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Chapman: BWA membership committee casts cloud over ties with SBC

SEVILLE, Spain (BP)–Morris H. Chapman, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, issued a statement July 12 in response to a report released earlier in the day by the Baptist World Alliance’s membership committee.

The 11-member committee proposed that the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship be accorded membership status in 2003 if the CBF declares itself to be distinct from the SBC.

Chapman’s statement in full follows:

I have serious disagreements with today’s action.

To begin, I must say that I am deeply dismayed by the performance of the membership committee. The committee has failed to properly do the job assigned it, and took admittedly irregular departures from their common procedures. The committee invited Dr. Jimmy Draper and me to visit with them a few minutes before the general meeting this morning. We raised legitimate concerns in good faith, but committee members totally ignored appeals from Dr. Draper and me to act in accord with regular practice and continue to process the application within the committee rather than in the General Council. I did not think it wise for this to be made a public issue until the committee had reached its final decision.

However, the majority of the membership committee determined to make a preliminary report to the General Council, thus refusing to exercise their responsibility as a committee, and in essence involving the whole General Council. The process is now flawed, as the entire General Council has been engaged in matters ordinarily assigned to the membership committee. I believe the committee’s willingness to set aside its usual process can only be explained by what appears to be the determined intention of some members to promote and facilitate the membership request of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship a year in advance.

Further, the committee issued a favored status report containing such statements as “the Membership committee believes the application from CBF can be recommended … for acceptance in 2003,” and “the committee believes there is goodwill from member bodies toward acceptance of the CBF into membership of the BWA.” Some committee members gave the impression that they knew Southern Baptists far better than we know ourselves. To my mind, this conveys an air of arrogance which is wholly inappropriate.

In addition, the statements of the committee appear to be extremely contradictory: on one hand saying that the CBF has made a clean break with the Southern Baptist Convention, while on the other hand, stating they want affirmation that the CBF has done so. I frankly believe this clearly ignores the common sense interpretation of the BWA constitution and bylaws, the latter stating: “Each member body shall have an identity of its own and shall not exist as an integral part of some other union or convention.”

The whole General Council will now have to judge whether the CBF has taken sufficient action to satisfy entry requirements set by the committee.

To say I am aggrieved is an understatement. I have personally worked diligently, along with other SBC leaders, for 12 years to establish a strong tie with the BWA and to communicate to world Baptist leaders that Southern Baptists wanted to walk beside them in efforts to reach the world for Christ. In one swift and needless action by the membership committee, the valued relationship I thought we had built may have been damaged beyond repair.

Unfortunately, during the public discussion a BWA member used it as an opportunity to stand and berate International Mission Board missionaries. Such pejorative statements by a BWA member and the total disregard of SBC concerns by the committee are regrettable and unacceptable.

I anticipate that the Executive Committee will likely want to establish a committee to monitor this situation for the near-term future.

Frankly, all this leaves me puzzled and concerned as to the future relationship of Southern Baptists to the Baptist World Alliance.

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