SBC Purges Missions; 13 Fired, 20 Resign. (News)

The Christian Century, May 31, 2003 | Go to article overview

SBC Purges Missions; 13 Fired, 20 Resign. (News)


Firings and forced resignations, long a part of the conservative rise to power at Southern Baptist seminaries and news organizations, made their way this month to the foreign mission field. Trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board, meeting in Framingham, Massachusetts, terminated 13 missionaries who refused to affirm the SBC's new, more conservative faith statement, the 2000 "Baptist Faith &: Message."

It is believed to be the largest group of SBC missionaries ever fired at one time. Another 20 missionaries resigned in the days before the meeting rather than sign the doctrinal statement, and ten more took retirement, according to the IMB. At least 34 missionaries resigned last year in protest of the requirement to sign.

That means at least 77 Southern Baptist missionaries have left the mission field because of the new faith statement--presumably the agency's largest exodus ever over one issue. The IMB employs about 5,500 missionaries, including career and short-term appointees. According to the IMB, 99 percent agreed to the new statement.

Jerry Rankin, IMB president, said he was "grateful" for the missionaries who signed willingly. "We regret that any of our missionaries have chosen to resign rather than affirm the faith statement, but we feel it is time to move forward and keep our focus on sharing Christ with a lost world," he said in a press release. Critics of the revised confession, adopted by the SBC in 2000, object to its prohibition against woman pastors and contend that it weakens the traditional Baptist doctrines of the autonomy of the local church and the priesthood of believers and places the Bible in higher esteem than Jesus as a guide to biblical interpretation. …

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