Virginia leader nabs BWA presidency
    August 2 2010 by Marv Knox, Associated Baptist Press

    HONOLULU — The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) has elected John Upton, a denominational executive with experience on the mission field and in the pastorate, as its new president.

    Upton will continue as executive director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia, a post he has held since 2001. Previously, he was a missionary to Taiwan and a pastor in Virginia.

    The BWA General Council nominated Upton for the presidency a year ago, when the group held its annual meeting in the Netherlands. Delegates to the 20th Baptist World Congress confirmed that nomination July 31 in Honolulu. His term will last until the summer of 2015.

    “I believe in the Baptist World Alliance,” Upton told BWA delegates moments after his election. “I believe in the way we elevate the name of Christ, serve in the name of Christ, listen to the Spirit of God, and build up the body of Christ in all its many languages, cultures and customs. I believe in who we are.”

    The best symbol for the BWA is “the way we praise God together,” Upton said. “It’s what captures who we are.”

    Photo by Rand Jenkins

    John Upton was elected president of the BWA at the 20th Baptist World Congress in Honolulu.

    That symbol may seem too ordinary and too benign, but it is powerful, he contended. He cited a litany of other ministries, activities and projects BWA members undertake together, but the symbol of praise rises above the rest.

    “We spend so much time in praise when we’re together,” he observed. “Why do we do this? Does God need it? It’s in our DNA. When we praise God, we touch the heart of God.”

    Praise symbolizes the BWA because it is subversive, he maintained. “It is a cry for radical freedom under God. To live in praise is to say those (worldly) powers are limited” in their control over God’s work among God’s people all over the world. That’s why Baptists stand for justice and redemption — because they believe it will only come through the power of God.

    “Gathering to praise God is not just a nice thing to do. It’s the only thing to do,” Upton said.

    The new president pledged to the delegates: “I will commit to serve you with dignity, respect, inclusiveness and, yes, praise these next five years as we are in step with the Spirit.”

    Callam praises Upton
    In a news conference after the election, BWA General Secretary Neville Callam endorsed Upton’s election “without any doubt.”

    “He’s eminently suited to be the president of BWA,” Callam said of Upton, noting the staff at BWA headquarters in Falls Church, Va., is joyful because of the election.

    Upton has led Virginia Baptists to the “cutting edge of mission and witness,” and Upton likewise succeeded as a missionary and pastor, Callam said. He praised Upton’s involvement in BWA across many years. Upton has served on the BWA’s Executive Committee and General Council and Program Committee this year, as well as on other BWA groups and the Executive Committee of the North American Baptist Fellowship, BWA’s regional affiliate in Canada and the United States.

    Upton is an excellent cross-cultural communicator, Callam added, noting he will represent the BWA well before governments and other religious bodies, will provide clear vision and will help unite the worldwide Baptist organization.

    “The search committee found its ideal candidate” in Upton, he said.

    Upton succeeded David Coffey of the United Kingdom, who served as BWA president since the 19th Baptist World Congress in Birmingham, England, in 2005.

    BWA delegates also elected Daniel Carro of Argentina as first vice president.

    They selected a slate of vice presidents from across the world — Joel Sierra, Mexico; Regina Claas, Germany; Nabil Costa, Lebanon; Harry Gardner, Canada; William Epps, United States; Olu Menjay, Liberia; Paul Msiza, South Africa; Victor Samuel Gonzalez, Cuba; Burchell Taylor, Jamaica; John Kok, Malaysia; and Ross Clifford, Australia.

    The newly elected BWA treasurer is Caroline Fossen of the United States.
    8/2/2010 10:17:00 AM by Marv Knox, Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments

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