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Rankin reiterates accuracy, history of IMB baptism stats

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)—-Statistics reported by the International Mission Board reflect work done by its missionaries as well as its national partners, President Jerry Rankin reiterated during the IMB trustees’ Jan. 24-27 meeting in Richmond, Va.

The Baptist World Alliance recently released a statement accusing the IMB of providing misleading information in its 2004 annual report. The BWA release stated that the report does not reflect the work of IMB missionaries but relies heavily on the work of national Christians, churches, the BWA and other Baptist groups.

The BWA press release comes months after the Southern Baptist Convention severed ties with the BWA over to theological differences. Rankin referred to the situation as “unfortunate” and called the accusations “distorted.”


Since the 1800s, the IMB has been upfront about reporting the work of its missionaries and overseas Baptist partners around the world, according to the board’s global research department.

“We’re not claiming that this is simply the work of our missionaries,” Rankin said. “But we do feel that we are accountable to our board of trustees and Southern Baptists for reporting what results come from our missionaries and where they are serving.”

The IMB reports only on work consistent with the Baptist Faith and Message. Most of this work is not affiliated with the BWA. At least 80 percent of the new churches reported in the 2004 statistics are among overseas groups not affiliated with the BWA, Rankin said.

In addition, the IMB reports work only where its missionaries are “actively engaged” and “have an influence and ministry among Baptists in those countries,” he said. Once IMB missionaries train leaders in an area how to teach and disciple others, the nationals take the lead in starting their own churches.

“If we found out that missionaries were doing the baptizing, we would probably reprimand them,” Rankin said. “Do missionaries baptize? Yes, occasionally. Do missionaries start churches? Yes, they do. But a very small proportion of the new churches we reported would have been started by a missionary.”

Sending missionaries to do all of the leadership work, Rankin said, would be an “outdated colonialistic approach.”

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  • Shawn Hendricks