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Policy makes BWA ineligible for exhibit space, SBC official says

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The convention manager for the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting has notified the Baptist World Alliance that it will not be provided exhibit space during this June’s SBC sessions in Indianapolis.

Jack Wilkerson, who also serves as the SBC Executive Committee’s vice president for business and finance, notified the BWA of the decision in a Feb. 25 letter.

“Because of the controversy surrounding this issue and the pending recommendation of the Executive Committee to the Southern Baptist Convention,” Wilkerson wrote, in reference to a recommendation to be voted on during the June 15-16 annual meeting that the SBC withdraw from the BWA, “it would be inappropriate to exhibit under these circumstances.

“Should, perhaps, some resolution be reached on the issue, the exhibit space would again possibly be available,” Wilkerson wrote.

Wilkerson told Baptist Press he made the decision as part of his staff responsibility to carry out policies approved by the Executive Committee, an 81-member body which acts in behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention between annual sessions.

One of the components of “exhibitor eligibility,” according to the policy is: “The Executive Committee shall have the responsibility to ensure that each entity granted exhibit space is consistent with the mission statement of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Various points of theological disagreement have been cited by the Executive Committee’s nine-member BWA study committee in recommending that the SBC leave the BWA.

Alan Stanford, the BWA official to whom Wilkerson’s letter was addressed, said in a statement to Baptist Press March 4, “We are surprised and disappointed at the decision. Our assumption was that we would be allowed to exhibit until the SBC voted to discontinue funding the BWA.

“To us, it seems to be premature for the staff of the Executive Committee to deny messengers to the SBC the opportunity to look at materials and ask questions of the BWA representatives when the messengers are being asked to vote on severing an almost 100-year relationship,” said Stanford, the BWA’s director of promotion and development.

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