(FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA – April 23, 2019) Today Rev. Dr. Denton Lotz, General Secretary Emeritus of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) and faithful servant of the LORD, died at his home in Forestdale, Massachusetts, USA, at the age of 80. The Baptist World Alliance calls upon all Baptists to remember and honor his legacy and to pray for his family.
Born in 1939 in Flushing, New York, USA, Lotz was the youngest of four sons raised by Rev. and Mrs. John Lotz. He often credited his heritage for influencing his ministry, stating that he inherited “a German brain from his father and an Italian heart from his mother.”
After graduating from Northpoint High School in 1956, Lotz attended the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts. He then enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, serving from 1961-1963. During a portion of his service, he was stationed internationally in Okinawa, Japan, ultimately achieving the rank of second lieutenant.
After completing his military service, he attended Harvard Divinity School where he served as President of the Student Government from 1965-1966. He earned his sacred theology degree in 1966 as well as being ordained that same year at Binkley Memorial Baptist Church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. After completing his studies at Harvard, Lotz began his doctoral studies at the University of Hamburg in Germany, earning a Doctor of Theology in 1970.
1970 proved to be a wonderful year as it was also the year he married the love of his life – Janice Robinson from Ellisville, Mississippi. For the next ten years, they would serve as missionaries with the International Ministries Division of American Baptist Churches. During their missionary tenure, Lotz traveled extensively – often to countries under communist control – with a focus on lecturing, preaching, and serving as a diplomatic representative to government officials on questions of religious freedom and Baptist life.
During this time, Lotz also served as a professor of missions and homiletics at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Rüschlikon, Switzerland, where he founded the Summer Institute of Theological Education (SITE) – a short-term, intensive theological program for Eastern European pastors and leaders.
While ministering in Europe, he often traveled alongside Gerhard Claas, who was serving at the time as General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation. When Claas was selected to be the next BWA General Secretary, he invited Lotz to be his deputy. Lotz joined the BWA staff in 1980 in the role of associate secretary, with responsibilities including oversight of the Division of Evangelism and Education as well as Relief and Development. He would later be appointed as Director of the BWA Youth Department as well.
After Claas suddenly passed away in a tragic automobile accident in 1988, Lotz was designated as Interim General Secretary. Shortly thereafter, the BWA Executive Committee voted to permanently appoint him, which was affirmed by the BWA General Council later that year.
During nearly two decades of service as General Secretary, Rev. Lotz served alongside five BWA presidents and 71 Vice Presidents as well as numerous commission chairs and staff members. He led preparations for four Baptist World Congresses with a cumulative attendance of 42,000 people from more than 100 countries. He oversaw 20 General Council meetings as well as 16 Annual Gatherings.
“He leaves a massive footprint in the history of the BWA,” said Rev. Dr. David Coffey, former Baptist World Alliance President (2005-2010). “He was a missionary theologian, an inspiring preacher and evangelist, a champion for religious liberty, a Baptist ambassador, a Christian statesman, and a brother unrivaled in his prodigious remembering of the names of hundreds of people and places.”
Among his many contributions to the BWA, Lotz helped launch the Baptist International Conference on Theological Education (BICTE) in 1991, which was attended by Baptist educators from 52 countries. He was also instrumental in relocating the Baptist World Alliance office to its current facility in Falls Church, Virginia, USA, in 2001. In July 2005 at the BWA Centennial Congress in Birmingham, England, Lotz 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.
In addition to his service as BWA General Secretary, Rev. Lotz was twice elected President of the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), an organization 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 re-elected an unprecedented four times.
Upon his re-election in 2002, then IRLA Secretary General John Graz said, “We are honored to have someone like Denton whose passion for religious freedom is demonstrated in his daily commitment to defend human rights for people everywhere.” Upon his retirement from the BWA, Graz wrote, “Thank you for your convictions, for your intelligent way of expressing your faith, and the values in which you believe without destroying bridges between yourself and others.”
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. Because of his tireless advocacy for human rights and religious freedom, the BWA named its annual human rights award in his honor, with ten individuals receiving the Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award since 2006.
His tireless effort and commitment were matched only by his love for people and unwavering optimism even in the face of great challenge.
“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 traveled with him as part of a BWA team that I did not see him received with great joy.”
His ministry took him around the world from African villages to the Oval Office. His friendships included globally-recognized faith leaders like Rev. Billy Graham as well as leaders of state such as former United States President Jimmy Carter. Upon his retirement from the BWA in 2007, Graham wrote, “Your strong leadership and personal faith has been an inspiration and blessing to me.” Carter shared the following, “As I think of all the BWA has accomplished for Baptists around the world in the past twenty years, I know that your gifted leadership has helped to make it all possible. You have served a great organization with conviction and honor.”
After his “retirement,” Lotz continued to travel and preach in addition to serving as Senior Pastor of Tremont Temple Baptist Church in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. He also remained active in the life and ministry of the BWA, including providing encouragement to the organization’s newest leader.
“Denton Lotz was one of the most significant Baptist leaders of the second half of the twentieth century. His profound leadership touched countless lives around the world as he championed evangelism, religious freedom, and the ministry of the global Baptist family,” said Rev. Dr. Elijah Brown, BWA General Secretary. “From my first individual meeting with Denton in 2007 until the present, he offered regular and meaningful encouragement and insight. To Janice and all of the Lotz family, I stand with you as does all of the Baptist World Alliance in mourning and in recognition of a life of incredible service. Thank you for sharing Denton with us. While today I feel a keen sense of loss in Denton’s passing, I believe his leadership and legacy will continue to shape and mold the Baptist World Alliance for years to come.”
Rev. Lotz is survived by his loving wife, Janice, their three children, and many grandchildren. A memorial service has been scheduled for Friday, April 26, at 12 p.m. 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. Details will be forthcoming.
On the final day of the 2022 Baptist World Alliance (BWA) Annual Gathering, the BWA presented the 2022 Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award to Daniel L. Buttry. Established in 2006, the annual award is given by the BWA for significant and effective activities to secure, protect, restore or preserve human rights.
Considering himself a “Peace Warrior,” Buttry has devoted his life to conflict transformation, nonviolence, and peacebuilding. A Baptist pastor, denominational leader, and missionary, he is a global advocate in the ministry of reconciliation.
“Thank you so much for this very special award,” said Buttry. “I am humbled especially as I worked with Denton Lotz on a major Baptist body mediation, and as I have worked closely with some other awardees, especially Wati Aier, Gustavo Parajón, and Glen Stassen. I am honored to be in their company.”
Receiving the award in Birmingham was a meaningful experience for Buttry with a poignant connection to his participation in a Baptist Peace Fellowship gathering years before.
“The last time I was in Birmingham was on the 30th Anniversary of the Birmingham chapter of the Civil Rights Movement. In our Baptist Peace Fellowship gathering, we met Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, the leader of the struggle in this city and the one who invited Dr. King here,” said Buttry. “I have a photo that has been over my desk since then of Dr. King, Ralph Abernathy, and Fred Shuttlesworth leading a march in their ‘going to jail’ clothes. As you know, Dr. King ended up arrested and penned his amazing ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ not far from here. You could say these brothers have been among that great cloud of witnesses inspiring me as I’ve run my leg of the race.”
Buttry has facilitated mediation efforts around the world, especially in Myanmar and India. From 1989-1992, he served as the only non-Burmese citizen of the Burma Peace Committee which mediated between the military government and the ethnic insurgent groups. He also headed a team of international peacemakers from USA, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and Thailand that supported the peace process in Myanmar.
Since 1996, he has worked to bring about peace for the Nagas in northern India and northwest Myanmar. He mediated between warring Naga insurgent groups that resulted in an informal cease-fire and a Covenant of Reconciliation. He trained Naga leaders in negotiation so they could enter into political talks with the Government of India, and worked with Naga NGOs, churches, and civic organizations to develop a nonviolent peace movement called “The Journey of Conscience” which changed the public dynamics of the conflict between the Nagas and the Indian Government.
In addition to his mediation work, Buttry has had significant global impact as a trainer and mentor. He has led trainings in each of the six BWA regions around the world, reaching from Bolivia to Bosnia and Ukraine to the United States. Traveling to more than 35 countries, he has helped individuals, churches, and communities pursue peace through Gospel-centered conflict transformation and interfaith mediation. This legacy of training and equipping was further solidified by Central Seminary with the launch of The Buttry Center for Peace and Nonviolence in May 2018. The Buttry Center’s mission is to theologically engage, educate, and connect people of faith in seeking justice, nurturing peace, and caring for creation.
“So many of God’s people invested in me, and it has been a joy to invest into the rising generations of leaders, especially Baptists but many other Christians as well as people of other religions. Human rights, peace, and justice are not Baptist matters alone. They are human matters, and – if we look at Jesus – they are God’s matters as well,” said Buttry. “So my hope and joy is to see a bit of what some of these younger leaders are already doing in the areas of peace, justice, and human rights. They are doing amazing work around the world, and someday some of them might stand before the BWA to receive this very award.”
Buttry has authored numerous books on peacemaking, lectured and preached extensively, and helped organize three global Baptist peace conferences. He has helped build a more just and peaceful world through his role as Global Consultant for Peace and Justice for International Ministries of American Baptist Churches, on staff with the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, and as a founder of Interfaith Partners in Detroit, Michigan, USA.
Throughout his ministry, he has given honor to the many people who have served alongside him, most notably his wife Sharon who has co-labored with him for many years.
“I thank my wife Sharon who easily could have been a co-recipient of this award with me,” said Buttry. “Sharon has been my companion on the journey of faith and service for over 50 years, including some of our global peace and justice work.”
The award selection process was led by BWA Awards Committee Chair Thomas Klammt, Committee Vice-Chair Fernando Brandão, and committee members Kwame Adzam, Samson Fatokun, Pau Khan Khai, Sylvester King, Harry Lucenay, MDR Mayuranjana, Curtis Ramsey-Lucas, Lina Sawan, Vee Tetseo, Elijah Wanje, and Anslem Warrick.
In alignment with our commitment to respond to needs through aid, relief, and community development and to defend religious freedom, human rights, and justice, the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) is committed to recognizing global leaders who are making an impact in these key ministry areas. To that end, the BWA is now accepting nominations for the annual Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award to be presented at the BWA Annual Gathering in July 2022.
Established in 2006, the award is given by the BWA for significant and effective action and activities to secure, protect, restore, or preserve human rights. It includes all rights stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other declared rights by United Nations bodies such as the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, and the International Court of Justice.
“Every human being is created in the image of God. As Baptists, we want and need to reflect God’s love and care for each and every person. We do so by advocating and mobilizing for religious freedom, human rights, and justice around the world,” said BWA Awards Committee Chairperson Thomas Klammt. “The Awards Committee is privileged to support these causes by recognizing one Baptist for his or her significant effort to protect or restore human rights. Through the nomination process, the global Baptist family can help us find worthy candidates, and in doing so, support their ministries and encourage many others to make the world a better place to the glory of God.”
Named in recognition of the longstanding human rights advocacy of the BWA General Secretary Emeritus Denton Lotz and his wife Janice, the award is presented annually to an individual who embodies similar passion, leadership, and service. Past awardees include Burchel Taylor, Jamaica (2019); Christer Daelander, Sweden (2018); Cynthia Maung, Myanmar/Thailand (2017); Ilie Coada, Moldova (2014); Glen Stassen, USA (2013); Edgar Palacios, El Salvador (2012); Wati Aier, India (2011); Leena Lavanya, India (2009); Dennis Datta, Bangladesh (2008); João and Nora Matwawana, Angola (2007); and Gustavo Parajón, Nicaragua (2006).
A global call for nominations is now open with nomination forms accessible at BaptistWorld.org/human-rights-award. Previous nominees who did not win are eligible to be nominated again. Nominations should be submitted no later than November 30, 2021. The BWA Awards Committee – comprised of Baptist leaders from around the world – will then confidentially review nominees and recommend a recipient to the BWA Executive Committee who will then deliberate and act upon the recommendation.
“It is encouraging to see Baptists around the world making an eternal impact as advocates for human rights. It is an honor for the BWA to be able to present an award that recognizes leadership in this critical area and pays tribute to the incredible leadership and legacy of Denton and Janice Lotz,” said Elijah Brown, BWA General Secretary & CEO. “We look forward to receiving nominations from each of the regions in our global network and the opportunity to recognize another individual in the storied history of Baptist human rights leaders.”
In conjunction with the 22ndBaptist World Congress, the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) presented the 2020 Congress Quinquennial Human Rights Award to Raúl Scialabba. The BWA has a long history of advocating for religious freedom, human rights, and justice.
Dr. Raúl Scialabba has been involved in the life of Baptist churches since his childhood and has been a leader within the Baptist World Alliance for decades, including service as a BWA Vice President and a member of numerous executive committees. He also served on the BWA Commission on Religious Freedom, the Freedom and Justice Commission, and the Special Commission on Baptists Against Racism. He is currently serving as a trustee for the BWA’s 21Wilberforce Global Freedom Center.
Dr. Scialabba has been a defender of religious freedom in Argentina and throughout Latin America. In addition to being a voice for Baptists in different areas of the Argentine national government, he helped create and lead CALIR, Consejo Argentino para la Libertad Religiosa (Argentine Council for Religious Freedom). In 2019, he worked in conjunction with BWA General Secretary Elijah Brown to liberate Gregory José Pérez, Executive Director of Unión Nacional Bautista de Jóvenes de Venezuela, who was unjustly incarcerated by the Maduro regime. Alongside his legal efforts, Dr. Scialabba raised funds for “Arepitas de Vida,” a ministry providing meals and resources for thousands of needy children in Venezuela.
“It is truly my honor to welcome a new leader to this legacy of leadership in the area of human rights,” said Tomбs Mackey, BWA President. “It is particularly special to me because of the long friendship I have shared with this man and the impact of his life and ministry that I have witnessed firsthand.”
As a representative of CALIR, Dr. Scialabba participated in the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom Forum in both 2018 and 2019, an international event which gathered hundreds of government representatives, religious leaders, survivors of religious persecutions, and members of civil society for the advancement of religious freedom.
When accepting the award, Scialabba said, “Ultimately our desire for religious freedom is nothing more or less than our desire to faithfully follow our Lord Jesus Christ. As Baptists we must treasure our commitment to religious liberty, which has been one of our standards for more than 400 years. We must be, as Baptists, the voice of the voiceless.”
Awarded every five years, previous recipients include Corneille Gato Munyamasoko (Rwanda), Denton Lotz (USA), Lauran Bethell (USA), Saw Simon (Myanmar), and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter (USA).
Click the image above to see a video of the award presentation in English.
Today we commend Christians in the Soviet Union, and especially Baptists, for their positive contributions, faithfully made in season and out, to their country’s morality, culture and history.
For many years the Baptist World Alliance has appealed to the government of the USSR to permit a larger measure of religious freedom for its people.
At this General Council of the Baptist World Alliance, meeting in Nassau, the Bahamas, July 1988, we:
Acknowledge, with thanksgiving to God, a widening degree of openness afforded to all citizens by the government of the Soviet Union which has licensed the printing and importation of a substantial number of Bibles and religious books and permitted Baptists to take steps toward audiovisual production;
Commend this openness and express to fellow Baptists in the USSR heartfelt and prayerful support, especially as they move toward the realization of their long-sought vision for a seminary for those called of God to proclaim the Word both to believers and unbelievers in their homeland; and
Express the hope that this liberalizing spirit will continue to the realization of a new law about freedom of conscience for all citizens, thus facilitating the availability of Bibles, amnesty for all prisoners of conscience and the implementation of constitutional guarantees in the matters of ministry and religious training, especially for children and young people.
Original Source Bibliography: Lotz, Denton, editor. Baptist World Alliance 1988 Yearbook: Minutes of the General Council Meeting and Directory. McLean, VA: Baptist World Alliance, 1988.
Original Source Footnote/Endnote: Denton Lotz, ed., Baptist World Alliance 1988 Yearbook: Minutes of the General Council Meeting and Directory (McLean, VA: Baptist World Alliance, 1988), p. 68.
Online Document Full Citation: BWA General Council Resolution 1988.1 Openness in the Soviet Union; https://o7e.4a3.myftpupload.com/resolutions.
In-text Online Document Citation: (BWA General Council Resolution 1988.1).