Caribbean Baptists Gathered in Nassau, Bahamas for Mit-Term Assembly, 2017

    Caribbean Baptists Gathered in Nassau, Bahamas for Mid-Term Assembly


    Forty delegates from the member churches of the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship gathered in Nassau, Bahamasfrom October 10-15, 2017 for the Mid-Term Assembly of the CBF, guided by the theme: “Jesus Christ, the Door.” The countries represented were Turks and Caicos Islands, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, San Andres Islands, Bahamas and Guadeloupe in addition to USA and South Africa. The Rev. Paul Msizi, President of the Baptist World Alliance from South Africa, challenged the gathering in the opening service on Tuesday, October 10 to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the one who opened doors of opportunities and is able to lead his followers from victory to victory. 

    A special feature of the opening celebrations punctuated with songs, greetings and the preached word, was the honouring of the Rev. Dr. Neville Callam, General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance who will be demitting office on December 31, 2017. Callam, a Jamaican, was praised for his outstanding contribution to the Global family of Baptists, being the first person of African descent to hold this office. The citation which was president by the Rev. Dr. William Thompson, President of CBF was read by Dr. Cynthia Anderson. Neville was hailed as an erudite local, regional and global Baptist. He was cited for “His faithful and unstinting service to regional development, especially in shaping the moral and social fiber of the Caribbean, thus advancing the regional integration movement…and as a man of God, a transformational leader with a passion for Caribbean unity and a lucid vision of who God is.” Rev. Karl Johnson, General Secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union, made a presentation to Rev. Dr. Callam on behalf of JBU, the Union to which Neville is affiliated. 

    The Bible Studies led by the Rev. Karen, Kirlew, President Elect of the Jamaica Baptist Union, were informative, enlightening and soul searching. The dynamic Bible Study presenter explored each morning the Assembly theme from St. John 10: 1-13 and Revelation 3: 14-22. A number of presentations were also made by various speakers on a wide range of topics. These included, “Church Unity: Christo-Centric Imperative” by Rev. Dr. Neville Callam from the USA; “Mission from a Caribbean Perspective,” by Bishop Delton Fernander from the Bahamas; “Reformation – The Ana Baptists – Radical Reformers: Relevance for Baptists in the 21st Century,” by the Rev. Dr. Devon Dick from Jamaica; and “Caribbean Socio-Political Consciousness- The Role of the Church,” by the Rev. Peter Pinder from the Bahamas. 

    Training was provided for participants with a view to equipping Caribbean Baptists to be better able to execute the Mission of God in the 21st century that features rapid, complex and confusing changes. The areas of focus were Sunday School/Family Bible Hour facilitated by the Caribbean Christian Publications; The Diaconate led by Rev. Karl Henlin from Jamaica; Affinity Ministry Groups such as youth, children, men and women facilitated by Rev. Brenda Harewood from Guyana; and Mission and Evangelism led by Rev. Bentley Robinson from the Cayman Islands. 

    Delegates received various reports on the stewardship of the Fellowship for the past two years through its departments and committees. Rev. Everton Jackson, executive secretary/treasurer, in presenting his report, highlighted the devastation caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria to some of the Caribbean Islands which led to the establishment of a Disaster Relief Fund to assist the affected territories. The EST urged the assembly to be guided by the Divine imperative for community solidarity and disregard the spirit of insularity, parochialism and provincialism which has retarded the spirit of partnership in the region. The delegates pledged to provide relief assistance to Dominica, Barbuda, Turks and Caicos Islands and St. Martin with the help of BWAID, Baptist Global Response, Lott Carey and American Baptist International Ministries. 

    Among the decisions taken by the Assembly via resolutions were the challenging of member bodies to raise the consciousness of the Caribbean people to the importance of creation care and the urging of governments in the region to establish and enforce more stringent building codes against the backdrop of the vulnerability of the region to natural disasters; the urging of Baptist churches to reaffirm the dignity of human life, in ensuring that borders do not become counter-productive and in the final analysis, undermines human dignity; and the calling on member bodies to be more deliberate in educating their constituents, to recognize signs of child abuse and molestation, human trafficking and other such evils, and to work in collaboration with governments and NGOs to create safe places for those children caught in this web. 

    In response to the need for pastoral training in the Caribbean region, the Assembly reaffirmed a previous decision for the CBF to take the lead in providing theological training for pastors, currently serving churches without any formal theological training, and those who sense a call to the pastoral ministry. In pursuant of this decision, the assembly approved the commencement of a three-year certificate programme on January 8, 2017in Trinidad and Tobago for the first of two, two weeks intramural studies for 2018. The other sessions for the first year will be delivered online and will involve organized group work. The territories targeted for the first cohort are Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Turks and Caicos Islands, Dominica and Grenada. Full scholarship for tuition and lodging will be provided by the Azariah McKenzie Scholarship/Grant Fund. 

    It is of interest to note, that the Mid-Term Assembly was held during the same week of the Baptist week activities of the Bahamas National Baptist Missionary and Educational Baptist Convention. Therefore, delegates to the assembly participated in some of these activities. Of note, was the Baptist Day march held on Sunday, October 15 that attracted over six thousand Bahamian Baptists. It was a festive occasion with Baptists marching with banners in decorated costumes and swaying to the rhythmic music of a number of sound systems and marching bands positioned at strategic points along the march. 

    The Mid-Term Assembly concluded with the Baptist Day march, as delegates turned their eyes to Jamaica for the 50th anniversary of the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship which will be held in 2020 at the General Assembly, guided by the theme: “Celebrating 50 Years: Reached This Far By Faith – The Journey Continues,” with Colossians 1:23 as the focus text. 

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