A study committee has recommended that the Southern Baptist Convention withdraw from the Baptist World Alliance, primarily due to theological concerns.
A study committee has recommended that the Southern Baptist Convention withdraw
from the Baptist World Alliance, primarily due to theological concerns.
Meanwhile, a Baptist World Alliance leader has said such a move would represent
“a sin against love” and a “triumph of ideology over doctrine.”
Even so, the decision about Southern Baptists future in the alliance
now rests with convention leaders and messengers. The SBC Executive Committee
will consider the matter in February. If approved there, it will go to the annual
convention in June, where messengers will determine the final action to be taken.
It is likely the decision to leave the Baptist World Alliance will be approved
at both points.
In proposing the move, the ongoing convention study committee cited theological
concerns as the core reason. The proposal accuses the alliance of questioning
biblical inerrancy, promoting women as pastors and downplaying the doctrine
of salvation only through Jesus Christ.
“Continuing to allow presentations that call into question the truthfulness
of Holy Scripture, refusing to support openly the idea that all who are saved
must come to salvation through conscious faith in Jesus Christ and promoting
women as preachers and pastors are among the issues that make it impossible
to endorse the (Baptist World Alliance) as a genuinely representative organization
of world Baptists,” the study committee report says.
The report questions the potential impact such “aberrant theologies”
could have on members bodies of the alliance.
In addition to theology, the study committee also cites a “decided anti-American
tone” that has emerged.
“Continued emphasis on women as pastors, frequent criticisms of the International
Mission Board of Southern Baptists, refusal to allow open discussion on 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,”
“Repeated appeals to (alliance) leadership have resulted in no substantive
changes and few of any consequence.”
The committee says the alliance once had a solid biblical foundation but has
undertaken a clear “leftward drift.”
The committee report adds that it prays for the alliance to “return to
the faith on which it was founded and which has been historically held by Baptists
for centuries” and for “the restoration of fellowship that such a
return will bring.”
The committee also stated that it “anticipates with enthusiasm the possible
emergence of a new fellowship with an unqualified adherence to the absolute
Lordship of Christ, the inerrancy of Holy Scripture, salvation based on the
substitutionary atonement of Christ appropriated through repentance toward God
and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ….”
Such a fellowship also would have a “commitment to the sanctity of all
human life” and an “advocacy of absolute religious liberty for all
men everywhere including an open marketplace of discussion and self-determination.”
“How or when this new fellowship develops will be for others to determine,
but numerous Baptist friends from around the globe have indicated their hearty
interest in such a fellowship which could well include preaching conferences,
church planting and growth conferences, the teaching of Baptist history and
theology and participation in evangelistic and missionary efforts,” the
Baptist World Alliance President Billy Kim expressed sadness at the development,
noting the Southern Baptist Convention has made a tremendous contribution to
gospel work around the world. He urged persons to pray for the convention and
alliance during a period of transition and to stay focused on the task of gospel
However, BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz was not as conciliatory, warning
that the exit of the Southern Baptist Convention “will bring a schism within
the life of our worldwide Baptist family, and thus, it is a sin against love.
“Schism is a sin against the prayer of Jesus who prayed that they
all might be one so that the world might believe,” Lotz continued.
“And thus, schism is a sin against that unity which is necessary for evangelism.”
Schism also is a sin against the New Testament teaching that there is one body,
one Spirit, one Lord, one baptism, one God and Father, Lotz said.
Lotz rejected any characterization of the alliance as liberal, comparing it
to McCarthyism of the 1950s. “It is sad that in the 21st century we use
loaded terms to end discussion and to eliminate the thoughts of other people,”
“Our BWA member bodies affirm the trinity, the divinity of Christ, the
resurrection, the atonement, second coming and future rule of God!”
Lotz said the issue boils down to a question of power and control “and
the desire of forcing Baptists of the world to fit into one particular mode
or mold or interpretation of thinking.” That runs contrary to Baptist understanding
of the competency of the individual and of soul liberty, he added.
“Personally, 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 said.
“With all love and much regret, I do believe that this drive for power
and control by a small group of ideologues will ultimately bring further disunity
to the body.”
Lotz also encouraged Southern Baptists to support the alliance by direct annual
That plea is key, since the alliance figures to lose its major funding source
in the convention. This year, the convention cut the alliance allocation from
$425,000 to $300,000. It appears almost certain the rest will follow.
The development comes as the Baptist World Alliance prepares to celebrate its
100th anniversary. Southern Baptists were instrumental in founding the alliance
(This article includes information from Associated Baptist Press and Baptist
Press news releases)