DALLAS (BP)–Southern Baptist Convention President Jack Graham, endorsing a study committee’s recommendation that the SBC withdraw from the Baptist World Alliance, underscored Southern Baptists’ “forward-thinking faith and determination to cooperate with those who are truly impacting the world.”
The BWA, as described by Graham, “is becoming a marginalized organization which is having a smaller and smaller influence for the Gospel of Christ around the world.”
Graham, in a statement issued Dec. 23, noted: “In a world full of terrorists and extremists, we do not have time to play religious games or become bogged down in the quagmire of Baptist debates. It is time for Southern Baptists to move on and get busy fulfilling the Great Commission in our lifetime.”
A nine-member study committee, working in behalf of the SBC Executive Committee, issued its recommendation Dec. 19 that the SBC terminate its membership in the BWA at the start of the coming fiscal year, on Oct. 1.
Graham, pastor of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church, noted in his full statement:
“I respect and endorse the study committee recommendation regarding the Baptist World Alliance and our separation from this organization.
“The Baptist World Alliance is becoming a marginalized organization which is having a smaller and smaller influence for the Gospel of Christ around the world. Southern Baptists desire to work with likeminded believers who share our strategic commitment to the Word of God and the message of Christ.
“I appreciate very much the leadership of Baptist World Alliance President Dr. Billy Kim and respect very much his deep devotion to Christ. There are many other dynamic leaders and participants in the Baptist World Alliance.
“However, now is the time for Southern Baptists to become more and more aggressive in linking with Baptists and other likeminded evangelicals in advancing the Kingdom of God. Southern Baptists do not need to apologize for our forward-thinking faith and determination to cooperate with those who are truly impacting the world.
“In a world full of terrorists and extremists, we do not have time to play religious games or become bogged down in the quagmire of Baptist debates. It is time for Southern Baptists to move on and get busy fulfilling the Great Commission in our lifetime.
“I, for one, will encourage our churches and convention to develop new Baptist and Christian alliances worldwide which will genuinely commit to the task of world evangelism and the testimony of Jesus Christ. This is the right and best decision for Southern Baptists.”
The SBC study committee’s recommendation, if approved by the Executive Committee during its Feb. 16-17 meeting in Nashville, Tenn., would be forwarded to messengers at the SBC annual meeting June 15-16 in Indianapolis.
The SBC would maintain its current funding in the BWA until Oct. 1 of next year, according to the committee’s recommendation. For a number of years, the SBC allocation to the BWA had been $425,000 per year. The SBC’s 2003-04 budget allocates $300,000 to the BWA, an amount reduced by $125,000 during last June’s SBC annual meeting in Phoenix. The $125,000 was redirected to a new SBC “Kingdom Relationships” global initiative. The committee anticipates that the other $300,000 will be similarly earmarked.
Theological concerns were cited as the core reason for the study committee’s recommendation for an SBC exit from the BWA.
More than a question of Southern Baptist biblical convictions, “the larger issue is the potential impact” on constituent bodies when the BWA “gives apparent approval” to various “aberrant theologies,” the study committee stated.
The theological problems, according to the committee, involve “an increasing influence of positions contrary to the New Testament and to Baptist doctrines” — positions “being advocated in the various commissions and committees of the BWA” — stemming from “a number of European and North American conventions” with prominence in the BWA.
The study committee also noted: “A decided anti-American tone has emerged in recent years. Continued emphasis on women as pastors, frequent criticisms of the International Mission Board of Southern Baptists, refusal to allow open discussion on issues such as abortion, and the funding of questionable enterprises through Baptist World Aid provide just a surface sampling of what has transpired in recent years.
“Repeated appeals to BWA leadership have resulted in no substantive changes and few of any consequence,” the committee stated.
The committee also stated that it “anticipates with enthusiasm the possible emergence of a new fellowship with an unqualified adherence to the absolute Lordship of Christ, the inerrancy of Holy Scripture, salvation based on the substitutionary atonement of Christ appropriated through repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ….” Such a fellowship also would have a “commitment to the sanctity of all human life” and an “advocacy of absolute religious liberty for all men everywhere including an open marketplace of discussion and self-determination.”
“How or when this new fellowship develops will be for others to determine,” the committee said, “but numerous Baptist friends from around the globe have indicated their hearty interest in such a fellowship which could well include preaching conferences, church planting and growth conferences, the teaching of Baptist history and theology and participation in evangelistic and missionary efforts.”