Dear Brother Tom Hatley,
Thank you for your letter of clarification regarding the controversy that has emerged over the decision of the IMB trustees to modify/clarify the Board's appointment policy regarding "tongues and baptism."
My concern is regarding process more than the specific policy decision that the trustees approved. I find it very problematic when our SBC entity boards add "faith and practice" requirements that are not included in the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M), as approved by the SBC in annual meeting.
If the IMB trustees (or any other SBC entity trustees) want to impose upon their employees doctrinal requirements that are not presently included in the Baptist Faith and Message, it would seem appropriate for those trustees to first bring a recommendation to the SBC in annual meeting to amend the Baptist Faith and Message accordingly. I have always believed that the primary reason for the conservative resurgence (which I have actively supported since the SBC annual meeting in Houston in 1979) was to put SBC entity trustees in place who would faithfully act on behalf of the SBC in fulfilling their responsibilities. I do not consider it appropriate for our trustees to add or subtract doctrinal requirements that have not been sanctioned/approved by the SBC in annual meeting.
Again, let me be clear that I personally agree with what the IMB trustees believe about tongues and baptism, but what I believe and what the trustees believe is irrelevant in forming doctrinal policy for an SBC entity until the SBC has so defined our accepted faith and practices as Southern Baptists.
Surely, you guys realize the danger of the precedent that you are establishing. There are many theological interpretations that the BF&M does not specifically address because they are not fundamental to our faith. For example, most Southern Baptists are dispensational in their eschatology, but our BF&M statement on "Last Things" does not stipulate a specific eschatological view because it is not fundamental to the faith. However, with the action of the IMB trustees as a precedent, one of our SBC entity trustee boards could conceivably make belief in dispensational premillenialism a requirement for employment. Or how about the theological issue of "Calvinism?" Your approach to imposing "extra-BF&M" requirements has no good end!
If the doctrinal policy is not established by the SBC in annual meeting through changes to the BF&M, then the requirements for employment by SBC entities can be as varied as the next batch of trustees might decide. This looks like we are undoing what have we gained through the last twenty-five years. It's sad to me that the conservative resurgence finale has put us right back where we were before 1979: just a different set of "autonomous trustees" in charge of our entities doing what they want to do with no real submission to or respect for the SBC. Do you not trust the messengers to decide?
My recommendation is that you rescind your policy decision and bring a recommendation to the SBC to amend the Baptist Faith and Message accordingly -- let the messengers decide. That's what we have done and what we have fought for the last 25 years.
God bless you,
J. K. Minton, Director of Missions
Bluebonnet Baptist Association
1424 N Business I-35, New Braunfels, TX 78130