IMB missionaries must work 'in accordance with' BF&M
January 26 2001 by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press

IMB missionaries must work 'in accordance with' BF&M | Friday, Jan. 26, 2001

Friday, Jan. 26, 2001

IMB missionaries must work 'in accordance with' BF&M

By Bob Allen Associated Baptist Press AUGUSTA, Ga. - Nearly 5,000 Southern Baptist international missionaries won't be forced to sign their denomination's new faith statement but must commit to working "in accordance with and not contrary to" its teachings. International Mission Board (IMB) trustees voted Jan. 24 in Augusta, Ga., to "wholeheartedly" affirm the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) as revised by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) last June as the "standard for carrying out the programs and ministries" of the 155-year-old agency based in Richmond, Va.

The board declined, however, to end its tradition of allowing some missionaries to serve even if they disagree on minor points, as long as they teach "in accordance with and not contrary to" the confessional document even if they disagree with minor points.

A new IMB policy statement puts into writing a long-standing practice in processing missionary candidates. Under the policy, missionaries and staff are asked if they have read and agree with the current BF&M. If they answer "no," they must explain any area of difference.

Either way, they must sign an affirmation that reads: "In accountability to the International Mission Board and Southern Baptists, I agree to carry out my responsibilities in accordance with and not contrary to the current 'Baptist Faith and Message' as adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention."

"That is not a new policy," said Allen Carter, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Bel Air, Md., and chairman of the trustee administration committee. "That has been taking place for some number of years."

The Jan. 24 trustee action came in response to a motion at last year's SBC annual meeting that all denominational employees not be required to sign the BF&M. While convention boards must consider referred motions, they are not limited to voting yes or no. Other agencies considering the referral have opted instead to require employee adherence to what has been described as an instrument of "doctrinal accountability."

IMB trustees, however, described their new policy statement as an affirmation of the BF&M, board policy and current personnel, who will not be required to sign the statements.

Trustees, who meet every other month, discussed the issue at length before ultimately deciding there is no need to change the current practice, said board chairman Tim McCoy, pastor of Ingleside Baptist Church in Macon, Ga.

"Our process has served us well in the past," McKoy said in an interview.

McCoy said that given the IMB's track record both for appointments and in dealing with theological aberrations that crop up after missionaries are on the field, trustees decided that the current practice is adequate.

Before the unanimous vote approving the action, IMB President Jerry Rankin decried "time-consuming processes and restrictive policies" that might hinder missionary appointments.

"By what criteria should anyone be deprived of hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ?" Rankin asked. "By what justification can any people group or nation be denied the opportunity to know of God's love and Christ's saving power?"

The BF&M, Southern Baptists' official faith statement first adopted in 1925, underwent its first major rewrite since 1963 last summer. Some changes, including views that the Bible forbids women to serve as senior pastors and removal of a reference to Jesus Christ as the criterion for interpreting Scripture, have drawn criticism.

A small number of churches have cut SBC ties over the issue, and the denomination's largest state affiliate, the Baptist General Convention of Texas, reduced funding to the national body, citing disagreement with the faith statement.

But Rankin said in an interview that when missionary candidates in the past have indicated problems with the BF&M, it commonly was over articles that most Southern Baptists would consider secondary or non-essential doctrines. For example, he said, occasionally a prospective missionary will come from a church that has elders, but the BF&M says the biblical offices of church leaders are limited to pastors and deacons.

Rankin said that unlike other employees, senior-level administrators such as vice presidents and regional leaders would be required to affirm the BF&M. He said individuals currently in those posts have already said they have no problem with the current edition of the doctrinal statement.

Also during the two-day trustee meeting held in Augusta, Ga., the IMB commissioned 50 new missionaries, increasing the denomination's total international missions force to 4,924.

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1/26/2001 12:00:00 AM by Bob Allen , Associated Baptist Press | with 0 comments
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