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SBC, BWA leaders meet for 1st time since 2004comment (0)

January 5, 2012

Leaders of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) traveled to Nashville on Dec. 19 to meet with leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), a founding member of the BWA that withdrew in 2004 over theological differences.

Initiated by BWA General Secretary Neville Callam, the joint meeting was part of a commitment made in 2004 for continued dialogue between the two groups.

Joining Callam in the BWA delegation were John Upton, current BWA president and executive director of the Baptist General Association of Virginia; George Bullard, general secretary of the North American Baptist Fellowship; and Sam Chaise, general secretary of Canadian Baptist Ministries.

Representing Southern Baptists were SBC President Bryant Wright; Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee; Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.; and Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Patterson was one of nine members of a BWA study committee that in 2004 recommended withdrawal from an organization that “no longer efficiently communicates to the unsaved a crystal clear gospel message that our Lord Jesus Christ is solely sufficient for salvation.”

A BWA press release described the Dec. 19 meeting as cordial, frank and respectful. Participants agreed the discussion was needed not just because of the pledge in 2004 but also “because of the vocation of Christians to live at peace with everyone.”

Bullard said the commitment was made in 2004 for annual meetings between the groups but it was not indicated when they would begin. In an effort to follow up, the BWA executive committee authorized Callam to request a meeting, and the first meeting was set.

Bullard said the meeting was primarily intended to begin a dialogue without strategic or organizational goals and was planned as fellowship and relationship.

“The two teams needed to get to know one another,” Bullard said. “My impression is that we accomplished that goal. It was a very congenial meeting. People were able to talk openly. We did not generate conclusions other than that relating to one another is a positive thing.”

Bullard acknowledged there would be speculation about whether at some point in the future the two organizations might reunite, but that was not the reason for the meeting.

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. After voting to withdraw from the BWA, the SBC — at the time the BWA’s largest financial supporter — reallocated those funds to establish a Global Evangelical Relations office led since 2007 by former SBC President Bobby Welch. In May Welch joined the staff of the Tennessee Baptist Convention while continuing to assist the SBC Executive Committee “in a reduced role.”

BWA leaders also met with Pentecostal World Fellowship leaders Dec. 13–15 to lay groundwork for ecumenical dialogue between Baptists and Pentecostals around the world. During the meeting, they set guidelines for anticipated multiyear meetings to pursue closer ties between two groups.

“The purpose of the dialogue is to examine what it may mean for Baptists and Pentecostals to walk together in step with the Holy Spirit,” representatives of the two groups said in a statement issued at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham. “Our intention is for the dialogue to be holistic in its evaluation of faith and practice.”

Future talks are tentatively scheduled annually from 2012 through 2014.

A separate BWA dialogue team held exploratory talks Oct. 30–Nov. 2 with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, “first among equals” in the Eastern Orthodox communion and regarded as the representative and spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians. (Compiled from ABP stories)

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