Baptist leaders in Latin America signed a statement deploring the Southern Baptist Convention’s anticipated withdrawal from the Baptist World Alliance and urging defeat of a committee’s recommendation calling for the severing of ties.
BWA officers in Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina signed a joint document declaring charges of liberalism against the BWA by an SBC/BWA study committee “unacceptable” and “categorically” rejecting the possibility that they would go along with an SBC proposal to create a new, parallel organization to the BWA.
“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,” said Amparo de Medina in Colombia; Fausto Aguiar de Vasconcelos in Brazil; Paul Eustache in Venezuela; and Tomas Mackey and RaÃºl Scialabba of Argentina.
The Latin American leaders expressed “full, unrestricted support to the BWA and to its leadership” and reaffirmed their intent to continue to pray for the organization and support its activities. They also invited other national Baptist organizations in Latin America and the rest of the world to “join us by taking a similar stance in support of the BWA.”
Their letter is reportedly one of a number of responses from around the world protesting the study committee proposal. Made public Dec. 19, it calls for the SBC to withdraw from membership in the BWA and to end its $300,000 in annual funding for the organization, effective this October.
Erich Geldbach, a professor at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany alluded to in the committee’s report alleging liberalism in the BWA, wrote Morris Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee who chaired the study committee, Dec. 29, confronting Chapman about information in the report that Geldbach called “totally unsubstantiated.”
Geldbach claims that a quote attributed to him in the report, “I am not even sure that there is any such thing as the Great Commission, but if there is I am confident that Jesus never said it,” is a fabrication.
Geldbach declared the study committee guilty of bearing false witness and lying to fellow Christians, both violations of Scripture. He asked the committee to “repent and turn from your wicked ways,” adding, “If you do this, I would be overjoyed and not ask for an apology.”
Baptist leaders from Europe and the United States have also criticized the SBC pullout.
BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz denied charges that the organization is liberal, comparing the accusation to “a form of McCarthyism.”
Tony Cartledge, editor of the Biblical Recorder in North Carolina, called the dispute a “lamentable exporting of Southern Baptists’ ideological infighting to a world that is desperately in need of Christ but likely to find the Baptist version of faith to be less appealing with every passing day.”
Despite his differences with the SBC study committee, the BWA’s Lotz lauded the memory of Lewis Drummond, a Southern Baptist leader who died Jan. 4, in a column on the BWA Web site.
While a part of the “conservative resurgence” among Southern Baptists, Drummond, a former seminary professor and president, was “a great supporter of BWA right to the end,” said Lotz, who reported speaking to Drummond only a week before his death.
Lotz announced establishment of a new BWA evangelism fund bearing Drummond’s name, and said Drummond’s widow requested that contributions be made to the fund in lieu of flowers.
The proposal to sever ties, which cites an “anti-American tone” and positions “contrary to the New Testament and Baptist doctrines” in BWA gatherings, would end a 99-year relationship for the SBC, the BWA’s largest member group and the one most responsible for its launch in 1905.
A.T. Robertson, a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., wrote an editorial in 1904 proposing a worldwide Baptist congress to allow Baptists to grow in fellowship and learn from each other. Representatives from 23 countries met in London in July 1905 to form the Baptist World Alliance, which today includes 210 Baptist organizations representing 47 million baptized believers.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.