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BWA Executive Committee Affirms Organization Despite SBC Concerns

Baptist World Alliance leaders continued to hold out hope for a last-minute breakthrough in the global network’s impasse with the Southern Baptist Convention, yet affirmed the BWA and its leadership despite charges of liberalism.

The BWA Executive Committee discussed at length issues raised by the SBC in its planned withdrawal from the 210-member-body alliance during meetings Monday through Wednesday before unanimously adopting a 10-point “declaration and affirmation” of the BWA.

The statement expressed “regret” for “current tensions which have led the SBC Executive Committee to recommend withdrawal from BWA membership.” BWA leaders “have sought to hear these concerns clearly and consider them seriously and prayerfully,” the statement continued.

After “lengthy discussion, study and prayer,” the group reaffirmed earlier statements that the BWA adheres to historic Christian doctrines including that belief in Christ is necessary for salvation and the missionary mandate to proclaim the gospel around the world.

Among charges lodged against the BWA by an SBC Study Committee recommending the severing of ties is that the BWA includes liberal members who reject those beliefs.

While expressing gratitude and appreciation for the SBC’s work around the world and its historic contribution to the BWA, the leaders’ statement acknowledged that the BWA is different from a denomination, such as the SBC, which might include less diversity than a looser global alliance.

“We acknowledge that we are not a denomination but an alliance of Baptists who seek to live out the life of Christ in the various tongues and nations that God has created,” the statement said. “A worldwide alliance must reflect the concerns of Baptist bodies around the world as we try to understand, to live and to proclaim the whole gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The statement expressed gratitude for the “solidarity of support” from Baptists around the world since SBC leaders announced their intent to pull out of the alliance in December. “We believe this attests to the faithful and unselfish contributions the BWA has made for nearly 100 years,” the statement said.

The BWA leaders also expressed “sincere and prayerful desire to continue working together with Southern Baptists through the Baptist World Alliance.”

Should the SBC approved the recommended withdrawal from the BWA this June, as expected, individual churches that choose to do so can still support the BWA directly through new giving plans tailored to churches.

Congregations that include the BWA in their mission budget for at least $1,000 are touted as a “Global Impact Church,” while those committing to $5,000 or more are William Carey Global Impact Churches, described in a brochure as “some of the most mission-minded churches of the world.”

The giving plans, added last year, were part of a “Make Up the Difference” fund-raising campaign designed to offset a funding cut by the SBC in 2003-2004 from $425,000 to $300,000 this fiscal year. The SBC pullout proposal, effective Oct. 1, includes eliminating all funding for the BWA next year, while reallocating those funds toward development of “new and innovative” strategies for relating to like-minded Baptist groups around the world.

Alan Stanford, the BWA’s director for global impact, told EthicsDaily.com that giving from individuals and churches “seems to be snowballing” as people who were previously largely unaware of the BWA learn more about its work because of the controversy. Support from those groups increased nearly 50 percent in 2003, he said, and is on track for a similar increase in 2004.

According to a press release reporting the BWA Executive Committee statement of declaration and affirmation, BWA president Billy Kim also called on Baptists everywhere to pray for the next 100 days that God might still bring about reconciliation.

During a Feb. 17 meeting, in which the SBC Executive Committee overwhelmingly approved the study committee’s proposal to withdraw from the BWA, chairman Morris Chapman said the study group would, at Kim’s request, meet one last time with select BWA leaders prior to May 1.

However, Chapman said, he doubted that anything new would be said at the meeting to change the study group’s mind that the time had come for the SBC to relate directly to the international community rather than through the BWA.

See previous related stories:
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SBC Executive Committee Votes to Withdraw From BWA
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