Baptists Tell Missionaries to Affirm New Creed
The Southern Baptist Convention has told its overseas missionaries they have until May 5 to affirm the denomination’s revised statement of faith -- a document that opposes female pastors and says wives should submit to their husbands -- or they could be fired.
The message was directed at a couple of dozen holdouts, since nearly all the denomination’s 5,500 missionaries already have agreed to support the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message, said the Rev. Jerry Rankin, president of the SBC’s International Mission Board. “I pray that you might reconsider your position and join your fellow missionaries in cooperating with the request I have made,” Rankin said in a letter to one of the holdouts.
Rankin sent letters to 25 missionaries asking them to affirm the statement, resign from their posts, or face possible dismissal.
Six other missionaries received letters asking them to resign after they “clearly and publicly stated positions contrary to the BF&M; that are beyond acceptable parameters,” according to Rankin.
International Mission Board spokesman Mark Kelly declined to identify the missionaries or say where they are serving.
However, an Arkansas couple with more than 20 years as missionaries in Germany said Wednesday they were among six missionaries asked to leave. Rick Dill said he and his wife, Nancy, received their letter on Monday.
Dill, a missionary in residence at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark., said his problems with the new faith statement include a section that says a wife is to “submit herself graciously” to her husband, which he said holds a “very low view of marriage.” He also contests the doctrine’s ban on women pastors, saying that should be left up to individual churches to decide.
Despite their personal feelings about the doctrine, it is the obligation of missionaries to the church to support it, Kelly said. He said missionaries are allowed to note their disagreements, “so long as they promised to work in harmony with it.”
“Our workers have always been expected to be accountable to that faith statement,” Kelly said. “Now that statement has changed and it puts missionaries in the position to have to respond to those changes.”
Kelly said the denomination’s missionary board has received 32 voluntary resignations in the last year because of the doctrine, and 10 more were expected by August.
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