Texas missionary's e-mail factored in Rankin's mandate on BF&M
May 31 2002 by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard

Texas missionary's e-mail factored in Rankin's mandate on BF&M | Friday, May 31, 2002

Friday, May 31, 2002

Texas missionary's e-mail factored in Rankin's mandate on BF&M

By Mark Wingfield Texas Baptist Standard

AUSTIN, Texas - When one Texas missionary received the January mandate from International Mission Board (IMB) President Jerry Rankin to affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message (BF&M), he felt a burden for pain he might have brought to his fellow missionaries.

Just a few months earlier, Austin native Scott McIntosh had a telephone conversation with Rankin that foreshadowed what was to come.

McIntosh and his wife, D'Lisa, had served with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) mission board since 1993, first in Africa and then in Scotland. Most recently, he was team leader/strategy coordinator for IMB work in Scotland.

In recent years, McIntosh said, he had grown concerned about the content of SBC Life, a publication of the SBC Executive Committee that is mailed free to pastors, church leaders and missionaries. "It got to where I couldn't open one of them without some kind of sly remark or moderate-bashing going on in the articles," he said.

Acknowledging now that he was naive about denominational politics, he wrote an e-mail last spring to LifeWay Christian Resources, the SBC agency he thought published the magazine. In the e-mail, he asked that his name be removed from the mailing list "due to the constant focus on issues regarding the Baptist Faith & Message and disparaging remarks in article after article about those who hold, incorrectly, a 'low view' of Scripture simply because they do not agree with the changes in the current Baptist Faith & Message."

His brief e-mail further stated: "I realize that your paper aims to meet the needs of the majority of your readers, but there is a significant minority that does not share either the view or the constant barrage of negative remarks about others who also call themselves Southern Baptists."

McIntosh concluded: "We would rather not be a party to such negative journalism in a paper designed for use by all Southern Baptists."

Although McIntosh addressed the e-mail to the wrong entity, it made its way to the Executive Committee and the desk of its president, Morris Chapman. The next thing McIntosh knew, his phone was ringing in Scotland, and Rankin was on the other end of the line.

According to McIntosh's recollection, Rankin told him Chapman had asked Rankin to call McIntosh and find out why he had written the e-mail about SBC Life and where he stood on denominational matters.

A year later, McIntosh still holds no ill will toward Rankin for the call. "Jerry Rankin in my opinion is an honest, fair-minded person. I have never had any bone to pick with Jerry," he said.

The only concern he had was Rankin's closing statement on the phone call: "Now we have to do some damage control, and this might cause the missionaries to have to sign the Baptist Faith & Message."

Fast-forward to January of this year, when Rankin sent out a notice to IMB missionaries that he wanted them to sign an affirmation of the controversial 2000 Baptist Faith & Message. Such administrative action was necessary, Rankin said, because unnamed people were questioning the doctrinal integrity of IMB missionaries and he wanted to lay the matter to rest.

"Imagine the pressure on me when I get the letter in January saying all missionaries have to sign the Baptist Faith & Message," McIntosh said. "I couldn't sleep for three days. I thought, not only have I lost my job, but my actions have caused irreparable damage to the missionaries who felt like I felt and couldn't sign that piece of paper."

IMB spokesman Mark Kelly confirmed that Rankin called McIntosh over the matter, but noted that it is not uncommon for Rankin to call missionaries overseas. "He does it all the time, but not for 'damage control,'" Kelly said.

By Rankin's recollection, he called McIntosh on his own accord, not because he was asked to do so by Chapman, Kelly said.

Rankin's spokesman also confirmed that "this is one of the incidents that precipitated the request for missionaries to affirm the Baptist Faith & Message." However, he added, there was "no reason" for the McIntoshes to resign over it.

"Scott and D'Lisa McIntosh were good missionaries, and in fact their resignation letter did not even mention the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message as any part of the reason for their decision."

McIntosh said he has no animosity toward Rankin or other IMB administrators. But he does have a bone to pick with Chapman.

"As far as Morris Chapman is concerned, that was a cowardly act," McIntosh said. "I grew up in Texas, where men act like men. If you've got something to say, you go straight to that person. You don't go around them to someone else."

This incident demonstrated to McIntosh, he said, that SBC missionaries are not regarded as part of the SBC family but as merely part of an institution that has become politicized. He has yet to hear any response from Chapman or anyone else at the Executive Committee.

Chapman, asked for a response by the Baptist Standard, said he did not believe any direct response to McIntosh was required. "I did not reply to Scott's e-mail because he did not inquire about anything. He expressed an opinion and made a request, which I honored."

Chapman forwarded the e-mail to Rankin, he said, because it had been written by an IMB missionary and he felt Rankin could "relate to Scott personally about the e-mail" and would be "in much better position to respond" to McIntosh's concerns.

"In forwarding the e-mail to Dr. Rankin, I inquired if he thought the type of concern expressed in Scott's e-mail was indicative of how a large number of international missionaries felt. I had every confidence that Dr. Rankin, if he felt a need to do so, would relate to Scott's e-mail in a manner consistent with normal communications between Richmond and missionaries on the field. Therefore, I had no reason to ask him to do anything specific about Scott's e-mail."

Chapman said he believes he and Rankin responded "reasonably and sensibly" to McIntosh. "My e-mail to Jerry Rankin was a courtesy, and I felt I had allowed a course of action that would best serve Scott and the Southern Baptist Convention. I regret that Scott, for some reason, feels otherwise.

"I can assure you he was neither ignored nor, to my knowledge, pressured. The extent of the pressure he may have felt was simply the fact that his e-mail had generated a response from the president of the International Mission Board. It appears to me that Dr. Rankin did exactly what any president of the IMB would do upon learning that a missionary was struggling with an issue within the Southern Baptist family. I assume he called to inquire if he could help in some way."

The call from Rankin, however, was the next-to-last straw for the McIntoshes staying on as IMB missionaries, McIntosh said. The final straw was the mandate to sign an affirmation of the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message, which the McIntoshes would not do.

Both these incidents piled on top of concerns the Texas couple already had been carrying related to the IMB's new strategy called New Directions.

"The philosophy of the IMB has changed," he said. "For years and years, we used to put pastors into small works to build them up and find an indigenous pastor to pastor that work. But in New Directions, they decided to focus almost entirely on church planting, which is not a bad idea. I don't have a lot of problem with that, except for the fact that a lot of people began to feel disenfranchised."

Missionaries like him, he said, "feel like our gifting is in pastoring. The job we felt like we could do the best was taken out of the program."

The McIntoshes didn't like the changes but felt called to stay with the IMB. That's when he took the position as team leader in Scotland.

But finally, this year they confirmed their decision to leave the IMB's service and return to a stateside pastorate. McIntosh now is completing his first month as pastor of Westoak Woods Baptist Church in Austin, Texas.

"I have nothing against the IMB," said the graduate of Howard Payne University and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. "I'm a pastor now, and I plan to support the IMB. I don't plan to support the SBC as a whole."

From his perspective, the mandate for IMB missionaries to sign the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message is not the IMB's fault. Rather, he believes, blame for any trouble caused on the mission field lies at the feet of other SBC leaders.

The McIntoshes were not forced to resign for refusing to sign the Baptist Faith & Message, but only because they had somewhere to go, he said.

"It may have (forced us to resign) had we not found this church. By that time, we didn't have to make the decision."

But there are missionary colleagues who have been forced into other choices, he said.

"Most of the ones I was close to signed it for any number of reasons," McIntosh said. "One person told me they signed it simply because with whom they work it's a non-issue. Others flat out told me they signed it because they couldn't afford to be fired. Others signed it because they believed it. That's fine. I don't have a problem with that.

"The majority I know were very uncomfortable with it but indicated they would not sign the first part (Do you agree with the Baptist Faith & Message?) but would sign the second part (Will you act in accordance with the Baptist Faith & Message?). It's a tough decision. I know some who haven't signed it yet."

Even though it was emotionally painful to leave Scotland, McIntosh said he is glad to be home in Texas.

"I'm very proud to be a Texas Baptist," he said. "They helped put me through school. One of the biggest problems the fundamentalist side has done was they came into Texas and tried to tell everybody what they had to believe. That's kind of bad politics.

"It was a comfort to me over the years to watch Texas Baptists not fold under the pressure. I was very proud to be from Texas, very proud to be a Texas Baptist."

Despite several missionary resignations caused by the IMB requirement, IMB Vice President Avery Willis told agency trustees that the "overwhelming majority" of missionaries will affirm the 2000 Faith and Message. Willis made the announcement at a May 22 meeting where he also announced that 10 missionaries had already resigned, citing the requirement as their reason for doing so.

Copyright (c) Biblical Recorder Inc.
5/31/2002 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield , Texas Baptist Standard | with 0 comments
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