Jackson Wu recently wrote an article— “Why I Left the SBC and IMB.” It is a very interesting read. It is well-thought out, and he focused on reasons that he had direct experience with rather than the “A friend of mine told me that…”
As a member of the SBC, I feel pushed two ways in the article.
In terms of sadness, Jackson Wu is one of my favorite theologians, and so I liked the fact that he was SB. There are not many SB theologians that I am particularly drawn to. On the other hand, his reasons for leaving I find perfectly valid, and I respect acting according to conviction.
My home sending church is SB, and one of the two churches I am a member of is SB. I teach at an SB seminary… well, sort of. Technically, I teach at a seminary tied to the Southern Baptist Churches in the Philippines, and the Southern Baptist Churches in the Philippines have relationship ties to the Southern Baptist Convention… but legally are independent. I am not IMB, but my wife and I did apply with the IMB, and if that organization had not run out of money back in 2003 (and if I was a bit less chubby), we might have been part of it… at least for awhile. I have known and worked with many IMB missionaries. In almost all cases, the IMB missionaries I knew were class acts. Most of them are no longer part of the IMB— because of refusal to sign a doctrinal statement, or because of relocation, or forced retirement. I certainly have had some concerns about the organization.
The idea of moving missionaries out of theological education really seemed inane at the time. For the IMB, I still think it was ill-advised. Positively, it did force locals to take up the slack in terms of scholarship and training. The majority of professors at the school I teach in are locals now. That is a good thing. So is the policy shift bad or good? Both. But overall, I think it was bad because it crippled one of the strengths of the IMB (training world Christian leaders) and replaced it with a task that IMB missionaries are permanently less competent at (foreign missionaries are not as good at evangelizing and churchplanting as local ministers). Why hobble your strength to empower something you will always be second best at?
In Wu’s article, the one thing he mentioned that I had not heard of, was the signing of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) of missionaries leaving a few years ago. Talking about NDAs would be a violation of the NDA, perhaps? What would I have done if I was told that my pension (which, for lack of a better word, I “earned”) was contingent on me keeping my mouth shut about things inside the organization? When I was in the Navy, I was (and still am) required to not disclose (sorry but there is no actual rule against split infinitives) things that are classified (very happy to say that I don’t have any more such classified materials in my head after 30 years). However, I don’t recall having anything like an NDA to sign… tied to GI benefits and such. I am hoping there is another side to this story with the IMB. However, as one involved in Missionary Member Care, I have seen secrecy and CYA used to protect an organization. In the end, however, it tends to perpetuate problems— especially abuse.
In the end, a missionary (and a theologian) serves the Kingdom of God. To the extent such faithful service can be honestly done, and even be enhanced, within a denomination or a mission organization, it is a good thing. To the extent that the SBC and the IMB are faithful to that calling, and don’t fall into the common traps of power, money, and status, they are a blessing.
How such organizations stay on the straight and narrow are voices, both inside and outside, who challenge and hold accountable. Sadly, such people are often seen as problems not blessings.
That is exactly why we need them.
You Can Read the Article by Clicking Here