Baptist World Alliance

Baptist World Alliance
   The idea for a Baptist World Alliance can be traced to a 1904 article written by Archibald T. Robertson (1863-1934), a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Robertson sent the article to a host of global contacts, including British Baptist J. H. Shakespeare, editor of the Baptist Times and Freeman in London. At Shakespeare's invitation, delegates from Baptist churches in 23 countries gathered in London July 11-19, 1905, and created the Baptist World Alliance. The delegates chose the word alliance to avoid any appearance of competition with existing Baptist denominational fellowships (variously known as unions, associations, or conventions).
   The new organization set as its main goal the promotion of fellowship between the world's Baptists. In the previous century, the Baptists had been transformed from a largely English-speaking community in the United Kingdom and North America into a worldwide fellowship with Baptists on every continent and in most countries of the world. The alliance also hoped to speak on issues of mutual concern such as world peace and religious freedom - many Baptist groups were struggling to survive in predominantly Roman Catholic countries. Increasingly after World Wars I and II, the alliance accepted its role as a coordinator for distributing relief funds in response to emergencies.
   Shakespeare became the first general secretary, a post he held for 20 years. Headquarters remained in London until 1941, when the German bombing forced a transfer to the United States, its current home. After the war, a European headquarters, now located in BULGARIA, was established. Other regional offices have been opened in Argentina, Ghana, India, and the Bahamas.
   The alliance has identified with the World Council of Churches (WCC) but avoided formal affiliation in order to maintain support from many conservative Baptist bodies who consider the council anathema. The Southern Baptist Convention, a prominent founding member of the alliance, is notably absent from the National Council of Churches and the WCC.
   In 2003, the alliance reported 206 Baptist unions and conventions in membership, representing some 47 million baptized believers.
   See also Baptists.
   Further reading:
   ■ Baptist World Alliance. Available online. URL:
   ■ H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of the Baptist Witness (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman Press, 1987).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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