[To:] BWA President, General Secretary, Members of the Executive & General Council Dearest Christian Friends:
Allow me as one of the BWA Vice Presidents and an African Baptist to join the others in expressing my sorrow over the unfortunate recommendation by an SBC Committee that SBC withdraw its fellowship from the BWA global family.
It is very sad that what seems like decades of American Baptists ideological divisions is in the process of being globalized and many of us from other continents who know and love both the BWA and millions of Baptist believers in the SBC affiliated churches wish to appeal to SBC members to reject this recommendation as unnecessary and contrary to our faith in Christ who has prayed that
His disciples remain One, and commanded us to love and serve each other if the world is to take our witness seriously. Apostle Paul added this charge by reminding believers that we are Christ's Ambassadors charged with a message not of divisions but of reconciliation. For a Century, the BWA has been the visible symbol of unity for believers who are distinctly known as Baptists and what we need in the next century is not divisions but to bring together every Baptist on the globe into this marvellous family so that together we may be able to lift and encourage each other as we engage in the One Gospel Mission.
I say that the SBC recommendation is unnecessary because the reasons given do not merit such a decision. If there is creeping liberalism in the BWA as asserted, and I have not found any since my first participation in the 1975 BWA Congress in Stockholm Sweden, Christian love and mission demands that we engage each other in dialogue and the quest for truth as we encourage even the wayward member to stay in the family.
If a wayward child wish to leave the family home like the prodigal son, let them go but even then, Christian love demands that we welcome them back when they repent. Of course it would be presumptuous to imagine that everyone in a normal family will always agree on most everything, there will always be quarrells and quarrels are not necessarily unhealthy.
When a Baptist leader in America, couched in the
comfort and security of his home environment and in the midst of his kindred folk hauls abusive language on a founder of another religion, thus endangering the lives and witness of fellow Baptists in countries where such a religion is dominant, we have to express our disappointment, not to America and even not to his denomination at large but to his gross indiscretion.
If such displeasure is expressed at the BWA
forums, it is wrong to accuse the BWA of anti-Americanism. When some of us express dismay at the decisions of the IMB of the SBC to terminate the ministries of some of our most beloved missionaries overseas on account of obeying their consciences and refusing to sign what seems like a creedal document which violate their Baptist convictions, we are obligated to object to such abuse and this surely cannot be termed as anti-IMB and anti-SBC.
Why must only one side be right always? Why
can't the other side listen? If some Baptists opt to interpret the New Testament passages where it is stated that in Christ there is no male or female as we all receive the same Spirit who in the last days will be poured to "sons and daughters" so that they prophesy and give witness to Christ, why are some people so offended if the interpretation of such passages include accepting Women as equal partners in the Pastoral ministry? Why would such interpretation be so offensive to some Baptists, so much so that they would sever relationship with those embracing a thoroughly gender free ministry? Why has most of such people ignored or reinterpreted New Testament church communism of Acts 2-5 if faithfulness to New Testament polity is so important to them? Why can't they sell their houses and bring everything to the church for common use? Of course some of us from the less endowed parts of the world would love such a policy! I think we would wipe out hunger in the world!
Please let us be honest and not hide behind theological disagreements. Baptists confess Christ as Lord and Savior, they value Biblically grounded faith rather than creeds, they are champions of the freedom of conscience and the work of the Holy Spirit to Convict and bring men and women to Christ, believers are Baptized by immersion and each is encouraged to be a mature disciple of Christ and a witness to Christ; embrace a tolerant and dialogical fellowship of free believers who freely come together for the sake of spiritually enriching each other and witnessing to the Power of the Gospel of Christ. It seems to me like time has come for Baptists to wake up and examine their spiritual condition. It may be found that while some may be suffering from spiritual anemia, we have others who are on deathbed suffering from spiritual constipation! We all need God's grace, and each other.
It is not necessary or desirable to create an alternative fellowship to BWA. It will only succeed in globalizing seeds of discord. Christ came to Unite, not to scatter. The BWA has served the Baptists of the world well. Many of us value greatly the very sober and brilliant leadership of General Secretary Denton Lotz and praise God for the achievements of the BWA during his tenure.
We also have had a series of marvellous
Presidents of the BWA, men, and I wish I could say and women, who have made the Baptist voice be heard by the humblest refugee in Africa and the mightiest men of earthly power. I speak as one who is ...[a beneficiary] of Baptist witness through SBC missionaries, had most rewarding education from SBC supported schools, and spent seven years as an active member of two marvellous SBC churches in the US. (I) continue to experience marvellous love and friendship of great men and women in the SBC, and I find it very hard to believe that they would in unanimity endorse the decisions of their appointed committee.
The diversity of SBC churches in the US came out very clearly to me over three decades ago when one SBC church threw out a young black woman, traumatizing Baptist witness across America at the heyday of civil rights, while in my SBC church my pastor was in tears preaching a firely sermon against racism, and me, a black African was embraced by an all white church and invited to preach to over fifty mostly white churches of West Texas!
Baptists in the SBC churches should refuse to honor the recommendation to leave the BWA in which they have invested not only money but their Christian love. To my fellow Baptists in the BWA, and especially outside USA, we must resist attempts by those who wish to use us in their mission of globalization of divisions. I wish to also challenge Baptists of good will to pray, and if need be, fast so that we remain united in the BWA.
Yours United in Christ
Douglas W. Waruta
P.O. Box 24121-00502
Dr. Douglas Waruta is a prominent African Baptist professor in Nairobi, Kenya and is former president of the Baptist Seminary in Tanzania. He was educated at Baptist schools in the U.S., is also a vice president of the BWA.
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