This Sunday I will drive to Kansas City for the May trustee meeting of the International Mission Board. At this meeting, the report of the Ad Hoc Committees studying the new policy forbidding the appointment of missionaries with the private prayer language and the guideline that forbids the appointment of missionaries who have not been baptized in a Southern Baptist Church or one that teaches 'eternal security' will be considered. At the St. Louis trustee meeting on November 1, 2006, it was stated in the plenary session by trustee leadership that trustees would receive the Ad Hoc committee report in advance of the meeting in which we would consider it.
I have not yet received the report via mail, and it was not available on the trustee internet site, so after calling the International Mission Board staff last Wednesday and learning the offices were closed due to a staff retreat until Friday. I called the IMB staff in Richomond again on Friday and received a prompt call back from support staff saying the report would be made available to trustees in Kansas City. They were very helpful and said if I had any further questions to contact Paul Chitwood, Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committees. I decided not to contact Paul since I had already visited earlier in the day with fellow trustee Rick Thompson, Pastor of Council Road Baptist Church in Oklahoma City and he had two calls into Paul to ask the same question (where is the report?), and up to that time Rick's calls not yet been returned.
I do not know what the Ad Hoc committe report contains. I don't know if there are recommendations or not. I don't know if it is simply 'a report' with no action, or a report with recommendations that require action. I don't know how long or short it is, and I don't know if the private prayer policy and baptism guideline have been reworded, rescinded or left the same. I'm sure the Ad Hoc Committee has worked diligently putting this report together, and I trust that it will be well written, with supporting evidentary, logical and Biblical reasons for whatever action they have taken. Whatever happens in Kansas City, we will leave with one of three things occurring: (1). The board will keep the new policy on private prayer language and baptism guideline as is, or (2). The board will reword the private prayer language policy and/or baptism guideline, or (3). The board will revert back to the practices of the mission board prior to November 15, 2005 in the evaluation and acceptance of missionary candidates regarding their baptism and use of a private prayer language. Prior to November 2005, missionary candidates had to give to the board expression of their faith in Christ and that they had followed Him in believer's baptism, by immersion, trusting Christ alone for their salvation. If the candidate had a 'private prayer language,' they were instructed to simply keep it in their prayer closet and not practice it publicly or they would face staff discipline and/or correction.
My question, as a trustee for the IMB, from the day I heard of the effort to implement the new requirements for missionary candidates has been 'why do we need the tighter restrictions?'
There are some who say the policy and guideline are needed, 'because of problems on the field.' Well, by George, if there are problems, let's change the policies and guidelines, but show us the problems, don't just tell us there are and act as if staff has not appropriately dealt with it. Others say, "it's a doctrinal issue," well, by George if you are going to impose a new doctrinal standard upon the largest SBC cooperative ministry, you better be sure that there is clear cut agreement on the issue. As has been pointed out numerous times, the issue is not the PUBLIC speaking of tongues, for that has always been prohibited by policy; the new issue is barring a person from having 'a private prayer language' in his closet. There are a handful of people in the SBC who hold to viewpoints on both ends of the extremes regarding the gifts, and neither group should hold sway. The vast majority of Southern Baptists are hesitant about tongues being spoken publicly (and rightly so, for Scripture restricts the practice as well), but I think you may be surprised that most Southern Baptists don't care what someone does in their prayer closet.
I am hopeful that a full and free discussion of this report will take place in a public plenary session and not behind closed doors. Closed door forums are for the protecion of missionaries and appropriate for security, but Southern Baptists have every right to know the reasoning behind major policy shifts at agencies that occur on 'doctrinal grounds.' Specifically, if our agencies determine a shift to an adoption of a total cessationist viewpoint is needed at the IMB, then the explanation for the demand for cessationist conformity before cooperating in missions needs to be heard and understood by the average Southern Baptist who has no access to closed door meetings. If there is a desire to accept only those baptisms done in a Southern Baptist Church or a church that teaches 'eternal security,' then the average Southern Baptist needs to hear and understand the rationale behind baptism being identification with 'a church' rather than Jesus Christ and faith in Him.
It should be an interesting meeting. In the past year I have spoken publicly in our board meetings only one time. The meetings have been run quite well, with proper decorum by all present, and the focus has been on missions.
I trust the same will be true of this meeting as well.
Look for reports on the IMB meeting beginning Monday and going through Thursday of next week.
In His Grace,