Saturday, April 01, 2006

Doctrinal Problems on the Mission Field? No, Just Missionaries Who Think for Themselves

A missionary sent to me a letter written last week by President Rankin to missionary personnel around the world. It is a good letter, widely distributed, praising both the IMB trustees and the missionaries. Dr. Rankin informs the missionaries of events in the public plenary session of Tampa Bay's IMB meeting. In the letter Dr. Rankin continues to exhibit strong leadership and respect for his board.

However, there is one statement in the letter that troubles me. It is disconcerting to me not because Dr. Rankin wrote it, but because he felt the need to have to say it. I will post the pertinent paragraph with the troubling statement highlighted.

..."Some of you have expressed disagreement with these new policies. As I shared in a chapel message with staff, we each are under a Biblical mandate to respect and submit to those in authority. We serve under the authority of trustees, who are accountable to the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole. Our trustees are Godly men and women who serve conscientiously and have a heart for missions. I would encourage you to be sensitive as you express your concerns in public forums. Some have interpreted the dissent expressed by IMB personnel as evidence that we do, indeed, have doctrinal problems among our personnel. Several of you have asked how you can express your concerns and I have suggested that you might consider sharing your thoughts with leadership, writing your regional committee and praying for those who have the responsibility to set policy."

I do not know to whom Dr. Rankin refers when he identifies unnamed people that seem to believe there are doctrinal problems on the mission field. I have my opinion who they are, but that is beside the point. However, what is troubling is the REASON these unnamed leaders believe there are doctrinal problems on the field --- the public expression of dissent by IMB personnel. I remind everyone that these public expressions of dissent by missionaries are over doctrines that are not addressed in Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

Everyone better be very, very careful who we begin identifying as a "liberal" or a "heretic." And we better be extra careful that we don't dismiss personnel who abide by board approved policy and the Southern Baptist Faith and Message 2000. I and others are watching closely.

Southern Baptists will not tolerate fictional doctrinal problems just because cetain missionaries express disagreement with vaious interpretations of Scripture that are not addressed in the Baptist Faith and Message --- especially if those missionaries are abiding by Board approved policies including New Directions.


Anonymous said...

I’ve been gone a week and could hardly believe my eyes (thinking it was April fool) as I read your April 1 blog of what Hershel Hobbs wrote. I thought the permission to dissent of things in the past were over. What you wrote and the comments were the best I’ve seen. I printed everything. You even quoted Rankin’s letter to missionionaries saying, “Some have interpreted the dissent expressed by IMB personnel as evidence that we do, indeed, have doctrinal problems among our personnel.”
There is not a doctrinal problem among missionaries. I believe the problem is some IMB personnel have made the ‘International Mission Board’ into the ‘International Doctrine Board.’
Rex Ray

Anonymous said...


As a missionary who does think for himself, I appreciate knowing that you are "watching my back."

Now, I will go on to say that I do not plan to NOT follow the policies we have. I do follow policies and will continue. But, Dr. Rankin's comments do send a shiver up my spine. When "New Directions" was introduced there was a lot of dissent and debate. We on the field talked through it with our leadership and came through it stronger. We continue to see "New Directions" adjust and change for the better. Where do those ideas originate? We on the field have the freedom to dissent, talk, offer suggestions and watch as it improves.

I only wish that same openness occured on every level.

Bob Cleveland said...

It's the nature of man to want to know, to control, to be in charge. God did tell Adam to exercise dominion over the earth, so maybe that's where man gets it. But there are lots of things we apply that to, that we shouldn't.

I've heard folks debate why Jesus heals one guy and says don't tell anybody, but heals another and tells him to tell everyone. I quesion why we want to know that. I think it's because we want to know what we'd do if that ever happens to us. WE want to know.

It's HIS decision, not ours. Don't we trust Him to tell us, should that happen to us?

Something of that sort may be at the root of why we want to teach as established fact, what the Bible's not clear about. I think of the fate of infants who die; I hear it taught that children who die before the "age of reason" go to heaven. But I don't see the Bible saying that. I hasten to add that I believe it's consistent with God's nature to do that, but I cannot say the Bible teaches it as fact.

I trust God to handle that consistent with what He's revealed about Himself. I prefer to trust Him, rather than my ability to conclude that from scripture.

I once heard a revered preacher present a sermon in which he pointed out five things God doesn't know. My, my. How can anyone even think a thing like that? What he really meant, IMHO, was five things God hasn't told us. I can buy that, but I cannot agree with the mindset (which seems sadly common) that would lead someone to even say something like that, evidencing such "authority over the Word".

Perhaps, when we reduce matters of faith to a set of rules, we feel better about it. We "objectify" our faith, which is actually removing faith from the picture.

To adapt the Bible and its teachings, to suit the mature of man, is nothing more than sanctified "preaching to itching ears". said...


At the risk of sounding Oprah-ish, I will say, "I feel your pain."

10-40 Missionary,

Your example of dissent regarding New Directions, adaptation, making things better, etc . . . is an excellent example of how Board "approved" policy can be improved upon through dialogue and communication (New Directions is Board approved).

Anonymous said...

I don’t know specifically who the individuals referred to who believe there are doctrinal problems on the mission field, but I can tell you exactly who they or their kindred spirits are: those who made the accusations a few years ago that caused so many missionaries to be fired or to resign or take early retirement. I don’t think there are doctrinal problems on the mission field, at least not to any problematic extent, and I suspect the accusers do not have any specifics either. Sorry to impugn motives, but did we ever see any real concrete accusations the last time, other than over the new BF&M which pushed through as firm doctrine ideas about which many good Southern Baptists are not in complete agreement. It almost seems to me that - and I can’t remember the quote, but think I remember the idea of someone saying something like this: if they are told to jump the only question they can ask is “How high?” In other words, those in power will dictate as they please to the missionaries just because they can. You seem to have a different attitude, and I hope your spirit prevails in this.

Wade, you say Southern Baptists will not tolerate “fictional doctrinal problems” but this has already happened. Was there any uproar within the SBC about the missionaries being forced to sign the new BF&M which was not in effect when they were appointed, and which was an especially grievous slap in the face for some; I’m thinking here specifically of the women who had been ordained as ministers, and were told that God couldn’t call them to that service. As if we should be in the business of telling God what to do! There was a lot of fuss among those who had already pretty well given up on the SBC, and efforts to support and find new places of service for those affected. But I don’t remember hearing any sound from those who had the power to prevent such an unjust action. I would like to be proved wrong about this, and be told that there were those within the SBC who tried, but I have seen no such evidence.

I think sooner or later those who think for themselves will turn away as they become better informed. Many already have. Dr. Hobbs’ quote in your post yesterday about the attempt to force a creedal faith dividing Southern Baptists has already happened. Can it be reversed? I don’t say it is impossible, just improbable, given the course of events up to now. Sorry to be an angel of gloom about this, but what else can I say? You seem to be trying to salvage some of the spirit of freedom within the SBC and I hope you succeed in this.

Susie said...


I realize you and others wonder about the past. You will not hear anything from me regarding the past, I am only focusing on the future.

Bob Cleveland said...

I had a really funny thought invade my brain-space today.

Paul talks about unknown tongues and the limitations he set forth on them in 1 Corinthians chapter 14. I've been in church services where that gift was manifested and, happily, interpretations were given. But my comment really isn't about that phenomenon, or the IMB rules concerning it.

Six and seven verses later, in the same chapter, he states that women must be silent in churches.

My question is: were I to teach that in a Sunday School class today, would I be viewed as liberal or conservative?

Hmmmm... said...


Excellent questions.

"No comment" is my response.

Bob Cleveland said...

A minor point for Justamoe, concerning your excellent observations:

When we give our tithe, we lose control over it. We have no say in where it goes, if we've given it to God. It's up to Him to determine what it's spent for.

If we have differences with where the money is spent, it would be as a concerned integral member of the body, and the concern would be for the overall stewardship of this part of the body of Christ.

I don't have any problem seeing God at work in all this, including the current difficulties.

To relate our preferences as to what the tithe is spent for implies we don't think God is doing as He ought with the money we gave Him.

I should know. I'm an "ex-addict", so to speak.