The Baptist World Alliance 2010 Congress begins next week at the Honolulu Convention Centre (right) in
Those who know me will be aware that I have a pathological dislike of conferences, though I sense that asking for understanding on this occasion will be a waste of time. I’ll try and blog as often as I can over the next week or so, especially when the Congress begins on Wednesday 28th, 10-hour jet lag permitting. (“There he goes again – looking for sympathy – there is none forthcoming!”)
This time five years ago, it was our turn to host the Congress here in the UK and my small part in that was to oversee what was called the Home Office team handling visa and immigration queries. Frankly, everything went smoothly in the beginning. Our meetings with UK Visas couldn’t have been more helpful but then 6 weeks before the event we started getting calls, often from the pavement outside a British Embassy somewhere in the world. “They say we need another letter…” was usually the plaintive cry, or in some cases “we’ve been turned down – can you do something!” In many cases we were able to help and were greeted in
So, what’s the point of getting several thousand Baptists together from around the world, once every five years? It’s easy to be critical of large events, not least when you look at the expense, the carbon footprint, and frankly a location that isn’t ideal. It’s good for North Americans and South-East Asians, less good for those from Europe, the Middle East, and Latin Americans, (two flights), but frankly fairly useless for Africa. But the decision is made so there’s no point in crying over what might have been. Our brothers and sisters in
This Congress will mark the end of David Coffey’s 5-year term as BWA President, a role he has carried out with great distinction. More of that next week. He will be succeeded by John Upton, Executive Director of the Baptist General Association of
It will also be Neville Callam’s first Congress since he became BWA General Secretary and, knowing Neville for the humble and private man he is, I am sure he will be feeling some apprehension until the event actually starts. But Neville’s imprint is on the Congress, a very eclectic group of speakers, seminars and worship leaders – a commitment to express the global dimension of the Baptist network.
And in spite of my protestations about disliking big events, I do look forward to meeting up with partners from all round the world. I have appointments in the diary with many of them and eagerly await what will be warm conversations and times to encourage one another and pray together.
One of those friends is Robert Parham, founder and executive director of ethicsdaily.com, a great website which shows to the world the compassionate and radical face of American Baptists. Robert has kicked off his Congress Reflections with a piece about the future of Baptists in the 21st Century – you can read that here and I heartily commend the website to you as a regular place to drop in.
So, if all goes to plan, my posts for the next 10 days or so may be different in tone, more newsy and who knows even more frequent. That’s if I can stay awake (I know I know… cut the calls for sympathy…)