It seems in the very healthy blogosphere discussion on the subject of baptism, with contributors from all sides of the conservative theological spectrum, that two or three clear possibilities regarding the outcome of the new IMB policy on baptism have arisen to the forefront.
It must be remembered that the only people who can change the IMB policy are trustees themselves. Trustees are called upon to act in the best interest of the International Mission Board, and I, as well as other trustees, take that charge very seriously. I have received hundreds of emails, letters and phone calls from people around the United States and have attempted to patiently and personally answer every question.
With the knowledge that only the trustees may reverse the policy on baptism, here are two or three possible scenarios with the most likely first:
(1). The Baptism Ad Hoc Committee issues a report this January 30, 2007, or in a subsequent trustee meeting, that offers new wording for the baptism policy. As most people know, the debate is not over the mode or candidate (nobody is advocating 'sprinkling' or 'pouring;' neither is anyone advocating baptizing infants or 'the lost'), but rather, the debate is over whether one should be baptized to 'identify' with a particular doctrine (eternal security), system of belief, or denomination. Wording could be offered that made it clearer that Christian baptism is identification with Christ -- not a 'denomination.'Again, this committee has no authority to change policy, so any rewording of the new baptism policy would have to be voted on by the entire board in open, plenary session. The rewording might also reflect a recognition of the autonomy of the local church, and a willingness to never subvert said autonomy.
(2). A report is issued this January 30, 2007 during the California trustee meeting, or a subsequent trustee meeting, from the Baptism Ad Hoc Committee that, in effect, recommends the reversal of the new baptism policy passed November 15, 2005. Since the full board must establish policy, all 89 trustees would then have to vote on the reversal. If the new policy on baptism is rescinded, then the Candidate Consultants of the IMB would revert to following the 'guidelines' they used in interviewing a missionary candidate regarding his faith and baptism prior to November 15, 2006.
(3). The Baptism Ad Hoc Committee's report recommends no changes to the new policy. Under this scenario the new policy would remain in effect until there were a change of leadership by either attrition or the placing of new trustees who were of a mind to change the policy by the Southern Baptist Convention and her President, and those trustees then elect a chairman of the board who was sympathetic with the policy's reversal.
These are the three leading scenarios in my mind. There may be more, but I think these three are the major options. I do not know which one the Baptism Ad Hoc Committee will take since I have received no communication from the committee.
The Baptism Ad Hoc Committee includes the following trustees:
Bill Curp, Andy Johnson, Sam Morgan, Herman Pair, Blake Withers.
There are some very sharp individuals on this committee, and their report will be much anticipated. In this age of communication, information and transparency, we trustees must do allw we can to make our rationale public for actions taken, open the dialogue on important decisions to include all Southern Baptists, and to remember that in agencies and documents that desire 'cooperation' among all Southern Baptists it is always best to keep the parameters of cooperation broad and the doctrinal requirements focused on the essentials, not secondary issues over which people disagree.
I have not spoken to anyone on the Baptist Ad Hoc Committee since the committee was appointed earlier this year. I have received no information from them in writing, nor has anyone told me of an impending Board agenda. This post is my best educated guess as to what may take place in the near future. Many of you have asked how all this may play out and I hope this answers your questions. Your discussion of the subject has helped sharpen my understanding of the issues involved.
In His Grace,