Trustees appoint 89 missionaries, adopt personnel measures
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (BP)--International Mission Board trustees voted to appoint 89 new missionaries during their Nov. 14-17 meeting in Huntsville, Ala., and 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 existed 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 keeps 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.
"We realize that even with the cooperative efforts of the major mission agencies in the evangelical world, we will not do it alone. Only as we facilitate, mobilize and enable all of God's people called Southern Baptists to be engaged in our Great Commission task can we hope to reach a lost world.
"We have to train, equip and facilitate more Southern Baptist churches to join the task and accelerate reaching the unreached people groups."
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 missionaries held in Huntsville's Von Braun Center in conjunction with the annual meeting of Alabama Baptist State Convention. The 89 new missionaries marked the sixth-largest group ever appointed and followed up the 86 new workers (seventh-largest) appointed during the September meeting in Pensacola, Fla.
These newest missionaries are a diverse group in background and experience. They come from 30 states and six foreign countries and represent vocations as varied as businessmen, teachers, engineers, computer analysts, a farmer, accountant, building contractor and police officer.
$282.5 MILLION 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.
Finance committee chairman Ken Whitten pointed out the operating portion of the budget is up about $9 million over 2005, while the capital portion decreased about $10 million. However, he said the capital budget has some flexibility, particularly in capital funding related to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.
The budget also anticipates receipts of $150 million through the 2005 Lottie Moon 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. Reaching the operating budget will require a 2 percent increase.
A.C. Halsell, finance committee vice chairman, told trustees there is a possible impact to IMB funding -- particularly Lottie Moon receipts -- related to hurricane relief. In addition, he noted all Cooperative Program receipts above the budget for fiscal year 2004-05 and the first three months of the 2005-06 year -- 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. The IMB in September contributed $2.5 million in relief funds from contingency reserves, and the Southern Baptist Convention has redirected an estimated $6.5 million in Cooperative Program funds from the IMB to Hurricane Katrina relief.
The 2006 budget projects $17.3 million from investment income, which will provide 6.12 percent of total board income in 2006, which is the equivalent of supporting more than 10 percent of the board's 5,000-plus missionaries, or supporting 43 percent of the IMB's stateside administrative and promotional costs in 2006.
Hunger and relief funds are projected to remain at $8 million in 2006. Noting that the IMB received almost $17 million in tsunami relief this year, he said hunger and relief receipts are "event-driven," and the board is committed to spend all relief funds it receives. If contributions exceed the budgeted amount, the IMB will adjust spending to keep pace with receipts.
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.
The stateside support portion of the total basic budget increased from 13.34 percent to 14.14 percent. Whitten said the IMB business plan calls for keeping the stateside budget in a 13- to 15-percent range.
Whitten said these are "challenging days for Southern Baptists. Hurricane relief efforts are underway in many states. We must move forward with the work the Lord has given us. There's a lost world out there.
"We need to move forward in an aggressive but measured way, but be aware of possible disruptions we could face," Whitten continued. "We are grateful to Southern Baptists for the way they provide for the Lord's work around the world."
SELECTION MEASURES ADOPTED
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 that 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)," the policy approved by trustees states in providing a framework for the IMB's office of mission personnel staff to use with new candidates regarding a private prayer language.
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 by a 2-1 margin 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.
The next meeting of International Mission Board trustees is scheduled for Jan. 9-11 in Richmond, Va. The meeting will include a missionary appointment service at 7 p.m. Jan. 10 at Staples Mill Road Baptist Church.