Southern Baptists' conflict over the revised Baptist Faith and Message, adopted in 2000, has gone global. Southern Baptists in Texas and career missionaries are among those expressing outrage about a letter that International Mission Board (IMB) President Jerry Rankin sent to overseas personnel.

The January 31 letter asks that missionaries affirm the latest revision of the Baptist Faith and Message (BFM)—the Southern Baptist Convention's statement of faith that outlines its beliefs and convictions regarding doctrinal, family, and church issues.

"There are many who feel strongly that those being supported by the denomination should be willing to pledge affirmation and support for the current [BFM], especially those serving with the mission boards," Rankin said in the letter. "Failure to ask for this affirmation is creating suspicion that there are IMB personnel whose beliefs and practices are inconsistent with those represented by Southern Baptists."

Rankin adds, "I am asking that you sign the attached form indicating your affirmation and return it to your regional leader. You are welcome to note any area of disagreement." In January 2001, IMB trustees agreed not to require an affirmation. But in March, trustees meeting in Kansas City strongly endorsed Rankin's request.

Some Southern Baptists disagree with changes made in the 2000 statement, including a phrase in the document that refers to the Baptist Faith and Message as "an instrument of doctrinal accountability."

Others say conservatives are using the BFM as a creed. Charles Wade, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT), told CT, "We've never considered a confession as an instrument of doctrinal accountability. When did Jesus ever ask anyone to ...

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