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SBC global initiative proposed, funded from BWA allocation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A recommendation for $125,000 in funding for a new global “Kingdom Relationships” initiative will be presented to messengers at the June 2003 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix.

The funding, as proposed by an SBC Executive Committee recommendation adopted Feb. 18, would entail a redirection of $125,000 from the $425,000 allocation provided to the Baptist World Alliance in recent years.

The recommendation passed unanimously during the closing session of the Executive Committee’s Feb. 17-18 meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

On Feb. 17, the Executive Committee unanimously approved the Kingdom Relationships initiative as part of its overarching Empowering Kingdom Growth emphasis launched last year calling Southern Baptists, individually and in their churches, to increase their focus on advancing the Kingdom of God as taught in Scripture.

The recommendation is included in the proposed 2003-04 SBC Cooperative Program Allocation Budget totaling $182,323,110, for the international and nation work of the Southern Baptist Convention in missions, ethics and theological training. Approval by messengers of the budget will enact the shift in funding to Kingdom Relationships from the BWA.

The Kingdom Relationships grows out of concerns by SBC leaders relating to Baptist World Alliance deliberations over granting BWA membership to an SBC breakaway organization, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

Morris H. Chapman, president of the Executive Committee, told Baptist Press Feb. 19, “The BWA study committee has asked the Empowering Kingdom Growth Task Force to consider making Kingdom Relationships a platform within the EKG focus. The emphasis will be to strengthen bilateral SBC relationships with Baptist bodies around the world. In the process we will learn whether we can best represent Southern Baptists to the world through our own efforts or through the BWA or both.

“The relationship-building initiative may well include Bible conferences and meetings about evangelism and church growth,” Chapman said. “We will visit our brothers and sisters in other countries and bring resources to share with them that have helped us in our efforts to reach the world for Christ. Likewise, we will learn about their efforts and what has worked for them.”

Wendy Ryan, BWA director of communications, speaking on behalf of BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz, told Baptist Press Feb. 19, “The Baptist World Alliance was started in 1905 by Southern Baptist leadership who gave the impetus to this worldwide organization. This is one of the reasons why this decision to significantly reduce its support for the BWA is a cause for much sadness today.

“The BWA expresses its thankfulness for the continued support of the SBC and its hope that they would reverse this decision in the future,” Ryan said. “We are going to call for Baptists in North America and around the world to commit to a period of prayer and to financially support the BWA as never before.”

The SBC Executive Committee reactivated a nine-member BWA study committee last September after the CBF issue surfaced during a July 2002 meeting of the BWA General Council in Seville, Spain, during which the BWA membership committee presented a plan to the council by which the CBF could qualify for BWA membership. A key stipulation by the membership committee — that the CBF publicly declare itself as separated from the Southern Baptist Convention — was embraced by the CBF Coordinating Council last fall.

The BWA membership committee’s process, which Chapman described as flawed in a report to the Executive Committee, “has caused us to come to ask the question, Is the Baptist World Alliance or is the Southern Baptist Convention the best representative around the world of Southern Baptists?”

The Executive Committee’s BWA study committee, in envisioning a Kingdom Relationships initiative, called for “strengthening relationships with other like-minded Christian bodies, thus extending the impact of Empowering Kingdom Growth throughout the United States and around the world.” The committee suggested the working title of Kingdom Relationships and that the SBC’s EKG Task Force be asked “to define the objectives of ‘Kingdom Relationships.'”

The study committee said it is “not recommending withdrawal from the BWA at the present time. [The committee] anticipates for the time being that the SBC will continue its membership in the BWA and the making of an annual contribution.”

The committee stated it is “offering no statement on the issue of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s membership in the Baptist World Alliance, believing this decision rests with the Baptist World Alliance,” although the committee acknowledged “that the Southern Baptist Convention has much more than a passing interest in the ultimate decision to be made by the BWA.”

Chapman told the Executive Committee he believes the study committee “has been wise to say it’s not our decision to make, we do have some opinions, we’re going to take some steps, and see what happens.”

Among those opinions: “If, in fact, you’re going to separate from the Southern Baptist Convention,” Chapman said, “does that mean from now on you will build your group by starting churches as Southern Baptists did from the very beginning of our existence, rather than continuing to solicit funding and manpower from Southern Baptist churches?”

Chapman also told Executive Committee members the purpose of a global EKG initiative “would not be in any way to duplicate the Baptist World Alliance,” which encompasses 206 Baptist conventions and unions worldwide.

The BWA, on its Internet site, states that its purpose “is to empower and enable national Baptist leaders to effectively witness and minister in the name of Jesus Christ and to represent and support Baptists throughout the world in defense of human rights and religious freedom.”