21Wilberforce Timothy Fellows Convene in Norway

In 2022, 21Wilberforce launched a new initiative called “Timothy Fellows” for young Baptist professionals and students around the world. Five of six regions within the Baptist World Alliance are represented and the first ten Fellows hail from the Benin, Brazil (2), Bulgaria, Germany, Ghana, Honduras, Nigeria, United Kingdom and the U.S.

21Wilberforce President Randel Everett and Trent Martin, 21W Advocacy and Training Coordinator lead the emerging leader cohort. The three-year training program is designed to help the Fellows gain a deeper understanding of religious persecution and effective means to challenge oppression in their communities. Training focuses on:

  • learning best practices for transformational leadership
  • becoming informed about the foundational right of religious freedom for all people
  • understanding historic Baptist positions on religious freedom
  • identifying communities of concern who are facing religious oppression
  • developing and implementing strategies for defending the persecuted
  • providing resources for challenging unjust laws and practices

Their virtual bi-monthly meetings feature experts that broaden their knowledge of religious freedom, advocacy skills, and leadership abilities in interactive discussions. The cohort meets once a year in person at the annual BWA Conference held in different locations around the world.

The cohort first met at the BWA Annual Gathering in Birmingham, Alabama in July of 2022. Since that time, the fellows have worked together virtually on a project to map the opportunities and challenges for religious freedom in their regions. This research will equip them with a deep knowledge of religious freedom so they can be more effective leaders on the issue.The Fellows presented their research to other Baptist leaders last month at the BWA Annual Gathering in Norway.

The 10 Timothy Fellows arrived in Norway on July 1 and 2nd and kicked off the week with a  team building boat ride tour of the Lysefjord. This was followed by attending the BWA Annual Gathering opening ceremony at a local Baptist church.  The next two days the Timothy Fellows participated in training led by 21Wilberforce staff and the Stefanus Alliance trainers in the fundamental framework of FoRB and how they can apply that in their respective regions. 21Wilberforce President, Dr. Randel Everett, mentored the fellows by sharing key lessons learned during his time of leadership of 21Wilberforce on why and how we can defend the persecuted. The fellows were then given the opportunity to work with a partner fellow and with an assigned trainer to develop an action plan for their region to develop a religious freedom reporting and response network.

On July 5th the Timothy Fellows launched their Freedom of Religion or Belief Mapping Project by presenting their findings at a session hosted by the BWA’s Religious Freedom Commission that outlined key religious freedom challenges and opportunities throughout the Baptist World Alliance regions.  Teams of two fellows each presented their findings on the regions of Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. They also took questions from the audience and engaged in follow-up discussions with leaders from around the world. The report contains over 200 pages of reporting and analysis that will provide the basis for evaluation of key religious freedom issues that 21Wilberforce and Baptist World Alliance networks should work to help address in their advocacy. The FoRB mapping project report was a significant first step to building bridges for them to engage with members of the BWA RF commission (from different regions).