Former IMB Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe, Rodney Hammer, recently resigned his post citing two "extrabiblical" policies the Trustees put in placed which, according to Hammer, "restricted the flow of good conservative candidates."
Questioning the policies, Hammer said: “I am expected as a regional leader to accept, own and support the policies of the IMB trustees. I can do so no longer.”
While, he and his family left the field for stateside assignment on May 5 and plan to be reassigned to a field assignment upon their return, one has to wonder how he can, with integrity, continue to serve for an entity which he can "no longer support."
The larger issue, it seems to me, is Hammer's current "Open Letter to the Southern Baptist Convention" posted on North Carolina's Biblical Recorder. The "Open Letter" offers the standard kudos to all Southern Baptists for their cooperation and affirms the good people at the IMB. In addition, Hammer makes it clear that he loves working for the IMB and the only reason he resigned his post was to blow the whistle on the erroneous policy at work:
"I love working with the missionaries and people of CEE, but I resigned as regional leader in order to share my convictions about IMB missionary candidate policies. I am expected as a regional leader to accept, own, and support the policies of the IMB Trustees. I can do so no longer" (embolden original).
Hammer then offers his theological difficulties with new guidelines on Baptism and Private Prayer language concluding that "We've been led down a Landmarkist ecclesiological path by some influential IMB trustees."
Consequently, he goes on to say,
"They used unfounded rationales to justify missionary candidate de facto policies that overly restrict and disqualify many good, conservative, God-called and otherwise qualified Southern Baptists from missionary service through the IMB" (embolden original).
And, just who are those being disqualified for missions service? The "dozens and even hundreds" include seminary students who have been called to missions, are members of SBC churches, conservative, affirm the BF&M, are willing to abide to IMB policy and specifically go to the ends of the earth.
Upon trying to work through the process, Hammer claims he publicly spoke out against the policy but a single time and was formerly reprimanded. Thus, as much as it pained him to do so, he resigned so he could speak out for all those disqualified, God-called Southern Baptists who could not speak for themselves. Hammer concludes:
"I believe part of the reason for the decline in the SBC is the unnecessary narrowing of parameters for Great Commission cooperation...I am asking that all born again, bible-believing, BF&M affirming, otherwise qualified Southern Baptists who are called to overseas missions and desire to serve through the IMB be allowed to do so."
It cannot be overlooked that Hammer's "Open Letter" comes at a convenient time: Southern Baptists are at the threshold of the yearly convention in June. Now, I'm quite willing to grant Hammer's painful concern drove him to write this letter; however, I'd like the favor returned in granting that it suspiciously appears like the letter was strategically written and released to the public just in time to influence the thousands of Southern Baptist messengers meeting in Indianapolis.
The policies Hammer charges as Biblically suspect have been in effect for two years now. Before one could soberly accept Hammer's concern about the clogged arteries to the mission field he alleges the IMB Trustees caused with their "extrabiblical policies," answers need to be addressed to the stellar condition of our overseas missions projects. Consider:
- Candidate Conferences host record numbers of inquirers desiring to serve as missionaries with the IMB
- the number of active overseas missionaries is approaching record highs
- number of baptisms overseas is 609,968, a record high
- 567,000+ persons discipled--another all time high
- over 25,000 new church starts last year, once again, another all time high
- monies for overseas missions is steadily up
- the missionary attrition rate is presently at 5%, the lowest in the last ten years (and that, since the alleged "extrabiblical policies" have been in place)
With the healthy report from the IMB, one must question whether or not Hammer's analysis is flawed. It certainly seems a high probability.
Even so, a larger and more significant question must be repeated:
Does the open letter Rodney Hammer released and The Biblical Recorder published just prior to the Southern Baptist Convention constitute a matter of personal concern for the state of the IMB or does it stand indicative of political posturing going on among some of the former leaders of our International Mission Board?
Grace. With that, I am...