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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.