SBC Recommends Defunding BWA

A Southern Baptist Convention committee recommended Friday that the SBC withdraw from membership in and defund the Baptist World Alliance in 2004, accusing the BWA of having an anti-American tone, encouraging women as pastors and refusing to discuss abortion.

"The prominence of a number of European and North American conventions has resulted in an increasing influence of positions contrary to the New Testament and to Baptist doctrines," said the report of the SBC/BWA Study Committee.

"A decided anti-American tone has emerged in recent years," read the report. "Continued emphasis on women as pastors, frequent criticisms of the International Mission Board of Southern Baptists, refusal to allow open discussion of issues such as abortion, and the funding of questionable enterprises through Baptist World Aid provide just a surface sampling of what has transpired in recent years."  

The BWA is a worldwide fellowship of 210 Baptist bodies comprising more than 47 million baptized believers, which focuses on evangelism, hunger needs and human rights.

"It is no longer wise stewardship to lend monetary support to an entity whose participants openly oppose many of our most cherished beliefs," read the report, whose members included Morris Chapman (chairman), Jimmy Draper, Tom Elliff, Paige Patterson, Paul Pressler and Jerry Rankin.  

Denton Lotz, BWA's general secretary, called the report a "tragic decision" and compared the accusations of liberalism to "a form of McCarthyism."

Lotz said he learned of the report on the evening of Dec. 17, well after the committee made its Oct. 24 decision.  

"This decision is really the triumph of ideology over doctrine," Lotz said in a written statement sent to "In the end, it became a question of power and control and the desire of forcing Baptists of the world to fit into one particular mode … of thinking."

"I fear for the Southern Baptist Convention because this decision follows in a long line of other decisions that, I believe, will ultimately lead to the dissolution and self-destruction of the SBC!" Lotz continued. 

In addition to accusing the BWA of a "leftward drift" and "aberrant theologies," the report claimed that a Southern Baptist pastor was "rudely treated by a significant number of BWA participants" at a July 2003 meeting.

The SBC Executive Committee will consider the study committee's recommendation in February. The Executive Committee reactivated a special committee to study the convention's BWA relationship last year after the BWA agreed to consider a membership application from the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, an SBC breakaway group. 

An earlier study committee dealing with "concerns and questions" about the BWA disbanded in 1998, after recommending that the SBC retain its BWA membership but calling for "ongoing review" of the BWA/SBC relationship.

Earlier this year, the SBC reduced the $425,000 annual funding it had been giving to the BWA by $125,000, redirecting the reduced funds to a Southern Baptist-led initiative to form a new network of "like-minded Christian bodies" around the world. 

The BWA in March launched a "Make Up the Difference" fund-raising campaign aimed at raising the lost funding directly from churches.

The SBC was largely responsible for launching the BWA in 1905 and is its largest member body, with a reported 16 million members.  


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