The Seneca Falls 2 Christian Conference is an inter-denominational event, which should be of interest to all who believe the Bible teaches the priesthood of every believer. It should be of particular interest to Southern Baptists who, seven years ago today, witnessed the International Missions Board (IMB) lose 43 missionaries in one day due to pressure to sign the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message.
Why not sign?
“Don and Angie Finley of Brazil, are two of the missionaries whose resignations were accepted by the IMB on May 7, 2003. They declared they were ‘not resigning because we have a problem with grassroots Southern Baptists’ or ‘because we have done anything wrong or have something to hide. When a Baptist missionary sending agency demands doctrinal accountability on the basis of a man-made document rather than on the basis of Scripture, something is wrong…When unnamed critics are taken seriously when they make vague, generalized and unsubstantiated accusations against doctrinally sound and spiritually committed missionaries, something is wrong. When denominational politics takes precedence over mission priorities, and missionaries themselves are made pawns in a denominational political game, something is wrong.’
Rick Dill, a missionary who was fired along with his wife, Nancy, clarifies: "‘A small group of really vicious people are the ones who are making policy at the board,’ …The Dills outlined four concerns they have with the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message: Removal of the statement: ‘The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ,’ from the 1963 version. ‘The center of our faith is Jesus Christ--God who became man, born of a virgin, crucified as atonement for our sin, raised on the third day, ascended to the right hand of the Father…All Scripture comes from him and can only be understood through him,’ Use of the expression ‘priesthood of believers’ instead of ‘priesthood of the believer.’ ‘Each of us stands individually before God,’ Dill said. ‘We are called to be his priests; his Spirit works within us individually as well as corporately, and finally, we will be called to account for our lives as his servants. Loss of that concept, not liberalism, is what killed the Christian movement in Europe…The priesthood of the believer was denied and taken away, and the clergy decided what you believe, what you do and when you believe it. They took the experience with God, that the Bible insists upon, completely away. That's the most dangerous thing that is facing us as Southern Baptists.’
The Bottom Line
It is suspected that the “small group of really vicious people” making policy at the IMB were more concerned with female subordination than with anything else. Dill continues explaining why he and his wife could not sign the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message: “Insertion of language that a wife should ‘submit herself graciously’ to her husband, while ignoring ‘the injunction of Paul to submit to each other.’ Insertion of a statement that ‘the office of pastor is limited to men.’ In China, women pastor a majority of the churches,’ Dill said. ‘In Germany, we have a number of women who are Baptist pastors and do an exemplary job of service. ... Does this mean all of these women are serving out of God's will?’"
The Crux of the Matter?
If missionary wives did not agree to submit graciously to their husbands and forsake the priesthood of every believer in favor of a priesthood composed of only male believers, then missionary couples would no longer be supported by the Southern Baptist International Missions Board, and must either support themselves or come home.
On May 7, 2003, 30 missionaries resigned. 13 were fired. It was the “largest mass exodus in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board. ’We've never had anything close to this,’ said Alan Lefever, director of the Texas Baptist Historical Collection.”
What happened at the IBM is an example of why Christians who support the priesthood of all believers –Vs- the priesthood of only some believers need to stand up and be counted. And we can do that by supporting the Seneca Falls 2 Christian Conference which will be held in Orlando, FL on July 24 of this year. Shirley Taylor, founder of Baptist Women for Equality, who says we’ve talked about it long enough, now it’s time to do something, has confirmed that she will be speaking at the conference. http://www.senecafalls2.com/
After the resignations and firings, the IMB disclosed that the 98% of foreign missionaries who did sign the document were not all in agreement with it. Some missionaries admitted they signed under pressure in order to keep their ministries. "We've talked with numerous missionaries who basically said, 'God called me here, and I'll sign in order to keep doing my ministry.' Additionally, you have 'yes' responses ranging from 'This is a wonderful statement of faith' to 'I can live with it.' … ‘Of the many disappointments and frustrations since the so-called 'conservative resurgence,' the firing of God-called missionaries is far and away the saddest day of all.," http://www.baptiststandard.com/2003/5_19/pages/terminations.html