Many Responsible for BWA-SBC Split

"If there had been more Christian charity and sensitivity on all sides, the division would not have occurred"
( [email protected] ) Feb 25, 2004 11:38 AM EST

Many have blamed the Southern Baptist Convention for ¡°breaking unity within the baptist world¡± by aproving the withdraw of funds and membership from the Baptist World Alliance, earlier this month. However, Baptist historia Albert Wardin, said the blame for the separation lies on the sholders of many.

"If there had been more Christian charity and sensitivity on all sides, the division would not have occurred," said Wardin, emeritus professor of history at Belmont University in Nashville

According to Wardin, many of the committees in the BWA, including his own, ignored the voice of the SBC in several cases.

"The membership committee ... is to be seriously faulted," said Wardin, the only committee member to vote against CBF acceptance. "It is a committee created by the administration of the BWA and was particularly influenced by individuals from Western Europe who had no sympathy for the SBC leadership, and its concerns were more ideologically in tune with the CBF."

Furthermore, by accepting the CBF without the consent of the SBC, Wardin charged that the membership committee broke its own rule of not extending membership to any new body without a strict consensus.

"In all of this," said Wardin, "the administration of the BWA was also as culpable since it did not stop the action on constitutional grounds and long-standing policy."

According to Wardin, the BWA General Council approved the recomdation to add the CBF by a mere majoirty, despite pleas from the SBC to reconsider.

"In spite of the protestation today of love for the SBC, a number of General Council representatives have been critical of the current theological stance of the SBC leadership and its unilateral action," said Wardin. "As has been noted, numbers of the BWA look upon the SBC as many in Western Europe today look upon the U.S.A. as too big and powerful and too often acting only on its own."

In the past, the former BWA president urged CBF leaders to withdraw their application to avoid a ¡°nasty divorse.¡± But because they did not, the CBF "got the recognition it sought from the BWA," but at a high cost.

CBF Coordinator Daneil Vestal, however, said recognition was not the reason why the CBF souhgt to be inlcuded in the BWA.

"CBF's application for membership in the BWA was not to gain recognition," said Vestal, "but to be a full participant in the world Baptist family."

Blaming the Fellowship for the SBC's proposed withdrawal is misplaced, Vestal added. "To blame CBF for the actions of the SBC is like blaming the abused wife for the behavior of the abusive husband," he said.

Vestal added that CBF leaders do not wish for Southern Baptists to leave the worldwide body they helped form nearly a century ago. Southern Baptists account for nearly a third of the ¡°However, the application of the CBF and its acceptance by the membership committee of the BWA," said Wardin, "brought again to the fore the underlying discontent with certain aspects of the BWA."

Baptists around the world has yet to see how the string of events unravel. The ultimate step to a complete break between the SBC and the BWA will be held in June at the SBC¡¯s General Council.