The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention has stated that SBC missionaries must be fully vaccinated.
The IMB, which handles most Southern Baptist missions operations, posted a statement in early September proclaiming that getting vaccines would be imperative for the mission organization's goals. "The International Mission Board exists to serve Southern Baptists in carrying out the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations — even to those people in the overpopulated urban cities, even to those in the hardest-to-reach jungles and plains," writes IMB President Paul Chitwood in a prewritten statement. "And the IMB is pressing forward to share the gospel even in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic that is no respecter of geographical boundaries or human demographics."
The IMB changed its policy in light of ongoing international changes and recommendations provided by the WHO and CDC. Several of the countries that missionaries wish to serve in require vaccines to enter or exit their borders. As such, the IMB will now need missionaries to receive the vaccination before Field Personnel Orientation. Returning missionaries would also be required to be vaccinated before attending any Stateside events.
The IMB is also recommending that any missionary children 12 or older receive the vaccine. While some may see this as an overreach of the organization, the IMB notes that they have consistently required vaccines for missionaries since the 1980s.
The organization realizes that this policy may result in people leaving the IMB or taking a temporary absence. However, this is not new for the organization, as others have opted out similarly in the past. “We take seriously our responsibility to make the best decisions we can for those serving with IMB,” said IMB executive vice president Todd Lafferty. “The challenges of COVID-19 continue to deeply affect us all. Some have lost loved ones, others have dealt personally with terrible illness, and many remain in lockdown throughout the world. Just when it seems the pandemic may be loosening its grip, more information arrives, and we encounter new complications.”