Belton, Texas-- On Friday, July 7, the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) named Elijah Brown, a graduate of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, as its new general secretary. Brown will move into the role in January of 2018 and become the youngest person and first Texan to hold the position of BWA general secretary.
“It’s a surprise, and a shock, and a deeply humbling experience,” Brown said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to come alongside an organization that is rich in its diversity and rich in its legacy, and help them think about ongoing transitions in ministry in the twenty-first century.”
Formed in 1905, the Baptist World Alliance is a network of 225 member bodies in 122 countries and territories around the world. It represents some 45 million Baptists living and serving in virtually every corner of the globe. The group champions many causes, including promoting fellowship and unity among believers, nurturing passion for missions and evangelism, responding to human needs, and defending human rights.
After graduating from UMHB with his wife Amy in 2002, Brown served as pastor at Taylor’s Valley Baptist Church in Temple for two years before earning a doctorate of divinity from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.
In 2015, Brown was invited to help launch the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative and serve as its executive vice president under president and founder Randel Everett. The organization is dedicated to advocating for issues of international religious freedom.
“My Ph.D. dissertation had focused on the role of the church in Sudan and South Sudan, and I’d been doing a lot of research in Africa and various other places on religious freedom,” Brown said, “so Randel asked if I’d come and help him start this organization.”
“Wilberforce was really at the forefront of making the argument on why the United States government should declare the action of the Islamic State as genocide,” Brown said. “We have also been very active in Nigeria.”
In April of 2014, members of Boko Haram, an extremist terrorist organization, kidnapped more than 250 girls, many of them Christians, from their school in Chibok, Nigeria.
“Last year we actually brought over one of the parents of one of those young ladies who is still kidnapped to this day, and we arranged a meeting for them at the White House and took them to a number of churches to share their stories.”
In October of 2016, Brown was named the general secretary of the North American Baptist Fellowship, one of the six regions of the BWA.
“I’ve been volunteering and working with the Baptist World Alliance twelve years in a variety of capacities,” Brown said. “Then in March, I found out that my name had been put forward for this role.”
Brown says that there are a few areas on which he will be concentrating. The first is advancing the issue of justice, especially as it pertains to religious freedom among people who have been persecuted.
“Many are unaware of the fact that 78% of Baptists live and serve in areas where they face high to very high persecution for their faith,” Brown said. “So how do we stand alongside these brothers and sisters and be a witness with them?”
Brown also says he is dedicated to tackling the challenge of promoting good theological teaching among every member of the BWA around the world.
“Areas in Asia and Africa have seen the number of Baptists increased by 120-190% since 1990,” Brown said. “We have to help those new believers engage further in theological education.”
Another area of concern for Brown is raising up new Baptist leaders, especially among the next generation of believers.
“Scholars tell us that by 2020, 70% of the world’s Christians will be under the age of 45,” Brown said. “It is essential that we help these young leaders connect with one another and connect with God’s call in their lives.”
Brown is proud to say that his experiences as a student at UMHB helped prepare him for this new role.
“Without question, UMHB was deeply formative in my theological convictions, academic preparation, and leadership molding,” Brown said. “UMHB gave me leadership opportunities and a passion for the world that has really helped carried me forward to meetings on Capitol Hill and meetings with parliamentarians in Taiwan and Nigeria, to standing with refugees in Lebanon and South Sudan, to now serving as the general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance and continuing to be faithful to the calling that the Lord has placed in our lives.”