It is with great sadness the Baptists in Europe learned of the decision of the Southern Baptists in the U.S.A. to withdraw their membership in the Baptist World Alliance. It has been clear for some time that the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention would push their constituents in this direction. For some reasons Southern Baptists have followed their leaders in this wrong direction.

We are surprised by an action that by its very nature is an offense to the biblical call for unity and striving together to witness to a divided and lost world. Will this action strengthen those working for God’s Kingdom around the world? Is Heaven rejoicing?

We are saddened because of the false accusations with which the leaders of the SBC justify their position. They are a weak attempt to prove their own righteousness. Take note when a person or group of people place themselves on a higher level than others through unchristian methods. It is usually an indication that they had to resort to such measures because their arguments had no merits on their own.

We are amazed by the ignorance. The voices of Baptists around the world were ignored; fellow Baptists once accepted as coworkers cut off and rebuffed. This attitude is not Baptistic. Baptists are different. They are full of love. They are humble people.

We are offended by the aggressiveness with which this separation was pushed forward in the last months. Years ago, many of us became aware of problems in the Southern Baptist Convention, but it seemed like an internal American problem within the SBC. The leaders of the denomination insisted on introducing their own battles into the rest of the world. It seems they needed an even broader arena. We urged them not to export their problems. They wanted to make this international and that is the reason for the accusations thrown against the rest of the Baptist world. We have tried to explain to the leaders of the SBC that we, the Baptists of the other continents, have enough problems with which we must deal. We do not need North American problems. We have enough of our own. Our pleas to them were unsuccessful.

We are terrified by the blindness with which they will destroy their own witness and mission in the rest of the world. They cannot, or will not, see that the world does not need strife; it needs disciples of Jesus, full of love and humility. The success of mission work does not depend on the ideologically pressed offensive or the money bags offered to insure worldly symbols of success. Money may be used to “create” friends. But it is a mission strategy like a house built on sand–it will not stand.

The churches in Europe and especially in the eastern part of the continent went through severe persecutions during the last century. Persecutions were not able to wipe out the churches from the face of their countries. In some places today, persecution in many diverse forms still continues. Here is our real pain: in the time of our suffering, America was the example of democracy and the Baptists in America were a source of help and hope. Now from the other side of the Atlantic come authoritarianism, judgmentalism and division.

We are stunned at such an action coming from “mission-minded people.” It is inexplicable to us. We know the hearts of most Southern Baptists are full of love and compassion, full of desire to help the world through mission work. How can the “new politics” coexist with the expressions of love we have experienced from congregations in the U.S.A. in the last century?

In our work and ministry, we will continue to serve Jesus and to bring the message about Him in our world. We will do this in spite of the spirit of secularization around us, the spirit of militant atheism against us, and in spite of the spirit of self-righteousness directed at us. We will appeal to our constituency to work for unity among the churches and for the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom is too strong and its Head is too high. We declare that we want to stay on the side of Jesus.

We support the leaders and work of the BWA and all Baptists around the world, especially in countries where our people still face persecution. We deeply desire to be linked with the Baptist congregations in the U.S.A. who share this determination. We want to assure all of them of our love and respect. Jesus is higher than any human political plotting or authorities’ ambitions. His church still belongs to Him. We want to proclaim His name in the whole world.

Theo Angelov is general secretary of the European Baptist Federation. This column is reprinted from the EBF Web site with permission.

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