RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–The proposed withdrawal of the Southern Baptist Convention from the Baptist World Alliance is not expected to affect the ministries of Southern Baptist missionaries or the International Mission Board’s working partnerships with Baptist unions around the world, IMB President Jerry Rankin told the entity’s trustees.
“A lot of publicity has been generated by the recommendation of a task force that had been meeting for several years that the Southern Baptist Convention withdraw from membership in the Baptist World Alliance,” Rankin said during a Feb. 2 trustee session in Richmond, Va. “This recommendation is a matter of organizational affiliation that does not affect the bilateral relationships between the International Mission Board and Baptist conventions and unions which may be members of the BWA or participate in regional fellowships.”
While the BWA emphasizes unity in diversity, Southern Baptists feel there must be parameters in terms of theology and doctrine in order to have an authentic basis of fellowship, Rankin said.
“Our commonality must be biblically based and represent more than the common identity of the name ‘Baptist,'” Rankin said. “It is felt that the BWA has become a forum for those advocating aberrant theological positions, and Southern Baptists have been increasingly concerned about the pattern of disrespect for conservative positions being expressed in BWA commissions and sessions.”
In an earlier letter to the board’s regional leaders, Rankin said the Baptist World Alliance has “moved beyond serving as a fellowship of worldwide Baptists to seeking to implement programs” and promoting a missiology “that sometimes overlaps and is in conflict with sound evangelical strategies and the work of other Baptist entities.”
He also noted that, while it wasn’t mentioned in the task force recommendation, the acceptance of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship into BWA membership “in violation of established processes and bylaws” influenced the recommendation since the action in effect endorsed a schism among Southern Baptists.
Because the Baptist World Alliance has never played a significant role in Southern Baptist relationships with other Baptist unions and conventions, withdrawal from the BWA should not harm the SBC’s ability to continue working with overseas Baptist partners, Rankin said.
He also said he does not anticipate that Southern Baptists will attempt to form an alternate organization, as some media reports have suggested, but will seek opportunities for training, spiritual nurture and missions advance through global and regional conferences and events in partnership with likeminded Baptists.
“The IMB’s role around the world is related to evangelizing the lost rather than relating primarily to established churches,” Rankin wrote. “We will continue to be committed to working in partnership with local Baptist entities that hold to sound theology consistent with a biblical faith and are committed to proclaiming Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation.
“We also will continue to be committed to assisting Baptist partners in facilitating discipleship of believers, training of leaders, planting churches and sending missionaries that all peoples might have access to the Gospel.”
While some Baptist unions may be reluctant to continue cooperation in mission efforts because of the decision, International Mission Board leaders do not anticipate the decision having any impact on the work of missionaries, he said.
“It is the desire of the International Mission Board to continue to work together in mutual respect with Baptist entities around the world to fulfill the Great Commission, and we have asked our regional leaders to communicate that and affirm our continuing partnership.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: MISSIONS PARTNERSHIPS.