BGCT to help IMB missionaries who won't sign BF&M
March 1 2002 by Marv Knox , Texas Baptist Standard

BGCT to help IMB missionaries who won't sign BF&M | Friday, March 1, 2002
  • The transition fund, which will "meet the needs of these missionaries at this difficult time in their lives."
  • Instructions telling the BGCT Administrative Committee to "establish a way for Texas Baptists to contribute to that fund."
  • A directive that the BGCT Executive Board staff "actively seek churches and institutions that will assist in caring for these missionaries."
  • A mandate for the BGCT to "work with other Baptist groups who share this concern."
  • Instructions back to the Missions Review and Initiatives Committee to "explore positive and proactive ways in which the churches and institutions of the BGCT can encourage and assist these missionaries to express their God-given calling." This report is to be delivered when the Executive Board meets Sept. 24.

    Larry Cox, IMB vice president for mobilization, responded to the BGCT action in a Baptist Press story.

    "We regret that these activists have chosen to misrepresent what is happening between Southern Baptist missionaries and their leadership," Cox said. "They are manufacturing a crisis where none exists."

    Cox said SBC missionaries have been signing affirmations of the BF&M "for decades."

    "Asking missionaries to compare their personal beliefs to the Baptist Faith and Message is not a departure from historic Southern Baptists practice," he said. "It certainly does not amount to imposing a creed on any missionary."

    The Missions Review and Initiatives Committee - which follows a previous missions study committee - did not intend to issue its first report until September, said committee Chairman Clyde Glazener, pastor of Gambrell Street Baptist Church in Fort Worth.

    However, "Jerry Rankin's letter put us on special response alert," Glazener said.

    That alert has been heightened by testimony from the mission field, said Keith Parks, a member of the missions committee and former leader of both the SBC Foreign Mission Board and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship global missions program.

    In the previous two weeks, more than 60 missionary couples have contacted the committee through confidential e-mails to indicate they cannot sign the 2000 BF&M affirmation form.

    Surrounded by 11 current or former foreign missionaries, Parks read from several letters from missionaries. The letters detailed grief felt at being forced to choose between conscience and calling, broken trust between IMB administrators and missionaries, as well as shock at "tyranny of control and manipulation by fear."

    "Before we meet again, some missionaries may be out of a job, out of a salary, out of a place to live," Parks said. "We don't believe any Baptist would want this to happen."

    The relief fund will not be limited to missionaries from Texas, Parks said. However, it is to be used for cases "specifically related to this issue," not resignations related to other topics.

    In a news conference, Glazener and Parks said the recommendations do not provide for the BGCT to become a missions-sending agency, although the Missions Review and Initiatives Committee will consider its options leading up to its September report.

    Parks said the committee currently can offer no specifics about those possibilities. But he said he's convinced Texas Baptists will engage in missions. "Because it's so basic to us, I'm confident Texas Baptists will continue to be part of a global missions effort."

    The new fund will not provide salaries for missionaries to stay on the field under a different banner, he added.

    "This is for transition of missionaries who feel they must come home," he said, noting it could help pay for "housing, food, schooling, grief counseling, whatever is needed."

    "We see this as a transition into whatever," he added. "And the 'whatever' is what we'll present in September."

  • Friday, March 1, 2002

    BGCT to help IMB missionaries who won't sign BF&M

    By Marv Knox Texas Baptist Standard

    DALLAS, Texas - The Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) has established a transition fund to help missionaries who may lose or relinquish their ministries rather than affirm a new "instrument of doctrinal accountability" required by the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board (IMB).

    The fund is the centerpiece of the BGCT's five-part response to the mission board's requirement that its missionaries affirm in writing the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) statement. The fund will help the missionaries with such immediate needs as housing, food, schooling and grief counseling.

    The BGCT Executive Board approved the package of responses with one dissenting vote Feb. 26 in Dallas. Then the fund received an immediate boost. Eleven prominent Texas Baptists stood to say they and seven colleagues already have committed $1 million to the fund, challenging other individuals and churches to respond in kind.

    The missions issue surfaced in January, when IMB President Jerry Rankin asked all 5,100 missionaries appointed by the board to affirm the controversial 2000 BF&M doctrinal statement or explain why not.

    About 1,500 missionaries appointed since the 2000 BF&M was adopted already have affirmed the document. But Rankin's mandate reversed policy for about 3,500 veteran missionaries, who were examined before appointment and had not been required to sign an affirmation.

    Rankin's requirement triggered protests from missionaries on the field and churches stateside. The 2000 BF&M has been rejected twice by the BGCT, which has affirmed the more-inclusive 1963 BF&M.

    Shortly after Rankin's announcement, the BGCT Missions Review and Initiatives Committee - which had been created to study the state convention's missions relationships - initiated a series of called meetings to develop a response.

    The committee's report came midway through the Executive Board meeting, but the topic dominated discussion much earlier.

    BGCT President Bob Campbell compared the missionaries' situation to that of three ancient Hebrew young men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo, who refused to bow down and worship an idol of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. Instead, they were thrown into a furnace but were protected by God.

    "There has been an idol set up" in the Southern Baptist Convention, Campbell said, referencing the 2000 BF&M.

    The missionaries have been tempted to "bow down" by signing a creed, the 2000 BF&M, in order to protect their jobs and reputations, he said.

    But like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo, some missionaries have resisted, Campbell said. "Some brave men and women have not bowed down. ... Some brave men and women have said, 'Even if it costs us our jobs, we will not sign.'"

    Campbell sang the first verse of a 19th century hymn that begins, "My faith has found a resting place, not in device nor creed."

    He paused near the end of that line, and the Executive Board audience joined with him to sing "nor creed. ..." Together, he and board members sang to the end of the verse: "I need no other argument; I need no other plea. It is enough that Jesus died and that he died for me."

    Looking to church history, Campbell said: "Martin Luther did not want to break with the Roman Catholic Church; he was thrown out. There are men and women who do not want to break with Southern Baptist missions, but they might be thrown out. Will you help them? God help us."

    BGCT Executive Director Charles Wade said Rankin had attempted to "soften the tone" of his letter to the missionaries in later comments but had not been convincing.

    "We have no reason to feel comfortable that the missionaries (who refuse to sign) are not now under serious attack from their own administrators and board," Wade said. "We have reason to believe the IMB trustees will press to remove these missionaries if the president does not do so.

    "We would be happy if the IMB should respond to our call for them to pull back from this forcing upon faithful, long-term missionaries a confession of faith which is being used as a creed," Wade said. "But we must put in place a response mechanism now."

    Since the board will not meet again until May, fired or resigned missionaries would not be able to wait for a later response, he said.

    "There are many questions and not enough answers today," Wade said. "But the call to stand by those who are being asked to put either their calling or conscience at risk cannot go unanswered.

    "We must provide places of refuge and renewal, places of warm acceptance and dependable support, places where dreams of serving God can become reality again. I believe Texas Baptist churches and people want to do this, and they want us to help them find a way to do it."

    The Missions Review and Initiatives Committee presented a five-part recommendation for helping the missionaries. The response includes:

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    3/1/2002 12:00:00 AM by Marv Knox , Texas Baptist Standard | with 0 comments
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