A Third of the World’s Population without Access to the Gospel
B r i s t o l – The Brit David Coffey (Didcot), President of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), has appealed for renewed effort in the realms of mission and social politics. “The task of mission is still unfinished,” Coffey stated at European Baptist Federation (EBF) Executive Committee sessions in Bristol on 31 March. Four-and-a-half-billion of the world’s six billion inhabitants have not yet been reached with the Gospel of God’s love. The Bible or even portions of it are not available in 4.000 of the world’s 6.500 languages. Roughly a third of the world’s population is without access to the Gospel because there are no Christians in their region or they cannot be reached by electronic media. In this context, Coffey referred to the renewed founding of so-called “cowboy churches” in the USA. In Texas alone there are already more than 50 such Baptist-style congregations, in which men and women gather for church in cowboy apparel. According to Coffey, it is to be applauded when people can be addressed spiritually in their own, daily surroundings.
The BWA-President also called for Baptists to become more actively involved in social concerns such as overcoming poverty and protecting the climate. These are Biblical concerns. Coffey announced that the Baptist World Alliance will become increasingly active in the support of religious freedom and human rights. The opening of a BWA office on human rights is under go. Both the former US President Jimmy Carter (Plains, Georgia) and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) in the US have expressed readiness to finance such an effort. “We must see to it that we hear about it immediately if a Baptist somewhere in the world is arrested for his/her faith.” It is important in this realm to network with other Christian human rights organisations. Coffey thanked European Baptists for their solidarity activities and prayers in support of the British Baptist Prof. Norman Kember. Kember was freed in Bagdad in mid-March together with two Canadian hostages after nearly four months in the hands of kidnappers.
Coffey criticised the exaggerated nationalism among some Christians: “These people are not giving Jesus Christ the glory, but instead their country.” That is idolatry. He also criticised fundamentalist currents among Baptists, which have led repeatedly to divisions. Those who elevate questions other than faith in Jesus Christ to confessional issues are heretics and give in the end satan the glory. Secondary issues such as whether women may accept positions of leadership or become pastors, or whether Baptists should distance themselves from charismatic styles of piety, should not be allowed to cause divisions. In this context Coffey called for fraternal contacts with the Southern Baptists in the USA and the Evangelical Christians-Baptists in Kazakhstan which both left the Baptist World Alliance on these issues. According to Coffey, it is possible to strengthen spiritual fellowship even when one has different opinions on some matters.