Two blows against 'Baptistness'
February 8 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Two blows against 'Baptistness' | Friday, Feb. 8, 2002

Friday, Feb. 8, 2002

Two blows against 'Baptistness'

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

It was a slap felt around the world, felt in Ecuador and Italy, in East Africa and East Asia, in northern mountains and southern seas.

It was a stinging blow to the spirits of missionaries who have given their lives in service to Christ, who have left home and family and American comforts to live in the villages of underdeveloped nations and the teeming cities of overdeveloped ones.

It was a breach of trust to trustworthy men and women who long ago passed rigorous examinations of their theological steadfastness, emotional stability and sense of calling, and who have proved their mettle through years of faithful service.

It was a new hoop for them to jump through, like circus lions, for the satisfaction of a few. It was a "request" that sounded like an ultimatum, a firm letter from International Mission Board (IMB) president Jerry Rankin, stating his desire that every missionary should take pen in hand to pledge allegiance to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M).

Never mind that IMB trustees voted last year not to require such a thing, so long as missionaries work within the parameters of the statement. Never mind that Rankin himself professes to believe there are no issues of contrarian teachings to be found.

Some people have raised suspicions, he said, and the only way to put them to rest is for every missionary to affirm the document that most Southern Baptist agencies are now using as a requirement for employment.

"Failure to ask for this affirmation is creating suspicion that there are IMB personnel whose beliefs and practices are inconsistent with those represented by Southern Baptists," he wrote.

He added that this suspicion could "generate needless controversy, erode support and distract us from the focus on our task at such a critical time of opportunity around the world."

This statement seems most curious, for it is precisely this new insistence on total loyalty to the 2000 BF&M that is generating needless controversy, eroding support and distracting us from the focus on our task at this critical time of opportunity around the world.

Rankin went on to say that signing the BF&M would protect missionaries "from charges of heresy behind your back while you are overseas and unable to defend yourself." I hear many things from many people, but I have never heard anyone bring charges of heresy against even one of our current IMB missionaries.

Incredibly, Rankin said this measure would also "disarm those who may be trying to use the BF&M to divide Southern Baptists." This makes no sense at all, since it is clear that the newly revised BF&M - and efforts to bind Baptists to it - are themselves primary sources of division among Southern Baptists.

When Christ-following missionary veterans must prove their trustworthiness by signing a clearly creedal statement, we have reached a sad state of affairs.

And I am sad.

Woefully sad.

For the past week I have alternated between grief and anger, but the grief is stronger. Many IMB missionaries, especially the more recent appointees, will have no qualms about signing the statement, but some will find themselves caught in a terrible quandary. I grieve for missionaries who are agonizing over a difficult decision: do they fudge a little and sign a statement they cannot fully endorse so they can remain on the field in response to God's call? Or do they accept the fact that they are no longer considered trustworthy to serve through the IMB, and seek other venues of service?

It shouldn't be this way.

A second blow to "Baptistness" was felt almost simultaneously in Missouri, where SBC Executive Committee president Morris Chapman sent an open letter to Baptists who are planning to form a new state convention. Agenda-laden conservatives won a series of elections in Missouri over the past few years, creating such a climate of change that five state institutions declared their boards self-perpetuating and the executive director resigned. New convention officials immediately escrowed the institutions' funds and twisted the meaning of the state convention's constitution in order to exclude churches that no longer have ties to the SBC, despite their historic ties and continued support of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC).

More than 100 churches, recognizing that there is no future for them in the MBC, announced plans to form a new convention that would continue to support the state Baptist institutions, and would provide giving plans that would include provisions for continued support of the SBC.

Chapman's letter said it was unlikely that the SBC would accept any funds channeled through the new convention, despite the SBC's warm acceptance of new conservative conventions in Texas and Virginia. The new Missouri convention is not considered to be "in friendly cooperation" with the SBC, and therefore not a fitting partner.

It is appropriate to accept money from the new conventions in Texas and Virginia, Chapman said, because the historic conventions in those states had "corrupted the historic meaning of the Cooperative Program" by providing channels for churches to bypass the SBC in their missions giving.

By the same definition, of course, North Carolina has also "corrupted the historic meaning of the Cooperative Program" by allowing giving options.

Yet, the SBC continues to take mega-money from these conventions, despite the "corrupted" nature of their Cooperative Program participation.

Can you say "inconsistent?"

Can you say "unBaptistic?"

Can you say "have mercy on us, O God?"

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
2/8/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
Filed under:

Blog post currently doesn't have any comments.