Dear Fellow Baptists:
A decision by the SBC Executive Committee to recommend that the SBC withdraw complete funding support for the Baptist World Alliance will be tragic. Should that happen, my prayer is that messengers to the convention will vote it down and restore full support.
In a recent BWA newsletter, Denton Lotz tells about a Baptist body in Northern India that had been "at war" for several years. Internal infighting was so intense that one person was actually murdered. Dr. Lotz and some of the BWA staff recently led that group in a reconciliation process and it appears that unity has been restored to a once divided Baptist Convention.
How I long for such a spirit of reconciliation to take place in the Southern Baptist Convention. Though no one has been physically murdered many Godly men and women have been "slaughtered" on the altar of political control.
It's been said many times and in many ways, but let me say it again, "The real issue here, as it has since the beginning of the SBC controversy, is not theology (doctrine), but political control." Before the so called "controversy" there were elements of liberalism in the SBC. But it was minimal and we already had mechanisms in place that could have weeded out the isolated problems. Most Southern Baptists including those who have been excluded by current leadership are very conservative, Bible believing followers of Christ that long to see people everywhere come to know Jesus as personal Savior and to cooperate with each other in fulfilling the Great Commission. Historically, we have placed high emphasis on the absolute authority of the Bible, evangelism/missions, local church autonomy, the priesthood of all believers, religious liberty, and the separation of church and state. We have celebrated our "unity in diversity" and have respected differences of opinion on issues that were subject to interpretation. These are the same kind of Baptists who make up the member bodies of the Baptist World Alliance.
In my humble judgment, the Baptist World Alliance is a beautiful example of global Baptist witness and cooperation. It has never demonstrated a party spirit and has modeled servant leadership in its service to Baptist bodies now numbering above 200. I have been personally involved in the BWA for many years serving on the General Council and on commissions and committees. Never have I detected a party spirit and charges that the BWA is influenced by liberalism is patently false. Baptists may disagree on certain issues like the ordination of women or on methodology. But we do not disagree on essential doctrines.
I am concerned that such a monumental decision will be decided by a dwindling number of messengers that attend the SBC annual meeting. Let me encourage each messenger to prayerfully ask questions like: How will this decision impact global gospel witness? What difficulties will this create for missionaries that relate to national Baptist bodies (conventions)? Do we realize how much of our witness to the world will be harmed because we cannot work together? What would Jesus think about this as a response to His prayer "that they may all be one...so that the world may believe (John 17:21).
Never in our history have Baptists been better blest with financial resources. Never have Baptists had greater opportunity to join hands in fulfilling the Great Commission. Never have Baptists had more compelling reasons to model "agape" love to and in a world where nihilism, hatred and violence is rampant.
If this be true, then why should the global Baptist family be further fragmented? Why should we have to reinvent the wheel by establishing another global Baptist fellowship? Why can't we be big in spirit, in love, in forgiveness, in benevolence toward one another and in repentance ask God to bring renewal to the whole body just as He did with that Baptist convention in India. I pray this will happen and plead with fellow Southern Baptists to keep our historic relationship with the Baptist World Alliance in place.
James D. Williams,
Dr. Jim Williams, retired president of the SBC Brotherhood Commission
Online since April 7, 1999
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