Six Baptist Missionaries Face Ouster Over Statement of Faith
BY ALBERTA LINDSEY
Times-Dispatch Staff Writer (Richmond, Va.)
Three Southern Baptist missionary couples have been told to resign or be fired because of their public opposition to signing the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statement.
In addition, 25 other missionaries have been given the option to sign the Baptist Faith and Message statement by May 5 or they will face termination.
One of the three couples, Rick and Nancy Dill, veteran missionaries to Germany, said they have been given until May 5 to resign. Because of their public opposition to the statement, the Dills and two other couples have not been given the option of affirming the statement.
The Dills couple have been missionaries with the Richmond-based Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board for 22 years. They are on leave in Arkadelphia, Ark.
Though the Baptist Faith and Message has been around in some form since 1925, revisions in recent years sparked controversy.
The document was amended in 1998 to say that wives should submit to their husbands. In 2000, it was rewritten to say women should not be allowed to be pastors. Also, a provision was removed that stated the criterion for interpreting Scripture is Jesus Christ.
The Dill's refused to affirm that they agree with the Southern Baptist Convention's revised statement of faith.
In an April 10 letter to the couple, Mission Board President Jerry Rankin wrote that the request to resign has "nothing to do with your calling and the effectiveness of your ministry, but are due to your unwillingness to be accountable to Southern Baptists who send and support you."
In their April 18 response to Rankin's letter, the Dills wrote that their resignation would be very inappropriate because they are "guilty of no misconduct or false teaching and have been accused of none."
Two other missionary couples received similar letters from Rankin. They are Leon and Kathy Johnson of Mozambique and Ron and Lydia Hankins of Japan.
The Johnson's wrote Rankin on Monday that since they "have done nothing to necessitate our resignation, we decline to resign."
The Hankins haven't responded to Rankin's ultimatum.
Rankin first asked Southern Baptist missionaries to affirm the revised faith statement more than a year ago. Since then, most of the board's 5,500 overseas workers have affirmed the document.
Sources indicate that 73 career missionaries have not affirmed the revised document and 42 have resigned or plan to do so. An unknown number of others resigned quietly, rather than sign, or signed reluctantly.
Rankin said in a statement this week that missionaries made a similar affirmation of an earlier version of the document when they were appointed. Rankin said that if a missionary decides not to affirm the Baptist Faith and Message and cannot continue serving through the mission board, "we regret that but appreciate the integrity of conscience it demonstrates."
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