In May the Southern Baptists' International Mission Board (IMB) fired 13 missionaries who refused to affirm the latest version of the Baptist Faith and Message (BFM, CT, April, p. 36). Trustees acted after a May 5 deadline expired. The missionaries had had 16 months to consider signing BFM or resign.
"These missionaries are supported by Southern Baptist churches and should at least be willing to conduct their work in basic agreement with what Southern Baptists confess they believe," said IMB board president Jerry Rankin. "Although we regret that any missionary would choose to resign rather than affirm the faith statement, we feel it is time to move forward and keep our focus on sharing Christ with a lost world."
This was "the largest group of SBC missionaries ever fired at one time," said the Associated Baptist Press.
The board, meeting in Framingham, Massachusetts, also accepted the resignations of 20 missionaries who cited the statement as a factor in their decision to resign. The more controversial sections of the BFM have to do with disallowing women pastors and asking wives to "graciously submit" to their husbands. Ten other missionaries took early retirement, with full benefits, rather than sign, Baptist Press reported.
Though 77 missionaries have declined work in harmony with the 2000 BFM, nearly 99 percent of the denomination's 5,500 overseas missionaries have affirmed it.
The Southern Baptist Convention's site has links to every board, organization, and ministry in the convention.
Previous Christianity Today coverage of the Baptist Faith and Message includes:
Weblog: Southern Baptists ...1
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