Accusations that the Baptist World Alliance tolerates homosexuality are false and slanderous, leaders of the group said in a statement released Monday.
BWA officials said statements made to messengers at last week’s SBC annual meeting, which led to Southern Baptists voting to withdraw from BWA membership, maligned the BWA and harmed the evangelistic potential of Baptist churches around the world.
At the convention in Indianapolis, Paige Patterson, a member of an SBC/BWA study committee that recommended leaving the alliance, said the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., a BWA member body, includes churches that affirm gays.
“We can no longer afford in this particular day, when the press for gay marriage is on, to be in alliance with denominations that support in any form or fashion gay marriage,” Patterson said. “What you give your money and name to, you give tacit approval to.”
Monday’s statement from the BWA said Patterson violated an agreement between SBC and BWA representatives in April not to make “false or accusatory” statements against one another.
“Therefore, the blast from Indianapolis was like a bombshell in a crowded building,” the BWA leaders said. “Millions of Baptists have been spiritually hurt, their witness maimed and our good name besmirched.”
The BWA statement denied that the organization is liberal or that it promotes women as pastors of local churches, two of the criticisms leveled against the group by the SBC study committee. “Since we affirm the autonomy of Baptist bodies, it is the prerogative of local churches and their member bodies to make decisions on ordination,” BWA leaders said.
They also denied a charge that the BWA is anti-American. “We are citizens of the Kingdom of God and loyal citizens of our own nations,” the statement said. “We believe Baptists should be good and patriotic citizens of their countries, but patriotism must always be limited to and judged by the Bible’s call for ultimate loyalty to Christ who is above all.”
The BWA further “does not support homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle, believing it to be incompatible with the teachings of Scripture,” according to the statement. The Bible, it adds, “affirms without reservation that marriage is a holy state and only between a man and a woman forever.”
“There is not one BWA member body that affirms, promotes or approves of gay marriage,” the statement said. The BWA general council in 1994 adopted a resolution proclaiming “the biblical definition of a family” as “a permanent, monogamous, heterosexual union.”
“The tragedy of misrepresentation and slander is that there is no way to inform the secular or religious public or media of the truth,” the BWA statement said. “The secular and religious press tends to accept statements made by religious leaders and print them as the final truth.”
The Washington Post, for example, on June 16 reported that the SBC voted to pull out of the BWA “accusing the worldwide organization of a drift toward liberalism that included growing tolerance of homosexuality, support for women in the clergy and ‘anti-American’ pronouncements.”
“This statement summarizes, unfortunately, the false accusations that have been sent around the world and have appeared in newspapers all over the U.S.A. and the world,” the BWA leaders complained.
“How sad that the BWA has been defamed and our strongly biblical and evangelical stance has been irreparably hurt by innuendos, false accusations and guilt by association.” The statement was released, it said, “so that the word might go forth very clearly about where we in the BWA stand.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.