The Kingdom of God is like…

The Kingdom of God is like…

May 22, 2017

“The Kingdom of God is like…” a room full of brothers and sisters in Christ singing praise to God in several languages, the walls around them lined with the flags of many nations. It is bigger than that, of course. The sixty official delegates and observers sometimes swelled to more from nearby churches as they shared in worship, sermons, and Bible studies on the theme. Each represented many others as they pondered the Kingdom within us, among us, here and now as well as yet to come: this small thing, like a mustard seed, so full of potential to grow.

Such was the spirit of the Seventh Day Baptist World Federation’s eighth session held in Curitiba, Paraná, Brazil, January 22-28, 2017. President Dale Thorngate had planned a week full of business, education, worship, and fellowship. From the opening welcome by Brazil Conference President João Teles dos Santos to the closing communion and the celebration of the Federation’s Fiftieth Anniversary led by General Secretary Andrew Samuels, all went well.

Participants enjoyed Brazil’s welcoming hospitality coordinated by Host Committee Chairman, Douglas Machado, a man for all challenges. Whether it was adjusting the sound system and video equipment, keeping everyone in tow for sightseeing and church

visits, making an emergency trip to the hospital, or assuming around- the-clock translation service, our hosts were there. Friendly, gentle horses roamed the grounds of Chácara da Esperança retreat center with us, whether on the soccer fields or on the paths and seating under ancient Araucaria trees that shaded the buildings. Guests relished endless fresh mango and papaya, ubiquitous rice & beans, and, yes, Brazilian beef.

Of course delegates’ main business was business: receiving reports from officers and each member conference, separating into committees to review reports and their recommendations and bring items back to the floor for action, election of officers and plans for the next five years of the Federation’s work. Five committees worked hard on that review and planning. They were chaired by Claudia Ferguson, Constitution Review; Canaan Phiri, Membership; Gavin Fox, Finance & Budget; Naval Harley, Nominations; and Devon Levy, Report Review.

Perhaps the most exciting action was acceptance of the Seventh Day Baptist Conference of Rwanda into membership in the Federation. Delegates welcomed Rwanda’s General Secretary Jean Karimutumye and also General Secretary Daniel Nsubuga of the Uganda Conference, which had been received into membership by mail ballot in 2016. They were also happy to meet President Pedro Aguilera Castillo and other Fraternal Delegates from the newest SDB Conference, organized in Chile in 2014.

Official action encouraged more cooperation between conferences within a geographic region and more direct involvement of conferences in selecting their regional vice presidents. Specific country projects were identified for support through the Federation and/or the Missionary Society. Officers were asked to visit less active member groups. Delegates also revised the Constitution, pulling much of it out into a set of more flexible bylaws, suggested specific fundraising strategies to encourage support across all member groups, adopted a five-year budget, and accepted the USA & Canada Conference invitation to host the 9th Session in North America in 2022. They elected the ten officers who will make up the new Executive Committee with Andrew Samuels continuing as General Secretary and Jonas Sommer of Brazil the new President.

In keeping with the leadership training emphasis of recent years, General Secretary Samuels and Clinton Brown of the Missionary Society led a panel discussion on leadership training. Delegates from six conferences described their training programs and responded to questions. Other seminars dealt with Youth and Young Adult Ministries (Claudir Oliveira), Leadership and Administration (John Pethtel), Cross-Cultural Missions (Clinton Brown), and Why Do History? (Janet Thorngate).

Evening worship preachers and morning Bible study leaders kept participants focused on the Kingdom theme. Bible Study leaders: Luciano De Moura, Claudia Ferguson, Canaan Phiri, and Bernadino de Vargas Sobrinho. Preachers: Jonas Sommer, Devon Levy, Michael Spearl, Gabriel Bejjani, Andrew Samuels, and Dale Thorngate. These sessions were live-streamed onto the Internet so that many others, worldwide, could share in the feast.

Morning and evening worship embodied the Kingdom spirit through a kaleidoscope of music led by Luiz Miranda who shared instruments with his wife and daughter (saxophone, keyboard, flute, violin, recorders) in melodies and rhythms from many cultural traditions. The basic praise band, including guitars and cajon drum plus vocalist Sophia Levy from Jamaica, expanded spontaneously to include other instruments and vocal ensembles so that by the end of the week a World Federation Choir sang for the Sabbath services. Words projected in English, Portuguese, and often Spanish did not limit what native tongue was sung or when. Music was the language of the Spirit.


On Sabbath night delegates celebrated the Federation’s Semi-Centennial by honoring former leaders and dedicating the new officers. General Secretary Samuels presented appreciation awards for the three original CoWoCo members still living (of the nine who, in 1964, had drafted and signed the proposed constitution establishing the Seventh Day Baptist World Federation): Jacob Tyrrell of Guyana, Naval Harley of Jamaica, and Otrain Manani of Malawi. Gabriel Bejjani was named President Emeritus as was Joe Samuels (posthumously). Dale Thorngate was granted the title General Secretary Emeritus and Janet Thorngate, Editor Emeritus. Jan and Ruth Lek were

honored for “long, dedicated, and outstanding service,” Marlo Siolo and Justin Camenga for dedicated service, and Kenneth Chroniger as Honorary Ambassador. Participants shared in The Lord’s Supper conducted by outgoing President Thorngate and incoming President Sommer. The closing fellowship circle pressed the walls on all four sides of the flag-draped chapel walls.

Janet Thorngate is a member of the Seventh Day Baptist Church in Salem, West Virginia. She

was recently named Editor Emeritus for her work in publicizing the activities of the Seventh Day

Baptist World Federation since the early 1980s, particularly as editor of the newsletter, Seventh

Day Baptist WORLD. She is author of Baptists in Early North America: Newport, Rhode Island,

Seventh Day Baptists, published this year by Mercer University Press, and in May was granted

the honorary degree, Doctor of Letters, by Salem International University. She is Chairman of the

Council on History of the SDB General Conference, USA & Canada.

Clip to Evernote