IMB leader resigns over baptism and tongues policies

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)—Rodney Hammer, the Southern Baptist International Mission Board’s regional leader for Central and Eastern Europe the past eight years, resigned after challenging policies of the board of trustees with which he is in disagreement.

Hammer informed the trustee committee responsible for his region and IMB administration that he could no longer support personnel policies adopted by the board regarding the baptism of prospective missionaries and regarding private prayer language. Hammer resigned his position, recognizing expectations for field leadership to be accountable to and support board policies.

Hammer and his family left the field for stateside assignment on May 5. They plan to be reassigned to a field assignment upon their return.

“We absolutely love working with our missionary family and the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe, but I must now resign as regional leader,” said Hammer, who has served as an IMB missionary 18 years. “I am expected as a regional leader to accept, own and support the policies of the IMB trustees. I can do so no longer.”

Mark Edworthy, a member of the regional leadership team, will serve as interim regional leader.

Baptism policy

In 2005, IMB trustees adopted a stance against appointing missionary candidates who have not been baptized in a Southern Baptist church or in a church of another denomination that practices believer’s baptism by immersion alone.

A second policy ruled out the appointment of missionary candidates who practice either glossolalia—speaking in tongues—in public or a “private prayer language.”

In 2007, the trustees revised the measures, which are now both termed guidelines. They retain much of the original wording, but with several changes for clarification. Neither the original actions nor the revisions apply retroactively to missionaries appointed before the measures were adopted.

IMB President Jerry Rankin expressed appreciation for Hammer’s leadership in a challenging part of the world.


“We are grateful for Rodney’s passion and vision for leading the region to growth and evangelistic impact these last eight years,” Rankin said. “We respect his personal convictions and regret that the compelling desire to speak to these issues makes it inappropriate to continue his leadership role.

“We all had opportunities to speak to the issues over the more than two years these personnel guidelines were being considered. However, once the decision was made it is essential the policies of the board be respected and supported.

“The board of trustees are very conscientious about representing Southern Baptists and are committed to doing what they feel is necessary for the effectiveness of our work around the world.”

Reported by the International Mission Board’s communications office.
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