Public Questions for Dr. Rankin

by Tom Daniel




Do you believe everything you read?


Examining the implications in official IMB publications, not only have aspersions been cast on missionaries standing up for their convictions, but now aspersions are being cast on the Southern Baptists in the pews who have dared to speak in their defense. The issue is 80 missionaries leaving the IMB for refusing to bind themselves to a man-made statement. IMB President Jerry Rankin, in an opinion column released by Baptist Press September 5, is quoted in the following accusations about those not in agreement with requiring all IMB personnel to sign a promise that they would do nothing that could appear to contradict any part of the 2000 edition of the Baptist Faith and Message. Let’s look logically at Dr. Rankin’s implications. The italics are the author’s way of highlighting Dr. Rankin’s accusations. In the parentheses, the author brings out questions to encourage the reader to think independently, though that is evidently discourage for Southern Baptists. The paragraph headings are the implied accusations which logically follow Dr. Rankin’s statements. If these are true, the Southern Baptist Convention is not the denomination that the author has known for 50 years and served for 30 years.




Weak Theology


“Weak theology and independent thinking are the reasons why some Southern Baptists objected to the terminations” (of 13 missionaries, as well as the forced resignations or early retirements of 67 others). 


(But are not independence and conservative theology the hallmarks of Southern Baptist history?)


Theological Compromise distorts doctrine


"(R)eflection upon the negative response from individuals and the media over the past year has revealed that an alarming number of Southern Baptists have succumbed to the subtle influence of postmodern thinking and theological compromise . . . It is evident the precious doctrine of individual priesthood of believers is being distorted to justify whatever arises out of self-centered, independent thought, regardless of explicit biblical teaching to the contrary." 


(Are the Southern Baptists responding negatively to the BFM issue not also the same ones who refuse to compromise the cherished Baptist and Bible doctrines of autonomy of the local body, soul competency, and priesthood of the believer?) 


(Is the independent thinker not the one who refuses to let the popular teachings distort biblical doctrine?)


Unaccountability in practicing Bible teachings


Rankin said many Baptists who react negatively to the 2000 BF&M and its imposition on missionaries "proclaim their conviction that the Bible is their only authority but then refuse to be accountable for believing and practicing its specific and explicit teachings."


(To whom is a Baptist to be accountable for believing and practicing the Bible? To God or man?)


Post-modern thinking in relativism


"One has succumbed to the relativism of postmodern thought when one says missionaries deserve our support regardless of what they believe or teach," Rankin wrote.


(Who and how many have pledged their support regardless of what missionaries believe /teach?)


Rejecting absolute truth by disdaining creeds


"Perhaps the reason creeds are spoken of with such disdain is that so many -- typical of postmodern thought -- really do not believe anything as absolute truth anymore."


(Historically have creeds been disdained because of lack of belief or because of strength of belief?  Historically have Baptists been looked upon by the public as not believing absolute truth?)


Collective determination of beliefs


“Southern Baptists have the collective prerogative of determining . . . what they commonly hold as the teaching of God’s inerrant and infallible Word..”


(Do we really want the group to determine what the individual believes?)


(How did the populace allow fascism and communism to control them?)


Dissenting against church polity


“Would critics who champion the case for individual priesthood as justification for dissension and independent thinking deny the very basis on which we practice church and denominational polity?”


(Is a priest a protagonist or a mediator?)


(Does independent thinking deny polity or serve as a check and balance for the politicians?)


Culturally Accommodating Mimics Society


“Many Baptist churches and individuals mimicking society, choosing humanistic thinking, cultural accommodation, and theological compromise at the expense of abiding and eternal truth.”


(How is independent thinking mimicking society?  Did dismissed employees of Southern Baptist agencies compromise theologically by refusing to bind themselves by man-made Baptist Faith and Message?  Is denominational accommodation inherently superior to cultural accommodation?)


Lacking integrity and convictions


“Those who are sent and supported by the SBC have a stewardship and trust to teach, preach, and represent what Southern Baptists believe with integrity and personal conviction.”


(Was it lack of conviction and integrity that caused Baptists to speak against perceived injustices?)




Self-exaltation denies the beliefs of the supporting churches


“Exaltation of independent, self-centered thinking has supplanted submission to the Word of God when individuals sent out and supported by the denomination are unwilling to affirm they will carry out their work in accord with what the churches they represent believe. The few missionaries who rejected my request to affirm the BF&M adopted by the convention in 2000 made it clear they will be accountable to Southern BAPTISTS ONLY THE WAY THEY THEMSELVES CHOOSE. . . How would a local church respond to a pastor who said, ‘I no longer believe or will preach and teach what you as a church have said you believe but I want you to continue to support me.”


(Are sending churches more comfortable with the 2000 BFM than with commissioned missionaries?  Are disenfranchised missionaries admitting they forsook the faith that supporters hold?  Are disenfranchised missionaries accountable to man-made standards rather than God’s standards?  Did self-centered thinking lead missionaries to exalt themselves on the foreign mission field?)


Lacking integrity and convictions


“Those who are sent and supported by the SBC have a stewardship and trust to teach, preach, and represent what Southern Baptists believe with integrity and personal conviction.”


(Have 80 missionaries lost integrity and convictions by refusing to sign BFM and thus giving up ministry, salary, insurance, and retirement benefits the IMB has provided for decades?  Are missionaries who served IMB decades abroad not representative of their supporting churches, with whom they have communicated regularly?)


Denies absolute truth, unaccountable, humanistic, post-modern


“So many are unconsciously succumbing to these kinds of societal influence and that they would be challenging the truths . . . when one denies absolute truth and embraces a theological relativism . . . when one advocates soul competency but without any adherence to the authority of God’s revealed Word and when one insists that self-centered, independent personal opinions supercede any sense of doctrinal accountability, one is indeed moving from the foundation of our historic faith to the nebulous humanistic standards that characterize our post-modern society.”


(Why is independent thinking characterized as self-centered and unaccountable?  Were there scores of missionaries who denied absolute truth and succumbed to societal influence through decades of service in dozens of societies abroad? How did 80 veteran missionaries all at once leave the foundation of the faith to embrace theological relativism with humanistic standards? Why was this not discovered early in their service?)




IF these implications are true, how did these missionaries ever get appointed to serve Southern Baptists? IF Southern Baptists are such heretics, why would they have the influence throughout our country and world? The reputation Southern Baptists have in the USA and the reputation the International Mission Board has throughout the world indicate that the implied accusations above are not true. God has blessed Southern Baptists because we have never been characterized by the characteristics falsely accused above. Dr. Rankin’s slander of God’s servants must be taken very seriously, especially since there is no forum the accused to respond to the accusations. It is time we held in high esteem those who have given their lives in service through Southern Baptist organizations and have stood up for their convictions, regardless of the loss of ministry, income, insurance, retirement benefits, and reputation. Every Southern Baptist needs to think independently to see through the smokescreen that reminds us of McCarthyism, the period as dark to US politics as today is to Southern Baptist life.


About the author:


Thomas D. Daniel is a product of Southern Baptists. Starting with Sunbeams and progressing through the mission organizations, he surrendered to missions in junior high.  A graduate of Southern Baptist schools (B.S. from Grand Canyon University, M. Div. And D. Min. From Southwestern Seminary), he was trained in church planting by the Home Mission Board (NAMB) before appointment with the Foreign Mission Board (IMB) in 1978. He served 25 years in Korea, Uzbekistan, and India before being forced to resign in 2003. He believes signing the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message usurps the role of the Holy Spirit to interpret and apply scripture to his life. His only wife Becky will join him in beginning Hebron Retreat for the cross-cultural missionary family near Colorado Springs as their personal ministry.


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