Southern Baptist Convention: new ruling

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Puritan Board Sophomore
All over the web, there are discussions on the SBC's new ruling on tongues, baptisms and missionaries. I find both the ruling and the reactions to it interesting.

Here is an article from

Thoughts anyone?

Wade Burleson: Open Letter to SBC

Since I've talked with him before, I decided to email Wade Burleson about the new IMB policies. He is a trustee of the IMB and a pastor in Oklahoma. He wrote me back with a very interesting email and now has offered an open letter to the SBC on the matter. Here it is.

I think I have the content and formatting in order (it was a real ordeal). If you find any glitches, please let me know.

This is an open letter, and I would love to see some interaction from other leaders in the SBC with their take on this.

An Open Letter to My Beloved SBC,

The work of the Southern Baptist Convention through the International Mission Board takes my breath away. Some of the finest, godliest men and women I have ever met are right now serving us as SBC missionaries and are taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to people groups around the world.

I wish everyone could hear the reports I hear as a trustee of our IMB. Anytime you get an opportunity, attend an appointment service in your area. It will forever change your perspective about missions.

Having voiced my support of the IMB staff, missionaries, and the ever expanding mission work of the SBC, I wish to voice a deep concern about the direction some of the trustees of the IMB seem to be moving. Not all trustees, but many in key positions of leadership.

In essence, I am deeply saddened by the actions of the board regarding the new baptism and tongues policies.

Though I am a new trustee to the IMB, I fought hard over the past six months to stop the new polices from going into effect.

In essence, the new polices state that if you ever used a "prayer language" in your Christian life you are not qualified to serve on the mission field as a Southern Baptist. The former IMB policy , under which the IMB operated for decades, stated that a person who "advocated" or "practiced" tongues publicly on the mission field would be fired, but in the past, the IMB refused to concern itself with what a missionary did in the privacy of his prayer closet."
Though I have some serious theological reservations regarding "prayer language" or "speaking in tongues" I fought long to oppose this new policy for three reasons:

(1). Christians have disagreed for centuries (including Baptists) on Paul's writings concerning "tongues" and/or "prayer language." I did not see that this issue is one that should keep a missionary, called of God, off the field, particularly since the former IMB policy was sufficient, and clearly stated that if you practiced tongues publicly on the field you would be fired. Why go further?

(2). The President of the IMB, Jerry Rankin, made it publicly known when he was hired that he had a "private prayer language." Now we are in the absurd position of having the President of our International Mission Board not qualified to serve as a field missionary. This does not make sense. Yes, the policy is not "retroactive," but if a person is "honest" about a PRIVATE prayer language, he will disqualify himself from appointment.

(3). What's next? Eschatology maybe? Will the IMB now set a guideline saying that you can't be appointed if you are not a dispensationalist? Soteriology maybe? Can you not be appointed if you are a Calvinist? Or maybe the next issue will be women wearing pants to church? (tongue firmly in cheek, not "tongues" in cheek).

But frankly the baptism issue STARTLED ME!

I am so broken hearted over the steps the IMB took in establishing this new baptism guideline that I seriously thought about resigning from the board, but then quickly changed my mind (to the groans of some).
In essence, the new guideline of the IMB regarding baptism states that a person must be baptized by a qualified "administrator" of baptism, which simply means, according to the new policy, a pastor of a Southern Baptist Church, or one "ordained" by a Southern Baptist Church. Nobody on the board disagreed with the mode of baptism (immersion) or the candidate for baptism (a believer, not an infant), but I, and others, vehemently argued that having to "prove" the qualifications of the "administrator" of baptism was both unbiblical and Landmark. Landmarkism almost split our convention in the 1850's. The Landmarks of that day left our convention and became Campbellites (Church of Christ), and of course, the Church of Christ churches perceive baptism in "their" waters as the only valid baptism.

Most Southern Baptists do not even understand the horrific implications of this new IMB guideline.

There are two BIG PROBLEMS with it.

(1) The IMB has now placed herself over the local church, a violation of church autonomy and historic Baptist polity. For instance, if a church, like mine, examines a person's faith and baptism, and if after our examination, we determine that the person's faith in Christ preceded his baptism, and that the baptism was by immersion as a symbol of the work of Christ on the believer's behalf, we will then RECEIVE that member into our church. That person is now a member of a Southern Baptist Church.

But sadly, if that member were then to request appointment by the IMB as a missionary, the IMB would then supercede the local church and decide whether or not that person was a "Southern Baptist" by reexamining their baptism and if IT DID NOT OCCUR IN A SBC CHURCH OR BY A REPRESENTATIVE OF AN SBC CHURCH, that person would not be appointed.

(2). The IMB will now instruct prospective missionaries to leave their local church to join one that holds to her view of baptism.

This is the practical effect of the new guideline. Here's how it plays out.

Let's say we have a Muslim in our church who came to faith in Christ through the ministry of a Youth for Christ evangelist. That young evangelist had the privilege of baptizing the Muslim convert in the JORDAN RIVER. When this new convert petitioned to join our church we examined his faith and his baptism, and upon seeing the obvious work of Christ in the former Muslim's heart, and then hearing how his own family turned on him when he publicly professed his faith in Christ through baptism by immersion in the Jordan River, we received him into our fellowship (this example is very, very close to an actual example of a former Muslim who now is an independent missionary commissioned and supported by our church in Niger, Africa).

I asked the full board of the IMB at our last meeting a question. When our church member, the converted Muslim, applies to the IMB Board for appointment as a missionary, which he one day I believe he will do, what will the IMB policy stipulate?

The answer was shocking.

He would be asked to come back to me to request baptism ---- AGAIN. Why? The person who baptized him was "not qualified." The Youth for Christ evangelist was not a "qualified administrator" of baptism. Our church said he was "scripturally baptized," but the IMB GUIDELINE ADDS TO SCRIPTURE and says the administrator of baptism was not qualified. Will just ONE person show me the Scripture that supports this new IMB policy. Again, this new IMB policy is a PURE LANDMARK position.

I told the Board on the basis of principle I would refuse the IMB's request to REBAPTIZE the prospective missionary.
I was then told that the IMB would then ask him to leave my church in order that he might affiliate with a SBC church that would rebaptize him (this conversation took place out in a hall after the meeting by the person who wrote the new guideline. Rick Thompson, a dear brother of like mind with me, and pastor of the Council Road Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, heard the entire conversation).

It is obvious to me that Baptists are very messed up regarding their understanding of baptism. In my opinion it ought to be mandatory for every Southern Baptist to read Dr. John Gill's "A Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity" and focus on the section entitled "Baptism." Baptism is an ordinance of Christ. It unites the believer with the body of Christ. It is the church's responsibility to examine one's faith and baptism before the prospective member is admitted into the local fellowship of believers . But again, the idea that the only valid baptism is one conducted at the hands of an "ordained" Southern Baptist minister or "appointed minister" of a Southern Baptist church is popish and Cambellite.

We had better set the course straight or the Southern Baptist ship will steer straight into the swift river of legalism and Fundamentalism (with a capital F) .

Let me reiterate that all the people who serve the IMB as trustees are sincere, godly people. Many, not a few, vociferously fought against these new policies.

The IMB should keep the main thing the main thing. We defeated the liberals 20 years ago, but I'm afraid the ugly head of legalism could be rising from the new SBC and it may be harder to defeat than liberalism.

Harsh words? Maybe, but I've said the same thing during our public IMB meetings, and there are a large number of staff and trustees at the IMB who agree.

In His Grace,


Posted by Steve McCoy at 03:36 PM in SBC Efforts | Permalink |

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
The rubber is meeting the road. "Tongues", "qualified administrators". Can you say confusion? They are on to something here. Someone is starting to think governmentally. They are slowly putting the pieces together. The results could be great.

Can you say Presbyterianism?

[Edited on 12-6-2005 by Scott Bushey]


Puritan Board Graduate
Nice to see the remnants of Penecostal nonsense being worked out (I bet La Haye is going NUTS though! :lol:)
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