Saturday, March 11, 2006

A Proposed New Policy on Tongues


The Missionary Candidate and Glossolalia

The International Mission Board recognizes that it represents all the local, autonomous churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. This convention has no creed but the Bible. The 2000 Baptist Faith and Messsage serves as a confession of faith which gives others an understanding of the doctrinal basis of Southern Baptist Convention cooperation, not only as a convention, but as a missionary force as well.

Any Southern Baptist Convention agency, including the International Mission Board, must be very careful not to narrow the parameters of cooperation beyond the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. We must hold sacred our duty to foster cooperation among all Southern Baptist churches in the area of missions; and, while most Southern Baptist churches do not practice glossolalia in their public services, the International Mission Board of trustees is aware that there is room within our convention for different doctrinal interpretations regarding glossolalia or tongues.

As the International Mission Board searches to find the best possible candidates to place on the mission fields in other countries, it will ask each missionary candidate his view on the gifts of the Spirit. The International Mission Board's intention in those discussions is neither to interrogate nor to instruct, but to come to a point of mutual understanding. The trustees realize that the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message leaves room to send missionaries who hold to the continuationist view of the gifts of the Spirit, and it also leaves room to send missionaries who hold to a cessationist view of the gifts of the Spirit.

If a missionary candidate is continualist in his personal theology, and feels that glossolalia is a vital, significant and public part of his or her conviction and practice, the International Mission Board believes that person has eliminated himself from being considered further as a potential missionary for the Southern Baptist Convention. At the same time, the International Misson Board does not try to enter into the prayer closet and question the validity of the candidate's prayer language, nor does it attempt to monitor the missionary's prayer language and life who is currently serving on the field. A person may have a private prayer language and serve as a missionary within the Southern Baptist Convention.

There must be an understanding within each missionary candidate that a persistent emphasis of any specific gift of the Spirit as normative for all will end the appointment process, and in the case of missionaries already appointed, to the extent such emphasis becomes disruptive to the fellowship of missionaries or church plants, such an emphasis will result in disciplinary procedures including possible termination.

Our mission is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the peoples of the world, and we ask for the Holy Spirit's guidance and power in accomplishing that mission.

The above is just one example of a potential policy that addresses the abuses of tongues and other gifts of the Spirit, while at the same time, leaving open the door of cooperation to allow entry of Southern Baptists who disagree on the different interpretation of the texts that teach on tongues. I remind you that I speak only for myself on this blog, and not the Board of Trustees. What do you think?

In His Grace,



Anonymous said...

MightyFoul said, “If they'd been speaking 15 or 20 different known languages inside, I seriously doubt
anyone outside could have understood anything. What would be more miraculous than a language all could
hear as their own?”
I believe MightFoul is on to something here. Christ said if we could not believe earthly
could we believe heavenly things. Pentecost was a heavenly thing that happened once on earth and man
tries to put it in his understanding.
Key is understanding the tongues of angels that Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 13:1. They all spoke
English...right? No, in all recorded events, they spoke the language of the person they were talking to. So,
what was great about that? The language of angels is known only by God or a gift he sends to someone. Is
that too difficult to understand?
What did Peter hear at Pentecost that was different than what he heard when Gentiles received the same
gift? He didn’t say he heard 20 languages at Pentecost and one with the Gentiles. Peter said it was the
same. It was the tongues of angels.
So what happened at Pentecost? Was it too difficult for God to ‘open’ the ears of all present to hear the
tongues of angels in their own language? This was a one time heavenly event. Flames of fire was on their
heads. I don’t know if fire was on the heads of Gentiles but hearing the tongues of angels was enough for
Peter to believe. Why can’t we?
Rex Ray

Anonymous said...


A more representative policy than the one passed, by a long shot.

David Rogers said...

I think this would be an excellent policy! It deals adequately with the potential disruptions and divisiveness indiscrete use of tongues or prayer language might cause, yet leaves room for joining together for the advance of the Kingdom with those who agree on the basics, and share God's heart for the nations.

Anonymous said...


Looks like what I understood to be the policy when I was appointed 12 years ago.

This is what we abide by and practice. This is what was told to me by my candidate consultant through my process of being appointed. I guess this would just 'spell it out' for those that need it.

Anonymous said...

I am truly a bystander in this matter. For I have only been visiting a SBC church for about 18 months. I did not know anything about SBC doctrines or policies, but was deeply moved by the love and compassion that is evident in the SBC church I am attending. My “roots” probably would be labeled Pentecostal/Charismatic; though that is just a man- made label. My true identity hopefully is and always will be Christian, a child of God. But to my point- there are hundreds or thousands of former Pentecostal/charismatic members who (like myself) have left that “movement” because of the misuse and out of balance practices that movement now embraces. There has been an abandonment of the purity and balance of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, to accommodate an extreme misuse of the gifts- sadly for material gain. (The prosperity theology being the perfect example). However the purity of the gifts is still very dear and precious to those of us who have seen the difference between what is truly God’s purpose for His gifts and man’s. My hope and prayer has been that a denomination or organization that truly has balance in their acceptance of the inerrant Word of God, would be an open door to all of us who very much need a place to worship and serve. I do not know how this will turn out for SBC, but I know my prayers and the prayers of hundreds and hundreds of your brothers and sisters from other “folds” are praying for God’s will to be done. Thanks for letting an outsider share. Pam

Anonymous said...

Now if we could only apply this to the whole BF&M and other "cultural issues" [eg wine, leadership, polity...]. The world would be a lot easier to reach...

-CPMer in Europe

Anonymous said...

"If a missionary candidate is a continualist and feels that glossolalia is a vital, significant and public part of his or her conviction and practice, we believe that person has eliminated himself or herself from being considered further as a potential missionary for the Southern Baptist Convention."

Would it be appropriate to include in a new policy several reasons why the above statement would eliminate the potential missionary candidate on biblical grounds? We anticipated biblical warrant from the BoT for their elimination policy, therefore, I believe we must be swift to offer the same. Thank you Wade! Still praying for you.
Patrick Barrett

Anonymous said...

Wade, I think this policy would be inclusive and would serve a cooperating spirit on an issue where God-fearing, conservatives have disagree on in interpretation. Wonderful...

When you say this is a potential policy, are there policies such as this up for consideration at future trustee meetings? I sure hope so...

Anonymous said...

Sounds reasonable, workable and kind imo. Thanks.

Alan Cross said...


This is a balanced and fair proposal. The only question is in connecting "vital, significant, and public" uses of tongues as being disqualifications. I only say that, because tongues for Paul seemed to be vital and significant, but PRIVATE ("I would like everyone of you to speak in tongues - 1 Cor.14:5; "I thank God I speak in tongues more than all of you" 1 Cor. 14:18; "Do not forbid speaking in tongues" 1 Cor. 14:39).

I AM NOT ADVOCATING TONGUES FOR EVERYONE!!!! I say that because it seems that any defense of this practice labels you as a flaming Charismatic. I am only bringing up this point because it seems that you could ask a person if it is vital or significant in their life. They could answer "yes", and still be practicing it completely biblically (in private), yet be disqualified, based on the prejudice of the interviewer.

I understand that you are trying to weed out those who are flaming Charismatics and who want to bring aberrant practices to the field. I agree with you. To help us with this, Paul has the teaching on spiritual gifts in 1 Cor. 12-14 and this includes tongues. It would be wonderful for us as a convention to pastor and teach people in this and not be afraid of how the Spirit might lead. Paul could have shut the whole thing down in Corinth because of abuses, but he chose not to. I, for one, am tired of letting only Charismatics or Fundamentalists frame the debate from one extreme to the other. Let's forge the balanced, biblical middle ground that Paul lays out for us with confidence in the Word and the Spirit. I see you trying to do this, as have others such as Grudem and Piper.

Thanks, Wade, for all your work and this proposal. It is well thought out. I am just offering an observation. You're in my prayers. said...


Thanks for the edits.

David and everyone else,

Thanks for the comments. Keep them coming because I believe others are listening. said...

Everyone please remember that the Board of Trustees of the International Mission Board alone can set policy. The Southern Baptist Convention cannot set policy for the IMB.

Nobody should even attempt to write policy for the IMB and present it at the SBC. From my understanding it will be ruled out of order.

I am only attempting to show that there can be a policy, as David Rogers has said, that can deal with any potential problems on the field, while at the same time, leaves the door of cooperation open to all Southern Baptists who share a common understanding of the basics of the gospel and a heart for the nations.

Justamoe's edits were only grammatical, and have been implemented. Any other edits to the substance of the post will have to be added in another post. said...

Thanks Justamoe,

In place of two instances where you suggest the word "trustees" I simply left "The International Mission Board" because in the search for the best missionary candidates it always begins with IMB staff (candidate consultants) and this policy would guide them as well.

Good job on the grammatical edits.

Anonymous said...

I agree with an earlier post here that the basis of exclusion should be heavily justified by scripture and by our reasoning through scripture to arrive at the conclusion that persons who engage in public glossalalia should be excluded.

In fact, I believe a serious weakness of the B F & M is that it cites scriptures but makes no effort at all to explain the reasoning that takes us from the scriptures to our understanding of the doctrines. We have made no effort to refute or at least state why we disagree with positions which other conservative evangelical groups embrace, or why we emphasize certain things (e.g., submission of women in the famliy) and not others (e.g., submission of all believers to each other).

The B F & M is a well-written, concise document, but adding a careful rationale for our doctrines and our reasons for opposing other views in an appendix would increase the value of the document and confirm that we are, as a denomination, students of the Book. It might also expose any positions in which there is some weakness and for which we have trouble refuting other reasonable positions, thus suggesting areas that might need to be revisited in the future.

One caveat. I would hope any such appendix would not be written in an instructive authoritative tone, as though our veiw is the only possible view. The operative opening phrase could be, "Most Southern Baptists interpret the relevant passages of scripture (list them) this way, because.....". Paul never compromised the gospel, but he did respect the people to whom he spoke, even using the "unknown god" of the Greeks in his sermon at Mars Hill. He could have ridiculed them, but he did not. Explaining our positions is a way of showing respect to those with whom we disagree. Simply presenting our doctrines in a take it or leave it form is not.

Bob Cleveland said...


I have a problem with the wording which says that the person "has eliminated himself" from eligibility. The truth is that, when a person conducts himself in an unacceptable manner (whatever the rule), they will be prohibited from serving. That is a decision of the IMB or the SBC, and not the decision of the candidate.

There's no need to hide behind the prior "eliminated himself" wording which struck me as cowardly the first time I read it.

Other than that, the wording's fine, to me. said...


Valid point. I used that precise language because that is the wording in the polices the IMB has usd for the last several years

Wes Kenney said...

Perhaps you can clear something up for me. As I understand it, the main objection to the policy currently in place is that it imposes doctrinal restrictions where the BF&M is silent.

Since the BF&M doesn't speak to this issue in any way, why would this proposed policy be acceptable, as it clearly excludes the public use of tongues, a context in which it was clearly used in the New Testament?

It seems to me that exactly the same objection (going beyond the BF&M) could be raised against this proposed policy. Am I missing something?

BTW, justamoe, I appreciate your concern for grammatical correctness. It sometimes feels like I'm the only one who cares. Do local newspapers make you nuts, too?

Unknown said...


The focus seams to be turning away from having an issue with the new IMB policy on Baptism and Tongues towards just having an issue with the IMB policy on tongues?

I agree with the proposed policy on tongues you have written (with Justamoe’s help).

However, I hope this policy which deals with the issue of tongues only does not mean that you are not just as passionate about the danger of the IMB accepting a Landmark policy on baptism which in my opinion has the potential of excluding far more missionary candidates from our Non-Landmark SBC Churches than the issue of tongues alone.

By His Grace Alone, said...

g alford,

The baptism proposed policy will be up tomorrow.


Paul virtually excluded the public speaking of tongues by restricting its public use (interpretation required, "I would rather speak five words of understanding than 10,000 in an unknown tongue etc . . .), but said, "I speak in tongues more than you all."

Therefore, heavy, heavy restrictions on speaking tongues publicly is biblical.

Wes Kenney said...

I agree that restrictions are biblical, but your proposal allows "room within our convention for different doctrinal interpretations..."

If the arguments are that (A) There is room for a continuationist view of tongues and (B) "we must be very careful not to narrow the paramaters of cooperation beyond the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message" (which is silent on the issue), then what overcomes an objection to this policy that is identical to the one being raised against the current policy, specifically that it goes beyond our statement of shared doctrinal conviction?

I have heard you say that you would allow the public use of tongues in your church. I of course recognize the somewhat tongue-in-cheek (no pun intended) way in which you made this admission, and I think we would all want your interpreter [if you don't get this, listen to Wade's message to his church]. But if we recognize a biblical allowance for tongues, and we forbid our entities to establish doctrinal guidelines beyond the BF&M, I don't see how this proposed policy can stand where the current one fails. said...


I see your logic, but again, I refer you to Paul's words where the public use of tongues is restricted within the church, so to restrict tongues to a private prayer language on the mission field is consistent with Scripture.

Anonymous said...

Wade, I mentioned back in my comment 1/23, I believe you're asking the right questions and it was good to remind Folks that the Messengers can't write and/or instruct the IMB with specific policy. I might add, though I may be in the minority..... I appreciated the effort to "justify" the suggested action already taken! The other side of this issue needs to be acknowledged and mediated.
It's sad, but a dear friend and former Deacon in my early pastoral experience wrote a book simply called "CHURCH"
where he offered some solid research on ecclessiology that was deemed too contraversial by the Denomintational "Readers" at the time. I refer to the Late Dr. Fred Fisher, of GGBTS. I would describe him, based on our relationship as a former student allowed to fill the role as his pastor, he was a reluctant continualist with a strong defense for the New Testament focus on the church as almost always characterized as being local, visible and assembled. He actually used many of his students as research assistants, thus, many were impressed with his positions. The compilation of opinions that have developed in the use of "blogs" has provided a benefit that I think can serve in similar fashion to allow discussion, dissent, and even final disagreements and then still allow us to cooperate in sharing the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ with a lost world!

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. B,

Thank you so much for your work on these issues, especially this past week. I pray that you will have a rich Sunday with your church tomorrow.

Love in Christ,


Anonymous said...


It seems to me that at some point one must choose between the BF&M2000 and the Bible. Both the Baptism and Tongues issues go beyond the BF&M. They are both up for at least some level of debate in regards to the Biblical text. Will the BF&M2000 become the sufficient arbiter, or will we go beyond it?

I see problems reconciling certain aspects of the BF&M2000 with the Bible. The question you need to answer, however, is not whether the BF&M2000 is coherent, nor whether policies are Biblically sound. The question is "Who will decide, on what basis of authority, when policy has gone too far in choosing between different interpretations?"

Either the BF&M2000 is the sufficient as the "instrument of doctrinal accountability", or it is not. If it is sufficient, then the agencies should not go beyond it. If it is insufficient, then the rationale against the landmarkist and cessationist policies is mute.

You can't accept it when it suits you and go beyond it when you like.

Anonymous said...

A missionary having a private prayer language on the mission field is NOT causing the "charismatic problems" that apparently so many have observed and reported back to someone (yet to be revealed).

This issue should not be in any policy. This issue is addressed by candidate consultants during the process of appointment with missionary candidates and IF that missionary was appointed and went outside the boundaries set for him/her, they would be dismissed from service.

I should know, I am one who has a PPL and am well aware of what I was told and the policies in place. I know and appreciate these policies and operate well within them.

This policy on private prayer language is NOT about missions. It's about the agenda of 'those in power.'

It needs to be rescinded. Point Finale.


Anonymous said...

OK, so I’m beating a dead horse to death. But in tongues vs. ears (which no one seems to think is worthwhile to discuss) there is another example in the Bible. Everyone except one said, “They heard the sound of someone’s voice.” (Acts 9:7) Only one heard words and understood the meaning. Which is more logical...God made one sound for the majority and another sound for Paul; or God made one sound and
Paul heard his own language? “...hear their own language...” (Acts 2:7)
You see where I’m going with this so I’ll skip it and go to the bottom line. When the powers that be say it’s ‘our way or the highway’ over small stuff, they have become Pharisees. “Everyone keeps telling me about the arguing that goes on in these meetings... but I suppose you feel this is necessary so that you who
are always right will become known and recognized.” 1 Cor. 11:18-19) Every year, hungry egos must be
fed with new rulings. They really gorged themselves when they made the BFM 2000 our doctrinal
guideline. The way they are going, we’ll have so many guidelines we won’t need the Bible anymore.
Rex Ray

Anonymous said...

Rex Ray mentioned something that I had wondered about. I understood that the physician Luke was a meticulous writer (master wordsmith). It is interesting that he wrote that on the day of Pentacost everyone "heard" the message in his own language. It is not until Paul wrote a letter to the wayward church at Corinth that speaking in tongues came to mean anything other than known languages. Speaking in tongues in public or in private prayer was not mentioned in any of the many creedal statements of the early church. It only seems to have become a "problem" in the last century. Put all three if these observations together and the questions in my mind becomes "Where is the basis for this belief either in the Bible or in tradition?" and "When did this become a problem for Southern Baptists?"

Anonymous said...

I wonder what would happen if the Holy Spirit bestowed the gift of tongues on a group of IMB trustees who had previously been behind the policy on tongues!!!

Anonymous said...

You know the major disagreement over the "private prayer language" as far as I can see it, is the similarity to Speaking in tongues. so instead of calling it Private prayer language why don't we call it something else closer to the Romans 8:26 description instead of the current name. Perhaps "groaning"? I don't know. but it could clear up some of the issues surrounding it

Anonymous said...

Has anyone reading this blog ever investigated the Vineyard movement's views of spiritual gifts? I'm a life-long Southern Baptist and a pastor/missionary who planted and is now serving an international church in Malaysia's capital city (SE Asia) -- outside SBC circles. We are not associated with the Vineyard movement, but I find the theology and practice of this movement a healthy blend of emphases on Word, Spirit, and missions. I recommend "Empowered Evangelicals: Bringing Together the Best of the Evangelical and Charismatic Worlds" (Vine Books, 1995) to all who seek such an approach to church life. It's written by two Vineyard pastors and has a forward by J.I. Packer.

Another author to read on this topic would be Wayne Grudem, especially the relevant chapter of his theological textbook, "Systematic Theology" or the layman's verson, "Bible Doctrine" (Zondervan, 1995, 1999).

"Lord, give us wisdom to accompany our passion."

Grace, truth, and peace to you all!

Todd Nelson
The Bridge International Church
Kuala Lumpur, MALAYSIA

LivingDust said...

Brother Wade - I've been pondering the two policies you have posted on your blog and while I have no problems with your "Proposed Policy on Baptism" I disagree with you regarding the "Proposed Policy on Tongues". Don't you find it concerning and arrogant that a Christian brother or sister who has been called by God to serve as a "missionary" will be rejected by the IMB if they possess and PUBLICALLY exercise a particular gift of the Holy Spirit? Maybe a day will come when a group of IMB trustees will determine that we can't have any former students from a particular seminary on the mission field. Maybe a day will come when IMB trustees decide that anyone who possesses and exercises the gift of prophecy must be rejected. Maybe a day will come when a group of IMB trustees decide that anyone who has been "given the word of wisdom through the Spirit" just doesn't fit the profile. Maybe the day will come when IMB trustees suggest that we reject anyone who has acknowledges that they participated in a prayer that resulted in a "healing". Maybe the day will come when those who profess to believe a particular set of Scriptures will be rejected. Maybe the day will come when IMB trustees suggest that only those who sing from the Baptist Hymnal will be accepted as "missionaries", rejecting those who have ever worshipped the Lord by singing contemporary worship songs. Maybe a day will come when the IMB trustees will reject all Baptist applicants who insist on PUBLICALLY using the King James Bible instead of a Lifeway-approved translation of the Holy Bible. Brother Wade, where does it end?

Anonymous said...

Wade, thank you for looking at this situation through the eyes of Christ. I served as executive pastor of the largest church in Indiana for several years as well as I now serve on our state trustee board. I hate to see this new policy that IMB has issued. First of all I don't understand if someone has a private prayer language how it hurts their ministry or if you were baptised in another Christ centered church how that keeps you from being faithful servant. Why would IMB care? Second, I am not sure if they realize how many churches and members belive in the gifts, but don't push them on others. We have so many other issues that stops the spread of the gospel and we are spending our time debating and issuing policies to stop something that does not hinder the word. I hope IMB has considered the negitives of their decisions. Some churches are debating do they continue to give to IMB, stop cooperative giving or even pull out of the SBC. These are huge risk to take over something that should not be that large of an issue. Lets get to the bottom line. Our goal as christians is to share the gospel and live our lives so others can see the light. I belive these kind of issues with all the time spent battling over them puts a cloud over our light. When will we stop fighting with each other and start fighting the real enemy? I agree with your wording and I believe it is a fair compromise no matter where one stands on the issue. Thank you for sharing and doing it in the right way. I wonder what Jesus would do with this issue?

Anonymous said...

Marty W...the Church in general and the Baptist Church specifically has many problems but tongues are not one of them. Think how common devorce is in the church. Sex before marriage and abortion are not uncommon. We look pretty much like the rest of American society.

spiritfilled said...

Intense research on this subject of tongues would solve it all. I use to be Baptist, now I attend a Pentecost church. So what! These are just titles of churchs. I personally experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit and it is real! I asked God to show me because I wanted to know. When we get to heaven, is God going to say, "Okay pentecost get in this line, baptist get in this line , and methodist get in this other line???" If people don't do their homework on this subject they don't realize what little they do know about tongues.