To the General Secretary of the BWA Denton Lotz
To the President of BWA Billy Kim
From the Baptist Union of Italy (UCEBI)
Dear Denton, Dear Billy
The Executive Committee of the Italian Baptist Union gathered in Rome between 9th -11th January, having heard the announcement of Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) intention to leave the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) and to withdraw all financial support, wants to express its support and solidarity with all the staff of the BWA in face of such a grave decision taken by the SBC leadership.
Since 1905 the BWA has been a "home for all Baptists". For nearly a hundred years virtually all Baptist families, despite their sometimes substantial differences, have shared this common place to meet, talk and express their unity in the faith and in respect for the diversity that exists among us.
The SBC has been a part of this fellowship from the beginning. We recognize that their presence within the BWA has, in the last twenty years, often represented an obstacle for those who wished to be more open in their dialogue with the wider society and to support other movements involved in the defence of the environment and in issues of justice and peace. Their presence has also been, however, an important sign of unity and fellowship within the world-wide Baptist family. Today that fellowship has been wounded and our testimony in the world enfeebled. The Lord said, in fact, that we would be recognized as his disciples when we had love one for another.
Our Union believes that the decision taken by the leaders of the SBC to withdraw from the BWA has been made on the basis of false motivations and pretexts and that their intention to form a new world-wide fellowship of ultra-conservative churches is grave indeed. We say this with great sadness. The SBC is one of the missionary agencies that stands at the origin of our Baptist history in Italy and much of our spiritual inheritance can be traced back to missionaries of high morale and spiritual caliber, such as George Boardman Taylor, Dexter Whittinghil and others, all sent by the SBC. For this reason, as well, the decision taken by the leadership of the SBC pains us as has the trend of recent years towards fundamentalism, which has produced this decision. We are convinced that this expression of fundamentalism, with its tendency towards intolerance and sectarianism, is the antithesis of our own Baptist tradition, a tradition that rejects centralized control of conscience and whose privileging of congregationalism safeguards the freedom found in the gospel and respect for diversity. It is this tradition that the SBC passed on to us.
We will write to the leadership of the SBC urging them to repent of their decision e exhorting them to take practical steps towards the fellowship that should characterize us in Christ, the Reconciler and the Prince of peace. Humanly speaking we are not hopeful that such repentance will take place in the immediate future, but we trust in the power of the Spirit and the Word, that is not restrained and is able still to speak to human hearts, both within and outside the church.
We ask you to share this message of solidarity with all the staff of the BWA and with all those within the Baptist family who are working towards unity in the faith and on behalf of those oppressed by injustice in the world.
We commit ourselves to pray that none of the precious work of the BWA will be lost and that, instead, it will grow and increase.
May the message of the risen Christ be our light as well as our faith in he who knows how to turn to good even that which is sown in discord and division.
May the peace of the Lord be with us all.
Yours in Christ.
On behalf of the Executive Committee of UCEBI
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