Among criticism against the Baptist World Alliance by leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention was that BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz “cozied up” to Fidel Castro by meeting with the Cuban dictator.
“I didn’t cozy up to Castro, I went there to talk about religious freedom,” Lotz said at a BWA breakfast held in conjunction with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly in Birmingham, Ala.
The General Assembly adopted a $16.08 million budget for the fiscal year 2004-2005, which included increased funding for the Baptist World Alliance from $20,000 to $40,000. In addition to budget support, the Atlanta-based CBF raised $47,670 in two offerings for the BWA, which recently lost $300,000 in annual support when its largest member, the Southern Baptist Convention, pulled out of the global alliance.
Lotz said in his meeting Castro said “every educated man ought to read the Bible.”
Referring to the story of David and Goliath, Castro told Lotz, “You are Goliath, and we are David.”
When Lotz shared the story with Cuban Baptists, he said, they laughed, “We don’t have any Bibles in Cuba.”
Lotz said he wrote Castro and got permission to distribute Bibles. “It’s a lot better to hand out Bibles than to fight about the Bible,” he said.
In the last five years, Lotz said, 5,000 house churches have started in Cuba, with 200,000 Baptist members.
Lotz did not refer directly to conflict with Southern Baptist leaders, who recently recommended severing ties with the BWA citing allegations of liberalism and anti-Americanism, but he alluded to grievances cited by the SBC.
“There’s a secular society with no hope, and what are we doing? We’re fighting on the shore about who believes what more.”
“When I go to the South I’m a liberal,” Lotz said. “When I go to the North I’m a conservative. We need to overcome those terms of conservative and moderate. I want to be a Baptist.”
Baptists, Lotz said, are characterized by belief in separation of church and state, justice, priesthood of all believers and religious freedom for all.
“Freedom does not come from Washington,” he said. “It does not come from Beijing. It comes from Jesus Christ. Baptists better discover that again, because we don’t know who we are.”
“I want Baptists to become a loving people,” Lotz said. “That’s what Baptists are known for all around the world.”
“How can the world hear the gospel when we’re filled with hate and anger and bitterness?”
Southern Baptists also criticized the BWA for accepting members they said embrace liberalism, including American Baptist Churches, U.S.A., which includes some churches that welcome and affirm homosexuals.
“The Baptist World Alliance is a networker,” Lotz said. “We don’t police one another. We network with one another. We ask what the Lord is doing in your life and how can we share resources.”
Lotz said indigenous missions is “the reality of our world today.”
“The whole world is given the commission, not NATO,” he said. “The center of Christianity is moving from pagan Europe to Africa.”
“There are a lot of walls that need to be broken down in our world,” Lotz said, naming gender, tribalism and racism.
“Racism didn’t end in 1965 when we passed the civil rights bill,” Lotz said. “Racism is still a big issue in America today, whether you like it or not.”
Black and white Americans still most often worship separately, Lotz said. “That’s why we belong together in the BWA. How else are we going to get together?”Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.