A Baptist state newspaper editor hopes leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention won’t take steps to rejoin the Baptist World Alliance.
A motion at last summer’s SBC annual meeting asked the SBC Executive Committee to reconsider affiliation with the Baptist World Alliance, a global group that the SBC voted to leave in 2004. By convention policy, the motion was referred to the Executive Committee, which is expected to take up the discussion when it meets in Nashville, Tenn., Sept. 22-23.
Don Hinkle, editor of The Pathway, one of two competing statewide Baptist newspapers printed in Missouri, said in a recent editorial that he doubts the motion will find much support among committee members, and believes it should not.
Hinkle said “there is no evidence the BWA has changed” in positions that prompted the SBC’s departure four years ago, and that the denomination, a BWA founder and formerly its largest member, has moved on in establishing new international partnerships with a new office led by former SBC President Bobby Welch.
“The lopsided vote by Southern Baptists to leave the BWA just four years ago was understandable and the right thing for the SBC to do,” Hinkle said. “The SBC was the largest denomination in the BWA and its most generous financial contributor, yet the SBC became the target of an increasingly hostile attitude by BWA leaders. This occurred, in part, because of the BWA’s willingness to sympathize politically with radical left-wing governments, its penchant for taking theologically liberal positions totally out of step with the beliefs of Southern Baptists and because the BWA would not follow its own procedural rules.”
Hinkle cited “anti-Americanism” as one good reason for leaving BWA.
“It was not unusual for socialists like Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who detests capitalism and thinks Marxist thinking is useful, to be a featured BWA speaker,” Hinkle said. “He once described Jesus as a revolutionary similar to Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro and the late Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Tse-tung, two of America’s most notorious enemies. Tutu has also supported the ordination of homosexuals in his denomination, a view that threatens to rip apart the worldwide Anglican Communion.”
Hinkle also faulted a BWA speaker who blamed “American greed and materialism” for poor working conditions in third-world sweatshops.
“Such remarks are typical of the ‘hate America crowd,'” said Hinkle, who authored a book defending display of the Confederate flag. “Certainly our nation has committed its share of sin. But why should patriotic Southern Baptists give their money to an organization that seemed to regularly promote such anti-American rhetoric?”
Hinkle criticized former BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz for terming the United States’ trade embargo on Cuba a “failed policy” and accused BWA leaders of buddying up to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
Those broadsides echo comments Hinkle made four years ago, which Lotz challenged as “hearsay and prejudicial.”
Lotz said BWA visits to Cuba, for example, were to affirm Cuban Baptists and defend religious freedom. Since those visits, Lotz said, Bibles had become readily available in Cuba and in the past 10 years the Cuban Baptist community had grown from 40,000 members to 200,000.
Brian Kaylor, a communications specialist for the Baptist General Convention of Missouri and contributing editor to EthicsDaily.com, said Hinkle’s penchant for rehashing challenged statements ignored “stubborn facts” about the BWA.
“While Hinkle continues to falsely attack the important ministries of the BWA, the Baptist General Convention of Missouri is proud to support the BWA in its quest to unite Baptists around the world for missions, worship and fellowship,” said Kaylor, author of For God’s Sake, Shut Up!, a book that cautions Christians to be temperate in their speech.
Hinkle also accused the BWA of promoting “liberalism,” including viewpoints on homosexuality to the left of those held by Southern Baptist leaders. He also faulted the BWA for accepting into membership the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which he claimed was in violation of their own procedures.
“There is no need to go back to the BWA when Southern Baptists are now well down the path to a more productive future in international relations with like-minded Baptists and other theologically conservative evangelicals,” he concluded.
Other motions referred to the Executive Committee include changing SBC membership requirements to exclude churches with female pastors. While several local Baptist associations have severed ties with such churches, especially since the SBC changed its statement of faith in 2000 to expressly state that the Bible limits the pastoral office to men, there is no direct prohibition of women pastors in the conventions constitution.
There is an article that bans churches that “act to affirm, approve or endorse” homosexual behavior, added in 1993 in response to Southern Baptist churches reported to have licensed gays to the ministry or performed wedding-like “blessing” ceremonies.
Another motion referred this year to the Executive Committee seeks to implement that article to withdraw membership from Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, which made headlines over a church flap about whether to include photos of same-sex couples in a membership directory.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.