Virginia leader nabs BWA presidency
Marv Knox, Associated Baptist Press
August 02, 2010

Virginia leader nabs BWA presidency

Virginia leader nabs BWA presidency
Marv Knox, Associated Baptist Press
August 02, 2010

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


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


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,


The newly elected BWA treasurer is Caroline Fossen

of the United States.