Southern Baptists Name Welch to Build Overseas Relations

Former Southern Baptist Convention president Bobby Welch was recently appointed to help build SBC relations with other evangelicals across the globe.

Retired from the senior pastorate at First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., after 32 years, Welch now serves as Strategist for Global Evangelical Relations with SBC's Executive Committee. He officially began his new position on March 15.

"Bobby has a passion for the lost and he combines this with a gifted ability to connect with others across generations and cultures, both ideal traits for reaching out to likeminded evangelicals around the world," Morris H. Chapman, president of the Executive Committee, told the Baptist Press.

Welch will serve as SBC "ambassador" to international leaders in an effort to build relationships with evangelistically oriented Baptists and likeminded evangelicals. The effort comes as part of a 2004 vote when the denomination withdrew from the Baptist World Alliance. The SBC/BWA Study Committee stated then that the BWA "no longer efficiently communicates to the unsaved a crystal-clear gospel message that our Lord Jesus Christ is solely sufficient for salvation."

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson had noted a "continual leftward drift in the BWA" at the time of the vote. The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the United States and was BWA's largest supporter. The Executive Committee had agreed to reallocate funds to strategies for building global relationships.

Coming out of initial international gatherings in the summers of 2005 and 2006 with Baptists from other countries, SBC has now appointed Welch, who is currently serving as pastor emeritus of First Baptist, to build an overseas network of relationships for missions.

Some of those relationships include BWA members with whom the SBC had partnered with in the past.

The BWA Study Committee had stated that Southern Baptists "fully intend to continue to partner with our oldest and best friends worldwide and to develop new and vibrant friendships and joint endeavors to reach the world for Christ," according to Baptist Press.

Welch clarified to BP that the initiative is not an effort to form an alternative to the BWA or to start something like it.

"My duty is to connect persons here and around the world to each other in the hope that they will move forward together for the Great Commission," he said.