Larry & Sarah Ballew's Response to Their Termination

Dear Family & Friends,

First and foremost we want to thank you so much for your prayers for us, especially this past year as we have worked under the threat of termination by our mission board. As you may know, in January 2002 Jerry Rankin, the President of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention made a request for all IMB missionaries to sign a loyalty oath to use the Baptist Faith & Message as our standard for ministry. Over the past 16 months, the pressure on us to sign has been constant.

In April of this year, we were given an ultimatum: Sign (see Confession or Creed at bottom), Resign, or be Terminated. On 7 May, 2003, the Board of Trustees voted to terminate us and a number of other missionaries from around the world. The missionary terminations and resignations over this issue number well over 70 people.

False Accusations

The charges leveled against us have been (1) failing to be accountable and (2) holding personal beliefs which are inconsistent with those held by Southern Baptists. Both of these charges are false.

Regarding the first, we deny this charge and say that we have been and will continue to be accountable to our Lord and our brothers and sisters in Christ. We have made regular reports of our work to our leadership and to you our supporters. During our 7 years in Macau, we have hosted hundreds of Southern Baptist volunteer missionaries. We have sought to live our lives with transparency and honesty. We are always ready and eager to give account of our lives and the work of Jesus in and through us.

Regarding the second charge, we are quite perplexed as to it's source.  Even in President Jerry Rankin's last letter to us, he commends our service and notes that he finds no place where we are in contradiction with the Baptist Faith & Message. In all our years of service among Southern Baptists (serving the local church, serving through college ministries, serving as Journeyman missionaries, serving as seminary students, serving as Home Missionaries), no one has ever accused us of ministering in any way which is contrary to what Southern Baptists believe. We don't understand the basis of this accusation. Unless
Southern Baptists have changed their beliefs to be something other than baptistic, our beliefs are still consistent with theirs and this accusation is false.

In the end, the reason for our termination is only our decision to not sign the creedal Statement of Accountability, which by the standard of the IMB's leadership, makes us no longer fit to serve as Southern Baptist Missionaries.

Trust & Obey

We wrestled long and hard with this matter. For over a year we prayed and sought wisdom, understanding full well the potential consequences of our decision. Out of obedience to Christ, we could not to sign the paper that changes the BF&M into a creed.

We also felt that we could not resign because of our beliefs about grace towards our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Southern Baptist Convention for the past 20+ years has been experiencing division and strife which we believe deeply saddens our Lord Jesus. Therefore we did not want to break fellowship over this matter and participate in the division. It had been our hope and prayer that those in leadership positions would also live by Grace and not by Law.

Through this whole process, we have been experiencing many different emotions. Feelings of being rejected by the very people that should have been supporting us. Sadness over the division within the Southern Baptist Convention which is grievous to the Lord. Frustration at the injustice of what is happening to us and other missionaries around the
world.

But in the midst of all of these feelings we have been experiencing tremendous Peace, Grace, Provision, Protection, Guidance and Love from our Lord Jesus Christ. He has been so faithful to us. He has also used many of you both far and near to encourage us through prayers and loving support.

What's Next?

As we move ahead, we continue to choose to forgive those that have participated in this wrong action against us and God's Kingdom work. For to forgive is also obedience to Christ.

We still believe that the Lord is not finished with us in our service among the Chinese people of Macau, China. Though we are being fired and forced to go back to the States, it is our hope and prayer that the Lord will provide a way for us to return to the people we have grown to love these past seven years. With less than 1% of the population being
Christian, the people of Macau need to have a witness of Jesus' love.  By faith, we will continue to follow the Lord's leading in our lives and trust Him to provide.

Our immediate plans are to return to the USA in late June, 2003. You can contact us while in the States at:

Larry & Sarah Ballew
704 Circle Drive
Blacksburg, VA 24060-3208
(540) 951-2183
ballew@writeme.com

While Stateside we will be exploring options for returning to Macau so that we can continue with the work here. If you would be interested in continuing to support us in the work in Macau, we would look forward to hearing from you.

Again, thank you so much for your love and support. Please continue to pray that we would have wisdom as we face many decisions and adjustments. And continue to pray for the Macau people, that they would experience the blessing, hope and joy of a loving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Love,

Larry, Sarah, Joshua and Nathanael Ballew

 

Confession or A Creed?

Some may ask, "Why did this happen to us and many other IMB appointed missionaries?" We are not sure. We can not read the minds or know the motives of others. What we do know is that the IMB leadership has demanded that all missionary personnel sign the following NEW statement:

In accountability to the International Mission Board and Southern Baptists, I agree to carry out my responsibilities in accordance with and not contrary to the current Baptist Faith and Message as adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention.

Signature _____________________________________           
Date _________________________________

Personally, to sign such a statement would amount to signing a creed, cheapening the role of the Bible in our lives and taking us away from the practice of "Scripture Alone". In the book "The Baptist Heritage" by Leon McBeth he explains the difference between a confession and a creed:

"A confession designates what people do believe; a creed what they must believe. A confession is voluntary and serves to inform, educate, and inspire; a creed is required and serves to discipline and exclude. A confession offers guidelines under the authority of Scripture; a creed tends to become binding authority, in subtle ways displacing the
Bible." pp. 686-687

Clearly the statement we were being coerced to sign turns the Baptist Faith and Message into a creed. Our decision to not sign was based on deep convictions regarding the importance of maintaining clear lines of accountability, first to God through Jesus Christ and then to His written word, then to His church and lastly to human authorities. The
request,(demand), made by the IMB turns this order on it's head.

In this matter we want to make clear that our disagreement is not primarily with the Baptist Faith & Message. Baptists have long been a people who have freely confessed what they believe. Writing confessions is not wrong and we are more than willing to work with the general confession of our Baptist brothers and sisters. What we are not willing
to do is submit our lives to a self-proclaimed fallible human document as the creedal standard by which we live and minister. The task is too important and the stakes are too high for us to lower our standard away from The Living Word, Jesus Christ and His Written Word, The Bible.

 

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