British Leader Tells Churches SBC Report is Distressing

by Wendy Ryan

Washington D.C. (BWA) - David Coffey, general secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB) and a vice-president of the Baptist World Alliance describes as "distressing" the report of the Southern Baptist Study Committee which recommends the SBC withdraw both it financial support and membership from the BWA, October 2004.

In a letter to BUGB churches, many of whom have links with the International Mission Board, Coffey says the proposed action recommended by the Committee, "threatens to split the Baptist family."

Coffey pointed to the theological concerns the report states as the principal reason for the decision as well as questions about some of the funding decisions made by Baptist World Aid.

Addressing the Committee's charge of liberalism in the BWA, Coffey said this charge "is based on a false understanding of Baptist faith and practice, for in their concern to defend the truth of the gospel, the SBC has failed to safeguard the primacy of freedom of conscience and have delivered a victory of ideology over theology."

"If we are only willing to have fellowship with those with whom we agree," Coffey said, then it is a poor, shallow definition of fellowship."

Coffey emphasized "it is too early to say if this problem will lead to an end of the partnership between the BUGB and the IMB."

"I simply don't know how this is going to affect their personnel within the UK," he said even as he praised the work they had done together. "A number of our churches can speak of all that has been achieved through working together, and I would want to honor the work of SBC missionaries over the past ten years," he said. "They've been marvelous partners and this is what makes the current conflict so sad."

Coffey expressed the hope that reconciliation would take place between the BWA and SBC. "I hope that both sides might still find a way of reconciling their differences," he said. "I would welcome a formal approach by the BWA and SBC to come together for prayer and reflection, and a number of us are seeking to enable this to happen in the near future. The Gospel demands that all of us strive for a spirit of unity in the bonds of peace in order to bring healing to a broken world."

Coffey urged the churches to use the occasion of Baptist World Alliance Day, February 1, as a time to pray for the BWA and especially for the General Secretary Denton Lotz. "Pray for the united witness of our Baptist family around the world," he wrote, "and pray for reconciliation for the sake of the Gospel we all seek to proclaim."


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