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NAMB may plant churches outside U.S. & Canada

EDITOR’S NOTE: The fourth and fifth paragraphs have been adjusted for clarity.

NASHVILLE (BP) — The North American Mission Board may soon have permission to plant churches outside the United States and Canada if the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee approves an amendment to NAMB’s ministry statement next week (Feb. 16-17) in Nashville.

The amendment, which was approved by NAMB trustees in Feb. 2014, would allow the Alpharetta, Ga.-based entity to “provide specialized, defined and agreed upon assistance to the International Mission Board in assisting churches to plant churches for specific groups outside the United States and Canada.”

NAMB President Kevin Ezell said the mission agency requested the amendment so it will be able to plant churches overseas near U.S. military bases and provide funds for U.S. church planters to adopt and visit unreached people groups around the world.

In a Jan. 16 email to SBC entity heads and executives of Baptist state conventions, Ezell also expressed a desire for NAMB to take proactive steps as the social and political climate in the U.S. becomes increasingly hostile toward religious liberties.

“…We would like the freedom to plant churches adjacent to military bases outside the United States with the specific purpose of serving the U.S. military population there. We believe this would be a good fit since NAMB is already the endorsing entity for Southern Baptist chaplains serving in the U.S. military,” Ezell wrote.

Additionally, Ezell said NAMB wants to urge North American church planters to adopt unreached people groups overseas, with NAMB funds provided for each “planter and a member of his church to make a trip overseas to visit that people group.”

NAMB would plant overseas churches and adopt people groups “within a narrowly-defined focus and in consultation with IMB,” Ezell wrote. Military church plants would proceed “only with IMB’s support” and church planters would engage unreached people groups “through IMB’s process for this.”

In a Jan. 15 letter to EC President and CEO Frank S. Page, IMB President David Platt said, “The leadership of IMB gladly affirms and supports this recommendation, as a step toward further cooperation between the two entities, for the sake of the spread of the Gospel throughout the world.”

The SBC’s Organizational Manual requires that changes to the ministry statements of SBC entities be approved by the EC as well as a majority vote of messengers at an SBC annual meeting.

The Organizational Manual additionally requires that proposed changes to ministry statements be “circulated to SBC entity executives, state convention executives, and state Baptist paper editors before presentation to the Executive Committee for approval as recommendations to the SBC.” That requirement was met by the EC through a Jan. 15 mailing.

If approved by the EC, the amendment will be considered at the SBC annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, June 16-17.

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