Southern Baptist International Mission Board terminates 13 missionaries who wouldn't sign statement
Trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board fired 13 missionaries who refused to sign the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message by the May 5 deadline issued by IMB president Jerry Rankin. Twenty other missionaries tendered their resignation instead of signing, and 10 others chose early retirement.

"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," Rankin said. "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."

Baptist Press reports that 34 other missionaries resigned last year over the Baptist Faith and Message, and says that claims of an exodus are exaggerated. "The attrition rate in 2002 was 5.2 percent, only .1 percent higher than 2001 and squarely in the middle of the range since 2000," writes Shawn Hendricks of Baptist Press.

Still, says Associated Baptist Press, "It is believed to be the largest group of SBC missionaries ever fired at one time."

There was no dissent among the trustees, according to reports.

"It is not appropriate to expect Southern Baptists to support those who are not willing to work in accord with what the denomination confesses to believe," said Rankin. "To do so would undercut the credibility and confidence in the IMB as a denominational mission entity serving Southern Baptists."

But several of the ousted missionaries say that being forced to sign the document goes against Baptist teachings. "Our authority ...

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