In an unusually ecumenical move, the chief executive of the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board has invited 36 other denominations and mission groups to form an information-sharing network "to avoid wasted effort and lost time" in evangelizing the world.
The Rev. R. Keith Parks, head of the Richmond-based board, has invited leaders of the other mission agencies to a fall meeting in Dallas to explore ways they can work together to reach "all the people of our generation for Christ."
Information-sharing networks and common-interest coalitions are a more common strategy among liberal mainline denominations and groups.
A spokesman for the mission board conceded that Parks' proposal could garner some criticism from some Baptists, who do not normally join in ecumenical ventures.
Groups approached by Parks include the Conservative Baptists, National Baptist Convention U.S.A., Christian and Missionary Alliance, Assemblies of God, United Methodist Church and Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Interdenominational organizations contacted include the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, American Bible Society, Wycliffe Bible Translators, Campus Crusade for Christ and North American Charismatic Renewal.
"None of us is large enough, strong enough, wise enough to make a significant impact on the whole world," Parks said. "We need each other. If we can help each other have a more effective part in world evangelization, we're having a greater impact than if we lived and worked in isolation."
He said the "networking" he envisioned would include "information-sharing, learning from each other, the kind of sharing that will allow each of us to retain our identity."
Among other efforts, he said, the group might design a strategy for prayer and witness to people in communist-bloc, Islamic and other countries where foreign mission work is prohibited or restricted.