IDPs),” the BWA

diffi culties and confl icts sparking the need for the new document, BWA leaders at the forum also praised that same diversity as a key to the strength of the BWA. “The Baptist World Alliance is a diverse crowd,” Callam stated as he explained the need for the Principles and Guidelines for Intra-Baptist Relationships. “It is a family that is rich in terms of the multiple cultures, the multiple styles, the multiplicity of approaches that one can fi nd in our ecclesiastical community.” Balancing the diffi culties and blessings of diversity also emerged as a theme in the Principles and Guidelines for Intra-Baptist Relationships. “…the BWA commitment to open dialogue and honest communication in the midst of our profound diversity also presents the BWA with perhaps the greatest challenge to the unity we are called to maintain,” the document reads. “That challenge comes in the form of the diffi culty of achieving clear, precise and commonly-understood communication through the use of language, especially when translation from one language to multiple languages is involved.” With several of the statements in the document dealing with communicating across language, cultural, and other barriers, special commission leader Vestal emphasized the communication aspect in his remarks at the forum. “I believe the time has come for us to talk about how we talk,” Vestal stated. “I

Former BWA Vice President Clifford Jones and family during worship at the Annual Gathering

actions of the United Nations and other nongovernmental organizations

to promote

relief work, establish justice, and return peace to this land.” On the broader subject of displaced persons, another resolution encourages Baptists


uphold the human rights of all people at all times, including the rights of displaced persons, asylum seekers and refugees,” and “to act as advocates for displaced persons and to develop plans to respond with compassion and hospitality to the needs of displaced persons.”

don’t know which is harder: to talk in a way that pleases God or to listen in a way that pleases God. I do know they’re both very hard. And we need the Holy Spirit to help us do those well.” Vestal added that he prays the Principles and Guidelines for Intra-Baptist Relationships “will be an instrument of the Holy Spirit to help us learn how to talk and learn how to listen in ways that please the Lord.” Vestal and the BWA leaders at the forum talked about the need to build upon the document by translating it into more languages, making it widely available in publications at future BWA gatherings, producing Bible studies based on its principles, and working to implement it at BWA gatherings through what Callam called “mutual accountability.”

Embracing the spirit of this text, the forum held during the BWA Annual Gathering included numerous comments and questions from participants from multiple countries. Most of those who spoke during the forum offered strong affi rmations of the document, followed days later by the General Council’s unanimous vote for adoption.


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