History Of NBCC
NAGALAND, home to the many Naga tribes, is a hilly State spread across the northeastern hills of India. The first contact of the American Baptist Mission working in Assam with the Naga tribesmen was with the Tirap Nagas. Miles Bronson established a Christian Mission Centre at Namsang village in 1839. In the following year, he was joined by his wife and his sister, Rhoda Bronson. They opened a Primary school, and Bronson wrote a Naga vocabulary book, a catechism, and a book called ‘Natahema Heran Kabanva Nyapran’, which is the first book to be written in a Naga language. However, plagued with illness, the family shifted to Assam and Rhoda Bronson died there on 7th December 1840, thus becoming the first Missionary to sacrifice her life for the Nagas.
Bronson left the Namsang Mission permanently and joined the Sibsagar Mission. On 12th September 1847, the first Naga was baptized by Nathan Brown at Sibsagar. His name was Hubi, but he died the following October. Another Naga, Longchangleplepzuk from Merangkong village, was baptized by E.W. Whiting in 1851 and became a member of the Sibsagar Baptist Church. But when he went to his village intending to bring a wife, his village was attacked by a neighbouring Naga tribe and he was killed. The Namsang Naga Mission was abandoned for about thirty years, from 1840 to 1870, until Rev. E. W. Clark came to Sibsagar in 1869, and restarted the Naga Mission from another Naga region called Dekha Haimong or Molungkimong. With the help of Subongmeren, a native of Molungkimong village, Rev. Clark first sent Godhula, an Assamese Evangelist, to Molungkimong village. Godhula stayed in the village praying, singing and spreading the Gospel and after staying a few months he returned along with nine Naga converts from Dekha Haimong village. They were baptized at Sibsagar on 11th November 1872. They became members of the Sibsagar Baptist Church, but on returning home, these new converts built a Chapel in the village and worship services were conducted by Godhula. The following month in December, Rev. Clark himself went up to the village and fifteen new converts were baptized on 23rd December 1872 at Molungkimong village, and the Lord’s Supper was celebrated in the Church that had been built by the first group of believers. Thus the first Church in Naga soil was established. Rev. Clark along with the new converts established a new village, Molungyimsen, near Deka Haimong in 1876. Clark set up his Mission Station here until it was shifted to Impur in 1894. In 1878, a school was set up in Molungyimsen by Mary Mead Clark.
By the year 1887 the latest Missionary advance in Assam was called the ‘Naga Mission’ to distinguish it from the ‘Assam Mission’ in the Brahmaputra Valley and the ‘Garo Mission.’ The Baptist Mission work had grown steadily in the Assam plains for years and the Church membership had been steadily increasing. Then a new day of Christian Mission dawned among the Nagas. The Missionaries, then in Assam, were fully aware that the Nagas presented a most challenging and promising opportunity. At the Jubilee conference in 1886, E.G. Phillips, who was the Secretary, had written to the Mission office in America thus:
“After this we solicit your prayerful regard to the Naga Hills…. You have already been appraised by telegraph of our action in advising our brother Rivenburg to take charge at once of the work at Kohima, dropped by our brother King. We beg to explain that our action was not taken with any expectation of leaving our brother Clark alone at Molung; but that the sudden development of the situation drove us to the arrangement, adopted in the hope that the immediate appointment of a new helper for Molung obviates the threatened check to the progress of the Mission. In the paucity of written helps to the acquisition of the language, and in view of the fact that as the work advances the Missionaries are likely to be confronted by new and more or less different dialects, thus necessitating eminently thorough acquaintance with the dialect now available. It seems impossible to avoid serious loss unless a new Missionary be allowed at least three years preparation before the burdens of the station shall be left upon his shoulders. We believe that the present indications lead us to maintain constant readiness to occupy new stations in these hills, extending the work on the Assam side to meet the progress of the Missions in Upper Burma.” (Cited by J.E. Tanquist, “The Gospel Among the Nagas,” as reported in 1936).
The Growth Of the mission File
The decade 1887 to 1896 saw the humble & of Church memberships in Nagaland. However, the work was a good beginning as this would lay the foundation for the later Churches in the subsequent years. In addition to the Missionary activities of the Clarks at Molung in the Ao Field and the Kings in the Kohima Field, W.E. Witter and his wife began their promising work among the Lothas. Witter started learning Lotha Naga language, prepared books in it and taught them along with preaching. Rev. Clark and his wife continued their work from Molung for the Aos. Though they were seasoned Missionaries working in the Ao area, their interest was not confined down to the work in that one region. They were overjoyed to learn of a great spiritual awakening among the Angami, Sümi, Lotha, and other Naga groups. Towards the close of this decade they could sense some improvement in the Ao villages year by year and by 1891 the total membership in the three Ao Churches so far was 71. Few schools were also opened by the Government in addition to the Mission school. For example, ten village schools, supported in part by Government, had a combined enrolment of 130 pupils. Those pupils for the most part attended Sunday schools.
In Kohima, C.D. King, his family and their helpers had set up the Angami Mission in 1881, though without a single Angami as a local member. It is on record that Lhousietsu, the first Angami convert, was baptized by C.D. King at Kohima on 21 June 1885; but the second convert Lhouselie’s date of baptism cannot be ascertained and it may be that he was baptized in the 2nd week of July, 1885. The third convert was Sieliezhu who was baptized by C.D. King on 30th August, 1885. Later S. W. Rivenburg and his wife took charge of the Angami work from the Kings, and slowly won more souls to Christ. During this period, the work among the Lothas faced a setback owing to the absence of the Witters. But the work was not wholly given up. The Clarks as well as the Rivenburgs recognized that Kohima was an ideal centre for Missionary work for different Naga groups in that part of the country. The Missionaries believed that the Angamis when once genuinely converted would use their influence for good throughout a wide area and they prayed and hoped for a spiritual awakening. Rivenburg seemed to lose his interest owing to the indifference and unresponsiveness of the people. In 1891 he was supposed to have said this about the situation of his work, “Preparation: no harvest, no earning, no flower, not even germination so far as I can see.” He decided to change the approach to his Missionary effort among the Angamis. Before the end of the decade he had taken an extended break and returned as a medical Doctor. He continued to report that there was no visible progress to speak of. And yet he declared, “I propose to continue, in the months to come, to work as I have in the past, trusting that the Lord will use my efforts to build up His kingdom here.” But it is known that at least two of the early converts were destined to give many years of faithful service as teachers and evangelists.
In the Ao Field, F .P. Haggard and his wife and S.A. Perrine and his wife were sent to continue the work and upon their arrival, the centre of the Ao Mission Field was shifted from Molung to Impur in 1894. In 1897 the first Churches conference was held at Molungyimsen. Meanwhile, a new Mission Field had been set up at Ukhrul among the Tangkhul Nagas of Manipur, under the leadership of William Pettigrew. The Impur and Kohima Missionaries welcomed the new venture heartily and gave the Ukhrul Missionaries all the encouragement they could. The work among the Lothas continued with Haggard reporting in 1899 that an Assamese Preacher had been sent to work among the Lothas, and that they were also considering the possibility of sending someone to work among the Sümi tribesmen.
During the time when the Rivenburgs had been away on a break in 1907, H.B. Dickson and his wife looked after the work at Kohima. Dickson also took a special interest in winning the Sümis to Christ, and he visited some Sümi villages bordering the Angami area. The Dicksons were young, enthusiastic, musical and evangelistic. Through their influence a beginning of a spiritual movement was seen among the Angamis and the Sümis, and quite a number believed and were baptized. However, this little movement among the Sümis was unfortunately not followed up, and their fervour melted away. After sometime some Sümi boys would drift into schools in Kohima and Impur, become Christians and go back to their villages and they either went back to their old life or remained as secret Christians. And all of a sudden, mass conversion took place and many Sümis became Christians within a short time. The period from 1917 to 1926 saw a people’s conversion movement among the Sümis. Likewise on a smaller scale the Rengmas also began to yield to Christ. The Lothas began to take forward strides.
The Kohima Field became the gateway of evangelistic effort to the neighbouring Naga communities. J.E. Tanquist also visited the Chakhesangs with the Good News in the early thirties. From the Kohima Field, the Missionaries continued to supervise the works in the Chakhesang, Pochury, Kuki, Zeliang, Sümi, Mao, Poumai and Rengma areas. From the Ao Field, the light of the Good News spread to Naga communities like Sangtams in 1918, Phoms in 1929, Konyaks in 1932, Changs in 1936 and the Yimchungrus and Khiamungans during the 1950s.
Foundation & Formation Period
J .E. Tanquist, in an unpublished paper in 1936, referred to the use of a ‘Naga Mission’ to distinguish it from the other two fields, namely, ‘Assamese Field’ and ‘Garo Field,’ all under the American Baptist Mission. In this paper he narrated in brief the Missionary work among the Nagas in Nagaland (formerly Naga Hills) and even including the Nagas of Manipur. He had a vision of an integrated Naga Baptist Churches in this region. However, for administrative reasons of the Mission, his vision could not be fully realised and the Naga Baptist Churches of Nagaland as well as of Manipur remained an integral part of the Baptist Mission in Assam under the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (now renamed as the International Ministries of the American Baptist Churches in U.S.A.), and the Council of Baptist Churches in North East India.
The idea of a Nagaland Baptist Church Council was sown in the mid-thirties and its origin can be traced back to 1935. Missionaries, like J .E. Tanquist and others had sown the idea of a united Naga Baptist Churches for fellowship and solidarity of witness. The minutes of the 40th Annual Session of Ao Naga Baptist Association (generally known as Ao Mungdang) at Merangkong, from 19th to 22nd November 1936, mentioned the presence of a delegation of five Angami Church leaders who exhorted the gathering saying that Nagas would not join a Council with the plains people but would rather come together as ‘one’ Naga group. In the following year, a delegation consisting of one Lotha, two Sümis and one Angami, attended the 41st Annual Session of the Ao Mundang at Ungma which was held from 13th to 16th November, 1937. The Angami, Neisier by name told the audience that Nagas would not join the proposed Council of Churches (perhaps in North East India?). His statement was welcomed by the Ao Christians there.
According to the consolidated view of M. Savino, L. Kijungluba and Longri Ao, who were present at the first meeting, the Naga Hills Baptist Church Advisory Council was organised at Tanquist’s Bungalow on 5th April 1937. The exact name of the Council cannot be ascertained for lack of documentary evidence; however, it was known as the ‘Naga Hills Baptist Church Advisory Council’.
Re-organization of the Nagaland Church Council
Historically speaking, the Nagaland Baptist Church Council was organised in 1935 at Kohima as the Naga Hills Baptist Church Advisory Board and it was renamed as the Naga Hills Baptist Church Council in 1937. Counting from 1937, therefore, the Nagaland Baptist Church Council celebrates the completion of seventy five years in 2012. The Nagaland Baptist Church Council as such was reorganized only in 1953 and then functioned as a true organization, though somewhat provisional, until 1960, under a constitution laid down to guide its working. At first, the name Naga Baptist Church Council was used but after the inauguration of Nagaland as a separate State, a consequential amendment was made and it was then regularized as Nagaland Baptist Church Council as it is used today. There was even some discussion about changing it to a more appropriate name, but the Council meeting at Kohima from 23rd to 31st March, 1958 affirmed, ‘the name of the Council should remain as it is’ (NBCC Action No.8), except for the slight change of ‘Naga’ to ‘Nagaland’ at a later stage.
Then, the question of a full operation of the Council also came up in the 1958 session. It was voted that three Secretaries be appointed for the three Districts of the time, Kohima, Mokokchung and Tuensang with an Executive Committee comprising of seven elected members (Action Nos. 9 and 10). By 1959 several standing committees (with one Board), namely, (a) Literature and Christian Education Board, (b) Stewardship Committee, (c) Evangelistic Committee, and (d) Youth Committee, were also appointed (NBCC, Dimapur, 2nd to 4th April, 1959; NC 59/001). In pursuance of the 1958 decision to appoint three Secretaries, the Executive Committee at its meeting held in Kohima, from 6th to 8th February 1959, decided to appoint L. Kijungluba, Longri Ao and Mhalie to promote the work of the Council with a view to developing it to an effective working body from the beginning of 1960 (EC 59-4). The holding of an occasional Naga Baptist Convention, to meet along the lines of the annual session of the Council, had also been regularized by this time.
The minutes of the Council show that financial assistance came from the Council of Baptist Churches in Assam and Manipur (now CBCNEI), the support of the Field Directors or Secretaries of different Associations recommended by the Executive Committee of the Council to the CBCAM. With the creation of an organisation with a defined constitution, including Secretaries and several committees, the question of local funding also became a necessity and the need for some form of contribution from the member Associations and Churches. Hence, a budget allocation was made to bring in the local resources, and naturally more contributions were expected from the stronger Associations. The budget allocation of 1959 indicated the following 14 Associations in the membership list of the Council: 1. Angami Baptist Association 2. Ao Baptist Association 3. Chang Baptist Association 4. Chakhesang Baptist Associatian 5. Khiamniungan Baptist Association6. Konyak Baptist Association 7. Kuki Baptist Association 8. Lotha Baptist Association 9. Rengma Baptist Association 10. Phom Baptist Association 11. Sema Baptist Association 12. Sangtam Baptist Association 13. Yimchunger Baptist Association 14. Zeliang Baptist Association.
The year 1959 marked a transition for the organization, from a provisional status to a full organizational structure. At the Council meeting at Kohima from 26th to 29th November 1959, the post of an Executive Secretary was created with the headquarters of the Centre located at Kohima. Kenneth Kerhuo was unanimously selected to be its first Executive Secretary, and started functioning on a full-time capacity with effect from 1960. He served the Council from 1960 to March 1967, and helped build the organization to its full stature. In the Dimapur meeting of 1961, the post of a Promotional Secretary was also created to share responsibility with the Executive Secretary and more particularly to promote the Churches (ANBC-61/49). I. Ayutemjen of Ao Mungdang at Impur was appointed as the first Promotional Secretary. He served the Council from 1962 to December 1966. At the Dimapur Annual Session of 1967, the Nagaland Baptist Women’s Union was also officially represented for the first time by its officers J. Savino (President) and L. Noksangchila Ao (Secretary). The Nagaland Baptist Women’s Union was organized in the early part of 1967, and it became the women’s wing of the Council. The Nagaland Christian Youth Movement was organized in 1971 by bringing together the different youth societies such as Christian Endeavour, the Baptist Youth Fellowship. Its first session in the form of a Youth Convention was held at Kohima from 31st March to 2nd April, 1972. Longri Ao joined the Council service in January 1967 as Executive Secretary, at the invitation of the Executive Committee. He came with a rich experience of faithful and dedicated Ministry under the CBCNEI, as Teacher at Jorhat and Missionary to the Konyaks. He brought dynamism and evangelistic fervour to the Council. He took up office at a time when the political situation in Nagaland was passing through a decisive period and he played a prophetic and mediating role as an ideal Minister of God seeking to bring peace. Later on, both the State Government and the Church were to recognize him as a ‘Man of Peace.’ His time was eventful and it was full of new ventures. He relinquished his responsibility as General Secretary by the end of 1979, but he was again designated as Missionary-at-large for the Mission Outreach programme under the NMM from the beginning of 1980, till his death in August 1981.
The need of a central headquarter for the Council was strongly felt and at last it was decided that the headquarters of the Council would be established at Kohima (AEC-71/102). All Associations, women and youth organizations, including local Churches, were requested to contribute as much as they could towards the establishment of this centre. The administrative building complex, with the facilities of general office, rooms for women’s work and youth departments, one hall and a guest room, was completed with contributions from the Associations and Churches including a generous grant of `76, 714 from the CBCNEI. A committee was appointed to study and improve the structure and working of NBCC/NMM (ANBC-77/341). In line with the latest revision of the constitution, the existing nomenclatures such as Field Director, Field Secretary, Field Supervisor. in the Associations were changed to a uniform nomenclature as Executive Secretary, and also that of the existing name of NBCC Executive Secretary to General Secretary.
A Home Mission Board was established at the annual meeting at Mokokchung in 1960 and created the idea of a Home Mission Division (ANBC-69/206). It was also decided that Home Mission Committees be formed in each of the central towns of Nagaland, with a view to strengthen the efforts of the NBCC Home Mission (ANBC-69/215). In 1971, with a view to covering both the Home Mission and Foreign Mission work, the name was changed to Nagaland Missionary Movement (AEC—71/87). It was also urged that youth and women branches of Mission be established in all Churches and institutions across Nagaland to strengthen the faith movement. In 2007, it was once again renamed as Nagaland Missions Movement.
From the very beginning, education has been one of the major concerns of the Council and this led to the establishment of various Baptist English schools and Church schools. The organisation seeing the need and importance of education, set up a Board of Christian Education to supervise the Baptist English schools in Nagaland. Later it was also proposed to take over the Christian English School at Dimapur from a private management and from 1974 it came under the management of the Council (ANBC -74/296). Then at the Special Joint Meeting of the NBCC Executive Committee and Church elders at Kohima, from 27th to 29th June 1967, the pressing need for a Christian college in Nagaland, through which young people could be trained aright for secular as well as Christian Ministries, was strongly voiced out. Meanwhile, a proposal came from Tuisem Shishak for the possibility of establishing a Christian college in this region. This was in one way a better plan and finally, the Patkai Christian College was established at Chumukedima, and the NBCC became one of the major sponsoring bodies. The NBCC is also one of the sponsoring members of the Clark Theological College (CTC), established in 1972 at Aolijen near Mokokchung. The NBCC accorded recognition to CTC as early as 1974 (ANBC-74/288). The NBCC also impressed upon the Government of Nagaland to introduce the Scripture and related Christian literature into the school curriculum to integrate religious instruction and moral teaching in education.
Nagaland is a predominantly Christian area and Nagas serving in the armed forces and police are all Christians and their spiritual welfare is the concern of the Church. Realising the need to minister to these people, the NBCC began to place Chaplains and Pastors in Churches that served in pockets where the uniformed personnel and their families were stationed. Thus the Police Baptist Churches in Nagaland were brought under the administration of NBCC and later on became one of the Associations under the umbrella of the Council. Similar forms of chaplaincy for hospitals and jails have been made by the NBCC. A major achievement was the placement of a Chaplain to the State Assembly (NBCE- 79/390). With a good majority of Naga youths streaming to other metropolitan cities in search of education and work opportunities, the Council began to encourage the growing units of students’ fellowships outside the State. The first of such Naga Christian fellowships (NCF) was set up at Shillong. NBCC made further progress in providing Chaplains in major cities such as Delhi, Pune, Bangalore. to care for the spiritual needs of Naga students. These Chaplains are now known as Pastors and several of these Naga Christian Fellowships are self supporting Churches.
As early as 1962 a proposal was made to organize a Nagaland Theological Fellowship (ANBC 62-89). The 37th Annual Session at Ngawlwa, from 1st to 3rd March 1974, gave a mandate to constitute a Nagaland Theological Conference for Fellowship and promotion of theological
The Council has not stayed away from addressing social and political problems faced by the people and has made significant contributions to the people. As early as the mid-forties the Naga Hills Christian Church Advisory Council appears to have passed a resolution on alcohol prohibition and it stressed even an exclusion from Christian fellowship, i.e. excommunication from the Church. This stance on prohibition was taken in the resolution of the Naga Baptist Church Council meeting at Mokokchung, as far back as 5th February 1962, when they appealed to the Governor to “do all in his power to abolish immediately the sale and use of liquor in Nagaland and divert the fund of the political rum to some other welfare project” (ANBC-62/78). The Annual Session at Kohima, from 11th to 13th October 1966, went further to suggest a prohibition of liquor shops and bars. At the 33rd Annual Session at Molvom, from 24th to 26th October 1969, a strong Nagaland Central Committee on Liquor Prohibition was formed to further work on this issue (AEC-69/59). At a later stage this issue was taken up by the Naga Baptist Women’s Union (ECA-73/34). The NBCC gave full endorsement and cooperation to the NBWU and its leaders in their struggle for total prohibition of liquor in Nagaland (ANBC-74/283). In pursuance of this stance, the Naga Baptist women conducted demonstrations and protests in many towns in Nagaland and the Baptist Associations across the State zealously supported the liquor prohibition movement. The Government of Nagaland finally took heed and passed the Act on Total Prohibition of Liquor in the State of Nagaland on 29th March, 1990.
The NBCC also contributed to the efforts at restoration of peace and normalcy in the State and in paving the way for a prospective political settlement (see Part III of this book, ‘The NBCC’s Work on Peace’). The seventies and eighties saw a great spiritual awakening in the Nagaland Baptist Churches, and the Churches grew numerically and spiritually. During this time Rev. P. Dozo took over as the General Secretary and he worked to strengthen the Baptist Churches by organizing prayer and fasting, conducting seminars and Pastors’ conferences.
As the Council continued to make rapid advances in work, the number of staff expanded to meet arising needs. Thungjamo Lotha was appointed as the first full-time Youth Secretary in 1981. Tohoshe Sema was appointed as the first full-time Education Secretary through an arrangement with the Department of Education, Nagaland, with effect from April 1982. Tsolie Chase was appointed as the first full-time Treasurer at the Jaluke Council Session, from 14th to 16th January 1983, as recommended by the Executive Committee (vide NSCE-83/l18). As recommended by NBWU, Miss K. Kapfo was appointed as a full-time Women Secretary. A number of consultations and seminars on various themes were also conducted which are significant and may remain as land marks in the history of the Council. The Naga Baptist Executive Secretaries’ Fellowship was held at Pfutsero, from 25th to 28th November, 1982. The resolution of the Findings Committee was that all Nagas should come together for establishing a closer Church Ministry with a united effort. Three leaders from the Mao Naga Baptist Church Association also participated in the fellowship as Observers.
Another Nagaland Church and State Leaders Consultation on ‘The Unique Roles of Churches’ was conducted from 19th to 21st September 1986, at the Union Baptist Church, Kohima. Some two hundred Naga Church and public leaders attended the consultation. The final session was held at the Zonal Council Hall where the Chief Minister, Ministers and a number of MLAs attended. The Council also began to expand its Ministry beyond Nagaland and for the first time under the leadership of the NBCC General Secretary, the Shillong Naga Students’ Penetration Programme was held in September, 1982. By the end of 1988, Rev. P. Dozo was released from his post as General Secretary and Rev. W. Pongsing Konyak was elected as the next General Secretary, at the Eleventh Triennial Convention held at Shamator in 1989. This was a turbulent period in the history of the Nagas and NBCC invested time and effort at restoring peace among the Nagas. Rev. Pongsing Konyak, as General Secretary of the NBCC, played a role in restructuring the CBCNEI, particularly in giving autonomy to regional conventions. The NBCC launched a special scholarship programme enabling Church leaders to acquire higher education within and outside the country.
As the number of Associations and network of the NBCC grew, the Nagaland Police Baptist Association also became a constituent member of the Council. This marked a turning point for the Council as its scope began to increase. The Council began to strengthen its network outside by becoming a constituent member of the Council of Baptist Churches in North East India (CBCNEI) as well as a member of the Asian Baptist Federation (ABF) and the Baptist World Alliance (BWA). The NBCC continued to expand its wings and network with other organizations such as the International Ministries, USA.
The Church also continued to work at restoring peace. The Women Department organized Statewide peace processions on the 29th of February 1996, which received a massive response. A seminar on “Peace Work” was also organized on 13th March 1996, at the NBCC office for all its Executive Secretaries. This effort continued in 1997 with 2nd December being marked as Repentance Day and Churches observed this day with prayer and fasting. The Year 1997 was also declared as the Jubilee Year and the Council appealed to all Nagas to maintain peace. Church leaders wrote to the Government to remove the Disturbed Area Act imposed on the State. Statewide peace rallies were initiated by the Council from 7th to 22nd March, 1997. Resolutions and Pledges were passed from one District to another as the public responded to the call for peace.
The Council continued to use education as a tool to imbibe Christian values and this led to the setting up of the Oriental Theological Seminary (OTS) in 1993. Many of the member Associations began to establish and manage Baptist schools to provide quality education and to lay the foundation of Christian principles. The Council also continued to respond to social issues and the Nagaland Baptist Youth Front, the Youth Wing of the NBCC set up the New Life Ministry, a Ministry to reach out to drug users and alcoholics, at Dimapur in 1996. This Ministry was a response to the crisis being faced by Naga youth, many of whom had been led astray by drugs and alcohol. The Ministry sought to not only provide treatment but spiritual rehabilitation as well to these young people. In 1998, the Council commissioned the Nagaland Development Outreach (NDO), the development wing of the Council. The NBCC also secured land near the Secretariat Complex at Kohima for establishing a Convention Center.
In 1999, The NBCC saw a change in leadership with Rev. Zhabu Terhuja taking over as General Secretary from Rev. W. Pongsing Konyak who had been appointed as.the first Director of the Nagaland Development Outreach, the newly commissioned development wing of the NBCC. Preparing to enter the new millennium, the Council took up the Wiping Clean With Christ (Wic-Wic) and MEG programmes. Under Wic-Wic, people were called to wipe their life slate clean with Christ before entering the new millennium. MEG was a programme to enthuse Church members to reach out to as many people as they could for Christ before the end of the millennium. The Council and Churches felt the need to set aside differences and come together. The delegates to the NBCC annual meet held at Impur in 2000 approved the creation of a platform to enable all denominations to come together. This initiative of the NBCC called the Nagaland Christian Forum was formed with a simple framework of functional guidelines and enabled misunderstandings to be set aside.
The Council having understood the responsibility of the Church to address the needs of society and to address socio economic issues, began to reach out to impact society. In 2002, the “Touch Kohima” movement was borne out of a strong felt need to impact Kohima, the capital city of Nagaland with the Word of Christ. The movement marshaled Church leaders and the youth into a strong sense of unity. It revived the Kohima Baptist Pastors’ Fellowship. The Touch Kohima movement saw Power Points being formed in different colonies where people from different Churches gathered to pray. Special sessions were held with taxi drivers and butchers. A mass baptism took place on the Easter of 2004 at Khuochiezie where different congregations brought their baptismal candidates. That day, 620 candidates were baptized by 20 Ministers. Within the Council setup, a Committee was appointed in 2005 to review the work of the Council and its relation to the Associations, and it provided some windows to see new directions. The Council’s Constitution which has been in use for many years was revised, to make it more relevant to the needs of the day, and an amendment was adopted in 2005. To strengthen the communication between the Council office and the member Associations as well as the local congregations, the Council began to publish a quarterly newsletter.
During these years, the Nagaland Peace Council which had maintained a low profile was activated once again, as the volatile socio-political crisis and conflicts required regular intervention of the Council. A Peace Director was employed to oversee the peace work. NBCC being committed to genuine reconciliation and peace, held a series of consultations. Meanwhile, the Forum for Naga Reconciliation (FNR) emerged and this Forum undertook the task of bringing about a reconciliation of all Naga factional groups. The NBCC’s role in improving education and instilling Christian principles continued. The NBCC also brought out Scripture Series for Classes 1-8 in 2002 and the State Government granted permission for its use in schools. This series which is used in lieu of Moral Science has already been revised. A Hymn book, Highest Praise, was also published for use in the schools. The NBCC also initiated the annual Heads of Schools Conference. Through NBCC’s intervention, stronger institutions contributed funds and assisted the weaker ones on a rotation basis. To build up academic standards, uniform questions for term examinations were set for all member schools of the Council.
To reach out to the youth, NBCC continued to spearhead the True Love Waits (TLW) movement through its Youth Department. Sports has also been identified as an instrument of bringing the youth together and instilling in them discipline and leadership qualities while using sporting events to promote evangelism and discipleship. Lack of infrastructure and resources has made it difficult to make sporting events professional but the programme is yielding result.
In 2004, the Women Department of the Council set up Miqlat, a centre that assists and rescues women who have fallen prey to the flesh trade. Through Miqlat, a good number of women have regained their self-worth and confidence in the Lord. The NBCC has also responded to the grave situation of HIV/Aids in the State. During the early days of detecting HIV in the State, Church leaders were unaware of the gravity of the matter and those who contracted the virus were considered as simply deserving of the suffering. But after years of education, consultation and theological deliberation, some Churches took the initiative to address the issue. In 2006, the NBCC published a booklet stating its position toward HIV/AIDS and the Council has since been actively involved in addressing the issue.
The NBCC continued to develop a strong relationship with the Baptist World Alliance. The BWA verbally expressed its hope on the leadership of the NBCC and desired the active participation of the Council in its activities. Members of the NBCC were placed on various Commissions and Committees of the BWA. The BWA even nominated two representatives to work with the NBCC in the Healing and Reconciliation process. The NBCC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Baptist Union of Denmark and the Church of Christ in Thailand. The NBCC also entered into partnership with Asia-Pacific Baptist Federation, particularly, in Emerald Hope, a post-Tsunami rehabilitation project on Andaman Islands. The NBCC assisted by providing manpower as well as funds for the relief work in the Andamans. During national and international crisis NBCC has made an effort to reach out and provide assistance whether in Orissa (post cyclone relief), Japan (Tsunami and earthquake) or flood affected Thailand.
The NBCC began to expand its mandate and in response to the felt need for the Churches to have a holistic approach to Ministry, began to address socio-economic concerns. The Nagaland Development Outreach which had been set up as the development wing of the Council at Nikhekhu village at Dimapur, began to expand its activities. At this centre, various programmes and activities including fisheries and plantations are being taken up. The NDO has also initiated seminars and workshops on youth leadership and development, theology of development and other socio-economic development trainings. The Council also constructed a new commercial building behind its old Building on Nyamo Road, Dimapur. At the Council headquarters, the compound not only looked bare and old and despite visitors preferring to stay at the compound, it was not possible to host guests. Therefore, the Council began a Guest House project in 2002 and was completed in 2011, and named it the Kenneth Complex. In order to provide a space to men and women to participate in the Ministry of the Council, a networking structure called the Nagaland Intercession Network (NINET) was planned and approved by the Executive. The idea was to expand this network to the global prayer bodies. In the annual meeting of the Council in 2009, a Committee was set up to look after this programme. In 2009 Rev. Dr. Anjo Keikung took over as the General Secretary from Rev. Zhabu Terhuja. Under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Anjo Keikung, the Council continues to expand its role and vision. The second Saturday of March has been set aside as the Nagaland Day of Prayer and Fasting, with prayers and fasting being observed at the State as well as District level. This day continues to be observed with legislators, bureaucrats, ordained Ministers and Church leaders participating in this annual programme.
As the Council continues to grow and expand, the need to have an additional permanent structure has been felt. Keeping this in mind, a master plan is being prepared with the vision of accomplishing much more in the future. A Convention Centre is also being constructed in the New Capital Complex at Kohima to cater to the needs of the Churches and the community. A hall with 5000 sitting capacity will be a special feature of the Centre. The Kenneth Complex (guest house cum conference rooms) project which began in 2002 was completed in 2009.
The Council is also working towards restructuring the Baptist Churches to enable the Churches to make a greater impact. For this purpose a Committee has been constituted to work towards a proposal for restructuring. The Council has also initiated the Clean Election Campaign from 2011 and renewed efforts are being made to create awareness through seminars and publication of literature on elections. A working Committee has also been set up to work out a strategy to initiate changes. To address the changes within and out, the Council is also carrying out a revision of its Constitution. While the NBCC continues to uphold the mandate of reaching out to the unreached, its emphasis is on the study of the Word of God, prayer and witnessing by every believer. For this, different programmes are being initiated for its Associations and Churches.
The NBCC is a dynamic and growing Organization. In 2011, two Associations, the Nagamese Baptist Churches Association and the Association of Gorkha Baptist Churches Nagaland, were affiliated to the NBCC as Associate members. Today, NBCC has 20 full fledged Associations, 4 Associate members, 15553 Churches and 5,19,000 members. The Council is a product of God’s blessing and the contribution of the many great Naga men and women of God who had a vision to serve God, to share His Word and to bring God’s people together for His purpose. The Platinum Jubilee celebration marking 75 years of the existence of the NBCC is a testimony of God’s mighty work and His faithfulness to a people called out from darkness.