BWA News -- January 2004
Pray and Work for Unity!
"That they may all be one.... so that the world may believe." (John 17: 21)
"Forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit.... There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope... one Lord, one faith, one baptism...." Ephesians 4:2f.)
"...stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel...." (Phil. 1:27)
"Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind." (Phil. 2:3)
Jesus prayed for unity. The Apostle Paul pleaded and worked for the unity of the church. The nature of the Gospel demands unity in the face of the non-believing world. That is why Jesus prayed so ardently for unity. It was indeed a prayer for the successful mission and evangelism of the church ... "so that the world may believe!"
Disunity is one of the great hindrances to evangelism worldwide. With the sad news of the Southern Baptist Convention's plan to withdraw from the BWA, Baptists worldwide have expressed great sorrow and fear for the unity of the Baptist witness worldwide! This has been particularly expressed by Baptists in minority and Third World situations. They have expressed the need for us to pray that indeed the SBC will not withdraw from the BWA!
One of the sad aspects of disunity is often the misunderstanding and prejudice that one group has for the other. Often accusations are made which seem to be misrepresentations, lack the full picture, are generalizations, or actually falsehoods. For example, the BWA has been accused of a growing liberalism. Actually scholars have shown just the opposite, that the BWA has been more evangelical than ever!
Never has the BWA thought of itself as a world church. This is absurd. Our annual budget is only 1.6 million dollars, less than that of many large SBC churches. Annually SBC churches collect about six billion dollars. Wouldn't it seem strange for the BWA to think of itself as a world church with little resources over against large North American conventions? We have always respected and fostered the autonomy of local churches and conventions and unions! We have no authority, nor do we desire it, over local churches or conventions! However, we will let others debate these issues; suffice it to say that we agree with the Anabaptist, Hubmaier, burned at the stake in 1543 who said, "The truth is immortal."
Our BWA President, Billy Kim, has called us to prayer. He has rightly stated that the acceptance of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship into the membership of the BWA was the occasion for the SBC leaving the BWA. Yet the CBF is not mentioned in the SBC document outlining why they are proposing withdrawal. Suddenly many accusations are made but CBF is not mentioned! And yet in Rio, SBC leaders came to us and said, "If they (CBF) are in, we're out!" For three years the membership committee under the outstanding leadership of the Australian mission leader, Ian Hawley, and a representative body of 19 Baptist leaders worldwide worked with both CBF and SBC hoping for reconciliation. The Membership Committee voted to receive CBF into membership. This was a General Council decision (75 in favor, 28 opposed), not a staff decision. As Dr. Kim stated, "It was not a decision against the SBC, but a decision in favor of the Baptist principle of voluntary association!"
Let us pray and work for the unity of the church. The BWA has been instrumental in working for unity among Baptist groups in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe. All over the world, many Baptist churches will celebrate BWA Day, February 1st, by praying and collecting an offering for the worldwide ministry of the BWA! It is important to small minority Baptist groups to know that there is a world body of Baptists working to defend their religious freedom and human rights.
BWA-sponsored conferences on evangelism and mission, communications, and compassion ministries have been instrumental in bringing Baptists in the various regions together. Our teams are international and representative! The 21st century has not ushered in the hoped for "New World Order!" On the contrary, we live in a world of terrorism, injustice, and inhumanity! What shall be our response as Baptists worldwide?
Certainly nationalism is not the answer! Two world wars have proved that!
Secularism, a world without God, is not the answer. The tragic immoral world of Western media has proven that is wrong!
Religious fanaticism, one religion hitting the other over the head with sacred objects, only leads to further bloodshed and war.
Multi-culturalism is not the answer. Each religion sharing the lowest common denominator of its faith has only produced further fanaticism!
Is there an answer? Yes! Jesus said, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all humanity to myself!" It is the answer of the cross. The cross must ever be before us as Christians strive in their personal and communal life to be humble servants, enduring the pain and suffering of this world in order to show the world the good news of a loving God revealed in Jesus Christ! Therefore, the 21st century Christian must again "Lift up the cross!" and put back the sword!
We learn that from the early writings of the Christian Church. In the Epistle of Diognetus we read that nationalism is not the answer, but a true internationalism, inspired by Christ and His cross: "Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is a foreign country....They pass their time on earth, but they have their citizenship in heaven. They obey the appointed laws, and they surpass the laws in their own lives. They love all men and are persecuted by all men. They are unknown and they are condemned. They are put to death and gain life... They are dishonored, and are glorified in their dishonor, they are spoken evil of and are justified....To put it shortly what the soul is in the body, that the Christians are in the world." (Epistle to Diognetus, Apostolic Fathers, Loeb Classical Library, Vol. II, p.361)
As we enter a new year, let us as Baptist Christians put our arms around a hurting world and show them we are Christians by the way we love one another! Indeed let us work and pray for the unity of Baptist believers worldwide!
From the General Secretary's page on the BWA website.
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