FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA – July 23, 2020) This week the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) hosted its first virtual General Council, including a special Officer Installation and Commissioning Service on Thursday, July 23.
The service included a tribute to President Paul Msiza of South Africa in recognition of his five years of service. Msiza assumed office at the conclusion of the 21st Baptist World Congress in July 2015, becoming only the second African to fill the role. Before becoming president, Msiza had been actively involved in the life of the BWA. His past service included terms as a BWA Vice President, Executive Committee Member, and General Council Member as well as a member of various committees, commissions, and workgroups. He was also chair of the Local Arrangements Committee for the first BWA Congress held on the African continent and was installed as president during the proceedings in Durban, South Africa.
During Msiza’s presidency, the Baptist World Alliance added nine new member bodies, bringing the BWA membership to 47 million Baptists within 241 member bodies in 126 countries and territories. He traveled extensively during his five-year term, ministering faithfully to the global Baptist family. This included the preaching of the gospel in 25 countries, ambassadorial meetings with national dignitaries and religious leaders, presiding over BWA General Councils and Executive Meetings, and fellowshipping with thousands of Baptists around the world. He also led the BWA through significant change, including the transition of General Secretary leadership from Neville Callam to Elijah Brown, as well as the current challenges created by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“Paul has been an incredible servant of the Lord,” said General Secretary Brown. “He has been a friend, a companion, a confidante, a champion for the BWA, and a preacher of excellence and faithfulness in God’s Word. He has traveled the world tirelessly and led ably.”
In his final presidential address during the General Council, Msiza called upon Baptists to continue their commitment to stand together in a “world still plagued by many problems.” He addressed ongoing civil wars and the reality that “many still live in places where their basic human rights are being denied.” He spoke against racial injustice, citing how “the horrific killing of George Floyd has called the attention of the world to the level of racism that is still within our communities.” He raised concern about the wide-ranging and long-lasting impact of COVID-19, citing that more people will now die from hunger than from the virus itself and the “the gap between the poor and the rich is so wide and painful.”
“Regardless of all these challenges, the Christian witness and the Baptist work continues to grow,” said Msiza. “But all these challenges are a wake up call to the Christian church and to us as a Baptist World Alliance. We have a great task ahead of us as we move into the next quinquennium. We need to know the task requires us to mobilize our membership to engage in a relevant mission that will put Christ at the center of everything we do, a mission that will reveal God’s love to the hurting world.”
In addition to Msiza’s address, the General Council included a Scripture reading led by the 2015-2020 Vice Presidents: Ernest Adu-Gyamfi (Ghana), Jerry Carlisle (USA), Jules Casseus (Haiti), Tapan Chowdhury (Bangladesh), Miyon Chung (Korea/USA), Michael Okwakol (Uganda), Dimitrina Oprenova (Bulgaria), Jorge Quinteros (Chile), Jan Sæthre (Norway), Luiz Roberto Silvado (Brazil), Naomi Tyler-Lloyd (USA), and Anslem Warrick (Trinidad and Tobago).
The closing session of the General Council on July 23 marked the end of the 2015-2020 quinquennium and included a special time of commissioning for President Tomás Mackey. Mackey has been actively involved in the BWA for more than 30 years, most recently sitting on the General Council and the Executive Committee, as well as serving as a member of the BWA delegation to the theological conversations with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and chairing the Commission on Theological Education. He has previously served as Vice Chair of the Commission on Theological Education, Vice Chair of the Commission on Christian Ethics, and a member of the Resolutions Committee, Academic and Theological Education Workgroup, Commission on Baptist Doctrine and Christian Unity, Study and Research Executive Committee, and Nominations Committee. He also served on the Local Arrangements Committee for the Baptist World Alliance Youth Conference in 1983 and the Baptist World Congress in 1995.
“I am excited to serve in our body that has such a significant role in our world at this special time in history – to work in a body that brings together a Baptist family from all continents to be in the service of the kingdom of God,” said Mackey. “Pray that I may help Baptists around the world to assert Christian discipleship into everyday realities.”