For 164 years, the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention has focused on taking the gospel overseas.
But in May, the 16 million-member denomination's Great Commission Resurgence Task Force recommended removing restrictions on the IMB's missions work in the United States and Canada—long the territory of the convention's North American Mission Board (NAMB).
Southern Baptists will consider the proposal at their annual meeting June 15 and 16 in Orlando, Florida.
"When the Southern Baptist Convention was founded, the world was rather easily divided into 'home' and 'foreign' missions," the task force said in its report. "That world is gone. Now, with revolutions in transportation and the movement of peoples, the world has come to North America."
The task force called for allowing the IMB to use its skills and knowledge of foreign cultures and languages to develop strategies for sharing Jesus with "as many as 586 unreached and underserved peoples" in the United States.
Daniel Akin, a task force member, downplayed the notion that the proposal might pit the IMB and NAMB against each other—for funding or souls. There is no such thing as competition when it comes to sharing the gospel, he said.
"We talked to both the IMB and the NAMB leadership and trustees before we put this forward," Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, said of the proposal. "There was no pushback."
Mike Ebert, communications team leader for the NAMB, agreed, saying the change would "hasten an even closer partnership."
But some said the idea of simultaneous domestic ministry by the IMB and NAMB needed more thorough "vetting."
"I'm sure those kinds of relationships can be worked ...