Continued Efforts for Baptist Unity

ATLANTA – The heads of the Baptist World Alliance toured around several prominent moderate Southern Baptist churches, preaching and rallying support for their organization, Jan 28.

BWA president Billy Kim and General Secretary Denton Lotz once again urged leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention to reconsider their proposed break away from the BWA, which they themselves helped build 100 years ago.

The proposal to break all ties with the BWA – a worldwide umbrella group that connects 211 national and regional Baptist denominations, came through a study committee decision, Dec 17, 2003. Should the proposal pass through the executive council in February and a subsequent general convention in June, the break will be finalized by October this year.

While the study committee did not list specific leaders who called for the separation, they asserted that in general, the “aberrant and dangerous theologies” of the BWA left them no choice but to consider a leave.

On Jan. 28, Kim defended the BWA, saying that such claims gives an “inaccurate portrayal of the group,” according to Lotz.

"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 agreed, saying that such an attack is “a generalization.” Both leaders asserted that the claims made by the Southern Baptists against the BWA, could be in turn, pointed toward themselves.

“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,” said Lotz.

Lotz added on to say that generalization can oft portray a fuzzy and inaccurate picture of the group as a whole.

"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,” said Lotz.

Kim agreed.

"There might be within Baptist World Alliance some liberal-leaning people, and I don't deny that -- people in Europe or somewhere, but we cannot put them all together and say that Baptist World Alliance is liberal,” said Kim.

Earlier this week, Kim brought a Korean Baptist children’s choir to perform at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, with the hopes of “softening the hearts” of SBC leaders toward the BWA, according to the Jan. 28 Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

However, according to the same source, the songs touched the hearts of the leaders, but did not change their minds on their decision to separate.

"Dr. Billy Kim has made every effort to bring conservatives into the makeup of the Baptist World Alliance," to no avail, Dorothy Patterson, wife of Paige Patterson who was a member of the study committee 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.

"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?"