By Jim Nieman
Leaders of some of the largest independent Christian church mission organizations say they monitor COVID-19 closely, but none requires their missionaries be fully vaccinated against the disease, a step recently taken by the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“We do not have a TCM requirement, as such, but abide by the rules that the countries we serve in recommend and/or require,” said Tony Twist, president of TCM International Institute, which develops Christian leaders internationally. “There are rules related to visas and residency requirements, as well as rules related to getting back to the U.S. and [traveling] from country to country.” The rules keep changing, which makes following them difficult.
“The simplest solution is vaccination plus additional required tests and quarantines,” Twist said.
Jeff Metzger serves as CEO/president of New International, which has missionaries “living in 33 nations [and] doing significant work in 52 nations globally.” The mission sending organization is primarily comprised of American citizens, but also has a mix of other nationalities among its affiliates (missionaries), “some with limited or no practical vaccine access.”
“Our affiliates are required to comply with local laws,” Metzger said. “We expect our people to exercise good self-care in their circumstances and that each has the wisdom and resources to do so. We believe that best protects our people and allows them to thrive.”
New International always strives to do what’s in the best interests of its missionaries, Metzger said.
At Team Expansion, an evangelism and church-planting organization, “we’ve evaluated COVID protocols on a weekly basis since March 1, 2020,” said president Doug Lucas. “Our current protocol is ‘masks are recommended indoors.’ Due to multiple circumstances, we are not planning to institute a vaccination protocol at this time, though, like I say, we reevaluate COVID protocols weekly.”
The International Conference On Missions does not send out missionaries (except through its fledgling EnterMission program), but it hosts them for a big annual gathering that also includes thousands of churchgoers, Christian students, and exhibitors. The next event is scheduled for Nov. 18-21 in Richmond, Va.
“We do not require anything unless we are forced to by the local government or the venue in which we are meeting in,” said ICOM executive director David Empson. “That’s not our place to set policy, but to cooperate with what the powers that be set for our country.”
“We encourage folks coming to be wise in how they handle themselves,” he said. “Some will come without any worries; some will not come because of health concerns.”
Last year, there was a “huge spike” in COVID-19 about 10 days prior to the ICOM gathering planned in Indianapolis, and that event was changed to virtual-only. (Read our article from last week.)
“I sense that this year the virus will not have as big an impact as it did in 2020,” Empson said. “It will impact some, but others are maybe used to it, have the vaccine, feel safe about it. . . . Some will watch from home.”
“We have a policy on our website, and we will keep it updated as we get closer to the event and hear more about what is going on in that area and rulings of the local government,” Empson said.
Jim Nieman serves as managing editor of Christian Standard.