By Bob Allen
North Americans attending the July 2-7 Baptist World Alliance annual gathering in Santiago, Chile, convened Thursday afternoon to preview plans for the 50th anniversary celebration of the North American Baptist Fellowship in 2014.
The March 6-7, 2014, gathering in Philadelphia will also commemorate the 200th anniversary of the first national Baptist denomination in the United States, often called the Triennial Convention because it met every three years, established in that city in 1814.
George Bullard, general secretary of the NABF, one of six regional fellowships of the 221-member body BWA, said the anniversary celebration will continue themes popularized in recent years by the New Baptist Covenant, an initiative to unite Baptists across racial and organizational lines across North America.
Bullard said the gathering “will seek to focus on the missional past, present and future of Baptists throughout North America, while at the same time honoring the commitments of former USA President Jimmy Carter through his New Baptist Covenant events.”
The NABF was formed in 1964 by nine major Baptist denominational groups, including both American Baptist Churches USA and the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC, also a founder of the BWA in 1905, pulled out of both organizations in 2004 because the SBC’s conservative leaders felt the global Baptist fellowship had grown too doctrinally inclusive.
Today, 26 different Baptist organizations are affiliated with NABF, including the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Baptist General Association of Virginia, Baptist General Convention of Texas and Churchnet, a 10-year-old breakaway from the Missouri Baptist Convention, also known as the Baptist General Convention of Missouri.
Jim Hill, executive director of Churchnet since 2004, was introduced in Santiago as new president of the NABF. He urged nearly 100 people in attendance to “consider making a financial commitment to the work of BWA and NABF above and beyond their current commitments to various causes.”
Based on reporting by NABF