Baptist World Alliance begins confab in Nigeria, lists church’s impact globally

by Church Times

The much-publicised conference of the Baptist World Alliance started on Friday, July 5 at the Eko Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos with the President of the body, Rev Dr Tomas Mackey, the President of the Nigeria Baptist Convention Rev Israel Akanji, and a host of dignitaries in attendance.

It is the first time Nigeria will be hosting the gathering since the BWA was established in 1905. The convention attracted delegates from about 130 countries across the globe. It is expected to come to an end on July 12.

While addressing journalists on Saturday, July 6, Rev Akanji took advantage of the global event to highlight Nigeria’s outstanding features.

He described Nigeria in glowing terms referring to its people as energetic and productive. “It is the home of Africa’s biggest oil refinery, capable of producing 650,000 barrels of oil per day. Very accommodating and hospitable. Lovers of agriculture. Lovers of God”

Baptist Church in Nigeria

He also traced the history of the Baptist church in Nigeria describing how the mission came through Rev Thomas Jefferson Bowen of the Southern Baptist Convention in the United States of America in 1850.

Since then the church according to him has been making a great impact. It founded its first school, Baptist Academy in 1855. “Baptist College, Iwo, currently the location of the Bowen University, was founded in 1897; and the Nigerian Baptist Theological Seminary, Ogbomoso was founded in 1898 and became the first degree-awarding institution in Nigeria”

He said Baptists Churches came together on March 11, 1914 (the year of Nigeria’s Amalgamation), at the First Baptist Church, Idikan Street, Ibadan, and later adopted the name, Nigerian Baptist Convention.

By implication, the Nigerian Baptist Convention is celebrating 110 years of existence as a Convention and 174 years as a Church in Nigeria.”

Great men produced by Baptist school

Giving further insight on how the church has impacted Nigeria, Akanji said, “The Baptist Boys High School Abeokuta, founded in 1923, produced – Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Prince Bola Ajibola, one time Attorney General and Minister of Justice; Chief MKO Abiola (GCFR);   Chief Olusegun ObasanjoOtunba Gbenga Daniel and many other great Nigerian leaders.”

The Church according to him “exists in the whole of Nigeria and along the west coast of Africa. There are many Diaspora Nigerian Baptist Churches in the USA, United Kingdom, Canada, and parts of Europe.”

Akanji recalled how the church has hosted presidents of countries across the world including President Charles Taylor, President Jimmy Carter, and President Bill Clinton. Men like Jesse Jackson and Andrew Young have also worshiped in the Nigerian Baptist church in the past while “the great Evangelist Billy Graham had series of his crusades in Nigeria in 1960 just before our national independence and it was the great pleasure of our Baptist denomination to partner with him.” Akanji said.


He noted with pain the other side of the experience of the church in the past. He talked about the severe persecution at the hands of terrorists. “Right now, in Kaduna State, several of our Churches have been burnt down and communities sacked.

On July 5, 2021, bandits attacked one of our schools, namely, Bethel Baptist High School, Kaduna, and took away 121 students, demanding huge sums of money as ransom. It took 6 months of painful and agonizing waiting and payment of huge sums of money to receive all of them back. Security agents said they could not help in the rescue mission so as not to incur severe collateral damages.”

Members in IDP camps

Since that experience, Akanji said, “Many members of the church in the North are living in IDP camps as their communities have been sacked and they have had no way of returning to their homes.”

While thanking the global church for the support over the years, he welcomed all delegates to the annual event in what he described as “our year of Super-Centenary Anniversary”

In his remark, the General Secretary, of the Baptist World Alliance, Rev. Elijah Brown expressed delight at the great reception the BWA team has received so far.

He said the Baptist church has grown 31 percent in the last 10 years adding however that the church has declined in Europe by 1 percent and in North America by 5 percent. “The Baptist family in Asia has grown 26 percent and has grown 12 percent in Latin America. In Africa, the church has grown 112 percent.”

L-R: General Secretary, All African Baptist Fellowship, Rev Ellias Apetugbo;President, Baptist World Alliance Dr. Tomas Mackey; General Secretary, Baptist World Alliance, Rev. Elija Brown; President, Nigerian Baptist Convention, Rev. Isreal Akanji; and Vice President, Finance and Investment, Nigerian Baptist Convention, Deacon. Abiodun Oloyede, at the media briefing on 2024 Baptist World Alliance in Lagos Saturday PHOTO; ETOP UKUTT


While disclosing that the theme of the conference is to “ambassadors of peace” he said the theme will be tackled from different perspectives including training and education of delegates.

He said the conference will attend to 30 new resolutions that will focus on the area of peace while also tackling the issue of hunger and poverty by following in the steps of Jesus.

The conference according to him will also deal with the issue of violence and conflicts in the world and religious freedom. “It is essential that religious freedom be maintained for all people. We are going to discuss how we can live with peace with our people, deal with poverty, and ensure that people enjoy religious freedom. We will also be introducing a new vision for the Baptist Convention for the next 10 years”

During the question-and-answer session, Dr Brown underscored the importance of feeding the poor noting that the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 is the only miracle of Jesus recorded in all the four gospels of the Bible.

He emphasised the need for church leaders and indeed political leaders to lead with grace and consider the poor in their daily public engagements.

Why Church in The West is declining

He also took time to explain why the Church is declining in Europe and North America adding also that Nigeria should hold to its passion for evangelism.

“Hold to discipleship. Every church must have small groups of discipleship that will enable everybody to grow. Salvation is personal but it is never individualised. As Christians, we grow in community. But we must maintain robust discipleship for all ages.”

He said one of the reasons the church is declining in the West is that many people came to recognise that those churches were not places of safety.

“People realised that some churches engage in abuse, and violence against women and children. I urge every Nigerian church as well as every Nigerian church to adopt policies and practices that will end domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual abuse. These are sins. It is not a cultural issue.”

He urged churches to create a haven for people adding that the church should work for policies that will benefit the people and not work for politicians.

On the way to secure peace in the land, he advised, “Reject retribution, avoid retaliation, and continue to build relationships”

Experience with terrorists

Also responding to some questions, Dr Akanji recounted the horror the church faced dealing with kidnappers when students of Bethel Baptist School were abducted. “When I was speaking with the kidnappers negotiating for the release of our students, I was speaking with them with the fullest respect kidnappers deserve. It is only when the children were released we could talk the way we like.”

He said the problem with Nigeria is the problem of impunity. People do things that are wrong and they walk around freely. Nigeria has not brought out a scapegoat. The kidnappers have people they report to. The country should target their sponsors and deal with them.”

He called for private security initiatives that will operate in various states to augment the work of the regular security agencies.

Mission schools changed 

Akanji also recalled how the government took over all mission schools and made a mess of them. “We had to start new schools. While some of them were still bearing our names, some of their names were changed. Our Baptist Teachers College in Minna was changed to Ahmadu Bahago Teachers College. Schools of other denominations were changed, and Our Lady of Apostles College was changed to Queen Amina College.

In Kaduna St Joseph’s College in Zaria became Barewa College. It was a Catholic School. After many years government now returned some of the schools to the founding missions but by then the schools have been reduced to their shadows. Assuming we had continued with what we had, by now, we would have made more impact”

He said the Baptist church currently runs one of the best teaching hospitals in Nigeria. “This comes at a great cost”

School of Nursing

Akanji said he was at the Nursing Council recently because the church was planning to start a new School of Nursing and was told at the council that the church has made more contributions to the Nursing manpower in the country than many states.

“We turn out over 1000 nurses every year. But I was told there are states in Nigeria that can’t produce 100 nurses in a year.”

The president of the BWA Rev Mackey expressed great delight at the event noting that coming to Nigeria for him was to learn. He called on all to work towards peace in the world.

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IHEMEBIGAM MOSES NNAEMEKA July 9, 2024 - 7:00 am

Thanks to God Almighty who had given His son this vision to navigate through the affairs of the church. Kudos! This will go a long way to foster church growth and development spontaneously. Although I’ve read through some of the broadcast and discovered God’s fingerprint on the write-ups.

More grace to the pioneer of this media…

IHEMEBIGAM MOSES NNAEMEKA July 9, 2024 - 7:00 am

Thanks to God Almighty who had given His son this vision to navigate through the affairs of the church. Kudos! This will go a long way to foster church growth and development spontaneously. Although I’ve read through some of the broadcast and discovered God’s fingerprint on the write-ups.
More grace to the pioneer of this media…


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