FALLS CHURCH, Va. –The Executive Committee of the Baptist World Alliance issued a joint statement to put the dividing tension between the Southern Baptist Convention and the BWA “behind them” and to reaffirm the historic Christian doctrines that propel the worldwide body of Baptists, March 10.
The statement, written by an ad hoc committee appointed by the BWA President Billy Kim, was released and penned during the BWA’s regularly scheduled committee meeting at its headquarters in Falls Church, Va. It was the BWA’s first meeting since the SBC’s executive committee voted to break all ties, funding and fellowship, with the BWA in February. While the break is not yet confirmed, observers say the delegates to the June General Assembly will more than likely vote to split, thereby confirming the 99 – year old fellowship shared between the two Baptist entities.
The SBC study committee's report contained undocumented allegations that BWA leaders had been open to "positions contrary to the New Testament and to Baptist doctrines." The report also accused BWA meetings and officers of exhibiting a "decided anti-American tone in recent years" and accused the group's international relief arm, Baptist World Aid, of funding "questionable enterprises."
Responding to these stated reasons, the BWA ad hoc committee, appointed by the group’s president Billy Kim, affirmed orthodox Christian doctrines "including, but not limited to" the unique nature of Christ, the "centrality of the Great Commission" to the Christian faith, and BWA's "joyful affirmation of faith in the mediation of Jesus Christ as solely and entirely sufficient for salvation."
For about two hours prior to issuing the statement, the BWA Executive Committee responded to and discussed the SBC's allegations. Each speaker voiced support for unity between the groups, and said the charges made against the BWA were completely without merit.
Fausto de Vasconcelos, a Brazilian Baptist leader and the director of BWA's evangelism and education division, described his anguish over the situation because of the close relationship that Brazilian Baptists have had with the SBC over the years. Noting his 10 years in the United States as a student in Southern Baptist seminaries, he said, "I am a Southern Baptist."
Vasconcelos added that the BWA had done nothing to receive the criticism from the SBC.
"I have not seen or heard anything that has to be defended at this point,” said Vasconselos. "The idea in Brazil is that we're not dealing with a theological matter, but with a political problem."
Paul Montacute, the director of Baptist World Aid, mentioned that he had repeatedly asked members of the SBC study panel to provide examples of the "questionable enterprises" they had accused BWAid of funding, but that they refused to cite any.
"We were amazed that such a powerful committee of Southern Baptist leaders could make unsubstantiated charges," said Montacute. "We're still waiting to hear what it is that we've been up to and what makes it a 'questionable enterprise.'"
Committee members also expressed great indignation at the charges of "anti-Americanism."
Theo Angelov, secretary of the European Baptist Federation and a survivor of Communist persecution of Christians in Eastern Europe, noted his father was arrested and imprisoned for eight years on charges of being an American spy even though he had never visited the U.S. The government was suspicious of his father, he said, merely because he was a Baptist.
"Now, we are going to be persecuted from the other side in such a way?" Angelov asked. "Let somebody who has suffered more to come and accuse us."
Ultimately, the statement expressed “a great appreciation for the SBC's contribution to kingdom work around the world," and "regret over the current tensions" that have led to the SBC-BWA split. Both the BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz and the president Kim urged committee members for a reconciliation between BWA and SBC leaders prior to the SBC’s vote in June.
Lotz, however, emphasized that the purpose of this meeting was to put the matter behind them and to move forward in the BWA’s agenda.
Said Lotz: "After this Executive Committee meeting, we will forget that which is past.”