The Southern Baptist Convention’s decision to break with the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) was yet again a focus of discussions for international Baptists, as they convened in Seoul Korea for the annual BWA General Council meeting, July 26-31, 2004.
The BWA "has gone through a tremendous year of encouragement and support from Baptists all over the world,” said BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz during the Council’s opening session.
Last month, the SBC decided to fully halt fellowship and funding to the international Baptist body it helped create some 99 years ago. The June decision finalized the two-year-long debate between the two Baptist bodies, but the official separation does not begin until October 1.
"It would be wrong to say we did not have a break in our fellowship,” said Lotz, in apparent reference to SBC’s recent decision. Noting that BWA has gone "through some deep waters," he added that the division has caused "great distress ... particularly to our minority conventions all over the world."
"But we are not here to look at the past," he declared. "We're here to look at the future."
“Unity is a central doctrine of all Christian faith," Lotz said, "We believe Jesus' prayer in John 17 for unity is part of the authority of Scripture for all Baptists and all Christians.
"When we do not work for unity, then we are part of the movement of disunity," Lotz warned. "One of the greatest hindrances to evangelism in the world is the lack of unity in the church. ... If we cannot mirror that unity, we are not being faithful to that Scripture we believe."
The Seoul meeting was the first global gathering since the break. Some 300 participants from more than 30 countries took part in the Council, but only one of the SBC’s 17-member General Council was in attendance. Much of the Council was spent focused on next year’s Centenary World Congress – a gathering expected to draw more than 10,000 in celebration of the 100th year anniversary of the BWA.