NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The 80-member Southern Baptist Committee unanimously approved a recommendation to take the initial steps toward a global “Empowering Kingdom Growth” initiative during a Feb. 17 – 18 meeting in Nashville. A global EKG would result in the SBC’s break away from the Baptist World Alliance, a similar entity already in place.
The original recommendation came last September by the Executive Committee after the July BWA General Council meeting in Seville Spain, during which the BWA considered extending its membership to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship; the CBF is the denomination that broke off from the SBC to form a separate unit.
"The purpose [of a global EKG initiative] would not be in any way to duplicate the Baptist World Alliance," said Morris H. Chapman, president of the Executive Committee.
During the meeting, Chapman said the BWA membership committee process, which he described as ‘flawed,’ “"has caused us to come to ask the question, Is the Baptist World Alliance or is the Southern Baptist Convention the best representative around the world of Southern Baptists?"
Chapman told the Executive Committee members that a budget recommendation for a broadened EKG initiative will be made. The funding set to begin Oct. 1, will be part of a yet to be formulated recommendation.
The Executive Committee however, noted that it is “not recommending withdrawal from the BWA at the present time. [The committee] anticipates for the time being that the SBC will continue its membership in the BWA and the making of an annual contribution."
The study committee stated that it is "offering no statement on the issue of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's membership in the Baptist World Alliance, believing this decision rests with the Baptist World Alliance," although the committee acknowledged "that the Southern Baptist Convention has much more than a passing interest in the ultimate decision to be made by the BWA."
The SBC committee found the process chosen by the BWA membership meeting to be most problematic; the 300 member General Council is to approve or disapprove the membership of CBF.
"Now we have not only a membership committee who is trying to decide whether or not the CBF meets the condition," Chapman told the Executive Committee, "but we have 300 member bodies from all over the world trying to decide whether, in fact, whatever they [CBF representatives] say is meeting the condition."
The BWA membership committee contends that the CBF officials’ publicly “affirm by the appropriate decision making body within the organization of the CBF” that the group had separated itself from the SBC. The CBF’s Coordinating council adopted a statement meeting the requirement during its Oct. 19 meeting in Atlanta.
Chapman posed a question relating to the CBF: "If, in fact, you're going to separate from the Southern Baptist Convention, does that mean from now on you will build your group by starting churches as Southern Baptists did from the very beginning of our existence, rather than continuing to solicit funding and manpower from Southern Baptist churches?"
Chapman the study committee had "been wise to say it's not our decision to make, we do have some opinions, we're going to take some steps, and see what happens."
However, Chapman recommended the SBC "begin developing a new concept for building stronger relationships with like-minded Christians around the world."
The committee suggested that the SBC’s EKG Task force “define the objectives of Kingdom Relationships.” The EKG had tentatively defined its initiative as "strengthening relationships with other like-minded Christian bodies throughout the United States and around the world"
Despite the SBC’s discord with the BWA membership committee process, the SBC committee voiced "the highest esteem [for] the current president of the BWA, Dr. Billy Kim, whose presidential term ends in 2005. Dr. Kim, the dynamic, evangelistic pastor from Seoul, Korea, is a strong friend of Southern Baptists. The committee appreciates the efforts of Dr. Kim to ensure Southern Baptist concerns are heard."
The members of the eight executive task force Committee members include its chairman; James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the SBC; Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board; Paige Patterson, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Tom Elliff, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, Okla., and a former SBC president; Gary Smith, chairman of the SBC Executive Committee and a pastor from the Dallas-Fort Worth area; retired Texas appellate Judge Paul Pressler of Houston; Houston attorney Joe Reynolds; and R.L. "Bob" Sorrell, a staff member of the Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn.
By Paulina C.