Baptists on both sides of the border dispute the affiliation of 62 Canadian churches.

Does it matter whether Canadian Baptists join America’s largest Protestant denomination? The answer depends on whom you are talking to.

The controversy between Canadian Baptists and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has been brewing for 30 years. Denominational officials on both sides of the border disagree over ties between the 14-million-member SBC and its 4,300 Canadian members.

Southern Baptist activity in Canada began in the fifties when two Vancouver, British Columbia, churches affiliated with the SBC’s Northwest Baptist Convention. Since then, Southern Baptist churches have multiplied in western Canada. More recently, the Ohio Baptist Convention has established two churches in southern Ontario.

Some officials are calling for the expansion of the SBC to enable its 62 Canadian churches to send messengers to the denomination’s annual meeting. But others, both in the SBC and in the Canadian Baptist Federation (CBF), prefer a cooperative venture between the two denominations.

Leaders in the CBF want to find ways to share resources with Southern Baptists. The CBF and the SBC already are cooperating in education, media, and evangelism projects. But Michael Steeves, executive secretary of the 130,000-member CBF, says the joint ventures are more at the denominational level than among local churches.

Before the SBC could seat Canadian messengers it would have to amend its constitution to redefine the denomination as a binational, rather than a national, body. SBC Foreign Mission Board president R. Keith Parks opposes the move. He says the denomination should cooperate with Canadian Baptist bodies that have their own national structures. However, ...

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