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End ties to BWA, panel recommends to Southern Baptists

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A recommendation that the Southern Baptist Convention withdraw from the Baptist World Alliance has been made by a study committee of the SBC Executive Committee.

Theological concerns were cited as the core reason for the recommendation by the nine-member panel.

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

The theological problems, according to the committee, involve “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.

“Repeated appeals to BWA leadership have resulted in no substantive changes and few of any consequence,” the committee stated.

The study committee noted that the BWA once had a solid biblical foundation, as reflected in a 1923 statement noting that “the Christian religion finds its central truth in the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, Whose sinless life and heavenly wisdom, whose Deity, atoning death, resurrection from the dead, and Whose second coming and lordship in the Kingdom of God constitute and qualify Him for His work as its Founder and Mediator. God calls all men to salvation through Him….”

The committee contrasted the statement with an incident during a BWA-sponsored meeting in Rio de Janeiro last July when, in response to a BWA paper titled “Call to Missions,” a Southern Baptist pastor “sought clarification with reference to the absence of a clear doctrinal statement advocating the exclusivity of Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation,” the committee recounted. The pastor “was not only refused clarification, but also rudely treated by a significant number of BWA participants.”

The difference between the 1923 statement and the BWA session last July “shows clearly the leftward drift of the BWA,” the study committee stated.

The committee’s recommendation, if approved by the Executive Committee during its Feb. 16-17 meeting in Nashville, Tenn., would be forwarded to messengers at the SBC annual meeting June 15-16 in Indianapolis.

The SBC would maintain its current funding in the BWA until Oct. 1 of next year, according to the committee’s recommendation. For a number of years, the SBC allocation to the BWA had been $425,000 per year. The SBC’s 2003-04 budget allocates $300,000 to the BWA, an amount reduced by $125,000 during last June’s SBC annual meeting in Phoenix. The $125,000 was redirected to a new SBC “Kingdom Relationships” global initiative. The committee anticipates that the other $300,000 will be similarly earmarked.

The Baptist World Alliance was founded in 1905 in London, with Southern Baptist involvement. Next year, the BWA will mark its 100th anniversary in Birmingham, England, during one of its international congresses held every five years.

The BWA describes itself on its website as “a fellowship of 210 Baptist unions and conventions comprising a membership of more than 47 million Baptized believers. This represents a community of approximately 110 million Baptists ministering in more than 200 countries. The BWA unites Baptists worldwide, leads in world evangelism, responds to people in need and defends human rights.”

The SBC study committee stated, “We pray 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.”

The committee also stated that it “anticipates with enthusiasm the possible emergence of a new fellowship with an unqualified adherence to the absolute Lordship of Christ, the inerrancy of Holy Scripture, salvation based on the substitutionary atonement of Christ appropriated through repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ….” Such a fellowship also would have a “commitment to the sanctity of all human life” and an “advocacy of absolute religious liberty for all men everywhere including an open marketplace of discussion and self-determination.”

“How or when this new fellowship develops will be for others to determine,” the committee said, “but numerous Baptist friends from around the globe have indicated their hearty interest in such a fellowship which could well include preaching conferences, church planting and growth conferences, the teaching of Baptist history and theology and participation in evangelistic and missionary efforts.”

Members of the SBC study committee are Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, Nashville, Tenn.; James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources, Nashville, Tenn.; Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board, Richmond, Va.; Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas; Tom Elliff, a former SBC president and pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Del City, Okla.; Gary A. Smith, chairman of the Executive Committee and pastor of Fielder Road Baptist Church, Arlington, Texas; retired Judge Paul Pressler of Houston, Texas; Joe Reynolds, a Houston attorney; and Bob Sorrell, president, The Associate, Inc., a ministry to pastors, Cordova, Tenn.

The committee was initially formed in 1997 as a way of evaluating the relationship between the SBC and BWA on an ongoing basis.

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