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NAMB adopts guidelines for cooperative work

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–A set of “Guidelines for Interdenominational Cooperation” adopted by the North American Mission Board at its Nov. 5 meeting affirm agreement on essential theological truths as a foundation for any cooperation with non-Southern Baptist groups.
NAMB President Bob Reccord said the guidelines are the result of a promise he made to the board when he first met prospective trustees last spring. Involvement with non-Southern Baptist groups became an issue on the former Home Mission Board in debate over the agency’s involvement in Reconciliation ’97, a conference in Coventry, England, involving a wide variety of Christian groups, and in the 1994 statement “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium.”
Reccord cited his own background — including heading United States operations for Evangelism Explosion and earlier involvement in other evangelical denominations — in underscoring his commitment to cooperation with like-minded Christians in the task of global evangelization. The guidelines encourage such cooperation while offering guidance on when it might be inappropriate.
The document — initially drafted by Phil Roberts, director of interfaith witness evangelism for NAMB — affirms the theological framework articulated in the 1978 and 1982 Chicago Statements on Biblical Inerrancy and Hermeneutics, as well as the “high view of Scripture developed by the 1987 Peace Committee and the 1994 Report of the Theological Study Committee.”
Noting that Scripture encourages Christians to “share together in the work of the Gospel,” the document says NAMB will do so “only with groups who are self-described as evangelical: that is they adhere to a conversionist theology that all people must be born again by faith in Christ alone in order to enter the Kingdom of God; and that they uphold the Bible alone as the source of God’s truth, and that salvation is by faith alone due to God’s grace alone having Christ alone as its object.”
“It is acknowledged by the North American Mission Board,” the statement continues, “that genuine Biblical unity is built solely upon the affirmation and advocation of Biblical truth. Even temporary, non-binding cooperation must be exercised only where truth is confessed and held in sincerity.”
The document further states than in cases where groups practice a “non-baptistic” form of church government or “where an indiscriminate use of ‘spiritual gifts’ is practiced” the board will be “particularly sensitive and alert to espouse SBC positions in all its relationships and operations.” Also, cooperation “will not be engaged for the mere sake of popular ecumenism. … At the same time, while holding to our evangelical/biblical theology of salvation, we will not attempt to be ‘spiritual isolationists’.”
Brief discussion centered not on the text — which was regarded as strong in its doctrinal parameters — but on the weight behind the document itself. William Streich, a trustee from Texas, moved that the statement be adopted as policy rather than as guidelines.
“When any particular person begins to apply those criteria … to any certain group or any denomination, there is always going to be a lot of subjectivity, he said. He also noted the stronger influence of policy over the long term. “These are things that a future board will have to deal with if it’s a policy. … Guidelines or suggestions will be lost in time.”
Reccord, in presenting the document, noted the intent was to provide guidelines and “trust leadership to represent the heartbeat of trustees” in interpreting the guidelines. Walter Carpenter, a trustee from Texas, urged trustees to respect the wishes of their president. He also noted the highly subjective nature of such decisions actually is a strong argument in favor of adopting the statement as guidelines rather than policy.
Streich’s amendment failed by a large margin, and the document was approved with only two dissenting votes.

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  • James Dotson