It was in the fall of 2005, nearly seven years ago, that the trustees of the International Mission Board established a doctrinal policy that exceeded the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message and excluded otherwise qualified Southern Baptists from serving on the mission field. I had been elected by the Southern Baptist Convention to serve as a trustee of the IMB the previous summer, and after my fellow trustees set up their new doctrinal standard without convention approval, I was faced with a difficult decision. I could either resign in protest over what I called at the time "the narrowing of the doctrinal parameters of Southern Baptist missions cooperation," or I could remain a trustee of the International Mission Board and begin a blog to make Southern Baptists aware of what was taking place at their cooperative Southern Baptist missions organization. I chose the latter.
Ironically, the two new doctrinal policies at the IMB did not affect me personally. I have never had a "private prayer language," nor have I ever seen the need for one. Also, I was baptized "in a Southern Baptist church." I would qualify as a missionary under the two new doctrinal policies. However, I felt strongly that to exclude other Southern Baptists from the mission field over how they pray in private, especially when the 2000 BFM is silent on the matter, was an act that went beyond the appropriate authority of IMB trustees. Also, for the IMB trustees to adopt a definition of a "proper" baptism that places qualifications on the baptizer and the "church" where the baptism takes place, is historically a Landmark doctrine and practice and not a Southern Baptist doctrine. Something had to be done to correct the error of the IMB trustee board. That error was not so much IMB trustee leadership personally holding to cessationism or Landmark ecclesiology; rather, their error was demanding ALL Southern Baptists believe like them by passing doctrinal policies that excludes from missionary serve those who disagree with them. Only the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in session has the ability to change the doctrinal standard of cooperation.
SBC trustees were never called to be the doctrinal watchdogs of the Southern Baptist Convention. Nor do they have the authority to establish a doctrinal basis for our coooperation as Southern Baptist churches, especially by implementing doctrinal demands that go beyond the 2000 BFM. The Southern Baptist Convention, through adopting the infamous Garner Motion, is in agreement with me. One day (possibly very soon), Danny Akin and Al Mohler may actually see the light on the Garner Motion and thank those responsible for its passage.
Seven Years Ago Was the Seed of the Weed
I have often been asked why I drew a line in the sand over the "private prayer language" and "baptism" policies. Most Southern Baptists have very little patience with what they believe to be a charismatic practice (praying in tongues in private), and even more Southern Baptists have little understanding of the dangers of Landmarkism. "Why", I was asked, "do you draw a line in the sand over these particular issues?" IMB trustee leadership was furious over my public opposition, particularly since hundreds of Southern Baptists were reading my blog and writing trustees and asking "What are you doing?" In order to avert attention from the real issues we faced, trustee leaders sought to make me the issue. This led them to attempt very poorly thought out actions against me, including a motion for my removal from the board (later rescinded), the adoption of a new policy that demands that all IMB trustees (and I quote) "publicly support board approved policies that they cannot privately support." This latter policy, in my opinion, is the most absurd policy ever passed by a Southern Baptist agency in the history of our Convention. I, of course, voted against it, and continued my written opposition to the IMB doctrinal standard that exceeded the BFM. Why would I be willing to go through such an attack against me personally? Why would I put my family, my church, and my ministry in the line of fire?
Because of what I saw coming.
I told a few people privately, and I told them seven years ago, that if people didn't start drawing a line in the sand over attempts to narrow and constrict the doctrinal parameters of Southern Baptist cooperation, then we would eventually get to the place that Calvinists would be told they are no longer welcome in the SBC. Then, we would come to the place that those Southern Baptists who are not dispensational in their eschatology would be told they are not welcome. The only Southern Baptists that would eventually be left are those who would believe just exactly like those small, independent, separatist Landmark Southern Baptist churches and those who lead them. I remember what Jerry Falwell said when he joined the SBC, an act that drew heavy criticism from his fellow separatist, Landmark Baptist brothers - "I haven't changed, the SBC has changed."
Today, Jerry Vines has written an article on his blog entitled It Is Time to Discuss ALL of the Elephant in the Room.
I don't like it when people say "I told you so," so I'll close this blog post by saying I am increasingly uninterested in a convention that repeatedly defines its existence by what it is against than what it is for. I don't particularly like self-acknowledged Calvinists, and my theology is about as anti-John Calvin as any theology can get -- however, I despise a convention fretting over doctrinal conformity to the neglect of mission urgency. I'm coming to New Orleans with video camera and microphone in hand in order to help de-weed the garden.