A group of retired state and national Southern Baptist Convention leaders issued a statement declaring themselves advocates of the Baptist World Alliance.

The group, convened by former BWA President Duke McCall, encouraged Southern Baptists to remain involved in the global fellowship even though the SBC voted this summer to sever official ties.

“The SBC withdrawal from BWA membership does not require any individual, church or Baptist association to sever that Christian relation to the BWA,” the group said Wednesday in a statement. The former leaders said they were not encouraging individuals or churches to withdraw from the SBC.

Current SBC leaders recommended severing historic ties with the BWA, claiming the organization that Southern Baptists helped found in 1905 had grown too liberal. Grievances included tolerance of homosexuality, concern about the sufficiency of Christ and “anti-American” sentiment on the part of BWA members.

Those charges prompted rebuttals by BWA leaders and criticism from other member bodies around the world. While saying they weren’t speaking for the entities that once employed them, the former Southern Baptist leaders said their endorsement of BWA was based on past experience.

“Southern Baptists are blessed by their BWA connection with believers who are zealous in evangelism,” the former SBC leaders said. “We need to strengthen this family tie for our own benefit.”

Joining McCall, former president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, were retired Baptist Sunday School Board presidents Grady Cothen and Lloyd Elder; past Woman’s Missionary Union executives Alma Hunt, Carolyn Crumpler and Dellanna O’Brien and a number of former executives of Baptist state conventions.

Others who could not attend the meeting indicated they would endorse the statement.

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