AUGUSTA, Ga. (BP)–Trustees of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, meeting Jan. 22-24 in Augusta, Ga., adopted a new policy on the Baptist Faith and Message statement of Southern Baptist beliefs, appointed 50 new missionaries and took up a challenge to do “whatever it takes” to mobilize the Southern Baptist resources needed to actually fulfill the Great Commission.
They also approved $2 million to upgrade the board’s video, photo and printing operations, received a report on new directions for the agency’s public relations and development office and created a trustee executive committee to handle emergencies that may develop between board meetings.
The action on the Baptist Faith and Message was taken in response to a motion made during the Southern Baptist Convention’s June 2000 meeting that asked agencies of the convention not to require personnel to sign the current version of the Baptist Faith and Message.
The trustees delivered a “wholehearted” endorsement of the Baptist Faith and Message statement of beliefs, as adopted at the June 2000 annual meeting, as “the standard for carrying out the program and ministries” of the IMB.
They also strongly affirmed the agency’s missionaries and stateside staff members, saying their beliefs already have been adequately screened and that nothing more should be required of them.
The action makes policy of a longstanding practice of asking missionary candidates to state whether they are in agreement with the BFM and to explain any area of difference. New missionaries and key stateside staff members will be asked to commit themselves to carry out their responsibilities “in accordance with and not contrary to” the SBC statement of beliefs.
“This action is a strong vote of confidence from the trustees,” said IMB President Jerry Rankin. “The trustees commended the quality of our personnel and their wholehearted commitment to Southern Baptist doctrinal positions and to the task of taking the good news of God’s love to all peoples.”
More than 1,500 people filled the sanctuary of Warren Baptist Church in Augusta to celebrate the appointment of 50 new overseas workers. Rankin told the new workers the hard realities of missionary service would quickly prove that education, training and experience do not give any missionary the ability to persuade people of the truth of Christ.
“The only real equipping that matters is carrying in your hand and heart the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Rankin said. “That is the power of God unto salvation. That is the power that will draw people to Jesus Christ.”
Wanda Lee, executive director of Woman’s Missionary Union, promised the new missionaries that WMU would stand behind them as they take the good news of salvation in Jesus to the far corners of the world.
“On behalf of national WMU and our partners through state WMUs, we pledge to be the rope holders for these missionaries and to continue to challenge the churches to give and pray for them in the days ahead,” she said.
In his report to the board, Rankin said a “radical increase in global harvest” raises “the practical possibility of actually fulfilling the Great Commission.”
He told trustees he believes that by 2005 Southern Baptists might see 1 million overseas baptisms and 10,000 new churches each year. In 10 years, he said, Southern Baptists might have 10,000 overseas missionaries. He said it also is possible that in 10 years there would be no more unreached people groups.
“We have found that cultural, religious and political barriers cannot prohibit the gospel penetrating the most remote people group or unevangelized society when it is God’s timing and intention to make himself known,” Rankin said. “The only barrier is our own lack of vision and boldness, a lethargy that results in dissipating resources in self-centered programs and a prayerlessness that deprives us of knowing the heart of God and gives us a passion for fulfilling his mission.”
Rankin challenged the trustees to follow the example of many missionaries whose passion for missions is being driven by the motto, “Whatever it’s going to take.” He called on them to “do whatever it takes to mobilize and focus the resources of Southern Baptists and support the strategies that will enable us to complete the unfinished task.”
At the urging of Allen Carter, chairman of the board’s administration committee, trustees stood to accept Rankin’s challenge. A tearful Cal Guy, emeritus professor of missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, stepped to a microphone to thank God for working among Southern Baptists in such a dramatic manner.
Lamenting “don’t rock the boat” policies of the past, Guy said an all-out, “whatever it takes” approach was long overdue.
“I’ve watched us conform and perpetuate the patterns of the past in cowardice and lack of faith,” he said. “I can’t tell you how my soul rejoices to see us breaking that old mold and responding to a challenge like this one. I’ve felt a great burden in the past for the lack of such a challenge.”
Trustees allocated $2 million from operating reserves to upgrade the board’s video, photo and printing operations. Just over $1.4 million will purchase digital video equipment to replace the agency’s failing analog equipment, which is rapidly becoming obsolete as the television industry switches to digital standards. Almost $600,000 will be used to purchase photographic equipment and copiers for the board’s presentation and reprographics departments.
The board also received a report from Vice President Larry Cox on dramatic new directions for the agency’s office of public relations and development (OPRD).
Cox told trustees OPRD is refocusing its efforts on starting “missions mobilization movements” among Southern Baptists that would in turn nurture church planting movements overseas. A reorganization of the office would focus major resources on identifying the needs of churches, missionaries and partners and then developing products and providing services designed specifically to meet those needs.
To help staff members focus their thinking and work on mobilizing God’s people for the task of world missions, OPRD has been renamed the “office of mobilization,” he said.
Finance Committee chairman Milton Steck presented a love offering collected by trustees to Carl Johnson, who retired at year’s end after 20 years as the board’s chief financial officer. Associate Vice President David Steverson is serving as interim vice president until a successor to Johnson is chosen.
Trustees also affirmed Cheri Boggess, associate vice president of the office of global information systems, as interim OGIS vice president following the resignation Jan. 11 of Jerry Burkett.
To help the agency respond quickly to emergency situations, trustees also voted to create an executive committee composed of board officers and chairmen of standing committees. The executive committee will be limited to acting only “in emergency situations that require immediate action which is in the best interests of the International Mission Board.”
Trustees also voted to accept the resignations of Ralph Harris of Winter Haven, Fla., and Richard Sisk of Memphis, Tenn.
The next meeting of International Mission Board trustees will be March 8-10 in Shreveport, La. A missionary appointment service is set for March 10 at Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: JERRY RANKIN.