Despite objections by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) accepted the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) into full BWA membership. The BWA's general council approved the move by a vote of 75-28 last month in Rio de Janeiro. It said the CBF, formed by dissidents opposed to conservative control of the SBC, was now an independent Baptist denomination that had met all the criteria for membership.
During debate, SBC delegate Paul Pressler complained that CBF leaders often publicly criticized the SBC-"not the rhetoric that promotes harmony and peace." Fellow delegate Paige Patterson, new president of the SBC's Southwestern Baptist Seminary, warned the BWA it was drifting left and likely was trading 42,000 SBC churches for about 150 CBF churches. He predicted the SBC, instrumental in the BWA's founding and funding, will soon withdraw from the global alliance.
The SBC voted in June to reduce its support of the BWA by 30 percent ($125,000). The BWA has 211 member bodies representing more than 46 million baptized believers, but the SBC is its biggest giver. Already under severe financial strain, the BWA council slashed $425,000 from this year's budget, and approved a zero-growth amount of $1.6 million for 2004. Even that amount may be unrealistic if the SBC withdraws, leaving the BWA $250,000 poorer.