Washington D.C. – The leaders of the European Baptist Federation urged the Southern Baptist Convention to reconsider its plan to withdrawl from the Baptist World Alliance, in a statement released Jan 12.
“We need to stay together for the sake of our witness to unbelievers … for the sake of persecuted Christians, for the sake of Human Rights and religious freedom,” the EBF said.
Last December, the SBC announced its possible withdrawal from the BWA by October 2004. If approved, the recommendation, which will be considered during the SBC executive committee meeting in February, will be forwarded to the messengers at the SBC’s annual meeting in Indianapolis next June. Following the split, the SBC will reallocate the financial support it gave to the BWA to its own worldwide movement, “Empowering Kingdom Growth.”
The EBF noted that such a move will “have important consequences in the future,” and pleaded for an ongoing partnership between the Baptists of the two continents.
“Do we realize how much our witness to the world will be harmed when we try to explain that we are different groups of Baptists who cannot work together?” the statemnt asked.
Through the historical partnerships, the EBF said, church planting, theological education and charitable ministries were accelerated.
“We as Baptists have been together for many centuries spreading the Gospel on our continent,” they wrote. “New churches have been planted in many countries and the Gospel taken to the most remote places of our continent.”
They emphasized that Southern Baptists worked with the BWA “at the front lines of the fight for religious freedom and human rights during times of persecution on their continent.”
“Why can we not defend religious freedom and persecuted people together in the future?” the statement continued. “Why can we not continue to ask together governments and officials to respect religious freedom and give opportunities to Baptists to do their ministry in countries where democracy does not yet exist?
“Why can we not witness together to the people on our continent in the future?” the statement added. “What has changed? Why should we separate? Which is the force now trying to disunite Baptists?”
Describing division as “one of the biggest tragedies of contemporary Christianity,” the EBF leaders called upon SBC leaders to view the world Baptist movment as “a good example of unity, diverse and yet brought together by Christ.”
“We need to stay together to demonstrate that we are one family, brothers and sisters in Christ,” they continued.
The EBF, one of six regional organizations of the BWA, represents one million Baptists in 36 countries across Europe.