I am a little late in commenting on a recent Baptist World Alliance press release. Not seven years though. The email hit my Inbox on December 21. Fourteen days ago. In the opening paragraph of the release the BWA notes,
Leaders of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) held a joint meeting on December 19. The meeting was a follow up to a commitment made in April 2004 that both groups “meet at least once per year to continue an ongoing dialogue.”
From the press release it looks like the BWA took the initiative to keep the pledge. The story is a long one. An online acquaintance considers my occasional reference to the withdrawal of the Southern Baptist Convention from the SBC something of an obsession. I consider it an ongoing illustration of how Baptists fragment, if not have a difficult time with reconciliation. Oh the irony.
The Southern Baptist Convention determined, upon its withdrawal from the larger Baptist body it was instrumental in forming, it would foster its own fraternal network of “like-minded” Baptists around the world. Think of it as the creation of a new position that must be funded to re-duplicate a network that was only problematic to a privileged few who knew how to turn any conflict into a “battle for the bible.”
Ironic. Seven years. Is that literal or figurative? For those given to numerology and the Scriptures it seems like the perfect time to have a meeting. The fact that the original pledge literally read “meet at least once per year” is, of course, secondary. I hope I am wrong in the way I am reading this release. Surely someone will drive-by here and inform the ignorant that there have indeed been meetings annually since 2004. But, that is not how the release reads. And, given the feelings of some in 2002, my best guess is that were the two ever going to meet it would indeed fall to the Baptist World Alliance.
Save a reference from Nathan Finn at Southeastern Seminary, who posted on Facebook, the event registered nary a whimper. I am glad the two met. Maybe Bryant Wright of the “time to change the name of the SBC fame” signaled an openness to the meeting. He seems to have the penchant to stir things up a bit.
Our church saw the inglorious separation coming ten years ago. Since that time, we have sent a small amount of money every month to the Baptist World Alliance. This international body and its accompanying network strive to not only declare the Good News of Jesus but bring the Jesus way to bear in matters of justice, poverty, crisis, and disaster relief. Rather than colonize from Nashville, the larger network favors indigeneity.
The sad part of the story is a note in the Associated Baptist Press piece. From ABP’s piece,
Ironically, Dec. 19 marked the eighth anniversary of a preliminary report of the SBC/BWA Study Committee that found the BWA guilty of having an anti-American tone, encouraging women as pastors and refusing to discuss abortion.
“It is no longer wise stewardship to lend monetary support to an entity whose participants openly oppose many of our most cherished beliefs,” read the report, whose members included Morris Chapman (chairman), Jimmy Draper, Tom Elliff, Paul Pressler, Jerry Rankin and Patterson.
That “anti-American tone” was included with “encouraging women as pastors and refusing to discuss abortion” is more telling than anything else.
I hope that one day reconciliation would make of the relationship more than a fraternal conversation. It will likely take some leaders fading from the scene and with it any posthumous influence. But, one can hope. Maybe it won’t take seven years else appeals may be made to seven as an unknown period of perfect timing. Parousia maybe?