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BWA Rejects "Liberal" Branding, Clarifies Evangelical Stance

“The BWA is not a liberal organization! It strongly affirms the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith as proclaimed in Holy Scripture which we accept as the authoritative Word of God!”
( [email protected] ) Jun 22, 2004 07:41 PM EDT

The Baptist World Alliance - the loose fellowship of 211 Baptist bodies worldwide– released a statement that reiterated the Alliance’s stance on homosexuality, female pastors and other doctrines of faith, on June 21, 2004. The statement, written by the BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz, was written in response to the charges made against the Alliance during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Indianapolis, Indiana, on June 15.

At the meeting, Paige Patterson – one of the most influential figures in the 16-million member SBC – charged the BWA of being “liberal” and hinted that the group was pro-homosexual. Prior to the meeting, Patterson, among other members in SBC leadership, also accused the BWA of being “anti-American.”

Denton Lotz, in his statement, began by defining “slander” as “the utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another’s reputation.”

He went on to explain the irreparable harm made by Patteron’s words on the BWA’s reputation.

“The good name of the Baptist World Alliance, and Baptists generally, has been maligned. But more than that, the evangelistic potential of Baptist churches worldwide has been severely harmed.”

While Lotz emphasized the Alliance’s desire to “endure slander,” he added that “erroneous statements” must be corrected.

Lotz therefore clarified the four points about the BWA, which Patterson “attacked” in his June 15 speech.

“1. The BWA is not a liberal organization! It strongly affirms the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith as proclaimed in Holy Scripture which we accept as the authoritative Word of God! The BWA Executive Committee, meeting in March, 2004, made the following clear statement on March 10th: “We wish to affirm again for all to know our adherence to the historic doctrines of our faith….and our joyful affirmation of faith in the mediation of Jesus Christ as solely and entirely sufficient for salvation, ‘for there is salvation in no one else.’” (Acts 4:12)

“2. The BWA does not promote women as pastors of churches nor does it argue against that practice. Since we affirm the autonomy of Baptist bodies, it is the prerogative of local churches and their member bodies to make decisions on ordination.

“3. The BWA is not anti-American. The fact that Archbishop Tutu, the chair of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, addressed the BWA General Council in Durban, South Africa was a testimony to Baptist concern worldwide against racism and the tragedy of apartheid. It is absurd to consider his invitation by South African Baptists as anti-American!

“We are citizens of the Kingdom of God and loyal citizens of our own nations. As Baptists who believe in the authority of the Word of God we believe that all of us must be open to the prophetic voice from God as it applies to our nations and to the world! We believe that Baptists should be good and patriotic citizens of their countries, but patriotism must always be limited to and judged by the Bible’s call for ultimate loyalty to Christ who is above all!

“4. The BWA does not support homosexuality as an acceptable life-style, believing it to be incompatible with the teachings of Scripture! It affirms without reservation that marriage is a holy state and only between a man and a woman forever,” wrote Lotz.

Meanwhile, Lotz expressed a continued desire for reconciliation, and said, “God will judge and he will justify” when the time is right.

The following is the entire June 21 statement, as released by the BWA:

“When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate…” (I Corinthians 4:12-13)

NOTE: Because of enquiries from around the world due to misrepresentations and misunderstandings printed in the press, it is necessary that the BWA issue the following statement clarifying our stand on critical issues of faith and practice. (Denton Lotz)

On Tuesday, June 15th in Indianapolis, Indiana, Baptists of the world, and the Baptist World Alliance in particular were slandered by statements made to messengers at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) which resulted in the withdrawal of the SBC from membership in the BWA. Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines slander as: “the utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another’s reputation.”

The good name of the Baptist World Alliance, and Baptists generally, has been maligned. But more than that, the evangelistic potential of Baptist churches worldwide has been severely harmed. Most of all, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has been tarnished and the body of Christ brought into schism. How can we reclaim the good name of Baptist? That is the challenge for millions of committed and dedicated believers in the Southern part of the USA, in North America, and worldwide!

The Washington Post on June 16th wrote an article that began, “The Southern Baptist Convention voted to pull out of the Baptist World Alliance, accusing the worldwide organization of a drift toward liberalism that included growing tolerance of homosexuality, support for women in the clergy and ‘anti-American’ pronouncements.” This statement summarizes, unfortunately, the false accusations that have been sent around the world and have appeared in newspapers all over the USA and the world.

The Apostle Paul endured slander and yet said that we must try to reconcile. This is indeed what the BWA attempted to do on April 20th when we met with SBC leaders. We had agreed that we would not make false or accusatory statements against one another. Therefore, the blast from Indianapolis was like a bombshell in a crowded building. Millions of Baptists have been spiritually hurt, their witness maimed and our good name besmirched.

The tragedy of misrepresentation and slander is that there is no way to inform the secular or religious public or media of the truth. The secular and religious press tends to accept statements made by religious leaders and print them as the final truth. We have seen for example that accusations are made and then printed in newspapers without any commentary or checking out of the facts, or opportunity to correct erroneous statements.

BWA president Billy Kim, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Suwon, Korea, one of the largest Baptist churches in the world, has had to respond to letters from all over the world and has made a crystal clear statement: “The Baptist World Alliance does not sanction or promote homosexuality!”

How sad that the BWA has been defamed and our strongly Biblical and evangelical stance has been irreparably hurt by innuendos, false accusations, and guilt by association. Scripture reminds us to make a defense of the hope that is within us. (I Peter 3:15) Therefore, we affirm the following so that the word might go forth very clearly where we in the BWA stand:

1. The BWA is not a liberal organization! It strongly affirms the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith as proclaimed in Holy Scripture which we accept as the authoritative Word of God! The BWA Executive Committee, meeting in March, 2004, made the following clear statement on March 10th: “We wish to affirm again for all to know our adherence to the historic doctrines of our faith….and our joyful affirmation of faith in the mediation of Jesus Christ as solely and entirely sufficient for salvation, ‘for there is salvation in no one else.’” (Acts 4:12)

2. The BWA does not promote women as pastors of churches nor does it argue against that practice. Since we affirm the autonomy of Baptist bodies, it is the prerogative of local churches and their member bodies to make decisions on ordination.

3. The BWA is not anti-American. The fact that Archbishop Tutu, the chair of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, addressed the BWA General Council in Durban, South Africa was a testimony to Baptist concern worldwide against racism and the tragedy of apartheid. It is absurd to consider his invitation by South African Baptists as anti-American!

We are citizens of the Kingdom of God and loyal citizens of our own nations. As Baptists who believe in the authority of the Word of God we believe that all of us must be open to the prophetic voice from God as it applies to our nations and to the world! We believe that Baptists should be good and patriotic citizens of their countries, but patriotism must always be limited to and judged by the Bible’s call for ultimate loyalty to Christ who is above all!

4. The BWA does not support homosexuality as an acceptable life-style, believing it to be incompatible with the teachings of Scripture! It affirms without reservation that marriage is a holy state and only between a man and a woman forever.

There is not one BWA member body that affirms, promotes or approves of gay marriage! On the contrary, at the BWA meeting July, 1994 in Uppsala, Sweden, the BWA General Council passed the following resolution confirming that the BWA “proclaims the biblical definition of the family, a permanent, monogamous, heterosexual union, as the original divine plan for family life which must continue to serve as the foundation and ideal for an ordered and effective society.”

Baptists worldwide look forward to a glorious BWA centenary celebration in England next year with the sure confidence that Christ will complete the work He began in us! We invite Baptists worldwide to come to Birmingham, England July 27-31, 2005 and celebrate with us. By God’s grace the Baptist World Alliance represents the most widespread movement of Baptist believers all over the world. We are a democratic movement respecting the autonomy of national bodies and local churches, representing the rich and poor, the educated and uneducated, those in the North and South, the East and West. Indeed, we belong together because we belong to Christ!

We do believe that God is the judge and he will justify. We have been encouraged by hundreds of telephone calls, e-mails, letters and statements of support. A young Southern Baptist seminarian wrote: “For whatever reason, God has allowed these events to take place. I know that He is sovereign over our times and is using these current circumstances for His glory that more will come to know Him. He is my comfort and my hope. I know that He will continue to bless the BWA.”

As we have stated before, the Baptist World Alliance hopes for and will work for reconciliation with our Southern Baptist brothers and sisters and prays for their return to the historic and international Baptist world family. To God be the glory!