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BWA Annual Gathering - a reflection

Church planting in Nigeria and challenged by climate change – General Secretary Lynn Green reports from the recent Annual Gathering of the Baptist World Alliance

 

It’s not often you get the opportunity to talk about church unity and ecumenism with an Ethiopian and a Swedish church leader. “How do you say it? Our churches are very good at splitting!” Jima told me about Ethiopian Baptists as we talked over breakfast about how we can hold together difference in unity and also the challenges of Baptists being involved in ecumenical partnerships. 



Conversations like this are a significant part of the huge privilege it is to attend the Baptist World Alliance annual Gathering. Simply being able to lift your thinking from your own context and to see and hear different perspectives from around the world is amazing. For example, the Nigerians were disappointed that only half of their 19,000 churches are managing to plant a church each year, whereas I would be overjoyed if that were true for Baptists Together! 

A conversation with a brother from Zimbabwe also helped me to reflect on their “centrally generated” church planting strategy alongside the local church emphasis of the Nigerian approach. And of course, this is just one illustration of the many, many conversations and encounters that our team were able to have while we were in Vancouver.

 

After the General Council meetings each morning, the afternoons were devoted to various streams focussing on particular areas; I joined the stream on Climate Change. I was particularly challenged by the presentation about the COP21 meeting and the Paris agreement and the impact that failing to meet our targets will have on our world. The seriousness of our situation was highlighting much of what I had heard recently at Momentum, the Baptist Assembly in Wales and is being promoted through the BMS Worth Saving initiative. 

The urgency of our need to address issues of climate change was made very real by Fine Tagi Ditoka who was representing the Fijian Baptists and their 14 churches. Fiji was the first nation to sign the Paris Agreement and one week later they were hit by Cyclone Winston. Fine told us of the devastation these increasingly frequent and severe weather events are causing in the Pacific. She also showed a map of islands which would soon disappear because of rising sea levels. 

Listening to Fine made me realise just how little we bother about climate change because it does not seem to be affecting us very badly. For the first of many times during this gathering I saw just how much our thinking is limited to our own continent and nation. What became clear, however, is that the scale of the migration resulting from climate change is going to make our current refugee situation pale into insignificance. It is estimated that rising sea levels will result in 42 million people being displaced from Bangladesh alone. If we don’t think it is affecting us now, it soon will.

Hearing things like this made me realise just how much politics is inevitably bound up with the nation’s self-interest. But we are a global community, a Kingdom community, and we need to strengthen our prophetic role in expressing the heart of our Creator God, speaking and working for the interests of all and not just for us. We all have the opportunity to live sustainably and voice a global perspective in our own communities. And more than anything, we have the privilege of being able to pray for the coming of God’s Kingdom and for all people to experience the goodness of God’s shalom.



The Revd Lynn Green is General Secretary of our Baptist Union
 


Related:

Brexit and Climate Change - John Weaver, a former Baptist Union President, assesses what impact Brexit, and a new Prime Minister, may have on the climate change agenda

Analysis of COP 21 Paris - As the White Queen offers Alice, is the Paris agreement an offer of ‘jam to-morrow’?

Worth Saving is BMS World Mission's latest creation care initiative and offers a positive approach to creation care.

 

 

Baptist Times, 10/08/2016
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