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IMB Trustees appoint 89 missionaries, set new personnel selection

Glossolalia, baptism of missionary personnel

 

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (BP) — International Mission Board trustees voted to appoint 89 new missionaries during their Nov. 14-17 meeting in Huntsville, Ala. They also learned that Southern Baptists last year took the Gospel to 137 previously unengaged people groups and planted the first evangelical Baptist churches among 14 of those groups that had no evangelical work.

However, IMB president Jerry Rankin told the board, “We have found that we’re focusing on a moving target.” He explained that at the end of 2004, researchers estimated around the world just over 500 unreached, unengaged people groups exist around the world with populations over of more than 100,000. By February, that number was down to 486.

“But in our June [trustee] meeting, that figure was back up to 511, and our last report indicates 630 unengaged people groups,” Rankin said. “It sounds like we’re regressing, but the number is up because there are people groups whose populations keep increasing. Even as we reach many, there are others who are crossing that threshold and now entering that category of 100,000 people or more.

In other business, trustees adopted a 2006 budget of $282.5 million and passed two measures – related to baptism and private prayer language – for IMB personnel selection staff to follow in screening missionary candidates.

The highlight of the meeting was the Nov. 15 appointment service for new Southern Baptist missionaries held in Huntsville’s Von Braun Center in conjunction with the annual meeting of Alabama Baptists. See story on page 16.

 

$282.5 budget approved

Trustees approved a $282.5 million basic budget for 2006 that is $600,000 less than the previous year’s spending plan. The budget anticipates receiving $100.2 million through the Cooperative Program, the Southern Baptist Convention’s unified budget.

The budget also anticipates receipts of $150 million through the 2005 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering; $137 million is included in the operating budget with $13 million reserved for capital expenditures. Reaching the $150 million goal will require a 12 percent increase over the 2004 offering of $133.9 million. To reach the operating budget will require a 2 percent increase.

C. Halsell, finance committee vice chairman, told trustees there is a possible impact to IMB income – particularly Lottie Moon funds – related to hurricane relief. In addition, he noted all Cooperative Program receipts above the budget for fiscal year 2004 and the first three months of 2005 – October through December – have been diverted to Gulf Coast relief efforts.

The IMB has participated in almost $9 million given to hurricane relief in 2005.

Salary budget for field personnel has been increased more than $2.5 million in next year’s budget in anticipation of an increased number of missionaries appointed during 2006.

 

Selection measures adopted

During their plenary session, trustees approved a policy opposing a missionary candidate’s practice of using a “private prayer language.”

Issues of the policy involve missionary candidate qualifications known as “Southern Baptist Identity.” Those qualifications state candidates must: (1) be committed to and identified with Southern Baptists; (2) hold a conviction of truth as expressed in the “Baptist Faith and Message” of the Southern Baptist Convention; (3) possess a minimum of three years’ tenure as a Southern Baptist; and (4) have current membership in a Southern Baptist church.

“In terms of worship practices, the majority of Southern Baptist churches do not practice glossolalia (speaking in tongues),” states the policy approved by trustees as a framework for the Office of Mission Personnel staff.

The policy also says the New Testament speaks of glossolalia as a gift that “generally is considered to be a legitimate language of some people group,” and adds that “prayer language as commonly expressed by those practitioners is not the same as the biblical use of glossolalia.” Also, the policy says the Apostle “Paul’s clear teaching is that prayer should be made with understanding.”

“In terms of general practice, the majority of Southern Baptists do not accept what is referred to as ‘private prayer language,’” the policy further states. “Therefore, if ‘private prayer language’ is an ongoing part of his or her conviction and practice, the candidate has eliminated himself or herself from being a representative of the IMB of the SBC.”

The policy is not retroactive and is designed to be followed beginning Nov. 15, the day of its adoption.

Regarding a candidate’s baptism, trustees voted two to one to establish a guideline that specifies (1) believer’s baptism by immersion; (2) baptism follows salvation; (3) baptism is symbolic, picturing the experience of the believer’s death to sin and resurrection to a new life in Christ; (4) baptism does not regenerate; and (5) baptism is a church ordinance.

The guideline establishes that candidates must have been baptized in a Southern Baptist church or in a church of another denomination that practices believer’s baptism by immersion alone. Also, the baptism must not be viewed as sacramental or regenerative, and the church must embrace the doctrine of the security of the believer.

The guideline says the candidate is responsible to meet this doctrinal commitment. While the IMB candidate consultant should have a working knowledge of other denominational groups, the document says he is not expected to investigate every church.

Trustees voted that any exception to either the policy on a private prayer language or the baptism guideline must be reviewed by IMB staff and the board’s Process Review Committee.