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Rankin questions Chapman’s commitment to Great Commission

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–In an undated blog, Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board, said Morris H. Chapman, president of the Executive Committee, does not believe the Great Commission is the purpose of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Citing a Feb. 12 Baptist Press story about the Fellowship of State Executive Directors annual meeting, Rankin, who was not present, said: “Dr. Morris Chapman found a receptive audience in speaking to the winter meeting of State Executives last month in passionately pointing out that the purpose of our denomination is not the Great Commission but cooperation.”

Chapman, in a March 9 statement, said Rankin has mischaracterized his convictions about cooperation among Southern Baptists.

Rankin, in his blog, wrote: “Watch for those who stand to lose entitlements of a system that hasn’t been moving us toward effective engagement of the lost,” referencing proposals by the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force in their progress report released during the Executive Committee’s Feb. 22-23 meeting in Nashville.

“Apparently it doesn’t matter whether we impact a lost world or accomplish anything else as long as we cooperate together,” Rankin wrote. “In fact, it was said that the formula for Cooperative Program allocations must not change. I now understand why for 17 years I and my staff have been meeting with the budget workgroup of the Executive Committee, presenting our required report on funding needs, but nothing is ever done. It is just a meaningless exercise of denominational bureaucracy.”

Among the task force’s proposals is allocating to the International Mission Board an additional 1 percent of SBC Cooperative Program funding, for 51 percent of the convention’s CP budget. The additional percentage would be transferred from the Executive Committee’s 3.4 percent of CP funding for its various facilitating ministries in behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention. The task force was authorized by messengers at the 2009 SBC annual meeting in Louisville, Ky.

Broadening his comments, Rankin wrote: “What our convoluted priorities are practically saying is, ‘It is better to let the lost multitudes never hear the gospel and go to hell, than change the way our denomination functions.’ …

“One of my exasperations in working cooperatively with other convention entities has been the difficulty in nailing down the purpose of what is being done,” Rankin wrote, citing On Mission Celebrations, formerly called World Mission Conferences, as an example. Local Baptist associations host representatives from the IMB, North American Mission Board, Woman’s Mission Union and the state conventions to report “on what we are all doing in missions, supposedly to enhance mission awareness,” Rankin observed. “Pressing to know if there is an outcome that is supposed to result from this event, I am usually told that the event is an end in itself. Nothing is done that actually enlists and equips the church for missions involvement once the week is over.”

Turning to state convention and Baptist associational meetings, Rankin asked, “Is there any outcome that made a difference, or do we continue to expend time, energy and expense on just being who we are? …

“Cooperation is about us; it is self-centered, self-promoting and maintaining everything every entity is doing without any concern for priorities or results,” Rankin wrote. “The Great Commission is not about us, our programs and sustaining what we have always done; it is about others. It is about a lost world. It is about consolidating our resources and focusing our energies to proclaim the gospel to those who have never heard, to win the lost and see the kingdoms of the world become the kingdom of our Lord.”

Rankin wrote that God is “honored by anything we do cooperatively for His sake. But not to the neglect of His mission! Cooperation is the means through which we work together, not an end in itself. Why couldn’t our cooperation be for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission? Now that would be a quaint idea!”

Chapman was among the speakers at a “Global Outreach Celebration” at Immanuel Baptist Church in Highland, Calif., during the weekend that Rankin’s comments were posted to the Internet. In comments after returning to the office March 9, Chapman said, “I am saddened that Jerry so blatantly misrepresented my comments. The men who heard me speak know what I said, what I think of Christ and His commands, and where I think cooperation falls in any list of priorities. I would never say that cooperation is the purpose of our Convention. It is only a means to an end — to assist Southern Baptists in working together for the common purpose of furthering the Kingdom of God.”

Concerning his Feb. 10 comments at a luncheon during the Fellowship of State Executive Directors annual meeting in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Chapman also told Baptist Press, “I have never seen allocation of CP funds as an ‘entitlement’ for any of our entities. However, I stand by what I said about the current SBC CP allocation budget. I simply do not see the reallocation of dwindling contributions as any sort of solution, nor do I see adding a category to tally direct (societal) giving as helpful. In fact, I believe it to be harmful.”

As Chapman stated to the state executive directors, “The SBC funding challenges are not procedural or process problems or problems of the wallet.” Rather, the challenges are “indicative of an underlying heart disease: Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” he said. “The convention’s funding solution is to cure the heart disease.”

Jerry Rankin was not present for the luncheon where Chapman spoke nor for any part of the state executive director’s meeting, the group’s president, Bill Mackey, executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, said in response to an e-mail query from Baptist Press.

Jack Kwok, executive director of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, told Baptist Press, “I did not hear Dr. Chapman say that cooperation is the main purpose of the Southern Baptist Convention. I can’t imagine him saying that because the Great Commission is the purpose of the Southern Baptist Convention and we cooperate to obey the Great Commission. Anything that would mitigate the Great Commission, I cannot imagine Dr. Chapman saying.” Kwok, after reading Rankin’s blog March 9, said he contacted another state executive who also was at the luncheon, who told him he likewise had not heard Chapman make the statement as described by Rankin.

Chapman concluded his statement to Baptist Press by noting: “It grieves me that Jerry used this open forum to question my allegiance to my Lord and the mandate He has given me, to us as Southern Baptists, and to all who call on His Name. I pray he will retract his unjustified remarks. They do not befit a man of his position and stature.”
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston.

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