Three More Letters from International Leaders about SBC/BWA

(1) First Letter from Australia

Letter to Morris Chapman

Chair SBC/BWA Study Committee & SBC Executive

12 January 2004

Dear Morris,

Greetings from Melbourne. I write in response to the report of the SBC/BWA Study Committee.

The proposal for a hasty departure of the SBC from the BWA is a major concern. Why is the proposed withdrawal viewed with such urgency? The SBC report is critical of the BWA's Byzantine government, its unjust forums that have not given "equal time for placing different points of view" and its "refusal to allow open discussion of issues" and yet the committee is failing to promote a forum for an open discussion of its report among BWA members, in which it might speak to the report and gain valuable feedback.

While its structures may not be perfect, the BWA sponsors each year six commissions to study and discuss different features of theology, church life and mission. These commissions would seem to provide an ideal forum to begin addressing issues of Southern Baptist concern such as abortion, women in pastoral leadership and world aid. As Secretary of the Baptist Heritage and Identity Commission for the 2000-2005 quinquennium, despite making many pleas, I have never received any suggestions of topics or presenters from Southern Baptist leaders, certainly no requests to facilitate discussion on the interpretation of Baptist doctrines about which you are expressing angst. I am sure the officers of our commission would be glad to devote some time at its meetings in to discuss in greater detail some of the issues that you have identified in your report.

The membership application of the CBF was delayed by the BWA for three years (at the behest of the SBC) to give adequate opportunity to discuss issues relating to the admission of this new member. It is only fitting that the SBC committee should grant a similar period of time to allow BWA members to discuss its report and respond to its serious and far-reaching proposals to withdraw from membership. In failing to propose such a courtesy, the committee is departing from biblical injunctions that call Christians "to do all within [our] powers to work for peace" (Romans 12: 18) and to "make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:3)

Accordingly, I am recommending to the Executive of the SBC the following: 1. That the report of the SBC/BWA Study Committee and its proposals for withdrawal and defunding not be tabled at the annual meetings of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2004, to give members of the BWA adequate time to discuss and respond to the report.

2. That leaders of the Baptist World Alliance be requested to give opportunities for the report of the SBC/BWA Study Committee to be openly and fairly discussed.

Sincerely,

Rev Dr Geoff Pound

Baptist Union of Australia 2003 delegate to the BWA

Secretary, Baptist Heritage & Identity Commission, BWA Melbourne, Australia

61+3+9348 8010

<gpound@whitley.unimelb.edu.au>

 

(2) Second Letter from South Africa

----- Original Message -----

From: Rodney Ragwan <mailto:rodrag@worldonline.co.za>

To: Morris Chapman <mailto:mchapman@sbc.net>

Sent: Monday, January 12, 2004 4:26 PM

Subject: Decision to withdraw from the BWA

Dear Brother Chapman

You probably do not know me. My name is Rodney Ragwan. I serve as the immediate past President of the Baptist Association of South Africa (BASA) which is a fairly new member of the Baptist World Alliance. BASA also co-operates with the SBC here in our country and we have been doing this for over twenty years.

As an advocate for peace and reconciliation I was saddened to learn of the decision of the committee to withdraw from the BWA. This withdrawal renders the Baptists as being disunited. I write from a country where disunity was promoted under the apartheid government. As a result Baptists in the country were also fragmented. Today we are thankful to God and to leaders like Dr Nelson Mandela that we are now a united South Africa. Baptists in our country, as well, have begun a process of working together despite our differences.

I also read with interest the communication of Dr Geoff Pound to you. I want to say that I agree with his suggestion for a forum. Dialogue with regards to this matter should be considered.

The world is watching us, they want to see how we are going to live out our faith through this . Above all God is watching us.

I will be praying for you brother Chapman. I know these are difficult times for you all. " Blessed are the peace makers"

Rev Rodney Ragwan

Past President of the Baptist Association of South Africa

Durban, South Africa

 

(3) Third Letter from European Baptist Federation

12 January 2004

The following statement has been issued by the Executive Committee of the European Baptist Federation on the recent decision of the SBC to discontinue support of the Baptist World Alliance.

EBF Statement regarding the SBC's decision to quit its membership with BWA Baptists in Europe and the Middle East were deeply hurt by the SBC's intention to quit its membership with the Baptist World Alliance as of October 1, 2004. This step of the largest Baptist denomination in the world will have important consequences in the future.

We as Baptists have been together for many centuries, spreading the Gospel on our continent. Baptist missionaries from America sacrificially worked to plant new churches in Europe and the Middle East. The work of some Baptist theological institutions was deeply influenced during the last century by the good friendships and partnerships with Baptists from the United States. Many charity organizations and initiatives began in the same way. During the same period, evangelistic events, conferences for spiritual revival and seminars were organized in different countries in partnership with Southern Baptists.

What has changed? Why should we separate?

Southern Baptists together with representatives of BWA have been at the front line in the fight for religious freedom and human rights in countries where churches and Christians were persecuted. Why can we not defend religious freedom and persecuted people together in the future? Why can we not continue to ask together governments and officials to respect religious freedom and give opportunities to Baptists to do their ministry in countries where democracy does not yet exist?

New churches have been planted in many countries and the Gospel was taken to the most remote places on our continent. Why can we not witness together to the people on our continent in the future? Do we realize how much our witness to the world will be harmed when we try to explain that we are different groups of Baptists who cannot work together? One of the biggest tragedies of contemporary Christianity is division. We have not only different Christian denominations, but also divisions in each Christian stream. In many places we have different kinds of Catholic and Orthodox churches that do not even recognize each other and in some Protestant denominations we have tens and maybe hundreds of clusters that are not able to work together as Christians. Why should Baptists follow this easy pattern? The world Baptist movement has been a good example of unity. We are diverse and yet Christ brought us together. Which is the force now trying to disunite Baptists?

In Europe and the Middle East Baptists are a minority facing often the opposition from much bigger denominations or even other religions. We need to stay together and demonstrate that we are one family, brothers and sisters in Christ.

We need to stay together for the sake of our witness to the unbelievers. We need to stay together for the sake of persecuted Christians, for the sake of Human rights and Religious freedom.

We express our full support to the leaders of the BWA and will continue to pray for them. We need to pray for our brothers and sisters from the SBC. We will pray for their leaders as well.

The Executive Committee of the European Baptist Federation

 

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