‘Denton leaves a massive footprint in the history of the BWA’
Denton Lotz, Baptist World Alliance General Secretary Emeritus, has died, aged 80
Denton, BWA General Secretary from 1988 to 2007, died at his home in Forestdale, Massachusetts, USA on Tuesday (23 April).
During nearly two decades of service as General Secretary, Denton led preparations for four Baptist World Congresses, including the 2005 Centennial Congress in Birmingham. The Congresses had a cumulative attendance of 42,000 people from more than 100 countries.
Because of his tireless advocacy for human rights and religious freedom, the BWA named its annual human rights award in his honour, with ten individuals receiving the Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award since 2006.
Denton served during a time of landmark moments in the life of the BWA, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of apartheid, and the departure of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) from the BWA: he would describe hearing of the SBC intention to leave as 'the worst day' of his tenure.
Denton served alongside five BWA Presidents, including former Baptist Union General Secretary David Coffey, BWA President from 2005-2010.
David paid this tribute:
‘I owe an incalculable debt to Denton Lotz for mentoring and encouraging me in my service to the Baptist World Alliance and providing global opportunities for my ministry.
‘It was my immense privilege to serve alongside Denton for almost twenty years. I first met him in 1988 at the BWA Glasgow Youth Conference when my first impression of Denton was of a man abounding in hope. I grew to realise this was more than a natural spirit of optimism, it was the mark of a believer grounded in the hope of Jesus Christ and his gospel. The secret of Denton’s ministry through the years was he defined himself as a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ.
‘Denton Lotz leaves a massive footprint in the history of the BWA. He was a missionary theologian, an inspiring preacher and evangelist, a champion for religious liberty, a Baptist ambassador, a Christian statesman, and a brother unrivalled in his prodigious remembering of the names of hundreds of people and places.
‘Through his many years of fruitful service, Denton was supported ably by his gifted wife and our hearts go out to Janice and the family.’
In a statement the BWA called upon all Baptists ‘to remember and honour his legacy and to pray for his family.’ A page has been created to give a brief synopsis of Denton's life and legacy, and to enable people to leave a tribute.
Among his many contributions to the BWA, Denton helped launch the Baptist International Conference on Theological Education (BICTE) in 1991, which was attended by Baptist educators from 52 countries.
In July 2005 at the BWA Centennial Congress in Birmingham Denton unveiled the Living Water initiative, a strategic plan designed to enlist and equip local Baptists for evangelism and servant leadership. Since its inception, Living Water events have taken place around the world from Cuba to Bangladesh with more than 4,500 registered delegates in attendance who have engaged in prayer, focused Bible study, evangelism, and leadership training.
Denton with former BWA President Billy Kim at the Centennial Congress in Birmingham
His commitment to racial reconciliation was the catalyst for the formation of the BWA Special Commission on Baptists Against Racism and Ethnic Conflict, which resulted in the Harare Declaration in 1993 and the Decade for Racial Justice.
In addition to his service as BWA General Secretary, Denton was twice elected President of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), an organisation chartered in 1893 to work with government and educational institutions to disseminate principles of religious liberty and human rights throughout the world. The IRLA tradition of rotating presidents every two years was broken with Lotz, who was reelected an unprecedented four times.
Prior to his time at the BWA, Denton also served as a professor of missions and homiletics at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Rüschlikon, Switzerland. He was also instrumental in relocating the Baptist World Alliance office to its current facility in Falls Church, Virginia, USA, in 2001.
His tireless effort and commitment were matched only by his 'love for people and unwavering optimism even in the face of great challenge', the BWA statement continued.
'In whatever country he arrived, he was welcomed as someone who brought hope to Baptists wherever they were and in whatever situation they found themselves,' said Wendy Ryan, former BWA Communications Director. 'There was never a time I travelled with him as part of a BWA team that I did not see him received with great joy.'
Denton is survived by his wife, Janice (pictured), their three children, and many grandchildren.
A memorial service has been scheduled for Friday, April 26, at 12pm at Tremont Temple Baptist Church in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, with a reception following.
A live-streamed memorial service celebrating his life and legacy will also be hosted by the Baptist World Alliance at Columbia Baptist Church in Falls Church, Virginia, USA on 30 May.
Find out more about Denton's life, and leave a tribute, by visiting: http://bit.ly/honoringdenton