Saturday, February 25, 2006

International Mission Board Trustee Dr. Allen McWhite

One of the tremendous privileges of serving as a trustee on the International Mission Board is the blessing of meeting fellow Southern Baptists, godly men and women from around the United States, who also serve as IMB trustees.

One of those trustees who I have come to know, and also admire, is Dr. Allen McWhite. Allen is Director of World Missions at North Greenville University, Tigerville, South Carolina.

The South Carolina state Baptist paper ran an excellent article about their IMB trustees and and posted an excellent letter written by Dr. McWhite explaining his rationale behind opposing the new policies.

As I have repeatedly said, I have enjoyed getting to know all the trustees. People like Dr. McWhite remind me of why I am glad to be called a Southern Baptist.


Anonymous said...

John Wesley once wrote that he feared Methodists were like a gardner in a forest....tending their garden (doctrine) and never putting a fence around it...allowing wild boars to come and destroy the garden (doctrine). From talking to many of the members of our local church this could be said of SBC'ers also. I think that many local church members are blissfully unaware of actual SBC doctrine. They know only what they have been told by some preacher during an impressionable time frame. That which they learned may or may not be actual SBC doctrine at all. I grew up in the Presbyterian church and all of the pastors of that particular church made sure through sermons and other teaching moments that church doctrine was taught.
It seems that in SBC churches doctrine is of minimal importance. It seems to me that after the salvation and baptisim experiences there should be taught without execption a class on SBC polity and doctrine. To do this, I believe, would have eliminated the current controversy before it started.

art rogers said...

It has become my impression that those holding to landmark views really believe that they represent the rest of the SBC. Part of this is their perspective that they are the inheritance of the New Testament church, established by Christ Himself. Unfortunately, it is a revisionist history.

I suspect that the remark to Dr. McWhite that he was "out of step" with the majority of the SBC, the BFM, and with Scripture is the fallout of such a perspective. In one sense, I think it is an honest misinterpretation on their part.

I believe it to be imperative for us to speak loudly and clearly in order to make sure they understand that they are mistaken.

Moreover, we must also press for the allowance of principled public dissent. If the board institutes a non-dissent policy we will not be able to communicate back with the board, because we will not know these perspectives that need correction.

Elizabeth said...

If Dr McWhite is so "out of step with Scripture", why are we still waiting for the other trustees to back up these new policies with Scripture. Show us where we are out of step. As for being "out of step with Southern Baptists", it is much easier to find baptists who oppose this policy than agree with it.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone please show me where it is unscriptural to practice private prayer language? While your at it, can you show me where either side of the baptism issue can be supported from the NT. If, this can't be done, arn't these matters of interpretation; and if so, how do you resolve either issue without an overarching authority?

Anonymous said...

I don't consider myself to be a Landmarker, but I've been reading some interesting things about the movement. James E. Tull's Ph.D. dissertation that he completed in in 1960 for Columbia University was published in 1980. It is entitled "A History of Southern Baptist Landmarkism in the Light of Historical Baptist Ecclesiology." (New York: Arno Press, A New York Times Company). Our 2000 Baptist Faith and Message describes baptism as a "church ordinance." It has not always been viewed that way. Prior to the Landmark movement it was seen by some as a "gospel ordinance." Notice what Tull said:

"The belief that baptism was a gospel rather than a church ordinance led Andrew Broaddus of Virginia to support the thesis that a Baptist minister should baptize a Christian convert who expressed an intention to unite with a Pedo-baptist church, provided the candidate professed a conviction that there is no other scriptural baptism except immersion, and no proper subject for baptism except a professed believer. The reason for this course, said Broaddus, is: 'Baptism is a gospel ordinance, but not a church ordinance.' [Jeter, The Sermons and Other Writings of the Rev. Andrew Broaddus, 1852, 435]" (page 358)

Tull discussed differences between the Philadelphia Association and the Landmarkers. The Philadelphia Confession of 1742 says this about who can administer the ordinances:

"These holy appointments are to be administered by those only, who are qualified, and thereunto called according to the commission of Christ."

Tull commented on this stipulation of the confession:

"This stipulation apparently was intended to place the administration of the ordinances in the hands of ordained ministers only. In 1788 the association affirmed that 'the words of the commission were addressed to the apostles, and their successors in the ministry, to the end of the world, and these are such, whom the church of Christ appoint to the whole work of the ministry.'"
(page 41)

In contrast, Tull described the views of Dayton and Graves, two of the Landmark "triumvirate":

"The Landmark stand required not only that the ordinance of baptism should be lodged firmly within the church, but also that it should be entrusted to the church as such, and to no ministerial class within the church. In other words, any view which looked in the direction of apostolic succession of the superiority of ministerial rank was to be renounced. The minister who presided at baptism drew his authority from the church, acted in behalf of the church, and then only at the request of the church. 'A minister . . . has no right, because ordained, to decide who are qualified to receive baptism and to administer it. . . . Their ordination only qualified them to administer the ordinances for a church when that church called upon them to do so.' [Graves, Old Landmarkism - What Is It?, p. 48] Dayton's views on this subject were fully in accord with those of Graves: 'That propriety may make it expedient for the churches to assign the administration of baptism to their ministers or servants, so far from being denied on our part, is most earnestly and strenuously insisted upon. But the expediency which dictates that baptism should usually be committed to the preachers of the gospel, does not bind the churches at all times to intrust it to their hands, or receive it from them alone. . . . The churches have not transferred baptism to the ministry. This they could not do without proving recreant to the trust committed of heaven to their charge.' [Dayton, Pedo-Baptist and Campbellite Immersions, pp. 49-51]"

I agree with the 2000 BF&M that baptism is a church ordiance.

Anonymous said...


On the Baptist Courier site at,
another IMB board member who voted FOR the policy on "private prayer language" is presented and quoted:

"In contrast, IMB board member Bobbie Horton Caldwell, a layperson from Simpsonville who has served as first vice president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention and also is a trustee for Charleston Southern University, said she agrees fully with the IMB’s new policy.

An IMB board member for more than seven years, Caldwell said she voted for the policy because “we have had complaints from Southern Baptists ... that we were not planting true Southern Baptist churches on the field,” and that “charismatic practices” were occurring. She said the complaints came from IMB trustees, missionaries, pastors and seminary professors."

Caldwell's reference to "planting true Southern Baptist churches on the field" reflects a common misconception among Southern Baptist leaders, one that has serious missiological repercussions. IMB missionares DO NOT attempt to plant "Southern Baptist churches" anywhere outside the United States. If they do, they have failed!

Sure, IMB personnel strive to see "Baptist" or "Baptistic" churches planted. But churches planted overseas need to identify with and be relevant to their local culture. Associations or Conventions that may be formed should be led and governed by local believers, autonomous from the Southern Baptist Convention. It's not just good missiology, it's good Baptist polity.

One might argue that Caldwell's comments and similar ones by Southern Baptists in high positions are just a matter of semantics. But I see them as an issue at the heart of the problem. If an IMB trustee for seven years still has not learned or accepted such a basic missiological tenet, how can he or she effectively make decisions in the best interests of the organization, its objectives and its missionaries?

Thanks for this venue to bring important issues to light and discussion.


Anonymous said...


Do you know if and when the IMB is going to release an official biblicl/theological justification statement for the two new policies? Or will they remain silent?

Thanks. said...

Anonymous M,

Interesting quote about planting "Southern Baptist" churches overseas. I agree, this is a very common misperception.

Mr. Anonymous,

I have no idea when there will be a public defense of the new policies, verbally or in writing.

Baptist Theologue,

Though we do not agree, I appreciate your scholarship. I would be very interested in your evaluation of the 1644 Baptist Confession, which in my opinion, is the best confession in the history of our Baptist heritage. You will not agree with it, but I would just like to point out that Baptists have disagreed on the issues you and I disagree on for centuries, and my point is not that you are wrong, and I am right, or vice versa, but that both of us should be able to cooperate with each other for the common cause of missions, being free to disagree on these issues.

GeneMBridges said...

Statements that the baptism is a church ordinance by Graves and Dayton undermine the theory that the only administrator is a pastor/ elder. It may fall to any member of the local church.

"We have, on our part, taken it for granted that the Church may appoint any member she pleases to administer the rite. We only contend that she shall not go outside the Church . . ." (Alien Baptism—page 166).--A.C. Dayton

By the 19th century, the understanding of baptism as a "gospel" ordinance vs. a "church" ordinance is a reflection on the nature of the church universal v. the church local.

Those who argued this often talked past each other. On the one hand, those affirming the Philadelphia Confession affirmed the universal church, ergo the meaning of a "gospel ordinance."

Graves and the Landmarkers are reacting against immersions performed by Presbyterian ministers. They are denying the universal church in order to deny that Presbyterians can administer baptism or the Lord's Supper. They characterized the nomenclature of others (a gospel ordinance) as meaning it is a "preacher ordinance" in Landmark parlance, esp. since the WCF puts the ordinances in the hands of the clergy/elders.

Ergo, a "church" ordinance is confined to the local church, defined only as a Baptist church of a particular soteriology, and if we follow Graves' 1881 revisions on his work, that would be a Calvinist church, successfully uniting a form of hyper-Calvinism and Landmark ecclesiology. This is, however, no less restrictive, and it has resulted in Landmark Baptist churches with pastors who will not accept the baptisms of any churches whose pastors they do not know personally. In short, it falls foul to the regressive fallacy by pushing the question of administration back one step.

Anonymous said...

I have a question, somewhat related to this post. Why isn’t there an easily available listing of the IMB trustees? I checked the SBC website ( but didn’t find it. Just for comparison, I also checked for the NAMB list and didn’t find it either. (There is at least a listing with pictures of the SBC Executive Committee.) If either is there it is not accessed by the usual searching methods. It makes one wonder if there is a reason for such secrecy, like maybe to keep people from contacting them/you. I expect the listing could be found in the annual report of the Convention (haven’t checked recently), but the website is so much more accessible.
I serve on the advisory board for a public library and have served on the board for the entire library system. The lists of trustees for both these entities are easily accessible on the library system website.
I have long thought that Christians and organizations that call themselves Christian should live up to at least the standards of similar secular people or organizations - and really should go far beyond that because of being Christian. This doesn’t always happen, and when it doesn’t, there is the possibility of people being driven away from Jesus because of such. This secrecy about the board of trustees seems a minor example, when compared with the public library example.
I don’t want to get you into any more trouble than you already are with the people who are running things, but just thought I would raise the question. I do appreciate your openness to ideas and comments.
A comment about making sure churches established on the mission field are “Baptist”: on one level I can understand this, but do those so hung up on this idea not have enough confidence in their own beliefs to believe that one who carefully studies the Bible will be inclined to believe what Baptists believe? I believe this, even though there is obviously evidence (in the form of the many denominations and variations within denominations) to contradict me.

Anonymous said...

Wade, as a matter of clarification, Dr. Allen McWhite is Director of World Missions at North Greenville University, Tigerville, South Carolina.

Rick said...

Wade - thank you for bringing this article to our attention.

I was "introduced" to Dr. McWhite via email after emailing my concerns related to the new policies to each of the IMB Trustees. Dr. McWhite gave the most gracious and thorough response of any trustee. He went as far to email me copies of letters he had written in his seeking to understand the biblical basis for the changes.

I applaud men like you and Dr. McWhite. Thank you for taking the stand and continuing to be a voice we can look to during these tumultuous times. said...

Thanks David.


Anonymous said...

I was struck by the first sentence in this excellent post. I'm curious. How many "essentials of the faith" are there and who decides what is essential? Isn't this the essence of the situation in which you find yourself? You don't believe that a private prayer language is an essential of the faith while others believe that it is. Some believe that the person/church that baptizes an individual, rather than mode, determines that individual's fitness for service as a SBC missionary and others don't.

At some point somebody decided that it was more essential to describe the Bible as inerrant and infallible than to describe it as authoritative and true. A decisive moment happened for me in the early 80's when a respected theologian/pastor observed, "Those who want to take control of the SBC insist that in order to serve one must describe the Bible as inerrant and infallible while others describe the Bible as authoritative and true. I don't see much difference."

Frankly, I'm more intrested seeing people live the high standards of the scripture rather than simply using high rhetoric to describe it. I've seen far too many of the later and not enough of the former, haven't you?

Tim Sweatman said...

One thing that I like most about Dr. McWhite is that he understands that as a trustee of an SBC entity he is accountable to the SBC as a whole. After reading the Baptist Courier article I emailed him Friday to encourage him and to express appreciation for his taking a stand. I received a reply Tuesday. Of all the trustees I have contacted regarding the recent IMB issues (Chariman Hatley, the four trustees from my state, and McWhite) McWhite is the ONLY one who has responded.