ATLANTA (ABP) — On a tour of American churches, the head of Baptist World Alliance said Southern Baptist Convention leaders' attacks against his group could be turned on themselves.
An SBC study committee recently recommended the denomination break all ties with the worldwide umbrella group for Baptists. BWA President Billy Kim and BWA General Secretary Denton Lotz have spent several days speaking in prominent moderate Southern Baptist churches to rally support for the organization.
The BWA connects 211 national and regional Baptist denominations comprising 47 million baptized believers.
Meeting with reporters prior to a Jan. 28 appearance at Atlanta's Second-Ponce de Leon Baptist Church, Lotz and Kim said the SBC study committee report claiming the BWA advocates “aberrant and dangerous theologies” gives an inaccurate portrayal of the group.
“The Korean church, by in large, is very conservative,” said Kim, pastor of the 15,000-member Central Baptist Church near Seoul, South Korea. “[O]ur church is much more conservative, fundamental than probably the average Southern Baptist church in the United States.
“Everybody carries their Bible; everybody carries their own hymnbook…. If you don't go to early morning prayer meeting, 5 o'clock [a.m.] everyday, then [we] don't consider you conservative or biblical…. [But] you cannot [say] that we are conservative and the U.S. church is liberal. We just practice different.”
“So when they [SBC leaders] label a group [as] liberal, it don't set too well with me,” said Kim. “Because the fellows who call me liberal are so far out there in left field [compared to] what we practice in Korea.”
Lotz also said the charge of liberalism against the BWA is unfair and that the term is relative.
“That's a generalization,” said Lotz. “Baptists in Russia and Baptists in the Ukraine are much more conservative than Baptists over here. They think Americans are liberals because their women wear lipstick, earrings, jewelry, miniskirts and things like that.”
Kim said theological diversity exists within the BWA, but it does not justify the accusations in the report.
“There might be within Baptist World Alliance some liberal-leaning people, and I don't deny that — people in Europe or somewhere,” Kim confessed, “but we cannot put them all together and say that Baptist World Alliance is liberal.”
Lotz said that is the problem with generalizations. “Because somebody stands up in a Baptist World Alliance meeting and says something that someone doesn't like, it doesn't mean that [position represents] the Baptist World Alliance.”
During earlier appearances in Texas, Kim brought a Korean Baptist children's choir to perform at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. While Kim is reportedly close friends with the seminary's president, Paige Patterson, Patterson is a member of the SBC committee that recommended the BWA be defunded.
According to a Jan. 28 Fort Worth Star-Telegram story on the appearance, Kim hoped the children's performance would “soften the hearts” of SBC leaders toward the BWA. While the singing did, according to the paper, move Patterson's wife, Dorothy, to tears, it didn't change her mind on the BWA issue.
“Dr. Billy Kim has made every effort to bring conservatives into the makeup of the Baptist World Alliance,” to no avail, Dorothy Patterson said. “Paige and I kept participating [in BWA meetings], but in almost every meeting, we heard the Southern Baptist Convention denounced.”
Paige Patterson, in a letter that also appeared in the Jan. 28 Star-Telegram, complained about religion reporter Jim Jones' portrayal of international Baptist criticism of the study committee's decision. “So why exactly would Jones or anyone else expect Southern Baptists to pick up a large chunk of the bill to support those who teach doctrines contrary to our most cherished beliefs?” Patterson asked.
He added: “And why would the report in the Star-Telegram mention the negative response of people 'around the world' and fail to mention the tremendous support from equal numbers of Baptists around the globe?”
Patterson and other SBC leaders, however, have not offered any specific examples of international Baptist leaders who support the SBC's defunding of BWA.
— With additional reporting by Robert Marus