April 24, 2019
By Aaron Weaver
DECATUR, Ga.— Cooperative Baptist leaders are celebrating the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Denton Lotz, the former longtime leader of the Baptist World Alliance, who died April 23 at the age of 80 at his home in Forestdale, Mass.
Lotz served as a leader of the BWA for 27 years and held the position of General Secretary from 1988-2007. CBF Executive Coordinator Paul Baxley praised Lotz for his decades of “powerful leadership” as the representative of the global Baptist family.
“The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship mourns the passing of the Rev. Dr. Denton Lotz,” Baxley said. “During his near 20-year tenure as BWA General Secretary, Dr. Lotz provided powerful leadership to our global Baptist family, working tirelessly to form and strengthen relationships between Baptists and forge partnerships with other Christian sisters and brothers around the world. He was a courageous advocate for those on the margins of society, especially those persecuted because of their faith. We are indebted to Dr. Lotz for his decades of faithful ministry traveling to countless countries championing human rights, racial justice and religious freedom for all, and calling upon us to be ‘wall-breakers’ and help tear down the walls of racism, poverty, materialism and tribalism.
“As Cooperative Baptists, we are particularly grateful for the bold support he showed to our Fellowship. While accepting our Fellowship into the BWA family was a decision that carried great costs, Dr. Lotz reaffirmed that BWA offers ‘a home for everybody’ and reminded Cooperative Baptists and the global Baptist family that ‘we belong together because we belong to Jesus Christ.’ May we continue to remember and live into this truth as followers of the Risen Christ. Our prayers are with Dr. Lotz’s wife, Janice, their children, grandchildren and the rest of the BWA family.”
Former CBF Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal, who led the Fellowship from 1996-2012, shared his gratefulness for Lotz’s ministry and friendship.
“Denton Lotz was a courageous voice for the Baptist witness to Jesus Christ,” Vestal said. “He was a strong advocate for religious liberty, world evangelization and biblical truth. Dr. Lotz played a significant and supportive role when Cooperative Baptist Fellowship became a member body of the BWA. I will forever be grateful for his faithful ministry and personal friendship.”
Jim A. Smith, CBF Global Missions Director of Global Networks and Development, reflected on participating in the life of the European Baptist Federation during his service as a missionary in Germany. Smith said Lotz rarely missed a gathering and attendees loved to share stories from around the world about Baptist life.
“Denton loved the Church, and he loved to spread the Gospel,” Smith said. “Personally, I loved to hear him speak and take an audience from one country to another. I believe he was a gift to the BWA and Baptists around the world with his linguistic, intellectual and evangelistic gifts. I will miss seeing him at Baptist meetings—he was a giant.”
Rubén Ortiz, Latino field coordinator for CBF, recalled meeting Lotz while a young leader in Cuba and expressed his gratitude to Lotz for his consistent support of Cuban Christians during difficult times.
“Denton was instrumental in facilitating communication between Cuban Christian leaders and their counterparts in the United States and abroad during the difficult decades of the 1980s and 1990s. In times of mutual suspicion and fear, he was always supportive of dialogue with Cuban Baptists of all types. I remember that as a young leader my father introduced me to Brother Lotz, and we visited churches and Christian camps that were part of the Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention. He was always attentive and friendly with a keen understanding of the situation and holding much respect and hope for the future.
“He visited eastern Cuba several times, which was not an area of frequent access for international leaders, and spent time with us, listening to people, visiting churches and bringing hope and support to young leaders. We will remember him as a true friend for Latin American Baptists—a bridge-builder in times of crisis and a real Baptist ambassador.”
Harry Rowland, associate coordinator of congregations and leadership for CBF, highlighted Lotz’s welcoming presence at BWA gatherings and leadership of “doing the right thing in the right manner.”
“Whenever I think of Denton Lotz, I visualize him welcoming everyone as they entered the venue for the annual BWA gathering,” Rowland said. “Whether at the beginning of the day or following the evening worship experience, Denton and often his wife, Janice, would be there to bid a welcome or offer a blessing. This example of concern for the individual exemplified Denton’s mission theology. He was concerned for the individual, who needed love, hope or help—not programs, statistics or philosophies. This is what attracted individuals, churches and Baptist bodies to the BWA during his tenure. This is what led me as a 30-something pastor to become involved in the BWA and to bring two churches into relationship with the BWA.
“In an age when many seem to count the costs or have the ends justify the means, Denton was never tempted to do so. His complete confidence in the Spirit of God and doing the right thing in the right manner enabled the BWA to be a place where global Baptist Christians could work together to bring hope, help and the love of Christ to the individual in unprecedented ways.”
A memorial service for Lotz has been scheduled for Friday, April 26, at 12 p.m. at Tremont Temple Baptist Church in Boston, according to BWA Communications. The BWA will host a memorial service celebrating his life and legacy at Columbia Baptist Church in Falls Church, Va. Details are forthcoming.
CBF is a Christian network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry efforts, global missions and a broad community of support. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission.