There has been a great deal of confusion regarding the new policies for missionary appointees of the IMB. I felt it would be best to show you the old policies which guided the appointment process for the past several decades, and then the "new" policies on baptism and tongues approved at the last IMB Meeting in Huntsville, Alabama.
The Old Policy Regarding the Missionary Candidate's Baptism
The staff of the International Board, through the Candidate Consultants, thoroughly investigated the faith and baptism of each Southern Baptist who applied to be a missionary for the Southern Baptist Convention. The Candidate Consultant doing the interview with the missionary candidate would only pass on to the Personnel Committee of the International Mission Board a missionary candidate for appointment if the following were true of his/her baptism:
(1). The candidate's baptism was by immersion after having come to faith in Jesus Christ.
(2). The candidate's baptism was an expressions of the candidate's faith in Christ for salvation, and the baptism was not seen by the candidate as the means of salvation (i.e. "baptismal regeneration"), and,
(3). The candidate's home church, which of course by IMB policy must be a Southern Baptist Church, had already received the candidate's statement of faith in Christ, and baptism, as both sound and biblical; and the candidate had been a member in good standing of a Southern Baptist Church for at least three years.
THIS IMB TRUSTEE'S OPINION REGARDING THE OLD POLICY ON THE MISSIONARY CANDIDATE'S BAPTISM: It was excellent. By following the above procedures, the Candidate Consultants of the IMB were so thorough and effective in their investigation of missionary candiates, that there cannot be ONE EXAMPLE GIVEN OF ANY MISSIONARY APPOINTED TO THE IMB MISSION FIELD IN THE LAST TWENTY YEARS WHO HAS NOT BEEN SCRIPTURALLY BAPTIZED.
The "NEW" Policy Regarding Baptism for Missionary Consultants
POINTS TO BE COVERED DURING THE APPOINTMENT PROCESS:
a.Believer’s baptism by immersion
Baptism by immersion follows salvation
b.Baptism is symbolic, picturing the experience of the believer’s death to sin and resurrection to a new life in Christ.
Baptism does not regenerate.
2. The Church
a.Baptism is a church ordinance.
Baptism must take place in a church that practices believer’s baptism by immersion alone, does not view baptism as sacramental or regenerative, and a church that embraces the doctrine of the security of the believer.
b. A candidate who has not been baptized in a Southern Baptist church or in a church which meets the standards listed above is expected to request baptism in his/her Southern Baptist church as a testimony of identification with the system of belief held by Southern Baptist churches.
The candidate is responsible for meeting this doctrinal commitment to the above points
While the candidate consultant should have a working knowledge of many
denominational groups, he is not expected to investigate every church.
1.This guideline is not retroactive.
2.Any exception to the above guideline must be reviewed by the staff and the Process Review Committee.
THIS IMB TRUSTEE'S OBJECTIONS TO THE NEW POLICY ON BAPTISM The emphasis is placed on "the administrator" of the baptism (the church, the person doing the baptism, etc . . .), an emphasis that neither the Baptist Faith and Message or Scripture makes. To equate baptism with "a church" or "a body or system of doctrine" as the new policy does, goes far beyond Scripture and the Baptist Faith and Message, where baptism is seen as person's identification with Jesus Christ. In addition, the IMB is now in the absurd position of sending a prospective missionary back to his home church for "rebaptism" when the missionary candidate himself, the pastor of the missionary candidate, and the home church of the missionary candidate all believe that the candidate's baptism is biblical. All of section #2 in the new policy, entitled "The Church," is a change from previous policy and becomes extraordinarily exclusive, even Landmarkish. The practical effect of this new policy is that there will be missionaries who apply for service to the IMB, who have been Scripturally baptized, and are members in good standing of an SBC Church, but will be rejected by the IMB for service.
The previous IMB policy and practice regarding the candidate's baptism IS SUFFICIENT.
THE OLD POLICY REGARDING GLOSSOLALIA OR "TONGUES"
APPOINTING MISSIONARIES WHO HAVE A PRIVATE PRAYER LANGUAGE
The IMB’s Position:
1.The board does not have a policy that precludes appointment for those who have a private prayer language.
2.The Mission Personnel Committee dealt with this issue on June 23, 1992. There was a discussion of guidelines used by staff in dealing with candidates who have experienced “tongues.” Copies of the following statement were handed out:
IMB APPROACH TO GLOSSOLALIA
The International Mission Board has not voted a policy statement with regard to glossolalia and it is not mentioned among the criteria for mission service. However, the International Mission Board represents all Southern Baptists and it is important that our missionaries be people who are comfortable with worship as it is normally expressed within the Southern Baptist family of churches.
As we talk with candidates we discuss their beliefs, patterns of worship and devotional life, and a host of other issues related to their life as Christians and Baptists. In the course of such discussions we find that it is appropriate and natural to talk about worship and prayer, including glossolalia if that is a part of the individual's experience.
Our intention in those discussions is neither to interrogate nor to instruct, but to come to a point of mutual understanding. In terms of worship practices, the vast majority of Southern Baptist churches do not practice glossolalia in their public services. Therefore, if a person feels that glossolalia is a vital, significant and public part of his or her conviction and practice, we believe that person has eliminated himself or herself from being a representative of the majority of Southern Baptists. At the same time, we do not try to enter into the prayer closet of an individual to monitor or evaluate that person's prayer language and life.
After discussion, the committee endorsed the position taken by staff in dealing with this issue.
3.The General Policy Manual deals with the reasons for terminating field personnel. Number six says:
“A persistent emphasis of any specific gift of the Spirit as normative for all or to the extent such emphasis becomes disruptive to the Baptist fellowship.” (General Policy 200-11) (This statement is also found in MFP-221 and MFP-226).
THIS IMB TRUSTEE'S OPINION ON THE OLD POLICY REGARDING TONGUES: It is excellent. You were fired if you practiced tongues publicly on the field, but nobody entered a person's private prayer closet.
THE NEW POLICY REGARDING GLOSSOLALIA OR "TONGUES."
1.The New Testament speaks of a gift of glossolalia that generally is considered to be a legitimate language of some people group.
2.The New Testament expression of glossolalia as a gift had specific uses and conditions for its exercise in public worship.
3.In term of worship practices, the majority of Southern Baptist churches do not practice glossolalia. Therefore, if glossolalia is a public part of his or her conviction and practice, the candidate has eliminated himself or herself from being a representative of the IMB of the SBC.
1.Prayer language as commonly expressed by those practitioners is not the same as the biblical use of glossolalia.
2.Paul’s clear teaching is that prayer is to be made with understanding.
3.Any spiritual experience must be tested by the Scriptures.
4. In terms of general practice, the majority of Southern Baptists do not accept what is referred to as “private prayer language.” Therefore, if “private prayer language” is an ongoing part of his or her conviction and practice, the candidate has eliminated himself or herself from being a representative of the IMB of the SBC.
1.This policy is not retroactive.
2.Any exceptions to the above policy must be reviewed by the staff and the Process Review Committee.
THIS IMB TRUSTEE'S OBJECTION TO THE NEW POLICY: Under these new guidelines Miss Bertha Smith, Dr. George Ella, President Jerry Rankin, and a host of other wonderful Southern Baptist missionaries would be disqualified for service. Cooperation among conservatives who disagree on this issue, and other issues of Biblical interpretation, is essential to reaching the world for Christ.
IN SUMMARY: Allow the words from the old IMB Policy to ring in your ears:
The International Mission Board represents all Southern Baptists . . .
As 2005 draws to an end, I ask, is the above still statement still true?
IN His Grace,