Rankin answers charges IMB not conservative enough : Tuesday, Nov 25, 2003
November 25 2003 by Mark Wingfield

Rankin answers charges IMB not conservative enough : Tuesday, Nov 25, 2003
Tuesday, Nov 25, 2003

Rankin answers charges IMB not conservative enough

By Mark Wingfield
Associated Baptist Press

LEXINGTON, Ky. - In response to criticism from a seminary missions professor, the president and trustees of the International Mission Board (IMB) defended the agency's actions and insisted its mission will not be "compromised."

A paper written by Keith Eitel of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) and mailed to IMB trustees by Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, drew a strong response from IMB President Jerry Rankin.

Although Rankin and his critics all support the conservative movement that has risen to power in the Southern Baptist Convention, Rankin has found himself defending the IMB against charges it is not conservative enough.

In the paper, Eitel accused Rankin and other IMB administrators of failing to be doctrinally stringent enough. He specifically cited concerns about partnerships with other Great Commission Christian groups that require lesser doctrinal adherence, and about the role of women in missions leadership.

During a Nov. 10-12 meeting in Lexington, Ky., IMB trustees adopted two statements in response to the Eitel paper.

The first statement, which was adopted without discussion or dissent, affirmed "the strategies and leadership" of the board and resolved "to review the concerns and the issues raised and take appropriate action to guarantee that the vision to lead Southern Baptists to reach the world for Christ is not compromised."

The second statement, also adopted unanimously, affirmed an initiative by Rankin to arrange for a meeting of IMB staff and trustees with Eitel and Patterson "to resolve misunderstandings and perceptions communicated in Eitel's assessment of the International Mission Board vision and strategy."

Rankin said he would write Patterson "to seek an explanation as to why he would cast aspersion on our board relative to the conservative resurgence." Trustees of the IMB are "God-fearing, Bible-believing men and women, products of the conservative resurgence within our convention," Rankin said. Yet, "our staunch embracing of and adherence to the Baptist Faith and Message is not considered adequate from your perspective."

A letter from Rankin to Eitel countered the criticisms as "unfounded" and questioned why they were circulated without first coming to the board's leadership for a response.

Rankin acknowledged in the letter, however, that he was pleased finally to learn "the source of rumors that have plagued the IMB in recent years."

He said the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Mainstream Baptists, Texan David Currie and employees of SEBTS have perpetuated "myths" about the IMB.

"I had wondered why so much criticism of our program and policies, disrespect of leadership and even threatened litigation was being generated by students from Southeastern," Rankin told Eitel. Another memo written by Eitel to an IMB staff member "clearly indicates that they were being programmed to hear certain distortions out of context and encouraged to engage in a subversive response."

Eitel's criticisms have endangered collaborative efforts between SEBTS and the IMB, Rankin said. "It is hard to see how we can continue such a partnership when disrespect for leadership and policies is being nurtured, non-biblical subversive behavior is encouraged and blatant disregard for truth is propagated."

In the seven-page letter, Rankin countered point-by-point each of Eitel's criticisms.

He denied the IMB is placing less emphasis on theological training for mission workers, as Eitel suggested. He insisted on the importance of using short-term volunteers in contemporary missions work. He defended the training techniques and staff of the Missionary Learning Center. And he defended partnerships with other Great Commission Christians as a paradigm shift "that has been blessed of God to enhance unprecedented impact on a lost world."

"The reality is that many of these Great Commission Christians are far more conservative in their doctrine than Southern Baptists have been and would not have accepted us into partnership with them until recent years."

Rankin also defended the role of women in mission leadership.

"We fully recognize the biblical limitation of women holding a church office, such as pastor, that clearly represents spiritual authority in a local congregation," Rankin said. "However, to extrapolate that limited application to deny women the freedom to practice their giftedness and calling as a part of a team seeking to reach a segment of the lost world goes beyond biblical teaching."

In other action, IMB trustees adopted a trimmed-back $258.9 million budget for 2004, elected a new executive vice president and appointed 67 new workers for service in 29 countries.

They also heard a five-year evaluation of the "New Directions" emphasis that shifted the board's missions focus from geographical countries to ethno-linguistic people groups. A trustee committee compiled the information from a survey of overseas personnel.

Now called "Strategic Directions for the 21st Century," or SD-21 for short, the emphasis organized missionaries into teams focused on specific people groups, with a goal of sparking church-starting movements and taking the gospel to those previously neglected by Christian missions efforts.

The survey found:
  • The number of people groups engaged by IMB personnel has more than doubled to 1,371.
  • Seven church-starting movements have been confirmed and 42 others reported.
  • A 29 percent growth in the IMB missionary force over the past five years is the greatest in board history.
  • The focus on multiplying churches within people groups has resulted in an increase of almost 71 percent in the number of churches worldwide, a 95 percent increase in the number of outreach groups and the baptism of more than 1.8 million believers.
  • The research also identified concerns about supervision and training of strategy coordinators.

    The IMB's 2004 budget cuts almost $20 million in operating expenses from the current year's spending plan. Additional budget funds are allocated to capital needs that will not be spent unless funds are received. The financial plan also sets a Lottie Moon Challenge budget of $17 million.

    The plan anticipates receiving $96.2 million through the Cooperative Program unified budget and $133 million through the 2003 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. It also projects $16.4 million from investment income.

    To protect missionary outreach from budget cuts, the financial plan reduces stateside spending by 14 percent and overseas spending by 2.12 percent. The budget includes no salary increases for missionary personnel or stateside employees.

    Trustees elected veteran missionary and administrator Clyde Meador to fill the executive vice president's position vacated by the resignation of John White in June.

    Meador, an Arkansas native who grew up in New Mexico, and his wife, Elaine, were appointed to missionary service in 1974. He served as a general evangelist, theological teacher and mission administrator in Indonesia before accepting leadership of a team of itinerant missionaries that looked for opportunities to share the gospel in countries closed to traditional missionary presence.

    (EDITOR'S NOTE - Mark Kelly of the IMB contributed to this report.)

    11/25/2003 12:00:00 AM by Mark Wingfield | with 0 comments

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