Evangelism Now Embarrassing for Most Says Baptist Leader

Even Baptists at World Congress disagree on Chicago initiative

Evangelism—seeking converts to Christianity—has become an embarrassing issue for most mainstream Christian churches, a leading Baptist from the United States has told delegates at the 18th Baptist World Congress."These days evangelism has fallen out of favor for the mainline denominations," Randy Springer, of the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board, told several hundred Baptists gathered at a "fellowship luncheon" on the subject "Evangelism and Baptist identity." He stressed, however, that Baptists must continue to evangelize, "even if it's politically incorrect, even if others don't want us to."Today is the third day of the Baptist congress, which is being organized by the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) and is being held in Melbourne, Australia. The congress ended Sunday.Springer's church, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), is, with 16 million members, most of them in the southern states of the US, the biggest and one of the most conservative and evangelically-minded churches in the BWA.One of the SBC's current priorities, Springer said, was to evangelize inner-city regions in the US. However, when the SBC decided to send volunteers into Chicago, one of the main cities in the northern part of the US, clergy from other denominations had written to SBC leaders asking them not to do so as this could upset the religious balance and cause conflict in the city.The clergy had said that the SBC was welcome to do work with the poor or perform other aid work, but said "if you intend to seek converts, don't come." However SBC leaders had insisted on the need to witness to Christ in Chicago and had gone ahead. The issue had prompted much national coverage by the media, and, Springer said, "millions of people ...

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