As part of its international missions strategy, the Southern Baptist Convention's worldwide missions' arm said this week that it would require all missionaries to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The organization claims that this is needed to spread the gospel globally during a pandemic.
International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries and children aged 16 and up will need to be vaccinated before undergoing "field personnel orientation," as per Christian Headlines, which first reported the mission organization's policy change.
It is also necessary for missionaries who are returning to the United States to get vaccinated before attending a "stateside conference." Missionaries, however, are obligated to attend both orientation and conference.
Vaccination is also required for IMB personnel who meet with missionaries for training and conferences.
For missionaries to enter, stay in, or leave a country, the International Mission Board says that a "growing number of the countries" now need evidence of COVID-19 vaccination. If you're visiting a mall or restaurant, IMB says you'll need proofs of inoculation.
In other words, for the gospel to be advanced, the IMB says complying with the new policy is a must.
"We must make every wise decision, even when a decision is exceptionally difficult, that maintains our team members' access to the growing number of unreached peoples and places around the world where vaccines are required for entry," IMB President Paul Chitwood. said.
"We also want to do all we can to undergird our team members' spiritual and physical health to maximize our effectiveness as we serve Southern Baptists in our global gospel endeavors," he added.
The directive also pointed out that the IMB's vaccination regulations are not new. It said that since the IMB introduced vaccination requirements for field workers in the 1980s, the frequency of vaccine-preventable diseases among IMB field staff and their families has dropped substantially.
Senior officials admit that the policy may lead to some workers and staff deciding not to join the IMB, request for leave, or ultimately stop working with the IMB.
Over the years, some have reportedly chosen not to serve with the IMB on foreign missions owing to different views on vaccine requirements.
"We take seriously our responsibility to make the best decisions we can for those serving with IMB," said Todd Lafferty, executive vice president of IMB.
"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."
The medical staff and senior management team at IMB are reported to be adopting all safeguards advised by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control, as well as all applicable local and federal guidelines.
As of September 3, 2021, the Pfizer vaccine is accessible and approved in the United States for anyone aged 16 and above. Staff and officials were provided with a list of other authorized vaccines that satisfy the policy's adult requirement, as well as instructions for those with medical exemption as per their doctors' recommendation.