But the important information for today is what happened in the trustee plenary session of the International Mission Board on Tuesday night, May 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the Hilton Airport Hotel in Kansas City. Trustees approved the following report from the Ad Hoc Committee on Tongues and Baptism.
Report of the Mission Personnel Ad Hoc Committee
In March of 2006 an ad hoc committee of Mission Personnel Committee received the charge to revisit the approved board policy on tongues and prayer language and the approved board guideline on baptism, both adopted in November 2005. The ad hoc committee has met over the past year during board meetings as well as a two-day special meeting to consider the vast amount of material gathered from leaders, scholars, and pastors across our denomination. The committee solicited this material in an attempt to be faithful to its task. The committee has also spent considerable time praying, fasting, and seeking God’s heart on these issues. The committee has no desire to create further controversy. Rather, our desire is to bring this study to completion and allow the board to maintain its focus upon our world mission task.
The ad hoc committee has concluded that even though field related data and consultation with regional leaders has not indicated a systemic problem with charismatic practices among field personnel, the rapid spread of neo-pentecostalism and its pressure exacted on the new churches in various regions of the world warrants a concern for the clear Baptist identity of our missionary candidates. Furthermore, the diversity of denominational backgrounds among missionary candidates requires a clear baptism guideline to guide the work of our candidate consultants as they consider the qualifications of candidates.
Therefore, we recommend that the full board adopt the following two guidelines to replace Policy 200-15 and Guideline 200-3a. The Mission Personnel Committee approved this recommendation on March 20, 2007 by a three-fourths majority.
Guideline on Tongues and Prayer Language
1. The New Testament speaks of a gift of glossolalia that generally is considered to be a legitimate language.
2. The New Testament expression of glossolalia as a gift had specific uses and conditions for its exercise in public worship.
3. In terms of worship practices, if glossolalia is a public part of the candidate’s current practice and it does not fall within the definitions of Parts 1 & 2 above, the candidate has eliminated himself or herself from being a representative of the IMB of the SBC.
1. Any spiritual experience must be tested by Scriptures.
2. New Testament teaching is that prayer is to be made with understanding.
3. The board is not persuaded that ecstatic utterance as a prayer language is a valid expression of the New Testament teaching on prayer.
4. Therefore, if an “ecstatic utterances as a prayer language” is a part of the candidate’s current practice, the candidate has eliminated himself or herself from being a representative of the IMB of the SBC.
1. This guideline is not retroactive.
2. Any exceptions to the above guideline must be reviewed by the staff and the Mission Personnel Committee.
Proposed Guideline on Baptism
THAT each candidate’s baptismal experience be examined, during the application process, in light of the Baptist Faith and Message statement and the points listed below:
Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper. 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, Article VII
POINTS TO BE COVERED DURING THE APPOINTMENT PROCESS
1. The individual
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 under the authority of a local church that practices believer’s baptism alone, embraces the doctrine of the security of a believer’s salvation and does not view baptism as sacramental, regenerative or essential to salvation.
b. A candidate who has not been baptized under the authority of a local church which meets the standards listed above is expected to request baptism in his or her Southern Bapist church.
3. The Candidate
The candidate is responsible for requesting their home church to assist them in meeting this doctrinal commitment to the above points.
4. The Consultant
While the candidate consultant should have a working knowledge of many denominational groups, he or she is not expected to investigate every church.
1. The guideline is not retroactive.
Any exception to the above guideline must be reviewed by staff and the Mission Personnel Committee.
(End of Ad Hoc Committee Report)
The debate that occurred on the adoption of these guidelines was cordial. People spoke on both sides of the issue. After about 45 minutes of debate, the guidelines were approved. Because of the vote tonight, the former policy on private prayer language is now, with the baptism guideline, a guideline, and not a policy.
I spoke only once during the debate and made the following two points and concluded my remarks by asking a question of Paul Chitwood, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee.
The First Point I Made: The rationale for the guidelines states that there is not 'a systemic problem with charismatic practices among field personnel', but the committee felt it necessary to adopt the private prayer language guideline. I pointed out that The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, the Abstract of Principles, and the 1925 and 1963 Baptist Faith and Message are all silent regarding a specific interpretation on the gifts of the Spirit, and to go beyond our major confessions and demand a specific doctrinal interpretation on a matter not addressed in the BFM should be the sole responsibility of our entire convention, and not the trustees of the IMB. I also expressed concern that we were being asked to vote on the guidelines without hearing from the Regional Leaders of the IMB on what they thought of the new policies. One trustee, John Click of Kansas, had asked, prior to me speaking, that Rodney Hammer, a Regional Leader for the IMB be allowed to speak, but the chair ruled that request out of order. John Floyd was very gracious in his spirit when he ruled the motion out of order, but I was confused as to why it was said there was no 'systemic problem,' and the RL's were not allowed to address the full trustee board before we voted, but yet we felt the need to establish a guideline prohibiting 'prayer language' from those wishing to serve as missionaries for the SBC. I asked, again, if it was wise for us as a trustee board, or any SBC board for that matter, to press beyond our confessional statement and exclude people who affirm the BFM 2000, but disagree on specific interpretations of doctrines not addressed by the BFM 2000. If a ban of private prayer language is needed on DOCTRINAL grounds, since there is no anecdotal evidence that a problem exists on the field among personnel, then maybe we should wait for the SBC to speak on the matter.
The Second Point I Made: I also said that though the baptism guideline was worded better than the original one voted on in November 2005, the new baptism guideline, unfortunately, still made the baptism of a believer an identification with a specific church and not Jesus Christ. However, since there was no alternative to the proposed guidelines, nor a recommendation to rescind the November 2005 policies, at least it was a step in the right direction. I, again, cautioned us as trustees that implementing any doctrinal standard that exceeds the BFM, though we can do it as trustees, just might not be the wisest thing to do.
I then asked my question:
What is the difference between a policy and a guideline?
Dr. Floyd pointed out that this question was asked yesterday, and then said, "Wade, you must have not been in the meeting to hear the answer." I didn't have the heart to tell Dr. Floyd publicly that I was in the meeting, and it was I who had asked the question yesterday, but the question and response occured in the closed door forum, and it was best for us as a convention that the answer be on the record since other Southern Baptists could not hear the answer in the closed door meeting.
Matt Bristol, Attorney for the IMB was called upon to answer the question, as he was also asked to do in the forum yesterday. He said a policy is 'dogmatic' and a 'guideline' is flexible in its implementation. Later, the attorney said that functionally there was no difference, but that the word guideline conveys a spirit of flexibility (the word he wished to emphasize) in the application of the policy.
After further discussion, all in a good spirit, the vote was taken and the new 'guidelines' passed.
I have tried to give you simply the facts of what occurred without going into any commentary. I am pleased, however, that progress is being made to understand that there are different viewpoints on these matters within the SBC and for us to function as a cooperating convention, we must not exclude anyone from missionary cooperation and participation those who disagree on tertiary doctrines like the authority of the baptizer and the importance of what a person does in his private prayer closet.
All the officers of the IMB were reelected without opposition.
I pray that we as trustees of the IMB will put this matter behind us, focus on the mission challenges ahead of us, and trust that, in the providence of God, all that has occurred in these last two years on the board has been good and healthy for us all.
I'll blog tomorrow night about the most important part of this trustee meeting -- the commissioning service.
In His Grace,