The head of the Baptist World Alliance says last week’s vote urging Southern Baptists to cut ties with the BWA was based on misrepresentation of the global Baptist fellowship.
“We are saddened because the statements made in the recommendations presented to the Executive Committee are so contrary to who we are,” BWA General Secretary <Denton Lotz said in a Thursday press release.
Lotz said a study committee report calling for the Southern Baptist Convention to leave the BWA contained “generalizations, guilt by association, statements out of context [and] misinterpretations of events.”
Those characterizations, he said, “presented a very different picture than who we really are in the BWA.”
The leader of another BWA member body in the United States, American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. General Secretary Roy Medley, echoed Lotz’s concern in a statement expressing “deep sorrow” at the proposed withdrawal by the SBC.
“Together with other Baptist leaders around the world I am deeply distressed by the characterization of the BWA which the study committee and Executive Committee have used as a reason for the SBC’s departure from this great global body of Baptist believers,” Medley said in American Baptist News Service. “This represents a wounding of the worldwide Baptist family by one of the historic partners in BWA life.”
The BWA study committee report, approved Tuesday by the SBC Executive Committee by a vote of 62-10, awaits final approval by the convention in Indianapolis in June. It calls for the SBC, a founding member of the BWA and its largest supporter, to end that relationship effective Oct. 1. It also calls for reallocating $300,000 that the SBC currently contributes to the BWA for “new and innovative” strategies for building relationships with like-minded Baptists around the world.
In its report, the SBC/BWA Study Committee said the BWA “no longer efficiently communicates to the unsaved a crystal-clear gospel message that our Lord Jesus Christ is solely sufficient for salvation.”
Lotz, who along with other BWA staff was introduced at the Executive Committee meeting but not allowed to speak, responded with the following statement:
“Let it be very clear that Baptists of the world in the BWA believe with all their hearts that Jesus Christ is Lord and the only way of salvation. We believe that one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. We believe that there is no other name by which one can be saved! Accusations to the contrary are failing to follow the biblical command to tell the truth with love.”
The study committee also cited an “anti-American tone” and “increasing influence of positions contrary to the New Testament and to Baptist doctrines” on BWA commissions and committees.
“We are not anti-American, but we do represent the nations of the world in 211 Baptist conventions and unions,” Lotz replied.
Lotz also denied the BWA holds “aberrant theological views.” The alliance adheres to traditional Christian and Baptist views, he said, including beliefs that “unity is not a luxury but an inherent part of the gospel” and “ethical behavior is one of the great witnesses to the truth of Christ.”
Lotz said Baptists around the world are sorry that SBC leaders have voted to recommend the end of 100 years of fellowship but still love Southern Baptists and welcome them at BWA meetings. Lotz added a “personal invitation” to all Southern Baptists to attend next year’s BWA centennial congress, scheduled July 27-31 in England.
While criticizing leadership and some elements of the BWA, the study committee calling for the SBC pullout said the action is not intended to “cast aspersion on the many godly and enthusiastically evangelical Baptist fellowships that are members of the BWA.”
“We fully intend to continue to partner with our oldest and best friends worldwide and to develop new and vibrant friendships and joint endeavors to reach the world for Christ,” the report said.
Describing the decision as “one of stewardship,” the report concluded, “If we can multiply the harvest by reapplying the funding, there is no true Christian who should take issue.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.