Baptist World Alliance leader Denton Lotz is calling for establishment of a new international mission agency to send and support missionaries from countries that lack resources to do it by themselves.
The new agency would provide financial support for Baptist missionaries from economically developing nations in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the regions sometimes called the Third World or—in deference to their percentage of the global population—the Two-Thirds World.
According to an announcement Tuesday, Lotz, general secretary of the Washington-based BWA, issued his call at a weeklong Global Summit on Baptist Mission in the 21st Century. Baptist leaders from 60 countries gathered May 5-9 in Stanwick, England, to focus on evangelistic challenges around the world.
Delegates, in a “Call to Mission” statement adopted at the close of the meeting, said the distinction between missionary-sending and missionary-receiving countries is becoming outdated in a day when the fastest-growing churches and the greatest numbers of missionaries no longer come from North America and Europe.
“Mission is from everywhere to everywhere,” delegates said.
“We recognize the major challenge of a post-Christian culture in large parts of Europe and North America,” the document said, “and we have also seen the spectacular growth of the church in Asia, Africa and Latin America and with it, a faith-filled missionary outreach to the ends of the earth.”
Such a movement requires resources, however, and the statement noted that resources too often are held in the hands of a few.
The statement calls for a global, as well as local, interpretation of Acts 4:32, where early believers are described as being of one heart and sharing all things in common.
“Sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed is the task of all disciples of Christ,” the statement said.
The Baptist leaders emphasized a holistic mission approach, which they said is needed more than ever today. Issues of peace, as well as political, social and economic justice, must be tackled for the gospel to be fully embraced in areas where those concerns are greatest, they said.
Delegates pledged specifically to work for justice for children who have been victimized by sexual abuse and have inadequate health care, for young people on drugs and for women who are sexually exploited.
Delegates acknowledged a magnificent history of Baptist missions, but said mistakes have been made with regards to a lack of cultural sensitivity in sharing the gospel. “Baptists everywhere need to confess and repent to each other, and the gospel should always be a vehicle of liberation, never domination,” the statement said.
The group said it would “respect and honor” the principle of cultural sensitivity in its own mission endeavors.
The document was prompted in part, according to a BWA report, by a feeling among minority mission groups that their contributions to global missions are underappreciated. For example, George Lisle, a black Baptist preacher who was born a slave in Virginia in 1750, was a missionary in Jamaica in 1783, long before William Carey left England for India or David Livingstone went to Africa. Lisle is credited with influencing missionaries who later went to Canada and West Africa, but is often overlooked in litanies of missionary pioneers.
The Baptist World Alliance is a fellowship of 206 Baptist unions and conventions with a combined membership of more than 47 million baptized believers. Formed in 1905, the BWA’s stated goals are to unite Baptists worldwide, lead in world evangelization, respond to people in need and defend human rights.
The BWA executive committee recently revised its current budget downward to address a $650,000 deficit, which leaders blamed on losses in the stock market, decreased membership support and a shift in local-church giving away from institutions to independent organizations.
The BWA’s largest supporter, the Southern Baptist Convention, is proposing to cut its BWA funding from $425,000 to $300,000 in a budget that will be voted upon at the SBC’s annual meeting in June. Along with the budget cut, the SBC Executive Committee is also proposing that the $125,000 deducted from the BWA allocation be used to begin a new international network of “like-minded” Christian groups.
The BWA in March launched a “Make Up the Difference” fund-raising campaign to offset the loss, which has been attributed to displeasure among SBC leaders about a pending BWA membership application for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, which the SBC views as competition.
The BWA General Council is expected to consider a series of new ways to increase revenues when it meets in July, including an annual BWA offering, expanding BWA membership to include “associate” membership for churches, institutions and individuals and a “fair share” document to help establish guidelines for member bodies.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.