CHARLOTTE, N.C. (BP)–A dissident Baptist group has denounced the International Mission Board’s decision to ask SBC missionaries to affirm their agreement with the SBC’s Baptist Faith and Message statement of faith. Speakers at the first annual meeting of the “Mainstream Baptist Network” (MBN) Feb. 15-16 meeting in Charlotte, N.C., denounced IMB President Jerry Rankin and the IMB trustees with terms such as “wolves” and “gutless idiots.” At the same time, MBN leader David Currie announced that he had accepted an invitation to meet with Rankin to discuss the board’s BF&M decision, even as one speaker suggested that Rankin had allowed the decision for fear of losing his position as IMB president.
Currie said the IMB’s expectation of missionaries to affirm the SBC’s doctrinal statement means that the IMB has asked missionaries “to replace Jesus as Lord with the Southern Baptist Convention as lord.”
Referencing Jesus’ sending out of the 70 disciples in Luke 10, Currie pointed to Jesus’ statement that he (Jesus) was sending the disciples out as “lambs among the wolves.” This is of special application, Currie said, to the current situation of IMB missionaries.
“None of us realized who the wolves would be — their own board,” Currie said.
Rankin, contacted by Baptist Press, said, “It is sad to hear the language and distortion of facts that are being used by those seeking to advance their anti-SBC agenda.
“The presumption,” Rankin said, “seems to be made that it is the IMB administration and trustees who are attacking missionaries. To the contrary, we have absolute confidence in the doctrinal integrity of our missionaries and their commitment to Southern Baptist convictions as outlined in the Baptist Faith and Message. After all, their own statement of beliefs were examined thoroughly and they affirmed the BF&M when they were appointed.
“To dispel any question by others, we are just giving them an opportunity to reaffirm what they have already done and said,” Rankin said. “Most of our missionaries understand that this request was to give protection and credibility to them so we can get on with our task.
“It would be a mistake to presume there are those out there giving their lives to reach a lost world who would see a respectful request from their leadership as coercion to sign something they do not believe,” Rankin said.
Of the IMB decision to ask for an affirmation of the confessional statement, Currie cited a quote during the Mainstream meeting from left-wing Baptist activist Will Campbell on capital punishment: “This is so tacky.”
Currie said he had been invited by IMB trustee David Evans of Texas, at Jerry Rankin’s request, to come to the IMB’s Richmond offices to “see any books, ask any questions.”
“I am going to publicly accept the offer in front of Baptist Press,” Currie said, referencing a BP reporter in the room. “I am going to the IMB and I am going to ask questions on behalf of Mainstream Baptists.”
Specifically, Currie said that he would ask for the names and addresses of all IMB missionaries, except for those whose location in dangerous regions requires anonymity. He also said he would demand to see documentation of any charges of “heresy” against any IMB missionaries.
Rankin told Baptist Press, “I was delighted to hear that David Currie would accept our invitation. For him to see the growth in our missionary force, the exponential growth in baptisms and new churches and unreached people groups being evangelized by the IMB will certainly dispel any perception that conservatives don’t care about missions. Currie and others are going to be surprised when so few, if any, IMB missionaries take them up on their offer of an alternate support base.”
Currie, during the Mainstream meeting, asserted that the BF&M decision has nothing to do with doctrinal concerns but is driven by the 2000 statement’s position of “social issues” that fuel the “culture wars” of the “right wing.”
“Folks, I was raised that if [both of you] believed in Jesus, you could sit back on the back porch and argue on politics and social issues,” Currie said. “It’s really about secular right-wing politics. You might as well say, ‘Pledge to vote for right-wing candidates.'”
The 2000 BF&M affirms the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death, thus opposing the abortion of unborn babies. It likewise affirms that homosexual relationships, pornography and racism are contrary to the teachings of Scripture. Currie sits on the board of the Interfaith Alliance, an ecumenical liberal political group organized to counter the efforts of religious conservatives in the public square on issues such as equal rights legislation for homosexuals.
At the doors of the Mainstream meeting, copies of a letter sent by Texas pastor Michael Chancellor to Rankin were distributed. In the letter, dated Jan. 30, Chancellor challenged Rankin and IMB trustees to visit Chancellor’s son, an IMB missionary, on the mission field.
“Let these doubters sleep in the snow and walk for days with nothing more to eat than protein bars,” Chancellor wrote. “And then if these gutless idiots don’t have all their questions answered, before they retreat to their comfortable offices and homes in the States, let them stand there in the freezing snow and ask my son what he really believes about God, man, Christ and the universe.”
Chancellor concluded the letter to Rankin by expressing disappointment in “your character and lack of courage.”
“You have laid down for fear of your job and let the wolves in among the sheep,” Chancellor wrote. “You have taken the easy way out. And for that you should be ashamed.”
Currie said the IMB’s decision should cause Baptist “moderates” to find an alternative to the IMB for global missions. Currie, who serves on the Coordinating Council of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF), did not explicitly offer an alternative.
“Who is going to save these missionaries from their own board?” Currie asked. “I’m not sure what shape or form it will take, but it will take some shape or form.”
Nonetheless, Currie’s opposition to the IMB did not begin with his current indignation over the BF&M question. At the 2000 CBF General Assembly in Orlando, Fla., Currie told a Mainstream Baptist gathering he was optimistic about moderate-led state conventions diverting money from the IMB to other groups since “conservatives don’t care about missions…. [T]hey’re fighting a culture war.”
At the 2000 meeting, Currie said: “I think we ought to take up a ‘Save the Missionaries’ offering instead of Lottie Moon and write ’em all a letter and say ‘y’all want to work for someone else?'”
Arkansas Mainstream leader Tony Woodell told Baptist Press he doubted the CBF would be the answer. While not sure what the IMB alternative would be, Woodell noted that “something is brewing.” Baptist Press asked Woodell how Mainstream Baptists could mobilize an alternative missions force, given the fact that the convocation’s gathering of less than 200 people appeared to include almost no one under the age of 50. Woodell replied that he believed there were younger people in the churches represented by the attendees at the meeting.
The MBN also passed a resolution Feb. 15 denouncing the SBC for the IMB decision, as well as for the Executive Committee’s decision not to recognize a breakaway “moderate” state convention in Missouri as a cooperating entity. The resolution likewise condemned the North American Mission Board’s decision not to endorse ordained women as chaplains or to continue funding the District of Columbia Baptist Convention.
The Mainstream Network is a coalition of state groups working toward defeating conservative candidates for state convention offices. At the CBF’s 2000 General Assembly in Orlando, a breakout session trained CBF activists on using the “Mainstream” groups to organize individuals uncomfortable with the CBF to elect “moderate” candidates to state convention office. Moderate-controlled state conventions could then direct funds away from the SBC. Months later, the moderate-controlled Baptist General Convention of Texas voted to divert funding from the six SBC seminaries, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the Executive Committee.