Romanian calls for clarity in BWA beliefs & identity
INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--On the eve of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Indianapolis, European Paul Negrut, president of the Romanian Baptist Union, contemplated the relationship between the SBC and the Baptist World Alliance.
Negrut said Romanian Baptists in March asked the BWA to clarify its doctrinal beliefs, but the BWA has yet to respond.
"I wish that every religious group would develop a clear identity," Negrut said in an interview June 15, admitting he is troubled that the BWA does not have a clear statement of faith.
The recommendation by the Executive Committee for the SBC to withdraw from the BWA will be voted on by messengers from SBC churches attending the annual meeting in Indianapolis. The proposal for the SBC to withdraw from the BWA was approved by the Executive Committee by a 62-10 vote during its Feb. 16-17 meeting in Nashville. The action was recommended by the SBC study committee, which cited various theological concerns in an initial report on Dec. 19, 2003, and in a second report presented to the Executive Committee during its February meeting.
Negrut, like others, said he is questioning why he should associate with an organization that appears to be favoring such abstract concepts as cooperation, inclusiveness and tolerance at the expense of clarifying its relationship with the SBC.
"If you have autonomous Baptist churches that associate themselves to work together, then what are the principles for association?" Negrut asked. "If we don't find ourselves sharing the same theological, doctrinal values, then what are we going to do? Let me ask a rhetorical question. 'Why don't we associate with Buddhists, Muslims, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and Ba'hai?'"
Romanian Baptists believe in the harmony of local church autonomy with voluntary church association, Negrut said. That means likeminded believers ministering together.
"We believe in an exclusive Gospel and a unique Christ," Negrut said.
Additionally, Romanian Baptist life has nothing resembling the American tension between the SBC and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), Negrut said. As the BWA chooses to be inclusive toward the CBF, Negrut said this becomes part of its identity. It follows, then, that the SBC may choose a different identity, he concluded.
"Likeminded Baptist bodies are working together for evangelism and church planting," said Negrut, citing the Romanian Baptist partnership with the Missouri Baptist Convention as an example of how this works. "That's very encouraging."
A Baptist body like the SBC has every right to define terminology such as the Gospel, evangelism and witness, Negrut said. For example, if BWA leaders were to state, "We are going to witness for the love of God," Negrut reasoned, SBC leaders would have the right to request principles of association.
"The love of God is not blind," Negrut said. "The love of God is being reflected in the character of God and in the Word of God."
If Romanian Baptists had chosen to define words like the BWA and CBF have been doing in Southern Baptist life, there would have been a friendly relationship between the believers and the Romanian communist government, Negrut said. Instead, the Romanian church stood firm and the government was overthrown in 1989.
Truth toppled a dictator and clarity conquered, Negrut said, in reference to people who paid "the ultimate price" and were either tortured in prison or died for their faith in the effort to stand by their principles.
The frequent misuse of the word "tolerance" in BWA and CBF circles particularly upsets Negrut.
"Those who are accusing us of not being tolerant are twisting the meaning of the word," he said. "They would want us to accept everything -- do not have an identity, do not have principles or moral standards. Just embrace everything. Then why do we need Christianity? We can go and embrace the other world religions and we tolerate.
"Those who are speaking this language of tolerance, are they themselves more intolerant than they let us believe?" Negrut asked.
Telling a story of how three seminary students in Europe were treated by the "tolerant" leaders of that institution when they refused to take the Lord's Supper because it was being served by a woman pastor, Negrut said they've had a "hard time."
"They've been rebuked. They've been threatened that unless they apologize, there is no room for them in that school," Negrut said. That is a form of "tolerance" he described as "keep your mouth shut while we advance with our agenda."