The commission met in Prague, Czech Republic, during the BWA’s Annual Gathering from July 20-25, 2008.
Amid fine afternoons of glorious sight-seeing, delicious dinners around fellowship tables, and intensive sessions of reflective exchange, the BWA family gathered. Some three dozen members of the Heritage and Identity Commission attended the week’s events, some of whom had also met the few days prior to the BWA Gathering at the International Baptist Theological Seminary, in the beautiful hills just outside of Prague, for the British Baptist Historical Society’s Centenary Celebration.
Every morning the BWA family met for breakfast and then made its way to the opening morning worship service. We experienced the Living Lord together as we worshipped in many languages and music styles. These moments set the tone for our days together.
Tuesday, 22 July, 2:00-4:00 pm
Church Leadership Commission Chairman Dr. Brian Winslade presented the paper, “Ordination: Does it Fit?” Read this paper.
The Baptist Heritage and Identity, Church Leadership, and Doctrine and Interchurch Cooperation Commissions met together to address the topic of “Ordination” or the “Credentialing” of ministers. The three commissions met around this vital topic, which is one of the top issues generating questions regarding Baptist identity worldwide. In this session, the Heritage Commission and the Doctrine Commission presented papers to lay the historical and theological groundwork for the week’s discussions, and the Leadership Commission hosted the event, facilitated the joint session, and carried on the discussion throughout the week. Karen Bullock presented an historical overview, primarily focusing on the first two centuries of Baptist life, and Brian C. Brewer addressed the Baptist view of ordained ministry and answered the questions of whether ordination was just a function or a way of being. The joint session was well attended and a lively question and answer session followed each presentation.
On Wednesday, 23 July, 2:00-4:00 pm – the BWA Implementation Task Force presented its work of the past several years concerning the clarification and re-structuring of BWA’s essential vision for the future. The Task Force presentation highlighted BWA’s Mission emphasis, re-clarified the Clusters of Commitment, and offered ways by which every Baptist can be part of the larger goals and work of BWA worldwide. The Task Force’s suggestions, which had been a decade in the deliberations, called for a new job description for the President, a Group of Reference to be formed, streamlined executive and nominations committees, and a new human resource management manual to be written. Much discussion ensued about the implications and nature of the re-structuring, whether the regions would be better served by the new structure, and how the new format could possibly provide for a more equal distribution of global participation. This Forum was repeated so that as many people as possible could come, hear, and voice their questions.
Thursday, 24 July, 2:00-4:00 pm
The Heritage Commission Celebrates Czech Baptists!
Dr. Lydie Kucova, from the International Baptist Theological Seminary, presented the development of Baptists in the Czech Republic. She explored the three streams of Baptist life: Western (Bohemia), Eastern (Moravia), and Northeast (Silesia in the Freiburg region). Her paper, illustrated with photographs of significant Baptist pioneers in these areas, depicted the often extreme hardship resulting from immigration relocations, political tensions, and life under the Communistic regime. Following the latter’s collapse in 1989 the Czech Baptist Union has recovered slowly, helped along in some areas by returning refugees from Poland and Russia. Dr. Kucova was gracious to answer the many questions posed by the group, which found her wonderful presentation to be both profound and enriching. The Czech Baptists continue to earn the deep respect of worldwide Baptists. We are grateful for your scholarship, Dr. Kucova.
Thursday, 24 July, 7:15-9:15 pm
Work Session and Team Presentations
Members met for the fourth time later in the evening after supper on Thursday. Some of the Commission’s members had already left for home or other ports of call, but those who remained heard the updates and reviewed the work that was carried forward this year with regard to the Team Projects:
The Story Book Project – Fred Anderson and Lloyd Allen are working on the StoryBook Project that will hopefully take place in Hawaii in 2010. We are seeking funding and a religion department of a university or a seminary to provide the resources.
Site Verification and Historical Marker Project – This project has been undertaken by the European Baptist Federation and a marker will hopefully be affixed in July in Amsterdam at the most-likely site of the founding of the first Baptist church.
Walking Tour Baptist-Mennonite Historical Sites of Amsterdam – Kirsten Timmer, our Commission’s liaison in Amsterdam, is a Dutch Baptist historian and native of the city. She is working with the EBF’s Amsterdam 400 and the Heritage Commission to produce a walking tour guide which may be distributed by both groups during the July events. It was decided that we should probably try to produce the brochure in multiple languages, but this project’s complexity will depend upon available funding. The brochure will be ready for Amsterdam.
Children’s Coloring Book Project – The Big Baptist Birthday Party – 400 Years! – Sheila Heneise and Bethany Bullock took on the production of this coloring booklet to be ready for Amsterdam. Members considered Sheila’s preliminary ideas and offered observations and suggestions, gave its approval, and heartily endorsed her good work. Throughout the next year, Sheila will produce a text from which the Coloring Booklet’s final captions will be derived.
Baptist Identity Worship Leaflet Series – The Commission read Peter Morden’s text to make suggestions and edits for the leaflet. Peter pledged to edit the text according to the Commission’s thoughtful responses. His work was commended heartily, and the leaflet is expected to be ready for Amsterdam.
Baptist History Photographic Essay Project – The Photographic Essay Project of the early 1600 Baptist and Mennonite Connection in modern photographs and artifacts was discussed. The EBF will have a History Corner at its Amsterdam 400, with photographs, artifacts, copies of early documents, and other items of historical interest. Perhaps the Commission could have a similar History Corner? It might be fun to have members of the Commission in 17th century dress to give a brief, 10-minute historical narrative of the beginnings of Baptists every two hours or so. Members could register for specific times in the History Corner and talk with people about the history of Baptists throughout the week’s events in Ede.
We still need help with each of the Project Teams listed above. Please let us know your thoughts about these items. Volunteers are still needed to help with the Project teams, serve as volunteers for the History Corner, and serve as prayer partners for the resources with which to complete these projects for Amsterdam. Contact Karen Bullock if you are interested in joining one of these teams.