With the controversy surrounding the American Christian team in Haiti, several large Baptist bodies have distanced themselves from the group by clarifying that they are not members of their organization.
The global fellowship Baptist World Alliance issued a statement Thursday “to assure its member bodies, the media and the public” that neither the team of missionaries nor their churches are affiliated with BWA or with any of its member bodies.
Similarly, the American Baptist Churches USA on Wednesday stated that the ten American Baptists arrested by Haitian authorities over concern about child trafficking are not members of churches affiliated with the denomination.
“While the people involved are Baptists from the United States, they are not members of the denomination known as ABCUSA,” the denomination stated.
Most of the team members are from two Idaho churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Haitian officials arrested ten Americans last Friday while they were trying to take 33 Haitian children across the border to the Dominican Republic. The team, consisting mostly of members of Idaho Baptist churches, said they were bringing the children to an orphanage in the Dominican Republic where they will receive medical care and education.
The Baptist team, however, did not have government permission to take the children out of the country. Moreover, many of the children they took had at least one living parent.
On Thursday, after nearly a week in jail, the ten American Baptists were charged with abduction and criminal association. The charges carry prison terms of up to 15 years. The case has been sent to an investigative judge.
Earlier this week, a Southern Baptist leader called the incident a “well-intentioned” attempt to help Haitian children that “turned into a nightmare.”
“As the story has unfolded, it has become more and more apparent that these ten individuals were driven by the true selflessness of altruism,” wrote Morris Chapman, president of the executive committee of the SBC, in a column on Baptist Press, the news wire service affiliated with the SBC.
“I call on Southern Baptists everywhere to lift these individuals up in prayer,” Chapman said. “Their families and churches are under great stress.”
The U.S. government, meanwhile, is attempting to show respect for the Haitian government.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday that the case of the ten U.S. missionaries “is a matter for the Haitian judicial system.” She said the U.S. government will provide support for the American citizens, “but it is something that a sovereign nation is pursuing based on the evidence that it presented when the charges were announced.”
Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive told CNN this week that the Haitian government was open to the idea of transferring the case to a U.S. court, but no such request has been made by the United States.