BWA News January 2004
The Baptist World Alliance Responds to the Southern Baptist Convention Special Committee Recommendation
On December 18, the leaders of the Baptist World Alliance, Billy Kim, President and Denton Lotz, General Secretary learned from the Southern Baptist Convention that on October 24, their Executive Committee accepted a recommendation from their SBC/BWA Study Committee to withdraw both their membership and financial contribution from the BWA by October 1, 2004. Both the President and General Secretary issued responses to this action and these were sent around the world. As a result, letters of support for the BWA and dismay and sadness at the SBC decision have poured in from Baptists worldwide. In this special issue of BWA News, the monthly newsletter of the BWA, we share excerpts from some of those who have spoken along with the response from the BWA President and the monthly editorial from the General Secretary. Please feel free to use these as you choose.
Statement from the President Billy Kim
Baptist friends around the world deeply regret the decision reached by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to withdraw their membership from the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) and consequently terminate funding to the organization. SBC was a pioneer in the establishment of the BWA, nearly 100 years ago. They have made a tremendous contribution to the Baptist work around the world. All of us are saddened that the SBC are now withdrawing from the BWA. In this secular world other major religious organizations strongly intimidate the body of Christ. Therefore, it is essential that we remain united to fulfill the Great commission before Christ returns. My request is that our global friends will pray for the SBC and the BWA during this period of transition. Pray that we will not lose the focus of our call for fellowship, encouragement and the propagation of the Gospel. "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" (KJV) Psalm 133:1.
From the General Secretary Denton Lotz
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 Chrsitains 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!
Duke McCall, USA
On the pretense of believing the Bible Southern Baptist leaders are proposing that Southern Baptist members reject the prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ in John 17:20-23: He prayed "that they all may be one ... that the world may believe that thou didst send me." Only the Great Commission in Mt. 28:18-20 rivals this passage in explicit concern of our Lord for the winning of the lost world to Christ. But Southern Baptists are being asked to vote to get out of the Baptist World Alliance which they along with others created almost exactly 100 years ago to present a united face to oppression and the denial of religious freedom from Godless governments. Southern Baptists are being asked to reject Christian fellowship with all the other Baptists. Instead of Unity the world will see division which compromises our Christian witness because of rivalry, jealousy and pride. Division within some smaller Baptist bodies will be sown as they struggle to decide whether to follow the SBC or walk along side of the other 211 Baptist bodies in the B. W. A. How can anyone claim to believe the Bible and reject the High Priestly prayer of the Son of God?
Obviously other Baptist are different from Southern Baptist because of language, culture, tradition, education etc. etc. What unites them is a saving encounter with Jesus Christ through the miraculous mediation of the Holy Spirit. They read the same Bible but focus on different passages than is typical of Southern Baptists. They talk differently and organize according to their reading of the Bible. If put down labels are ever justified among Christians. Southern Baptists are "liberals" as compared to Russian Baptists, for example. Russian (or better, Soviet) Baptists have lived with persecution so long that obeying the Bible is more important for them than speculating about theology; so they walk along side of brothers and sisters with whom they do not agree to testify of Jesus that "there is none other name under heaven by which we must be saved." God help us to be obedient witnesses for Christ's sake!
Noel Vose, Australia
"With great sorrow I learn of the Southern Baptist Convention proposal to withdraw from the Baptist World Alliance. This is a day when secular forces surge forward on a "Post-Christian" world. The unity of all who gather around the Cross and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead, that unity is of absolute importance.
The difference and disruptions between believers must give place to the Holy Spirit of reconciliation, that the witness of Christ's body be not besmirched." We appeal to our many, many friends in the SBC to reflect deeply before you decide to withdraw from the millions of your brothers and sisters throughout the world."
Knud Wumpelmann, Denmark
"For almost a hundred years we have as Baptists had a fast growing, worldwide fellowship. It is now being threatened because one of the most prominent members of our group wants to dominate. A great number of member bodies of the BWA are just rather small denominations in their own country. They have learned to live and work under the dominance of strong state churches or other religions that wanted to limit their freedom to follow their own conscience as they were led by the Holy Spirit to read their Bible. But now, even while we as a family are preparing for our 100 years jubilee, we are for the first time most seriously threatened by one of our own, even one we had learned to respect and love for inspiring leadership and thoughtful support over so many years. So what can we do but pray. Therefore let us pray for the Southern Baptist Convention, for its Executive Committee and for the Convention and State Conventions. And for the rest of our global fellowship, let us pray, "God help us love more in two thousand and four."
Irmgard Claas, Germany "When I read the news, a Bible verse came to my mind. John 1:14..."and the Word became flesh...we saw His glory, full of grace and truth." If this Christmas, we rely on this, believe in Jesus coming out of God's glory as our Savior, bringing us not only the truth but also his grace, then we can be "people of the word' in the best sense, human like Jesus, humble like Jesus, full of grace like Jesus. Then and only then we are able to tell the good story, "Peace on earth" to our restless, torn-apart world."
Ken and Margaret Manley, Australia
I am writing to again assure you and your colleagues of continuing support from Australian Baptists. As a Vice-President serving in the Asian region I want to assure our brothers and sisters in the SBC how much we have valued their strong lead to so many in our region. Churches have been planted in many Asian countries and in developed countries like Australia and New Zealand there has also been consistent and generous cooperation through mission, education and publication. We value deeply the fact that we belong to a large and evangelical family of Christians through the Baptist World Alliance. The proposal that the SBC withdraw from the BWA fills us with great disappointment. So many of our world leaders in BWA have come from the SBC and we have always valued the generous and wholehearted contribution they have made.
On a personal level I recall numerous SBC people who have greatly enriched my life through their scholarship and devotion. The consequences for our region of the SBC breaking with our world Baptist family are difficult to contemplate. It is perhaps very difficult for a convention such as SBC where they form such a powerful majority in their own country to appreciate what it is like to live as Baptist Christians where we are in a minority. In many countries of our region Christians are in a hostile situation, a tiny minority remaining faithful to Christ and greatly enriched and encouraged by the awareness of solidarity with all fellow-Baptists around the world.
Again and again BWA leaders, often in association with SBC leaders, have visited these countries and the encouragement given greatly appreciated. Religious freedom and toleration have been affirmed and unsympathetic governments influenced by the size of the Baptist family who share in spirit with tiny minorities. On behalf of all Baptists throughout this region I appeal to SBC leaders and people: please think again! You are valued and needed for the sake of God's Kingdom and by God's people. To leave us would, in our view, be a sad end to your magnificent contribution to our world family since the BWA began and a most unworthy action on behalf of a powerful and rich convention within our family. In the name of Christ, we ask you to remain with your fellow-Baptist believers that together we may fulfill the mission we believe has been entrusted to us from our Lord. I find it hard to believe that you can turn your back on your Baptist brothers and sisters around the world.
Dorothy Selebano, South Africa
"I was shocked at the news about the SBC withdrawing membership but when I recovered, I remembered God's Word which says: "All things work together for the good to them that love Him." We may not be able to comprehend it now. Let us leave this issue in the capable hands of the living God. We will continue praying for our brothers and sisters in the SBC and for the BWA."
The following are a sample of statements from BWA Unions and Conventions
John Upton, Virginia Resource Center, USA
The recommendation announced by the Study Committee calling for the SBC to sever its relationship with the BWA is both troubling and disappointing. This recommendation does not honor the long and distinguished relationship the SBC has had with the BWA. Defunding the BWA will affect the work of many smaller Baptist unions around the world. It will threaten missionary relationships with national Baptist bodies and marginalize Southern Baptist work globally. Having worked with the BWA for many years, I have found the BWA to be solid in matters of theology, Baptist principles, and focus. Moreover, I believe the Kingdom of God is more faithfully and powerfully served by working together than by fragmentation.
Gary Nelson, General Secretary, Canadian Baptist Ministries
At no time in history has it been more crucial for the church of Jesus Christ to present an alternative to dissension and conflict. This critical time in history creates an imperative to shape our witness in such a way so that the gospel of God's love and salvation is shown as a constructive and winsome alternative to the positioning and power mongering of the day. It will not be enough for us to declare this gospel, it will need to be "fleshed out" in how we live together as a Kingdom people. This decision by our Southern Baptist sisters and brothers is a mark against those possibilities and a sad day for the Baptist Witness round the world. Canadian Baptist Ministries have worked diligently in Canada to build bridges between the various Baptist denominations here. One of those denominations - the Canadian Southern Baptists - was welcomed into the BWA only two years ago with our support and encouragement.
Gregory Komendant, former BWA Vice-President and President of the Baptist Union of Ukraine, and Victor Kulbich, General Secretary
Thank you for your letter. We understand the difficulties, because of the SBC's withdrawal from the BWA. Our prayer for you is that God will give you the courage, strength and wisdom. For the Ukrainian Baptist Churches always the biggest testimony about God's grace and love has been the unity of the Baptist Family. Even at the time of the Communist reign, the believers in the Soviet Union were encouraged always by the care of the entire BWA community. It helped us to overcome the most difficult time for Baptist Believers. We prayerfully ask the Leadership of the SBC to recognize as part of our Christian faith what the results of the schism can mean. In unity there is our power, our influence and testimony to this world.
Nripen Baidya, Bangladesh Baptist Aid
Greetings from Bangladesh. I have received your press release. It is really sad that SBC has withdrawn their membership from BWA. We are praying for the SBC leaders and believe God will guide them to change their decision to keep the Global Baptist Harmony. It would be shame for the global Baptist is they separate from BWA because it is the only Baptist platform and if they separate from BWA Baptists will be weak and we are separating the body of Christ because of our own interest and authority. May God bless BWA and SBC leaders to come in a mutual understanding to keep the Baptist Harmony alive.
Anna Maffei, Vice-President, Baptist Evangelical Christian Union of Italy
I have just heard the big bad news. All of us expected it but it is a sad day. There will be some changes for BWA and a lot of sacrifice for us. But many people will pray for our Baptist family around the world and we will certainly grow in awareness, in unity of Spirit, in love and in the service to humanity. We will pray for them as well.
Brian Winslade, National Leader, Baptist Churches of New Zealand
Coming from a small Baptist Union way down in the South Pacific, I continue to be appalled at the attitude and behavior of SBC leadership. I feel deeply offended by their unfair labeling of the BWA as liberal and the comparison Denton Lotz makes with McCarthyism is apt, as too his apologetic on the veracity of our evangelicalism. Historians will one day judge the attitudes of current leadership within the SBC as a blatant denial of Baptist principles and destructive of Christian unity. We can behave better than this. Our prayer for the SBC is that will breathe deeply, behave as mature followers of Jesus and reverse their decision.
David E. Goatley, Executive Secretary/Treasurer, Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention, USA
The BWA will continue to reach out in love, prayer and goodwill to the SBC as an institution and its churches as our sisters and brothers in Christ. We regret that some have chosen to portray their differing of opinion between fellow Baptists as an organizational problem. BWA certainly does not interpret the frustration and anger of some individual Southern Baptists as reflective of the entire family. We trust that Southern Baptists congregations and members will not project the interpretation of a few of its members as a normative reality.
Malkhaz Songulashvili, President, Evangelical Baptist Churches of Georgia
We pray for you and the BWA. You have done everything to avoid the schism. It is really very sad to see one of the greatest conventions leave the BWA. But do not be dismayed; the schism can be the beginning of the process within the SBC that can lead to their liberation from sectarianism. The entire world knows that they have been infected by this disease for a long period of time. Let us entrust the future of the Convention to the loving care of the Lord.
David Coffey, General Secretary, Baptist Union of Great Britain and BWA Vice President
This is a sad day for the Baptist World Alliance not least because the SBC recommendation is based on a false understanding of Baptist faith and practice. In their concern to defend the truth of the Gospel the SBC study committee has failed to safeguard the primacy of freedom of conscience and have consequently delivered a victory for ideology over theology. I fully support the response of the General Secretary of the BWA in countering the falsities of the SBC statements and in his persuasive invitation to SBC churches to remain within the BWA family. The forthcoming Baptist World Congress in Birmingham is a great opportunity for a visual display of the unity in diversity that has marked the life of the BWA for the past one hundred years. British Baptists look forward to welcoming many Southern Baptist friends to this world celebration gathering in 2005.
Nicola Piscicelli, Pastor, Aywaille, Belgium
We just wanted to let all of the BWA Board and you know that we are fully behind you. We might be (as a church in Aywaille, Belgium) a small drop in this ocean but be assured of our support and prayers. If there is anything we can do we will be pleased to do it. Please don't let all of this discourage anyone of you and keep your focus on our Mighty God and the wonderful work your doing in His service. May God give you wisdom, patience and grace in this sad situation.
Rodney Ragwan, Pastor and former President of the Baptist Association of South Africa
The 24th October recommendations of the SBC to withdraw from the BWA is regrettable. After learning of this from your office I must admit I was feeling very low in my spirit. I tired to imagine the repercussions it would have for our witness as Baptists and as
Christians both locally and globally. I hope and pray that their convention will prayerfully give attention to the unity that John speaks of in John 17:21 when voting. Thank you for responding the way you did in your press statement. This reflected integrity and it was non confrontational. I know there may be a temptation to be on the "attack mode." May I suggest that there be an urgent World Day of Prayer. You are probably also thinking about something like this. I say this because there seems to be some force at play that needs God's intervention. Our prayer is that God will intervene when the time comes for the SBC to vote.
Jan Saethre, Executive Committee member of the Baptist Union of Norway. This situation with SBC is painful for the Baptist family around the world, but let me also underline that the leadership in BWA have my full support.
Indranie E. Premawardhana, Sri Lanka
We in Asia had (in Sri Lanka as well) the fortune to experience the significant service and commitment of the Southern Baptist Convention who sent missionaries to our lands. Men and women of high caliber labored for His Kingdom with great personal sacrifice. We love and respect them dearly and therefore are saddened to find they have decided to leave the fold. In the Women's Department of the BWA we have had beautiful relationships and friendships with many women from the SBC who have contributed in no small measure to the leadership and organization of the wonderful sisterhood of Baptist women around the world. We hope and pray that the schism will not widen beyond repair or be too wide for a bridge of reconciliation to bring us together again. We pray that wiser counsel and prayerful consideration will prevail before it is too late."
Theo Angelov, Bulgaria
"For so many years we have worked together with thousands of SBC missionaries in Europe and the Middle East during which we developed wonderful cooperation and partnerships with thousands of SBC churches. The mutual support and encouragement were very important during this time of the Communist regime when believers in Eastern Europe were persecuted and sent to prisons and concentration camps. This was also a time during which many churches were closed and Christian literature was confiscated. The BWA was the main voice for human rights and religious freedom. These were the voices of all believers around the world raised in prayer to the Almighty Lord to support and protect their suffering co-believers in the huge territories of the Soviet Union, China and other countries. The SBC churches, believers and missionaries were an important part of the building of a "New Europe" after the Second World War and the falling of the Communist regimes. The best relations have blossomed between churches in Europe and the United States over the past 13 years. We cannot believe now the relations should be broken and the links torn apart. Any attempt to break this relationship and to separate brothers and sisters in Christ should not prevail over the Christian love that must exist between one another."
Billy Taranger, Norway
I have got the news from SBC and their decision of withdrawal from the global Baptist Family. I am very disappointed and cannot really believe that they can change the good history and relation SBC have had with BWA for 100 years. It is not good that some few leaders can decide and change the good relations for so many millions of Baptists. I hope and pray that they will change opinion during the months to come so that the majority of SBC will not vote as they have said. I pray for you that you shall have wisdom and courage to lead the BWA in the right direction, and that this will not affect our Baptist work for the Kingdome of our Lord. Be sure about the support of the Baptist Union of Norway. We will send BWA a letter of support after our next Executive meeting, and also at our Annual Conference in July. The European Baptist Federation support BWA and feel sorry about the decision and pray that this will not damage the many good relations with SBC missionaries here in Europe.
Bonny Resu, North East India
"The cause of Christ is much bigger than the perceived differences over what are non-issues to many of us watching the West from thousands of miles away in Asia where less than nine per cent are Christian. But let us be in prayer that we will have the grace and strength to face the situation."
Hans Guderian, Germany
"What a bad signal for the world about the unity and witness of the Baptist Christians. As German Baptists and as European and worldwide Baptists bound together in the "European Baptist Mission," we will be at your side and will support the BWA as much as we can."
Daniel Lhermenault, France
"The news of the withdrawal of the Southern Baptist Convention from the Baptist World Alliance is touching and gives us a real concern for the fellowship of our churches in the coming time, division being the result of the invisible work of the enemy through the years. We will pray that God leads the coming events so that His Lordship will be more effective on His church. Prayer together is the key in this critical situation."
Raquel Contreras, Chile
"We regret this. In this end of times, more than ever we need to be united to reach the ones without Christ. We in Chile are working towards our unity among our diversity and we feel that the Lord is showing us how to be really united. The ministry of the BWA helps us in this, also to work together with the other Chilean Baptist Convention. I want to assure you of the prayers of Chileans Baptists for the BWA."
John Kok, Malaysia
"I would like to call everyone to remain loving and forgiving, especially so for my fellow, SBC co-workers. Let's not destroy what God has started and is still doing through the Baptist World Alliance. It may be a painful trial for us now but let us not waver in our faith and allow God to heal the wounds of everyone involved." Even though almost all our Baptist churches in the country are related to the SBC, we (Malaysian Baptist Convention) will still remain in the BWA and assist in any way we can to make Christ known to the whole world!
Statement from Latin America
We have learned with amazement that a study committee of the Executive Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has recommended that the latter is planning to take to its upcoming annual meeting a proposal to withdraw both its membership and financial contribution from the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) by October 2004. The recommendation alleges liberal tendencies in the BWA and states that the purpose is to have the SBC dedicate its efforts and funding to the purpose of creating a new worldwide organization of a conservative nature. If we take into consideration the fact that the SBC is the largest National Baptist Organization among those affiliated with the BWA, and the major contributor to it, we then agree with the declaration of Dr. Denton Lotz, General Secretary of the BWA, in his response to the SBC. In paraphrasing Van A. Harvey, A Handbook of Theological Terms, Lotz pointed out that such a decision becomes a "schism in the Baptist World, and consequently, a sin against love." We consider ourselves as younger brothers of the SBC. Its International Mission Board (formerly the Foreign Mission Board) played a major role in the foundation, initial, and subsequent development of many of our National Baptist Conventions in Latin America. Now, in love we assertively declare to you that we have fullness of joy in being part of the BWA. The SBC was one of the mentors of its creation nearly a century ago; the SBC taught us to love and support the BWA. As the centennial of the BWA draws near, it continues to be a Christ-centered and Bible-centered organization. It offers a wonderful international forum and provides proper leadership for evangelistic/missionary efforts, for Biblical and Theological education, for addressing the crucial issues that our world faces today. It assures helpful fellowship, and brings together different people groups from around the world. At the same time, it shows itself to be a modern organization, willing to take on the challenges it will have to face until, as the Scriptures states, our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. Consequently, we DECLARE unacceptable the allegation of liberalism made by the Committee. We take the liberty of pointing out to our older brothers that, not only are we unwilling - under any circumstances - to go along with their efforts to create a new, parallel organization to the BWA. But, furthermore, we categorically REJECT the possibility. We DEPLORE the recommendation of this Committee, and we URGE strongly the Executive Committee and the assembly of the SBC to reject this
recommendation outright, so that this great organization may remain as a member of the BWA and may continue SUPPORTING its funding. We EXPRESS our full, unrestricted support to the BWA and to its leadership, and we REAFFIRM our intention to continue to pray for the BWA and to participate in its future activities. We invite the National Baptist Organizations from Latin America and
from the rest of the world to join us by taking a similar stance in support of the BWA.
Amparo de Medina, BWA Vice President, Colombia
Fausto Aguiar de Vasconcelos, President, Union of Baptists in Latin America, Brazil, and Dione Pereira de Vasconcelos Paul Eustache, General Council member, Venezuela Tomás Mackey, General Council member, Argentina Raúl Scialabba, BWA Vice President, Argentina Alberto Prokopchuk, Regional Secretary, Union of Baptists in Latin America, Argentina
John Briggs, Emeritus Professor, the University of Birmingham, Director, Baptist History and Heritage Centre, Regent's Park College, University of Oxford
I believe that the SBC leadership's identification of the BWA as an organization encouraging teaching contrary to the New Testament, "a body advocating aberrant and dangerous theologies" is very erroneous and is slanderous for the faithfulness of a large number of dedicated Evangelical Christians who have served the purposes of the Alliance and are proud to continue to do so. This action also serves to separate the leadership of the SBC from the many SBC members who I am happy to count as Christian friends sharing deep fellowship in the gospel, and whom I cannot believe will separate themselves from the work of the Alliance or from other Baptist believers around the world. The one particular insight I can share is that those who have taken this action have certainly got their history wrong. It is not difficult to illustrate that the Alliance in 1905 tolerated a wider range of opinion than it has done in recent years. This is a very important point, for one can demonstrate how 1905 Southern Baptists reacted to, responded to, argued with their fellow Baptists within the fellowship of the Alliance. I would argue that the issues that
challenged Christians in 1905 were as contentious as those that face us today. The difference seems to me that then Baptists of very different theological outlooks were able to recognize in those with whom they disagreed, fellow disciples committed to the service of a common Lord, whereas today that mutual confidence in one another is gone and is replaced by a process of denying one another's Christian integrity, which I believe damages those who promote such accusations as much as those who are accused of unfaithfulness. The history shows quite clearly that it is not the BWA that has changed but the leadership of the SBC. If you match the addresses of Melbourne and Buenos Aires against those given in London and Philadelphia, then I think it can be easily demonstrated that the body has not become more liberal but rather more conservative in its most recent history.
Alexander Kozynko, President, Moscow Theological Seminary, Russia I am very sorry for this. I hope and pray that this decision would not divide the Baptists in many other parts of the world. My prayer at this point is that God is leading Baptists to more unity and fellowship for winning many new people for Christ as Savior.
Karl Heinz Walter, General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation and BWA Associate Secretary for Europe and the Middle East 1989-1999, Germany
BWA has not only influenced my life and ministry, I have seen this in many lives of Baptists. During the communist era it was BWA which not only protested by words because of the suffering of our brothers and sisters, but constantly tried to visit with the Baptists in those troubled countries. Nobody in the Baptist world can compare with the effort and with many positive results to BWA's for Religious Freedom and Human Rights of all people. BWA has given a new inspiration to evangelize the world and has established a marvelous growing unity among Baptists despite of all diverse theological thinking, national and ethnic expressions of faith and economic differences. BWA has given hope through BWAid to many people in need regardless of their faith, race or nationality. This is an expression of the love of Jesus Christ for the whole world through BWA.
Tadeusz J. Zielinksi, Pastor, Baptist Union of Poland
A sad news about SBC. Those who made such a step destroyed the spiritual heritage of Baptist unity in diversity built by many generations of Godly and loving people. It will have devastating effects all over the world, including even remote parts of our globe. But I hope that spirit of sectarianism will fail at the end. In one sense that event has a positive side. Now it will not be possible to associate automatically the world family of Baptists with the approach of arrogant exclusivity and fundamentalism. During Communist times one outstanding Polish writer once remarked that in the time of hardship "if you do not know how to react then react decently." In this particular situation - although we may not know how to react - as Christians we should react decently: should keep the commandment of love and to entrust ourselves in everything to God. This is the only way out.
Otniel Bunaciu, Pastor and theological professor, Baptist Union of Romania
I was saddened to hear about the SBC decision to leave the BWA. Our prayers are with you and with the BWA during this time. The BWA has done so many good and important things during the communist years and will always have a special place in the hearts of many Baptist believers in Romania and Eastern Europe. I am sure that God will continue to bless the work of the BWA.
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