JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP)–Baptist officials in eastern Romania have expressed concern over two lesbians, identified as being on a “Baptist” mission trip, who created a disturbance at an orphanage in their region.
The Romanians’ concern has prompted Missouri Baptist Convention partnership missions specialist Norm Howell to exercise greater scrutiny in screening candidates, particularly those who are single, for short-term mission trips to Romania.
Howell learned about the concern when he tried to place a single Missouri Baptist woman at the orphanage where the problem with the lesbians occurred in 2003. The lesbians ultimately were removed from the orphanage; it is not known what Baptist denomination in the United States sent them. They were not Southern Baptists.
Because of how the lesbians behaved at the orphanage, the worker that Howell was attempting to help was initially denied access. Ultimately it worked out for her to minister at another Romanian orphanage. Howell credited the assistance and friendship of Onesimus Mladin, RBU general secretary and pastor of Love Baptist Church in Arad, Romania.
It is important for American Christians to be sensitive about this issue, Howell said. Plans call for the Missouri convention to lead 10 trips to Romania in 2005.
“I know that the Romania Baptist Union has a very, very strong stance about homosexuality,” Howell said.
“When it comes to putting together mission teams, this is another area that we have to be conscious about,” he said. “It’s another area that I need to put on an orientation. You have to take this seriously.”
Howell said it would be wise for the Missouri convention to initiate background checks when churches invite someone from another church to join them on a mission trip. He said this also would apply to more than just Romania, but to the convention’s other partnerships with Iraq, Puerto Rico and Colorado.
“If we’re going to be sending some teams out, we need to know the people who are going on our teams well, especially if we’re going to be involved in children’s ministries overseas,” he said.
Howell said the key to maintaining integrity in mission trips is for pastors to work in conjunction with the convention to ensure success. Screening singles from other churches who want to go along with Missouri Baptist volunteers has become a necessity in the current climate, he said.
“Church ministries and mission works are places where molesters, in the past, have seen an open opportunity to go and without accountability be involved with children somewhere else in another country,” Howell said.