Baptist World Alliance leaders this week will consider a proposed restructuring aimed at what one leader described as building “a truly global organization.”
Over 400 Baptists from around the world are expected to participate this week in the annual meeting of the BWA, hearing papers about problems related to human trafficking and the environment, discussing an open letter from Muslim religious leaders to Christian leaders, learning about hunger relief initiatives and examining ordination.
One of the most important topics at the gathering in Prague, Czech Republic, is the matter of restructuring the BWA.
BWA’s General Council will receive and debate the final report of Implementation Task Force, which centers on organizational oversight or governance.
“It has become clear to us that neither the General Council nor the current Executive Committee are able to exercise appropriate quality oversight (governance) for an international mission-oriented ecclesial organism in the 21st century,” reads the report from the 18-member committee that included BWA President David Coffey and General Secretary Neville Callam.
Recommending “a smaller and globally representative Executive Committee which acts on behalf of and reports to the General Council,” the report argues that a decision-making body is needed which “can initiate policy and respond to proposals from the General Secretary.”
The new Executive Committee would focus on “oversight, strategy and finance development.” The general secretary would report to the Executive Committee.
If the report is approved, the Executive Committee would be composed of 24 voting members, rather than the currently constituted 62 members.
Keith Jones, the ITF chair, told EthicsDaily.com that he thought the proposal “will give a 21st Century reality to the oft-claimed strap line about the BWA being a truly global organization.”
Noting the disproportional membership on the BWA’s current Executive Committee from a “single continent,” Jones, rector of the International Baptist Theological Seminary, implied that the recommended Executive Committee would have great global representation.
The BWA’s elected president, general secretary, treasurer, a representative appointed by each of the six different member regions and the 15 at-large members elected by the General Council would form the Executive Committee.
The at-large members would be elected by the General Council “from names submitted through the Nominations Committee” of the General Council.
Sub-committees of the Executive Committee would take over the functions of the current committees of Budget and Finance, Memorials, Officers Search, Constitution and By-Laws, Congress Program and Personnel.
The report recommends a reduction in the number of elected vice presidents from 21 to eight.
The document is largely silent about role of the divisional committees of study and research, advancement/communications, evangelism and education, Baptist World Aid and mission advancement, as well as the commissions of freedom and justice, ethics, worship, doctrine, church leadership and Baptist heritage.
The ITF report clarifies the “covenant” relationship between the BWA and six regional bodies ”All Africa Baptist Fellowship, Asia Pacific Baptist Federation, Caribbean Baptist Fellowship, European Baptist Federation, North American Baptist Fellowship and Union of Baptists in Latin America.
One point of clarification includes the need for “a clear process and mechanism for regions to be able to apply for grant assistance from the BWA to fund the core work of the region.”
Another makes clear that regional secretaries “are not BWA staff, but are employees of their respective Regions.”
Two pages of the 22-page report cover the relationship between the president, who is an elected officer of the organization for a five year period, and the general secretary, who is the chief executive officer of the BWA.
The report notes that the general secretary “is responsible to the General Council for directing the overall work of the BWA within the policies established by the General Council.”
Jones observed that earlier changes had been made to the annual meeting of the General Council, now called the BWA Annual Gathering.
These changes enabled “people to network much more effectively” through networks, forums and affinity groups, said Jones, allowing “people to encounter one another globally in user-friendly ways and ways which assist first-timers to find those engaged in similar tasks elsewhere in the world.”
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics and is attending the meeting in Prague.
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