According to reports from Baptist Press and other sources, the International Mission Board (IMB) Board of Trustees voted to open new pathways of service by, among other things, removing previous restrictions that had been developed a decade ago. In 2005, the IMB BoT created restrictions to missionary service that included barring anyone from service who had a private prayer language (PPL) and anyone who had been baptized by immersion in a church that did not teach eternal security or that was not in line with the Baptist perspective on perseverance even if they were members in good standing of SBC churches today. These restrictions created a great deal of controversy in Southern Baptist life from 2005-2007 and were a major impetus for the growth of Baptist blogging and calls for reform among many. Today, those policies have been changed along with the removal of restrictions involving candidates who had been divorced and candidates with teenaged children.
From the Baptist Press article:
LOUISVILLE, Ky.(BP) — Citing urgency for reaching a lost world and unity with the Baptist Faith & Message, International Mission Board trustees streamlined guidelines for appointing new personnel to fulfill their missionary calling.
Trustees voted to approve the proposal during IMB’s May 12-13 trustee meeting in Louisville, Ky.
God is worthy of the worship of all people, yet billions have yet to hear the good news of the Gospel. In February 2015, trustees approved a simplified structure with the goal of empowering limitless teams of missionaries to make disciples and multiply churches among unreached people, explained IMB President David Platt.
Toward this end, IMB aims to provide multiple pathways in which missionaries may serve on these teams, and each will involve specific qualifications. The newly revised policy creates a unified statement of qualifications that will characterize every missionary serving through any pathway created by IMB to mobilize Southern Baptists to share the Gospel with unreached people.
“When you hear ‘pathway,’ think ‘possibilities’ — all the possible ways that people in the pews of Southern Baptist churches might serve overseas: as doctors, teachers, accountants, lawyers, fitness instructors, rickshaw drivers, students, retirees,” Platt said. “We’re talking about limitless possibilities that God has providentially arranged for His people to go around the world with the Gospel. And as the IMB, we want to send Southern Baptists through as many pathways as possible, which necessitates that we open up the pipeline for people to come through those pathways.”
Prior to the May board of trustees meeting, miscellaneous policies existed for career, apprentice, Journeyman, ISC and Masters program missionary appointees. Specific policy regulations covered issues of faith and practice such as levels of education, history of divorce, teenage children in the home, the practice of a private prayer language, and greater specificity around baptism than the Baptist Faith & Message.
“As we look toward the future and the limitless number of missionaries we want to mobilize from Southern Baptist churches, we want to give Southern Baptists a simple, clear statement of qualifications that unifies not only the missionaries serving on one of those teams on the field, but unifies the IMB with the whole of the SBC,” Platt said, noting the revised policy serves as the unifying standard for all IMB missionaries, regardless of what role they might play on a team.