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Denton Lotz, former BWA general secretary, dies

FORESTDALE, Mass. (BP) — Denton Lotz, general secretary emeritus of the Baptist World Alliance, died Tuesday (April 23) at his home in Forestdale, Mass., at age 80.

Lotz led the BWA from 1988 until his retirement in 2007; he joined the staff in 1980 as director of evangelism and education. He subsequently was pastor of Tremont Temple Baptist Church in Boston until 2017.

Prior to his work with the BWA, Lotz was a missionary with the American Baptist Churches, USA, in Eastern and Central Europe and taught missions and homiletics at the International Baptist Theological Seminary, formerly in Ruschlikon, Switzerland, and now based in Amsterdam.

The Southern Baptist Convention, in 2004, ended its affiliation with the BWA. A recommendation by a nine-member study committee was approved by SBC Executive Committee in February and by messengers at the SBC annual meeting in June in Indianapolis.

Lotz issued a rebuttal to the committee’s recommendation, stating, in part, that the SBC’s exit from the BWA would cause “a schism within the life of our worldwide Baptist family and thus it is a sin against love!”

The SBC study committee cited theological concerns as the core reason for the recommendation, Baptist Press reported in December 2003.

More than a question of Southern Baptist biblical convictions, the study committee stated that “the larger issue is the potential impact” on constituent bodies when the BWA “gives apparent approval” to various “aberrant theologies.”

The theological problems, according to the committee, included “an increasing influence of positions contrary to the New Testament and to Baptist doctrines” — positions “being advocated in the various commissions and committees of the BWA” — stemming from “a number of European and North American conventions” with prominence in the BWA.

The study committee also noted: “A decided anti-American tone has emerged in recent years. Continued emphasis on women as pastors, frequent criticisms of the International Mission Board of Southern Baptists, refusal to allow open discussion on issues such as abortion, and the funding of questionable enterprises through Baptist World Aid provide just a surface sampling of what has transpired in recent years.”

The SBC study committee stated its prayer “for the day when the BWA will return to the faith on which it was founded and which has been historically held by Baptists for centuries. We pray for the restoration of fellowship that such a return will bring.”

Lotz, in his response to the study committee, said he “categorically rejects” any description of the BWA as “liberal,” calling it a “false accusation” akin to 1950s-era McCarthyism. “Our BWA member bodies affirm the trinity, the divinity of Christ, the resurrection, the atonement, second coming and future rule of God!” he wrote.

Lotz said the study committee’s recommendation was a “triumph of ideology over doctrine” and “contrary to all Baptist understanding of the competency of the individual and of soul liberty!”

Though conversations have taken place between SBC and BWA leaders during the past 15 years, no formal steps toward reconciliation have since occurred between the SBC and BWA, which was founded in 1905 in England with Southern Baptist involvement and, at the end of 2017, listed 239 member bodies in 125 countries and territories with 168,491 affiliated churches. The BWA is now based in Falls Church, Va.

In a tribute posted upon Lotz’s death, the BWA recounted, “In July 2005 at the BWA Centennial Congress in Birmingham, England, Lotz unveiled the Living Water initiative, a strategic plan designed to enlist and equip local Baptists for evangelism and servant leadership. Since its inception, Living Water events have taken place around the world from Cuba to Bangladesh with more than 4,500 registered delegates in attendance who have engaged in prayer, focused Bible study, evangelism, and leadership training.”

The BWA also cited Lotz’s work in launching the Baptist International Conference on Theological Education in 1991.

At a 2007 retirement dinner, Anne Graham Lotz, whose late husband Dan was Denton Lotz’s brother, read a letter from Billy Graham, her father, who stated: “The Lord raised you up for such a time as we’ve been through. Your strong leadership and personal faith has been an inspiration and blessing to me. The fact that you are related through marriage, that you are a member of our board of directors, and because of our long-time association with the Baptist World Alliance, all give me a special reason to honor you on the occasion of your retirement. Not only will the Baptist World Alliance miss you, but your ecumenical leadership will be missed throughout the world church.”

A native of Flushing, N.Y., Lotz was the youngest of four sons raised by a minister and his wife. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1961-1963, subsequently earning a theology degree from Harvard Divinity School in 1966 and a doctorate at the University of Hamburg in Germany in 1970.

Lotz is survived by his wife Janice, three children and several grandchildren.

A memorial service will be at noon Friday (April 26) at Tremont Temple Baptist Church.