General Council resolutions adopted at last week’s Baptist World Alliance annual meeting in Chile also called for action against climate change and protested religious violence in Nigeria.

By Bob Allen

Baptist leaders from around the world meeting July 2-7 in Santiago, Chile, endorsed a historic joint agreement drafted by Catholics, mainline Protestants and evangelicals outlining ethical guidelines for Christian witness amid religious diversity.

A 2012 Baptist World Alliance General Council resolution “commends and endorses” a 2011 document titled “Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World.” Drafted by leaders of the World Evangelical Alliance, the World Council of Churches and the Vatican’s Pontifical Council on Inter-religious Dialogue, it is in part a response to criticism leveled at Christians by some religious communities alleging unethical evangelistic methods, in some cases contributing to anti-conversion laws and violence.

The BWA resolution declares that sharing the gospel in both word and deed is imperative to Christ’s commission in Matthew 28, but affirms “that violence, bribes and threats or force are incompatible with Christian mission.”

It laments “increasing interreligious, political and economic tensions in the world that result in conflicts, bribes, threats, force, violence, war and loss of life” and acknowledges that Christians “are sometimes implicated in these conflicts.”

It urges Baptists to treat people of other faiths with respect and to foster “reconciling relationships” with others. It encourages BWA member bodies to study and incorporate practices in the seven-page document in their own context.

Drafted over a five-year period, “Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World” rejects deception and “coercive means” of proselytizing in non-Christian societies. It was the first time the three bodies had ever worked together. While affirming the use of healing ministries in mission, it says such services should not be exploited and denounces “financial incentives and rewards” in evangelism.

Other BWA resolutions passed in Chile celebrated the recent 94th birthday of African-American Baptist pastor Gardner Taylor, a friend and mentor to Martin Luther King and a prominent leader in the Progressive National Baptist Convention.

A resolution on religious liberty marked the 400th anniversary of Thomas Helwys’ 1612 publication of the Mystery of Iniquity, the first defense of religious liberty for all published in the English language. A co-founder of the first Baptist church in Europe, Helwys died in prison as a result of persecution of Protestant dissenters under King James I of England, who commissioned the Authorized King James Version of the Bible in 1611.

Another resolution commemorated the 200th anniversary of the 1812 journey of Adoniram and Ann Hasseltine Judson and Luther Rice to Asia to serve as missionaries. Their conversion from Congregationalist to Baptist gave impetus for the first national Baptist denomination in the United States, now known as American Baptist Churches USA.

Other resolutions renewed statements about climate change made by the General Council in 2008 and 2009, adding a commitment to seek to reduce the “carbon footprint” of BWA gatherings, and denounced recent bombings of houses of worship and violence carried out in the name of religion in Nigeria.

Since last Christmas, an Islamic sect called Boko Haram has carried out a series of attacks on churches in Nigeria, prompting retaliatory killings of Muslims by Christian youths, police and the military.