Retired missionary recalls Rankin's no-sign pledge
April 4 2002 by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard

Retired missionary recalls Rankin's no-sign pledge | Friday, April 5, 2002

Friday, April 5, 2002

Retired missionary recalls Rankin's no-sign pledge

By Mark Wingfield Texas Baptist Standard

EL PASO, Texas - As recently as December 2000, Jerry Rankin pledged to a retired missionary living in El Paso that as long as Rankin is president of the International Mission Board (IMB), no missionary would be required to sign a doctrinal statement.

Now that retired missionary, Siegfried Enge, is wondering why Rankin in January declared IMB missionaries must sign an affirmation of the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message (BF&M).

In a Dec. 8, 2000, letter to Rankin, Enge recounted meeting Rankin at the Baptist Spanish Publishing House in El Paso in 1993. "I asked you about missionaries possibly being obligated to sign a doctrinal statement. ... I remember your clear and unequivocal answer: 'As long as I am president of the IMB, no missionary will be obligated to sign a doctrinal statement.'"

On Dec. 19, Rankin wrote back to Enge, confirming the former missionary's recollection of that visit.

"You are correct - Baptists are not a creedal people," Rankin wrote to Enge. "Asking people to sign the BF&M would make it a creed. No one is proposing that be done. And I stand by my statement made during my visit to El Paso, although it was probably unwise for me to make such a statement since I do not have the authority to prohibit our board from requiring it if they should so choose. Fortunately, that does not seem to be their inclination."

After Rankin wrote to missionaries around the world this January telling them of his administrative action requiring them to sign an affirmation of the 2000 BF&M, Enge wrote to Rankin once again.

"I am totally surprised and shocked by this request," Enge wrote. "It certainly does not accord with what you wrote to me in December 2000.

"It is one thing to ask missionary candidates to draft their own doctrinal statements and then to signify that they have read the BF&M 2000 and indicate any disagreements with it, and another thing to ask them to sign their affirmation. Signing an affirmation or signing the BF&M is the same thing."

Rankin and other IMB officials have drawn a distinction between asking missionaries to sign a statement about the Baptist Faith & Message versus asking them to sign the Baptist Faith & Message itself. This is the line between using the faith statement as a creed, Rankin said.

In the latest letter from Rankin to Enge, dated March 4, Rankin wrote: "Our missionaries are not being required or coerced to sign a creed, nor has there been a reversal of our policy not requiring them to sign the 2000 BF&M. ... It can hardly be considered imposing a creed when they are just being asked to affirm what Southern Baptists have said is what they believe and work in accord with it."

Enge and his wife, Donna, served with the IMB 32 years, including 19 years at the Baptist Spanish Publishing House.

A spokesman for the IMB said the letters do not change what Rankin and other IMB officials have said.

"Our policy has not changed. Missionaries are not 'obligated' or 'mandated' to 'sign the BF&M,' just as Dr. Rankin said they would not be. Missionaries have only been 'requested' to 'affirm' the BF&M, with complete freedom to note any exceptions, just like when they were appointed," said spokesman Mark Kelly. "The only difference between the situation now and the situations that prevailed under previous administrations is that the Baptist Faith & Message has been revised during this administration."

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4/4/2002 11:00:00 PM by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard | with 0 comments
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