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BWA issue, Lotz statements prompt release of Chapman letter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–After the Baptist World Alliance membership committee vice chairman Albert W. Wardin went public in February with concerns about the BWA constitutionality and process in granting BWA membership to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a splinter group from the Southern Baptist Convention, BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz publicly dismissed the concerns by saying in part there “has never been a ‘written’ rule” (referring to the time-honored practice against including a new member body over the objection of a present member body).

Now in support of Wardin, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman has released a letter from him to Lotz, dated July 17, 2002, that formally expressed the same constitutional and process concerns.

The letter has been posted on the SBC’s Baptist2Baptist website to go on record that others shared Wardin’s opinion that the BWA membership committee “broke its own rule of not recommending membership of any Baptist body if there was objection from a member already in the Alliance.”

Chapman begins his four-page letter by noting, “The process employed by the BWA Membership Committee did not follow the guidelines set forth by the Constitution and Bylaws of the Baptist World Alliance, but rather chose to move full speed ahead to take certain actions regardless of the BWA Constitution and Bylaws.”

Among the concerns listed by Chapman was the specification in two BWA documents that membership in the alliance involves Baptist groups that are a “union or convention,” whereas the CBF is an organization lacking a constitutional relationship with a church constituency and a doctrinal statement.

Lotz told Baptist Press on March 3 that the BWA membership committee made “a very thorough examination [of the CBF membership application]. … It was agreed to by the General Council, … [which is] the one that decides what is constitutional and not constitutional, not those outside of the General Council.”

At issue is whether the general council actually made a determination of constitutionality, or merely sidestepped the issue when it voted to include the CBF.

In his statements to Baptist Press Lotz offered an explanation for another issue that has been raised.

In a story about Wardin’s letter, the Associated Baptist Press (a CBF-funded partner) stated that Lotz “disagreed with Wardin’s assessment of the committee’s process and conclusions.”

ABP further wrote: “‘That’s the first I’ve heard of it,’ said Lotz to the charge that the membership committee’s recommendation violated the BWA constitution. ‘The [BWA] General Council thought it was constitutional.'”

Lotz told Baptist Press that when he said “That’s the first I’ve heard of it,” he was referring to Wardin’s letter and not the issue of the constitutionality of the BWA’s action.

“I don’t even have a copy of Albert Wardin’s letter, so that was the first time I’d ever seen it” Lotz stated to Baptist Press.

“Of course I knew of Morris Chapman and the SBC concern about … constitution bylaws,” Lotz said. “That was another question.”

Lotz stated that he asked for a correction [of the ABP report].

The full text of Chapman’s letter may be viewed on the SBC Baptist2Baptist website, www.baptist2baptist.net.

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