News Articles

U.S. and European Baptist leaders gather, discuss partnering

WARSAW, Poland (BP)–A contingent of Southern Baptist entity heads and other leaders met with Baptist representatives from Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Moldovia, Poland and Romania July 1-2 in Warsaw, Poland, to contemplate ways conservative, evangelical Baptists can partner more effectively in evangelism, church planting and theological education.

“We could not have anticipated a more positive meeting. The men with whom we met are outstanding Christians whose faith has been tested beyond our comprehension,” O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention and moderator of the meeting, said.

According to a joint statement released to Baptist Press, July 5, by SBC representatives, participants advocated “the inerrancy of the Bible, the absolute lordship of Christ and the recovery of historic Baptist doctrine,” and they discussed “common causes and concerns about the rapid expansion of evangelism and church planting.”

Discussion included not only missions but also cooperative projects in theological education. “Several Europeans emphasized the need for Southern Baptists to continue with involvement through cooperative efforts in ministerial training,” the statement said.

Questions arose during the meeting about the SBC’s decision to withdraw its membership from the Baptist World Alliance last year. According to the statement released to Baptist Press, SBC representatives explained some of the reasons for the move and emphasized their intention “not to focus on criticism of the BWA but only to encourage common projects and fellowship among likeminded Baptists.”

The statement credited Paul Negrut, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Oradea, Romania, for initiating the meeting based on his belief that “many European Baptists share the concerns of Southern Baptists in evangelism, church planting and theological education.”

SBC leaders in attendance noted that Baptist leaders from the various nations agreed to work toward organizing a conference on evangelism and church planting and to cooperate in theological education.

For Southern Baptists, the meeting represented the first of several exploratory gatherings to be held in various locations worldwide.

“The longer we met, the more you could sense a growing enthusiasm in the hearts of everyone in the meeting,” Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee, told Baptist Press. “The possibility of building a fellowship network of conservative Baptists around the world created a genuine and heartfelt excitement.

“This meeting may prove in time to have been the inaugural meeting of a network that shall extend to every corner of the earth, creating a close fellowship among likeminded conservative Christians,” he said.

In addition to Chapman and Hawkins, other SBC representatives included Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Theological Seminary; Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board; R. Philip Roberts, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Craig Blaising, provost of Southwestern Seminary; Paul Pressler, a retired Houston judge; and Bill Wagner, a professor of evangelism at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.

Twelve European Baptists, including some from Baptist seminaries, took part in the meeting.

When the Southern Baptist Convention voted at its annual meeting in Indianapolis in June 2004 to withdraw from the Baptist World Alliance, Chapman emphasized that the action did not indicate a desire to separate from others but to “work directly with fellow Baptists around the world rather than through the BWA.”

The SBC decided to redirect funds previously given to the Baptist World Alliance, which had reached $425,000 per year, to a SBC “Kingdom Relationships” global initiative in conjunction with the convention-wide Empowering Kingdom Growth movement.

Chapman said the emphasis would be to strengthen bilateral SBC relationships with Baptist bodies around the world and not in any way to duplicate the Baptist World Alliance.

    About the Author

  • Staff