Rankin says missionaries won't be fired
February 15 2002 by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard

Rankin says missionaries won't be fired | Friday, Feb. 15, 2002

Friday, Feb. 15, 2002

Rankin says missionaries won't be fired

By Mark Wingfield Texas Baptist Standard

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Missionaries who do not agree with every detail of the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message will not be fired or forced to resign, Jerry Rankin told editors of state Baptist newspapers Feb. 13.

Rankin, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) International Mission Board (IMB), said some stateside Baptists and overseas missionaries have misunderstood the intention of his recent letter to missionaries regarding the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message.

Rankin's letter to the IMB's 5,100 missionaries serving worldwide asked them to sign a document affirming the controversial faith statement adopted by the SBC.

The revised faith statement was adopted as an "instrument of doctrinal accountability" by the SBC but has been called an un-Baptist creed by critics.

Issues of concern include statements prohibiting women from serving as pastors and declaring wives should "graciously submit" to their husbands. Another concern is the removal of a passage in the SBC's previous confessional document that says Jesus is the criterion by which the Bible should be interpreted.

Rankin told the editors all IMB missionaries will be given latitude to note areas of disagreement with the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message. This is the same procedure through which 1,500 missionaries have been appointed since the faith statement was changed, he said.

It is "pure speculation" to assume that missionaries who do not sign the affirmation of the Baptist Faith & Message will be terminated or forced to resign, Rankin told the editors gathered for their annual meeting.

"If one doesn't sign it, our regional staff will counsel with them," he said.

In an interview after the briefing with editors, Rankin further clarified this statement to acknowledge that exceptions will be allowed. Missionaries are not mandated to agree with every word of the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message, he said.

Rankin took exception with those who contend the IMB has reversed its policy on missionary affirmation of the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message. In January 2001, IMB trustees voted to require administrators, but not missionaries, to sign a document affirming the doctrinal statement. For missionaries, the IMB would continue the longstanding practice of discussing their theological beliefs during the appointment process and noting any areas of disagreement with the Baptist Faith & Message.

Trustees have not changed that policy, Rankin said. "We want to avoid our board taking action and reversing the policy. ... This is simply an administrative initiative."

By making the request himself rather than trustees making the request, the IMB avoids enforcing a creed, Rankin said.

IMB missionaries are not being asked to sign the Baptist Faith & Message, Rankin said. Rather, they are being asked to sign a statement affirming the Baptist Faith & Message.

That is a significant difference, he said, because it means missionaries are not asked to sign a creed. "We are not asking them to violate the integrity of their convictions," he said. "The whole matter of creedalism doesn't stick."

The 2000 Baptist Faith & Message, he added, "is not a litmus test or creed imposed on anyone."

He offered this example: "Some have said, 'I believe the statement on women ... is not how I interpret Scripture.' They sign that. That's what we want to know."

With such exceptions noted, the missionary will be asked to acknowledge that he will carry out his work "in accordance with" the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message.

In the interview, Rankin said missionaries will not be fired for noting their exceptions. However, he told the larger group IMB leaders have not determined what the consequences would be for missionaries who cannot sign the statement of affirmation.

"We haven't talked about the consequences," he said. "We may have to deal with that in the future."

Rankin was asked in the session if he knew of any missionaries planning to resign rather than sign the affirmation. While not directly answering that question, he said he hopes 100 percent of missionaries will sign. But he added, "That's kind of na�ve."

He hopes no "minor detail of disagreement" would prevent someone called by God from fulfilling his or her missionary assignment, he said. "To me, it is untenable that a person would be disobedient to their call."

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2/15/2002 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard | with 0 comments
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