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Lotz criticizes SBC for potential schism & sin

WASHINGTON (BP)–Countering a committee’s recommendation that Southern Baptists leave the Baptist World Alliance, BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz has charged that it is tantamount to advocating schism and thus is a sin.

Lotz issued a statement Dec. 19 several hours after receiving a copy of a Southern Baptist Convention study committee report’s recommendation that the SBC withdraw from the BWA by next October.

At issue, according to the nine-member SBC committee, is the BWA’s “apparent approval” of “aberrant theologies” in various settings.

Lotz, in his response, wrote that the SBC’s exit from the BWA “will bring a schism within the life of our worldwide Baptist family and thus it is a sin against love!”

“Schism is a sin against the prayer of Jesus who prayed that ‘they all might be one so that the world might believe,'” Lotz continued. “And thus schism is a sin against that unity which is necessary for evangelism.” Schism also is a sin against the New Testament teaching that there is one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one baptism, one God and Father, Lotz wrote.

Any description of the BWA as “liberal” is a “false accusation” that he “categorically rejects,” Lotz wrote, comparing it to McCarthyism of the 1950s. “It is sad that in the 21st century we use loaded terms to end discussion and to eliminate the thoughts of other people,” Lotz wrote.

“Our BWA member bodies affirm the trinity, the divinity of Christ, the resurrection, the atonement, second coming and future rule of God!” he maintained.

Later in his statement, Lotz wrote, “Personally, I fear for the Southern Baptist Convention because this decision follows in a long line of other decisions that, I believe, will ultimately lead to the dissolution and self-destruction of the SBC! With all love and much regret, I do believe that this drive for power and control by a small group of ideologues will ultimately bring further disunity to the body!”

Describing the SBC committee’s recommendation as the “triumph of ideology over doctrine,” Lotz wrote, “In the end, it became a question of power and control and the desire of forcing Baptists of the world to fit into one particular mode or mold or interpretation of thinking. This is contrary to all Baptist understanding of the competency of the individual and of soul liberty!”

Lotz also encouraged Southern Baptist churches to support the BWA by direct gifts ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 or more annually.

Earlier in the day, James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention and a member of the study committee, said in an interview, “In nearly all the [BWA] meetings going back almost as long as I can remember there would be some things that just seemed to be coming out of left field theologically. And they really wouldn’t give you a forum to discuss it. There seemed to be an increasing almost anger toward Southern Baptists that if we raised a question we were somehow not given the right to raise those questions or have any kind of response.”

Repeating his observation at another point in the interview, Draper said the doctrinal problems within the BWA “just seemed to get more intense and more blatant” in recent years. “It seemed like at each of the meetings there would be something — almost a deliberate affront to Southern Baptists — and then if we raised an issue, they criticized us for raising issues and would not allow a dialogue to deal with the issues.”

Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee who chaired the study committee, drew a contrast between Lotz’s comments and those of BWA President Billy Kim, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Suwon, Korea.

“I value so much the gracious spirit of Dr. Billy Kim in his response to the findings of the study committee. He is a dear friend and Christian brother who, despite the possible parting between the SBC and the BWA, desires, as I do, that we remain united in the cause of Christ,” Chapman said, turning his attention next to Lotz’s statements. “I am troubled by the strong reaction by Dr. Denton Lotz whose remarks appear intended to cause a schism between the SBC and other Baptist bodies, not the ‘soft landing’ for both the SBC and the BWA urged by Dr. Kim.

“We do not seek to separate ourselves from others but desire to work directly with fellow Baptists around the world rather than through the BWA,” Chapman said. “The BWA was always intended to be a fellowship among Baptists rather than the denomination-like organization that it is becoming. It makes no sense for Southern Baptists to duplicate through the BWA what we are doing already in our international missions effort to reach the world for Christ.

“Given the wide range of theological views represented by the BWA, we are convinced that it is best that Southern Baptists work directly with likeminded unions and conventions around the world rather than through the BWA.”

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