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BWA leaders credit SBC with key support

ST. LOUIS (BP)–The Southern Baptist Convention’s support of the Baptist World Alliance strengthens Baptists all over the world, said BWA spokesman Tony Cupit to messengers June 12 at the SBC annual meeting in St. Louis.

“The Baptist World Alliance greatly values its partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention, one of its member bodies and indeed its largest and most active and most generous partner,” said Cupit, deputy to BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz.

Lotz sent his greetings, Cupit added. Lotz was keynote speaker at the International Religious Liberty Association meeting in the Philippines and was unable to attend this year’s SBC annual meeting.

“The SBC is very active in many ways in our life and witness,” Cupit said. “The gospel is good news and the BWA works tirelessly to ensure that its member bodies highlight the crucial task we have as God’s people proclaiming and demonstrating the good news that our Lord Jesus Christ came to this earth, suffered and died on the cross of Calvary, shed his blood for the forgiveness of sin, and rose triumphantly for men and women everywhere that they might come in repentance and faith at the foot of that cross.”

The BWA encompasses 201 member bodies in more than 200 nations, with a combined membership of more than 43 million baptized believers and a community of abut 100 million people, Cupit said. Its purpose is to unite Baptists worldwide, lead in evangelism, defend human rights in matters related to religious liberty, respond to people in need and train national leaders for the next generation of Baptist churches.

“BWA tries bring an evangelistic emphasis by not only underscoring the central nature of evangelism but by providing resources and indeed by modeling personal evangelism and preaching and teaching the story of God’s love and grace in Jesus Christ,” Cupit said.

In an earlier BWA-sponsored breakfast, Cupit likened the organization to the gospel — a secret well-kept. “Too often people hide the good news like precious jewelry,” he said. “BWA is also good news. We continue to be a voice for the oppressed in a world increasingly hostile to the gospel.”

The Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Union of England and several other Baptist groups started the BWA in England in 1905, Cupit said. Religious liberty, advocacy for oppressed believers, and modeling personal evangelism were and continue to be its main tenets.

“Encouragement is one of the most strategic things we do,” Cupit said.

Cuban-born Eduardo DoCampo, now a strategic coordinator for the North American Mission Board, was one of three people to speak of how a BWA-sponsored mission trip also benefited Southern Baptist missions.

Southern Baptist involvement is centered on the western side of the island of Cuba, DoCampo said. A BWA mission team that went to Santiago on the eastern side helped give Southern Baptists opportunity to stretch their reach to include Santiago.

“It’s a terrible thing to be alone,” said. He went on a BWA-sponsored mission trip to Russia and the former Soviet Union. He learned that from his team forgetting to get a local phone number and being stranded when their plane was three hours late, Walker said.

Larry Walker, ambassador at large for First Baptist Church, Dallas, said Baptists from the United States and other developed nations need the insights and encouragement of Baptists from oppressed nations such as the former Soviet Union, while Baptists from oppressed nations need the insights and encouragement of Baptists in the West.

“We need them, they need us, and together we’re not alone,” Walker said.

Emmett Dunn, director of the BWA youth department, spoke of the BWA Youth Conference, slated for Hong Kong in 2005, with an expected attendance of about 8,000 teens and young adults. “It’s a week of fun, fellowship, inspiration and commitment,” Dunn said.

Patsy Davis, director of the BWA women’s department, said that of the 100 million Baptists around the globe, about 60 percent are women. Starting with the September issue of the SBC WMU magazine “Mosaic” for a year, there will be a section describing BWA women’s work, she said. BWA promotes a Day of Prayer for Baptist Women in November each year, she added.

“The Southern Baptist Convention is the leading contributor to the Baptist World Alliance,” said Alan Stanford, BWA director for global impact, as he closed the breakfast meeting. “Baptists around the world gain strength from you.”