A Legacy of Faithful Ministry

Gathering in 1905 in London, England, Baptists gathered from around the world to convene the first Baptist World Congress. As they met at Exeter Hall, they adopted a Constitution for a Baptist World Alliance which contained the following Preamble.

“Whereas, in the providence of God, the time has come when it seems fitting more fully to manifest the essential oneness in the Lord Jesus Christ as their God and Saviour of the Churches of the Baptist order and faith throughout the world, and to promote the spirit of fellowship, service and co-operation among them, while recognizing the independence of each particular church and not assuming the functions of any existing organization, it is agreed to form a Baptist World Alliance, extending over every part of the world.”

In the years that followed, women gathered strategically for prayer, fellowship, and service. By 1934, a Baptist World Alliance women’s committee was formed. In 1939, Committee Chair Eva Brown from England is noted to have been “fearless, dynamic, resourceful, consecrated and determined to keep the idea of a world Baptist Women’s Fellowship alive” even throughout World War II. In the wake of the war, Chair Olive Martin worked to fully reinstitute the ministry of the women’s committee. In 1948, European Baptist Women’s Union was formed, the first of what is now seven women’s continental unions. In 1950, the BWA Women’s Committee was formally approved by the Baptist World Alliance and heartily endorsed by the 10,000 women from 21 nations at the Baptist World Congress that year. The newly elected officers were Oliver Martin (USA) and Lois Chapple (England) who traveled around the world to connect women’s organizations from every continent. 

In 1951, Baptist Women of North America was formed (formerly known as North American Baptist Women’s Union) followed by the formation of the Latin American Baptist Women’s Union in 1953. In 1955, the women’s committee officially became the BWA Women’s Department, and in 1956 the Asia Baptist Women’s Union (formalized in 1958) and Baptist Women’s Union of Africa were formed. Baptist Women of the Pacific was constituted in 1968 as was Caribbean Baptist Women’s Union in 2000. In 1980, the women’s department recognized the need to hire our first executive staff and establish a permanent office with June Totten hired as executive director in 1982. Over the years, God has provided many faithful women to serve their sisters around the world and further our global mission.

Chair: Olive Martin (USA)
Secretary: Lois Chapple (England)
Treasurer: Marion Bates (Canada)

Chair: Marion Bates (Canada)
Secretary: Blanche Hodge (USA)

Treasurer: Marie Mathis (USA)

President, Marion Bates (Canada)
Secretary: Olivia de Lerin (Mexico)

Treasurer: Marie Mathis (USA)


President: Marie Mathis (USA)
Secretary: Ayaka Hino (Japan)

Treasurer: Letha Casazza (North America)


President: Marie Mathis (USA)
Secretary: Ayako Hino (Japan)

Treasurer: Letha Casazza (USA)


President: Kerstin Ruden (Sweden)
Secretary/Treasurer: Judy Clanton (USA)

1982: June Totten was hired to serve as Executive Director.

President: Edna Lee Gutierrez (Mexico)
Secretary/Treasurer: Rena Smith (New Zealand)
1987: Beth MacClaren (Echols) was hired as the new Executive Director.

1989: The BWA Women’s Department was approved to become an auxiliary with an emphasis on self-governance.

President: Catherine Allen (USA)

Secretary/Treasurer: Aduke Akinola (Nigeria)

President: Mercy Jeyaraja Rao (India)
Secretary/Treasurer: Irene Haase (Germany)
1995: Willene Pierce was hired as the next Executive Director.

1998: Patsy Davis became the next Executive Director

Pictured is the BWA Women Executive at a meeting in Montreal in 1991: Back row left to right: Mercy Jeyaraja Rao of India (ABWU), Clelia Machinandiarena of Argentina (UFBAL), Jan Bowman of New Zealand (BWP – formerly Baptist Women of the South West Pacific) Soujth West Pacific, Dorothy E. Sample from USA (BWNA – formerly North American Baptist Women’s Union), Beatrice Nokuri of Cameroon (BWUA), and Yulia Gero of Hungary – the first Eastern European woman to lead EBWU. Seated left to right are Aduke Akinola of Nigeria (BWA Women Secretary 1990-1995), Catherine Allen (President 1990-1995), and Executive Director Beth MacClaren Echols.

President: Audrey Morikawa (Canada)
Secretary/Treasurer: Alicia Zorzoli (Argentina/USA)

President: Dorothy Selebano (South Africa)

Secretary/Treasurer: Donna Groover (USA)

Pictured left to right are Executive Director Patsy Davis, Dorothy Selebano, and Donna Groover.

President: Raquel Contreras (Chile/USA)
Secretary/Treasurer: Donna Groover (USA)

2015: Patsy Davis retired from her role as Executive Director at the end of the year.

President: Ksenija Magda (Croatia)
Secretary/Treasurer: Kathy James (USA)
2016: Moreen Sharp became the Acting Executive Director until her presidential term ended with NABWU.
2017: In September, Moreen Sharp became the Interim Executive Director. 

Pictured right to left at a 2012 NABWU Assembly: Catherine Allen (President 1990-1995), Mercy Jeyaraja Rao (President 1995-2000), Patsy Davis (Executive Director 1998-2015), Audrey Morikawa (President 2000-2005), and Raquel Contreras (President 2010-2015).

President: Ksenija Magda (Croatia)
Secretary/Treasurer: Kathy James (USA)
2016: Moreen Sharp became the Acting Executive Director until her presidential term ended with NABWU.

2017: In September, Moreen Sharp became the Interim Executive Director. 

Pictured left to right: Moreen Sharp, Kathy James, BWA General Secretary Emeritus Neville Callam, and Ksenija Magda


President: Karen Wilson (Australia)
Secretary/Treasurer: Sherrie Cherdak (USA)

2021: Moreen Sharp retired in October, and J. Merritt Johnston began her role as the next Executive Director in November.

Pictured left to right: Sherrie Cherdak, Karen Wilson, Moreen Sharp, and Merritt Johnston.