Defining 'volunteer'
October 18 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Defining 'volunteer' | Friday, Oct. 18, 2002

Friday, Oct. 18, 2002

Defining 'volunteer'

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

A reader recently took me to task for the headline on our Sept. 27 story entitled "IMB rejects volunteers from church with woman pastor."

The story involved Don and Esther Gardner, a couple from Birmingham, Ala., who had spent time as mission volunteers in Africa, where one of their children serves as a missionary with the International Mission Board (IMB). Missionaries there encouraged them to apply to become International Service Corps (ISC) missionaries so they could stay longer.

ISC missionaries are typically appointed for a period of four to 24 months, and receive a stipend for living expenses from the IMB.

The Gardners did apply to return under the ISC program, but were turned down after their church called a woman as pastor, and they supported the church, putting them in violation of an article in the 2000 version of the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M).

The Gardners said they would return to the mission field and work in a hunger project in Swaziland at their own expense.

Since they were paying volunteers both before and after the ISC rejection, I was comfortable using the term "volunteers" in the headline.

There may be others, however, who thought the headline implied that the IMB requires all short-term volunteers to affirm the current BF&M, which is not the case.

Lest there be any misunderstanding, I asked IMB spokesman Mark Kelly for clarification. The IMB uses the term "volunteer" only for "people who pay their own way to serve for a few days or a few weeks," Kelly said.

Participants in all other categories - career, associate, apprentice, Masters, Journeyman and ISC - are appointed and counted as "missionaries." They all receive some remuneration, and are required to be in sympathy with the BF&M.

For unpaid volunteers like those who work through the Baptist State Convention's partnerships with the IMB in Honduras and Southeast Asia, the board accepts endorsements from the pastor of their home church, and no detailed statements of personal theology or acceptance of the BF&M are involved, Kelly said.

So, if you're interested in volunteering for a partnership project under IMB auspices, you may need a medical checkup, but a theological exam is not required.

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10/18/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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