NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A gracious spirit marked the response by Baptist World Alliance President Billy Kim to the possibility of the Southern Baptist Convention withdrawing from the BWA.
In February, the SBC Executive Committee will vote on that possibility. If approved, the recommendation then will be forwarded to messengers at next June’s SBC annual meeting in Indianapolis.
Kim, in a Dec. 19 statement issued to Baptist Press, said, “Baptist friends around the world deeply regret the decision [that may be] reached by the Southern Baptist Convention to withdraw their membership from the Baptist World Alliance and consequently terminate funding to the organization. [The] SBC was a pioneer in the establishment of the BWA, nearly 100 years ago. They have made a tremendous contribution to the Baptist work around the world. All of us are saddened that the SBC [is] now withdrawing from the BWA.
“In this secular world other major religious organizations strongly intimidate the body of Christ,” Kim, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Suwon, Korea, said of countries where Baptists and other evangelicals face challenges as a minority faith. “Therefore, it is essential that we remain united to fulfill the Great Commission before Christ returns.
“My request is that our global friends will pray for the SBC and the BWA during this period of transition. Pray that we will not lose the focus of our call for fellowship, encouragement and the propagation of the Gospel.” Kim concluded his written statement by quoting Psalm 133:1 from the King James translation: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”
BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz, meanwhile, “has no statement to make at this time,” Wendy Ryan, BWA communications director, reported.
Kim, in a telephone interview with Baptist Press, said he is not surprised and did not take exception to various concerns shared with him by SBC leaders about the BWA.
“Adding CBF was the straw that broke the camel’s back, I think. But, there was a majority vote.”
Kim’s statement referenced a 75-28 vote to accept the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship into BWA membership during a BWA General Council meeting last July in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Numerous leaders of the CBF, a breakaway organization from the SBC formed in the early 1990s, have been critical of the SBC’s conservative stances on biblical authority and various cultural issues.
Kim said Southern Baptists “remain my friends. I am close to many SBC leaders. … I’ve asked our general secretary that we ensure a soft landing” in SBC-BWA relationships. The SBC does “a wonderful job” in its commitment to sharing the Gospel around the world, Kim said. “I hope that we will work together to reach the lost.”
The SBC study committee’s report did not address the vote to accept CBF as a BWA member but instead cited larger theological concerns.
Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee and chairman of the study committee, noted in a statement to Baptist Press that the report “well captured the sentiment of the committee and has attempted to show that the basis for the committee’s decision was wide-ranging, much more than any one incident of misunderstanding or disagreement.” Committee member Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, drafted the three-page report.
Chapman said he and other members of the study committee have “profound gratitude to Billy Kim for his outstanding leadership as president of the Baptist World Alliance. He maintained a spirit of fairness in our good faith discussions with him throughout the process. He is a dear friend to Southern Baptists. Although in recent years, convention representatives have expressed disagreements with the BWA general secretary, Denton Lotz, the committee prays for God’s continued blessing upon his leadership and the far-flung work of the Baptist World Alliance.”
Chapman recounted that the committee’s discussions perhaps “could be summed up in one question, ‘In this generation and for generations to come, will the Southern Baptist Convention best be represented around the world by the Baptist World Alliance, or will the convention be its own best representative?'”
That question, Chapman said, has been a matter of prayer and will continue to be. “If the Southern Baptist Convention adopts the recommendation this summer,” he noted, “it will put in motion a new effort by Southern Baptists to build an even stronger relationship with conservative evangelical Christians in the United States and around the world.”
Chapman also stated, “We love and respect our Baptist family around the world and Southern Baptists hope to maintain a lasting friendship with many we have known through our involvement in the BWA. Although the Southern Baptist Convention may not continue its membership in the Baptist World Alliance, we cannot forget we are brothers and sisters in Christ and the world is in desperate need for a mighty spiritual awakening. What we can do together is preach Jesus and Him crucified to an unsaved world until He returns.”
Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board and also a member of the SBC study committee, in a statement to Baptist Press voiced regret that “the BWA has continued to embrace, under the Baptist banner, a ‘diversity’ beyond what Southern Baptists can feel comfortable with. It is unfortunate that there has been a steady deterioration in relationships for several years as the BWA has moved beyond being a worldwide fellowship of Baptists to promoting programs and adopting positions with which the SBC cannot identify.
“I would not see the SBC taking an initiative to create an alternate global organization of Baptists,” Rankin said, “but we are committed to facilitating the desire of overseas Baptist unions and conventions who represent conservative theology and a solid evangelistic approach to missions to work together for mutual encouragement. I am confident many will respond to efforts to provide training, fellowship and cooperative mission endeavors to advance the Kingdom of God.”