ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–By a unanimous standing vote Feb. 7, trustees of the North American Mission Board affirmed agency President Robert E. Reccord’s decision to join the Georgia Baptist Convention in withdrawing funding from the Atlanta Baptist Association. The action followed the association’s Jan. 30 decision to remain in fellowship with two homosexual-affirming churches.
In other business, trustees approved a new “Endorsement Manual for Chaplains and Counselors in Ministry,” learned of expanded role for NAMB’s church finance ministry, heard that a study committee has been appointed to develop guidelines for cooperation with new state conventions, and were introduced to 21 new missionaries who had been appointed and approved during the February meeting.
The decision to withdraw funding from the Atlanta Baptist Association will mean that 12 missionary positions at the association will no longer receive funding from NAMB after the end of this year.
In reading statements on the issue released by himself and GBC Executive Director J. Robert White, Reccord stressed the importance of grace in dealing with the association.
“That’s part of standing with grace,” he said. “When you stand firm, you don’t have to be mean.”
He also noted that the action is in no way meant to reflect badly on individual missionaries who may be affected.
“We’ve taken no action against or cast aspersions on any mission staff,” he said.
The new “Endorsement Manual for Chaplains and Counselors in Ministry” provides a reference on policies, guidelines, available resources and other aspects of the agency’s work with Southern Baptist chaplains.
The chaplaincy manual provides “policy, guidelines and practice for endorsement” that have existed for the most part in the past but have never been consolidated into one place, said James W. “Skip” Owens of South Carolina, chairman of the agency’s Chaplains Commission.
The manual includes chapters explaining the role of the Chaplain’s Commission and the way it relates to the Southern Baptist Convention; descriptions of the different categories of chaplaincy; endorsement policies and guidelines; and resources, services and recognitions available to chaplains through NAMB.
One minor change introduced with the manual was an expansion of a requirement that “no person who is actively participating in or promoting glossolalia (speaking in tongues) hold endorsement as a Southern Baptist chaplain or counselor.” The policy was extended to include “any other charismatic manifestations.”
Bob Vickers, director of NAMB’s chaplaincy evangelism team, said the new manual “should be very helpful to anyone seeking information about chaplaincy and counseling ministries.”
“Chaplains and counselors in ministry are extensions of the local church, reaching into many specialized settings to provide ministry and care,” Vickers said. “It is our desire for all endorsed personnel to work in close relationship with the local church as they share in the church’s ministry. This manual and future communications with the field are designed to further facilitate this essential ministry partnership.”
Policies described in the manual will apply to newly endorsed chaplains and counselors as well as those applying for periodic renewal of their endorsement, Owens said.
The Chaplain’s Commission endorsed 18 new chaplains during their meeting, bringing the total number of NAMB endorsements to 3,195.
The board also learned that the focus of the agency’s church finance ministry will evolve from its historic role primarily as a lending ministry into a church finance consulting ministry.
“Even though we’ve loaned millions of dollars to thousands of churches over the last 100 years, we can minister to more churches with a new emphasis,” said Karl Dietz, director of NAMB’s church finance ministry team.
He explained that the unit would still make loans to churches, but a priority will be placed on consultants helping churches with loan requests from other lenders, assessing their financial situation and providing sound biblical advice to minimize the potential for a church to slip into financial bondage.
The new direction will begin later this spring, Dietz said.
The task force studying guidelines for working with new state Baptist conventions was appointed by Reccord. The team will determine under what circumstances NAMB will enter into a formal cooperative agreement with a new convention of SBC churches.
Ken Alford, pastor of Bells Shoals Baptist Church, Brandon, Fla., will chair the group, which is charged with bringing a preliminary report to the trustees in September.
Trustees also approved “Safe Work Practices” guidelines for World Changers, a NAMB ministry in which student volunteers rehabilitate substandard housing while sharing their faith.
The guidelines were adopted in accordance with regulations mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to protect volunteers participating in home rehabilitation projects from exposure to lead-based paint. HUD officials state that most houses built before 1978 contain some lead-based paint.
Martin King and Lee Weeks contributed to this report.