Washington D.C. – In lieu of the upcoming Baptist World Alliance Day, Feb. 1, the general secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain urged Southern Baptist Convention leaders to reconsider their proposed move away from the BWA, Jan 28, 2004.
David Coffey released his leader to the BUGB churches, many whom have links to the SBC’s International Mission Board.
The proposed recommendation to withdraw both the SBC’s financial support and membership from the BWA by October this year, “threatens to split the Baptist family,” said Coffey.
The call to break away from the BWA came during an annual meeting of the SBC Study Committee, last December. The recommendation will be considered during the SBC executive committee meeting in February. If approved, it will be forwarded to the messengers at the SBC’s annual meeting in Indianapolis next June, and implemented beginning October.
The principal reason for the split, as reported by the study committee, was over “abhorrent theologies,” particularly in reference to the leniency and liberalism toward homosexual unions. Other questions were posed over several funding decisions made by the Baptist World Aid.
In response to such charges, Coffey said “the SBC has failed to safeguard the primacy of freedom of conscience and have delivered a victory of ideology over theology.” Furthermore, Coffey insisted that the charges made against the BWA were “based on a false understanding of Baptist faith and practice.”
“If we are only willing to have fellowship with those with whom we agree,” Coffey said, then it is a poor, shallow definition of fellowship.”
Coffey emphasized “it is too early to say if this problem will lead to an end of the partnership between the BUGB and the IMB.”
“I simply don’t know how this is going to affect their personnel within the UK,” he said even as he praised the work they had done together. “A number of our churches can speak of all that has been achieved through working together, and I would want to honor the work of SBC missionaries over the past ten years,” he said. “They’ve been marvelous partners and this is what makes the current conflict so sad.”
“I hope that both sides might still find a way of reconciling their differences,” he said. “I would welcome a formal approach by the BWA and SBC to come together for prayer and reflection, and a number of us are seeking to enable this to happen in the near future. The Gospel demands that all of us strive for a spirit of unity in the bonds of peace in order to bring healing to a broken world.”
“Pray for the united witness of our Baptist family around the world,” he wrote, “and pray for reconciliation for the sake of the Gospel we all seek to proclaim.”