Texas explores options for missionaries
February 22 2002 by Mark Wingfield , Associated Baptist Press

Texas explores options for missionaries | Friday, Feb. 22, 2002

Friday, Feb. 22, 2002

Texas explores options for missionaries

By Mark Wingfield Associated Baptist Press

DALLAS, Texas - A Texas Baptist committee has set up an e-mail address to collect confidential information from Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) missionaries who are concerned about signing an affirmation of the 2000 "Baptist Faith and Message."

The Missions Review and Initiative Committee of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) is coordinating the e-mail survey. It was announced in a widely circulated e-mail written by Keith Parks, a member of that committee and former president of the SBC Foreign Mission Board as well as former coordinator of global missions for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

The committee's request was sparked by news that Jerry Rankin, president of the SBC International Mission Board (IMB), has asked all IMB missionaries to sign an affirmation of the current "Baptist Faith and Message."

The BGCT and some other Baptist bodies have not accepted that faith statement, which was drafted by an SBC committee without input from state Baptist conventions. Common concerns include charges that the statement elevates loyalty to the Bible over loyalty to Jesus, downplays Baptist doctrines of the priesthood of the believer and autonomy of the local church and defines itself as an "instrument of doctrinal accountability."

Exactly what will happen to IMB missionaries who do not sign the required affirmation is unclear. Rankin told Baptist newspaper editors Feb. 13 that missionaries were invited to note areas of disagreement and, if they do so, will be counseled by regional IMB leaders. While denying that missionaries would be fired for disagreeing with points of the faith statement, he said IMB administrators had not yet determined how to handle such situations.

Rankin told the editors he hopes 100 percent of IMB missionaries will sign the affirmation.

Initial reports from missionaries outside the United States indicate that is unlikely, however. Talk of at least some missionary resignations continues to circulate in e-mails and private conversations.

Parks reported that in the first few days after his e-mail began circulating, "a pretty steady stream of folks" wrote to the committee at newmissions@bgct.org.

The main thing, Parks said, is "we wanted to say to missionaries who share our convictions, 'Don't feel forced to compromise your own understanding of what it means to be a Baptist.'"

A Feb. 19 Baptist Press story quoted Rankin as downplaying the efforts of the Texas missions committee. Rankin told Baptist Press that Texas and moderate Baptist leaders "are going to be surprised when so few, if any, IMB missionaries take them up on their offer of an alternate support base."

Rankin also said he believes some are presenting a "distortion of facts ... to advance their anti-SBC agenda."

"The presumption seems to be made that it is the IMB administration and trustees who are attacking missionaries," Rankin said. "To the contrary, we have absolute confidence in the doctrinal integrity of our missionaries and their commitment to Southern Baptist convictions as outlined in the 'Baptist Faith and Message.' After all, their own statement of beliefs were examined thoroughly and they affirmed the 'Baptist Faith and Message' when they were appointed."

"To dispel any question by others, we are just giving them an opportunity to reaffirm what they have already done and said," he said. "Most of our missionaries understand that this request was to give protection and credibility to them so we can get on with our task."

In the e-mail announcing the electronic address, Parks said: "All of us who value our heritage of 'no creed but the Bible' are incensed by this demand for creedal conformity. This is one of the most extreme (although expected) actions in the ongoing destruction of cooperative Baptist mission efforts to which many of us have given our lives, prayers and money."

Some IMB missionaries will "refuse to compromise their belief in the priesthood of the believer," Parks wrote. "Texas Baptists, and many other Baptists, refuse to abandon these missionaries to the unacceptable choice of compromising either their convictions or their calling.

Information gathered through the e-mail address will help the BGCT committee explore ways to create a "genuine Baptist option" for these missionaries, he wrote. "We are confident that our Baptist people will respond to a cry for help from the missionaries as they always have."

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2/22/2002 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments
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