Dr. Jerry Rankin & IMB Trustees
P.0. Box 6767
Richmond, VA 23230-0767
24 April 2003
An open letter to Dr. Jerry Rankin and the IMB Board of Trustees:
It is with a heavy heart that we write these words, because we are sorely pressed to be able to "live at peace with everyone" (Rom. 12:18), and at the same time be true to our conscience. In Dr. Rankin's letter to us of April 10, he points to our "unwillingness to be accountable to Southern Baptists who send and support" us as the primary reason for recommending our termination. Yet his requirement that we agree to carry out our responsibilities "in accordance with and not contrary to the current Baptist Faith and Message" does not seem to us a true measure of our accountability to Southern Baptists.
We have to ask whether such accountability should focus only on those Southern Baptists in attendance at the 2000 Convention which approved the current Baptist Faith and Message as the "official" expression of "our common faith." We personally know many Southern Baptists who help send and support us on the mission field, who do not consider the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message to be an adequate expression of their beliefs. Entire state conventions could be cited as examples. Does their voice no longer matter in the Southern Baptist Convention? Do they indeed constitute such an irrelevant minority that their perspective is no longer worthy of consideration? It is for the sake of these people that we choose not to resign, especially since we do not believe God has revoked our calling to serve in Spain. When you terminate our service with the IMB, are you not sending a message of alienation to these faithful Baptist people to whom we also feel accountable?
We have thoroughly clarified our doctrinal stance and praxis, both at the beginning of our pilgrimage with the IMB (1988) and more recently when you "requested" that we sign the document in question. Is this really "unaccountability"? Throughout our missionary career, we have sent reports back to those who pray for and support us, telling of our projects, victories, and needs, constantly revealing our true faith and practice. Is this the "unaccountability" you refer to? Volunteers from numerous states have co-labored with us here, and on stateside assignments we have shared the missions story in countless churches. Is this being "unaccountable"? Through it all, we have worked closely with our fellow missionaries, our team, our regional leaders, always seeking to show ourselves accountable! Furthermore, we have been careful to demonstrate that our beliefs are totally within the parameters of conservative Christian teaching, and are in no way inconsistent with those held by many Southern Baptists (see our statements, March, July, & Sept. 2002, on file with the IMB). Historically, Baptists have been a people who celebrated their unity in diversity. If you indeed allow for "differences of interpretation, based on Scripture," as your letter insists, how is it that our minor divergences from the current BF&M are considered grounds for dismissal? Is this truly the spirit that Jesus prayed would characterize His children? Why are we called "unaccountable" simply because we do not agree to conduct our ministry in accordance with a fallible, manmade document?
By asking us to submit our ministry to any document other than Scripture, you are turning a corner that Baptists have historically not been willing to turn. "As for me and my house," we continue to be unwilling to turn that corner, and history will have to bear out which of us has been truer to our Baptist heritage, "No creed but the Bible." Southern Baptists have never needed a "papal" committee to bring about conformity to one sole interpretation of biblical doctrines. Secondary issues of interpretation have always been safely left to individual Christians and to local churches as they examined the Scriptures and sought the leadership of the Holy Spirit; such questions are not a matter on which some select committee should dictate for the rest of us the "proper biblical interpretation." In Spain, our Roman Catholic friends and neighbors have a pope to tell them what the Bible means and how they should interpret it. As Baptists, my wife and I cannot and will not affirm a document that seems to take us in that same authoritarian direction. Are we indeed thereby being unaccountable to Southern Baptists?
Does the Holy Spirit Himself act always "in accordance with and not contrary to the current Baptist Faith and Message"? We need only witness events in China to discover that He does not: women serving as pastors, evangelists, church planters! They demonstrate that when it comes to winning the lost and gathering them into the kingdom, God uses any instrument available to do His bidding! And the IMB reported on it with enthusiasm, not condemnation (June Commission, 2002)! If the Holy Spirit decides to reap a harvest such as China is experiencing in the country where we serve, we don't want to miss out on it!
Therefore, in our observation and personal experience, we find that God is passionate about His Word, not about human documents that pretend to give the definitive interpretation of His Word and impose it on those who would serve Him. Moreover, we find that God is passionate not about the letter of the law, but about the Spirit, not about rules, but about souls! In our Christian life and ministry, we will continue to affirm these priorities, and no others! Are we thereby unaccountable to Southern Baptists? We acknowledge that temporal responsibility for judging this matter is in your hands, but we urge you to realize that much more is riding on your decision than our own personal participation in IMB missions.
By the grace of our Lord Jesus,
David C. Dixon & Susan F. Dixon
cc: Ed Cox
The Baptist Standard
Madrid, Spain -- May 7, 2003
"I will lift my eyes unto the hills. Where does my help come from? My help comes from THE LORD WHO MADE HEAVEN AND EARTH!" (Ps. 121:1-2). As we think of the situations and challenges we're facing this month, it's a great comfort to know that our help comes from the Maker of all things. And "if God is for us, who can be against us?!" The apostle Paul reminds us that along with wide open doors for ministry, there inevitably come also "many adversaries" (1 Cor. 16:9). Thanks for sharing in our concerns through your intercession and praise before the Father, who holds us all in the palm of His hand.
1) Even as we celebrated our Susie's birthday (May 7), the IMB trustees approved our termination for not agreeing to conduct our ministry "in accordance with and not contrary to the current Baptist Faith and Message." We continue to affirm, however, that the Lord is sovereign and we are HIS servants, eager to conduct our lives and ministry "in accordance with and notcontrary to" His Word! So we already know the response He asks of us in this situation: no resentment or fear, but only trust in the Lord for the wonderful opportunities that He's going to open up to us as a result of this change. Our official termination date is June 30th, so we will be on "terminal leave" (with salary) in Texas in July and August. Our hope is to return to Spain at the end of that time. Let us know if you'd like to be a part of a new support plan for our ministry here.
2) At our Spanish Baptist seminary, we're approaching the end of the semester, with all the extra work that entails. Our seminary director, Julio Diaz, will be leaving for Puerto Rico on May 29th, where he will spend the summer beginning work on a doctorate. You know who that leaves in charge of things -- for our final month on the field! Please remember our graduating students in prayer, that they'll be led of the Lord as they begin ministry in their new places of service: Daniel and Patricia Quinteros, Josue Calero, Gregorio Duarte, Samuel and Mabel Vazquez.
3) We had a wonderful retreat during Madrid's May 1-3 holiday with our people from Immanuel Baptist Church. Over 90 people attended some part of the retreat program at the beautiful Aguas Vivas retreat center at the foot of the mountains north of Madrid. Several unsaved spouses of church members attended and were warmly included in the fellowship. God blessed us with some tremendous teaching sessions, and some great bonding times across generational as well as cultural lines. (Check out the pictures on Immanuel's web page atwww.ibcmadrid.com)
4) David will be teaching on discipleship in a lay-leadership training seminar for "Women on Mission" this weekend (May 10-11). Pray the vision imparted will be Christ-centered and Spirit-filled for all those attending. The following Saturday he'll be teaching several hours of N.T. introduction at the new extension center in Extremadura (Western Spain).
5) In 1999, immigrants made up 3% of the population of Madrid; today, just four years later, they make up nearly 10%! These were some of the statistics we received at a seminar on immigration that our seminary sponsored the last weekend in April. The Lord has allowed us to have a small part in the in-gathering of some of these immigrants for His kingdom purposes, and we believe the harvest that remains is still so great! We'll celebrate our final immigrant meeting of the season on May 24th, and ask that you'd pray with urgency that we'll be able to communicate the Lord's vision to this precious group.
6) Pray for Texas volunteer groups we will be working with in the next few weeks: the Wayland Baptist University choir and orchestra will be leading us in worship at Immanuel on May 25th; and a team of women from the BGCT evangelism dept. will be coming in June to help with our associational Women on Mission retreat.
7) Family matters: Our middle son, Joel, 16, is taking AP exams this week as well as the SAT on Sat. Pray he'll do his best, as this will affect his future college plans. Our oldest son, Daniel, 19, is in Holland this week with his girlfriend for her sister's wedding, so pray for safe travel. We praise the Lord that he finally managed to get a mid-term transcript from the university here to send to UNCC, where his acceptance for next year is still pending. Please pray for Daniel and Joel to find summer jobs when we go to Texas in June. Our youngest son, Michael, 10, just got a substitute teacher to finish out the school year, as his regular teacher at the MK school had to leave early. Pray for this transition and for his peace of heart. Michael suffered the most from his father's three-week absence in Texas during David's father's terminal illness. Thanks to all who prayed for us during those anxious days. After his stroke on March 22, David's 88-year-old father was so ready to go home and be with the Lord, and the funeral the day before Easter was a celebration of hope and praise. Please remember David's 90-year-old mother who is having to make many adjustments. (See picture below.)
David & Susie Dixon
Online since April 7, 1999
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