SEOUL, South Korea–What happens when the largest and wealthiest Baptist denomination walks away from global Baptists?
A spunky Baptist denomination joins with the promise of rebuilding the Baptist World Alliance. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
The <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Lairam Jesus Christ Baptist Church became the newest member body of the Baptist World Alliance, replacing the Southern Baptist Convention, which voted in June to withdraw from the BWA.
“After the report of the withdrawal of SBC from BWA, we are the first to rebuild the BWA,” Thianhlun Vanlalzauva, general secretary of the Lairam convention, told the BWA General Council last week in Seoul, South Korea.
Located in poverty-ridden northeast India between the nations of Bangladesh and Myanmar, the LJCBC pledged $400 in annual support to the BWA, a far cry from the $425,000 which the SBC was giving as recently as 2002-2003.
With an estimated 20,000 members, the self-supporting LJCBC traces its roots to the work of British Baptist missionaries. The LJCBC now employs 161 full-time workers, including some 90 missionaries serving in Myanmar, Bangladesh and Tibetan China.
One missionary, a woman, has served for two years as a social worker in Tibetan China, Vanlalzauva told EthicsDaily.com. He said that although she has had no conversions, she received a call from God to go to China and has been establishing friendships with the Tibetan people.
Other LJCBC missionaries work among eight different ethnic groups in Myanmar.
LJCBC also ministers among its member Lai people, Vanlalzauva said.
In 2000, the convention started the Lairam Christian Medical Center to meet widespread health needs, including malaria and the high price of medicine.
“Poor people can not afford to buy medicine,” said Vanlalzauva. “So Lairam Christian Medical Center is selling medicine at lower prices and serving the poor.”
Vanlalzauva said he hoped the convention would establish a 10-bed hospital in the future.
In a written statement, the LJCBC’s social-mission department pledged “to serve God by rendering selfless services to the people irrespective of caste, color, sex, class, faith, etc.”
Calling the SBC decision to withdraw from the BWA a “mistake,” Vanlalzauva told Ethicsdaily.com that Southern Baptist leaders “are not thinking in terms of the global level. They may be thinking in terms of their contribution alone.”
“They will find out how BWA will continue to maintain itself from their existing members without any problems,” he predicted.
The SBC withdrew from the BWA, charging that the BWA was anti-American and pro-gay, accusations which the leadership of 211-member BWA refuted.
Vanlalzauva said: “This is a mistake that they have committed. If they would have reviewed their decision, they would like to call back their decision. I feel that BWA is always active and growing with many more prospects. I hope more members will be interested to join it.”
Robert Parham is executive director of the BaptistCenter for Ethics and executive editor of EthicsDaily.com.