The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has agreed to function as liaison for religious liberty on behalf of the Baptist World Alliance, CBF Executive Coordinator Suzii Paynter reported to the group’s Governing Board.
BWA leaders approached the Decatur, Ga.,-based CBF after Raimundo Barreto, a former Brazilian pastor named in 2009 as first director of a new BWA Division of Freedom and Justice, resigned last year to join the faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary, Paynter said.
Instead of seeking a new director, BWA General Secretary Neville Callam asked the 1,800-church Fellowship to take the lead in coordinating international religious liberty functions for the 110-year-old organization representing more than 40 million Baptists in 121 countries and territories around the world. The CBF became a BWA member in 2003.
The CBF has engaged Mark Wiggs, an attorney and writer in Jackson, Miss., who formerly served as chair of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, to assume the portfolio as a volunteer, Paynter said.
“If you know Mark, you know that religious liberty lights his fire, gives him joy, is his passion,” Paynter noted. “So we feel so grateful to have him in this position.”
Wiggs’ main focus will be the Conference of NGOs in Consultative Relationships with the United Nations—also known as CoNGO. The group facilitates the participation of non-governmental organizations in U.N. decision-making and programs related to economic and social justice.
The BWA is one of several religious groups among the 333 NGOs recognized as a full member of CoNGO, entitling it to credentials at UN meetings in New York, Geneva and Vienna.
In addition to his work at the United Nations, Wiggs also will represent the CBF at religious liberty organizations in Washington, such as the Institute for Global Engagement, a think tank dedicated to creating an environment for religious freedom worldwide, Paynter said.
The new covenant with the BWA builds on an earlier partnership to increase the CBF presence at the U.N. announced last year, noted Jeff Huett, CBF’s associate coordinator for communications and advancement.