MEXICO CITY–Baptist World Alliance grew by over one million members in the past year, according to statistical data presented to delegates at the General Council meeting last week in Mexico City.
BWA membership stood at 35,631,796 with 152,246 churches as of June 2, 2006.
The BWA Member Bodies and Statistics report did not include the Southern Baptist Convention, which withdrew from the world’s largest Baptist organization in 2004.
It did report that the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship had 700,000 members and 1,854 churches; the Baptist General Convention of Texas 2,344,974 members and 5,652 churches; and the Baptist General Association of Virginia 407,556 members and 1,408 churches. The CBF member and church count would include members and churches which BGCT and BGAV also counted, underscoring the problem of double-counting.
A great many CBF, BGCT and BGAV churches maintain affiliation with the SBC through financial support, education literature purchases and support for foreign missionaries, which, in effect, waters down the SBC’s separation.
A visible number of Southern Baptists attended the meeting, including two Baptist state newspaper editors from conventions that are exclusively aligned with the SBC and have no formal support of the BWA. Wanda Lee, executive director of the SBC’s Woman’s Missionary Union, played a visible role.
In other business, the BWA adopted $2,477,147 budget, an increase over 2006, albeit some $300,000 smaller that actual revenue in 2005.
BWA budgeted $900,000 in revenue from individuals, churches and groups.
Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the BWA, reported receiving in 2005 almost $3.9 million with $2.5 million given for tsunami relief. BWAid supported 82 projects around the world.
The BWAid’s report spelled out its approach to funding appeals.
“BWAid never launches an appeal for funds unless and until it can clearly see a means of using the funds received,” the report said. “An appeal is launched not because there has been a disaster, but because we have an avenue of responding to the disaste.”
BWAid provides emergency and development aid through its member bodies.
The General Council adopted a number of resolutions. Global Baptists passed a statement on the “HIV/AIDS Crisis,” which called “upon all Baptists to help end ignorance, stigma and isolation by providing accurate information and open discussions of all issues related to HIV/AIDS.”
The resolution urged “conventions, unions and churches to promote sexual abstinence outside of marriage, faithfulness within marriage, healthy communities and caring fellowships.”
Two resolutions focused on countries where abuses of human and religious rights are significant: the Sudan and Myanmar.
The Myanmar resolution called on the United Nations “to take appropriate action for the protection of the lives and rights of Myanmar citizens.”
The Sudan-related resolution requested that the BWA president and general secretary “give urgent consideration on how best to advocate the implementation of all Sudanese signed peace agreements and protection of human and religious rights as established by United Nations resolutions.”
David Coffey, BWA president, reported to delegates that he was part of the group that visited Vietnam to “review the face of religious liberty in the 21st century.”
In his report, he said that the delegation learned the meaning of the Vietnamese proverb: “The law of the village supersedes the law of the King.”
Coffey wrote, “The prime minister of Vietnam might issue a law encouraging tolerance and liberty for Protestant believers, but in rural areas where village heads lose authority when Christians turn to church deacons for leadership, the unity of the village community…cannot be undermined by a house meeting of Baptist Christians.”
The General Council approved a recommendation from the Human Rights Award Commission to name its annual award after Denton and Janice Lotz.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.