The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention asked its 5,000 missionaries last week to sign a controversial faith statement.

IMB’s president, Jerry Rankin, acknowledged that the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message statement “has continued to generate controversy throughout the convention and suspicion regarding some related to Southern Baptist entities.”

To avoid “needless controversy,” loss of support and distraction, Rankin asked missionaries to sign “the attached form indicating your affirmation.”

The form offered missionaries a simple statement: “I have read and am in agreement with the current Baptist Faith and Message,” to which they can answer with a “yes” or “no.” If the missionaries answer “no,” they are asked to “cite any area of difference.”

Rankin said the new faith statement was needed to respond “to an American culture that is sliding rapidly into relativism.”

“Signing this affirmation protects you from charges of heresy behind your back while you are overseas and cannot defend yourself,” Rankin told missionaries.

Rankin said missionaries should be “doctrinally accountable,” implying that signing the statement would achieve that goal.

Marv Knox, editor of the Baptist Standard, the news journal of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, said that using the Baptist Faith & Message statement as an instrument to achieve doctrinal accountability sounded “suspiciously like a creed.”

“This is a mission tragedy of unprecedented proportions,” Knox wrote.

Bill Wilson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Waynesboro, Va., told the IMB’s insistence on doctrinal uniformity exports “our theological controversy into every corner of the globe.”

“Virginia Baptists will be heartbroken that our efforts to implement the Great Commission will be hampered and the eternal damage will be significant,” said Wilson, co-chair of Mainstream Baptist Network.

“Texas Baptists and Baptists people all over the country are going to be upset by this,” Charles Wade, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, told the Dallas Morning News.

Wade also said, “It is beyond my understanding how Baptists have come to this kind of coercion over their conscience.” Staff

To read Rankin’s letter to missionaries, go to

Click here to access BCE’s online curriculum that address changes in the 1963 Baptist Faith & Message statement.

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