There are probably 13,000 Baptists today in Birmingham for the Baptist World Alliance Congress. Thats a lot of people. I left yesterday but was there for most of it. My mate Greg Warner will probably give the skinny on the conference for the Associated Press, but I thought it was a huge success - great location, great spirit, lots of friends, good weather (apart from that tornado and a few spots of rain), good emphasis on missional thinking.
I am glad to say that these 2 nerds were dressing that way on purpose, although some people probably didn't see anything wrong with their fashion sense. I thought they looked cool. I gave the guy on the right a big hug.
- A reception party on the first night, where the Virginia Baptist and Texas Baptists (BGCT) announced they had just joined the BWA, despite the SBC denomination withdrawing support. GOOD MOVE. I talked about this last year and had hoped that states stayed connected with the global scene - and now it has officially happened.
A map of the world outside the conference.
- A missional thinkers dinner, sponsored by BGCT. Just 20 of us in a balti restaurant. Good selection of people - Mark Thames, Shannon Hopkins, Si Johnston, Simon Hall, Peter Penner, Roy Searle, Ed Pillar, E.B. Brooks, Milfred M, David Gordon, Ted Elmore, Adam Eakins, and many more.
- Had a coffee with Stuart Murray Williams and discussed Anabaptist and emerging church issues.
- Steve Chalke - the first speaker at the Parallel Universe. I got to chat with him about the "heresy trial" and updates on the fallout from his book "The Lost Message of Jesus". Apparently the Evangelical Alliance has upgraded their documents to add "God is love" and a few other edits, thus allowing Steve Chalke to remain officially in the evangelical camp.
- Henry Blackaby - I went to his Bible study instead of the other teachers, expecting to be in a small group and have a few laughs with Henry, who has spoken at the same conferences as me but alas, we have never actually met. Instead of a small group, there were like 2000 people in an auditorium and it wasn't as personal as i had hoped, but good nonetheless.
Henry Blackaby wrote a book called "Experiencing God" which was received well and didnt seem to create an "experience vs. explanation" polarity that currently exists in emerging church criticism.
- Staying over with the 20 people from Orkney Islands on the final night - a touch of home for me.
- Reading and finishing Harry Potter on the bus/train/ferry home yesterday.