Breaking up is never an easy choice. Often times, “strong” words lead to misunderstandings, slander and accusations, and close the door to the possibility of full reconciliation. Such was the case last month, when the Southern Baptist Convention decided to part ways with the Baptist World Alliance.
The call to separate was rather bold: an SBC representative accused the BWA of continuing on a “leftward drift” and implied that other members of the alliance “support…gay marriage” and “do not believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture” in arguing his case.
As predicted, parties on the other side defended themselves and reproached the SBC for its “slander,” saying, “God will judge” in His time.
And again, SBC officials shot back by defending their position and urged the BWA to be more like the SBC.
With such a perpetual exchange of criticism, the break may seem contradictory to the reconciliatory nature of Christianity. But upon further investigation, one will find that in actuality, the separation gives more room for unity and reconciliation in the worldwide Baptist arena.
Through the break, Baptist bodies around the world voiced their support to the BWA, and encouraged BWA leadership to take heart. In addition, members of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship – one of the prime targets of SBC's criticism of liberalism – doubled their financial support of the Alliance and elected several members to serve the BWA board.
Also, the SBC can now “begin to build strong bridges with conservative evangelical Christian Baptists in all parts of the world” by “reapplying the funds” it once gave to the BWA, as it stated in an earlier statement.
The world’s Christianity comes in two faces: evangelical and ecumenical, both of which are necessary. Through the break, the SBC re-confirmed its evangelical stance while the BWA strengthened its ecumenical ties.
Several months prior to the finalized split, the leadership of both the SBC and BWA met to share “full and frank discussions of concerns” between the two multi-million member groups in a “warm and mutually respectful setting.” After several hours of deliberations, both leaderships decided to meet at least once a year for reconciliatory talks, even if the SBC members should decide to “disassociate” from the BWA.
With all decisions made, the only thing needed now is the continuation of this “mutually respectful setting” so that the two bodies can look beyond the fog of misunderstanding and walk together as the two cornerstones of the Baptist faith.