FALLS CHURCH, Va. (ABP) — International Baptist leaders from such diverse settings as Australia, Bangladesh, Bulgaria and South Africa are voicing disappointment over a study committee proposal calling for the Southern Baptist Convention to withdraw from the Baptist World Alliance.
Closer to home, former Southern Baptist leader Duke McCall said the SBC proposal is the result of “rivalry, jealousy and pride.”
McCall served as BWA president in 1980-85 and was a predecessor of SBC Executive Committee president Morris Chapman. He also was president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., for 30 years.
“On the pretense of believing the Bible, Southern Baptist leaders are proposing that Southern Baptist members reject the prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ in John 17:20-23,” McCall said. “He prayed 'that they all may be one … that the world may believe that thou didst send me.'
“Southern Baptists are being asked to reject Christian fellowship with all the other Baptists,” he added. “Instead of unity, the world will see division which compromises our Christian witness because of rivalry, jealousy and pride. … How can anyone claim to believe the Bible and reject the high priestly prayer of the Son of God?”
Noting that language, culture, tradition and education differ among Baptist groups around the globe, McCall said, “What unites them is a saving encounter with Jesus Christ through the miraculous mediation of the Holy Spirit. … God help us to be obedient witnesses for Christ's sake.”
Noel Vose of Australia, also a former BWA president, expressed “great sorrow” over the SBC proposal to cut ties to BWA.
“The unity of all who gather around the cross and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised him from the dead … is of absolute importance,” Vose said. “The difference and disruptions between believers must give place to the Holy Spirit of reconciliation, that the witness of Christ's body be not besmirched.”
Knud Wumpelmann of Denmark, who also has served as BWA president, noted that “for almost a hundred years we have as Baptists had a fast-growing, worldwide fellowship. It is now being threatened because one of the most prominent members of our group wants to dominate.”
As BWA leaders prepare to celebrate the organization's centennial congress next year in England, Wumpelmann added, “We are for the first time most seriously threatened by one of our own, even one we had learned to respect and love for inspiring leadership and thoughtful support over so many years.”
As the SBC Executive Committee meets next month and considers the recommendation to withdraw from and defund BWA effective Oct. 1, Wumpelmann said, “What can we do but pray? Therefore let us pray for the Southern Baptist Convention, for its Executive Committee … and for the rest of our global fellowship.”
Reactions among other Baptist leaders around the world include:
— BWA vice president Ken Manley of Australia: “The consequences for our region of the SBC breaking with our world Baptist family are difficult to contemplate. It is perhaps difficult for a convention such as SBC, where they form such a powerful majority in their own country, to appreciate what it is like to live as Baptist Christians where we are in a minority. On behalf of all Baptists throughout this region, I appeal to SBC leaders and people: please think again! You are valued and needed for the sake of God's Kingdom and by God's people. … I find it hard to believe that you can turn your back on your Baptist brothers and sisters around the world.”
— BWA vice president Dorothy Selebano of South Africa: “I was shocked at the news about the SBC withdrawing membership, but when I recovered I remembered God's Word, which says: 'All things work together for the good to them that love him.' We may not be able to comprehend it now. Let us leave this issue in the capable hands of the living God. We will continue praying for our brothers and sisters in the SBC and for the BWA.”
— Brian Winslade, national leader of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand: “Coming from a small Baptist union way down in the South Pacific, I continue to be appalled at the attitude and behavior of SBC leadership. … Historians will one day judge the attitudes of current leadership within the SBC as a blatant denial of Baptist principles and destructive of Christian unity. We can behave better than this. Our prayer for the SBC is that they will breathe deeply, behave as mature followers of Jesus and reverse their decision.”
— Theo Angelov, general secretary of the European Baptist Federation: “The SBC churches, believers and missionaries were an important part of the building of a 'New Europe' after the Second World War and the falling of the Communist regimes. … We cannot believe now the relations should be broken and the links torn apart. Any attempt to break this relationship and to separate brothers and sisters in Christ should not prevail over the Christian love that must exist between one another.”
–Nripen Baidya, Bangladesh Baptist Aid: “We are praying for the SBC leaders and believe God will guide them to change their decision to keep the global Baptist harmony. … May God bless BWA and SBC leaders to come in a mutual understanding to keep the Baptist harmony alive.”