HAVANA (BP)–Baptist World Alliance President Billy Kim of Korea called for Baptists around the world to strengthen their commitment to unity.
“I’d love to see unity,” he declared, citing urgent needs in the areas of evangelism, church planting and battling persecution, racism and ethnic conflicts.
“We must be unified if we’re going to do a great work for God,” Kim emphasized in an interview paralleling his comments during the July 3-8 meeting of the Baptist World Alliance General Council in Havana. “The only way we can unify is through faith.”
Outgoing BWA President Nilson Fanini of Brazil echoed Kim’s call for unity during the BWA sessions. Reflecting on his five years as president, Fanini said missions and evangelism are keys to global Baptist cooperation.
“Theology sometimes divides us,” he acknowledged in an interview, “but evangelism and missions bring us all together.”
Morris H. Chapman, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, agreed that missions and evangelism are essential priorities in international Baptist life — even among Baptist groups that differ on such issues as female pastors.
Although “there always will be some differences of opinion when you have as many Baptists bodies in the world as we do,” Chapman said in an interview, “some theological differences should not prevent us from ministering to a lost world.”
While Southern Baptist leaders “want to be fairly represented in theological discussions at BWA meetings,” he added, “I think Southern Baptists will benefit by remaining very active participants in the Baptist World Alliance.”
Chapman said BWA involvement gives the SBC “an opportunity to listen to Baptists from around the world. We can grow from what we learn. It also gives us an opportunity to encourage our fellow Baptists.”
BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz said the international organization seeks to help Baptists “gain a perspective of what it means to be a Christian around the world.”
“We learn from one another and become more intelligent Christians,” he noted in an interview.
Theo Angelov, general secretary of the European Baptist Federation in Bulgaria, said affiliation with the BWA was especially significant to Bulgarian Baptists during decades under communist rule.
“The BWA helped us enormously by realizing we were part of a big Baptist constituency worldwide. That helped us survive.
“I like the idea of Billy Kim to strengthen unity,” Angelov said in an interview. “I hope we have good results in achieving that and working together.”