Monday, December 11, 2006

The End of the Debate on the New Baptism Policy

It seems in the very healthy blogosphere discussion on the subject of baptism, with contributors from all sides of the conservative theological spectrum, that two or three clear possibilities regarding the outcome of the new IMB policy on baptism have arisen to the forefront.

It must be remembered that the only people who can change the IMB policy are trustees themselves. Trustees are called upon to act in the best interest of the International Mission Board, and I, as well as other trustees, take that charge very seriously. I have received hundreds of emails, letters and phone calls from people around the United States and have attempted to patiently and personally answer every question.

With the knowledge that only the trustees may reverse the policy on baptism, here are two or three possible scenarios with the most likely first:

(1). The Baptism Ad Hoc Committee issues a report this January 30, 2007, or in a subsequent trustee meeting, that offers new wording for the baptism policy. As most people know, the debate is not over the mode or candidate (nobody is advocating 'sprinkling' or 'pouring;' neither is anyone advocating baptizing infants or 'the lost'), but rather, the debate is over whether one should be baptized to 'identify' with a particular doctrine (eternal security), system of belief, or denomination. Wording could be offered that made it clearer that Christian baptism is identification with Christ -- not a 'denomination.'Again, this committee has no authority to change policy, so any rewording of the new baptism policy would have to be voted on by the entire board in open, plenary session. The rewording might also reflect a recognition of the autonomy of the local church, and a willingness to never subvert said autonomy.

(2). A report is issued this January 30, 2007 during the California trustee meeting, or a subsequent trustee meeting, from the Baptism Ad Hoc Committee that, in effect, recommends the reversal of the new baptism policy passed November 15, 2005. Since the full board must establish policy, all 89 trustees would then have to vote on the reversal. If the new policy on baptism is rescinded, then the Candidate Consultants of the IMB would revert to following the 'guidelines' they used in interviewing a missionary candidate regarding his faith and baptism prior to November 15, 2006.

(3). The Baptism Ad Hoc Committee's report recommends no changes to the new policy. Under this scenario the new policy would remain in effect until there were a change of leadership by either attrition or the placing of new trustees who were of a mind to change the policy by the Southern Baptist Convention and her President, and those trustees then elect a chairman of the board who was sympathetic with the policy's reversal.

These are the three leading scenarios in my mind. There may be more, but I think these three are the major options. I do not know which one the Baptism Ad Hoc Committee will take since I have received no communication from the committee.

The Baptism Ad Hoc Committee includes the following trustees:

Bill Curp, Andy Johnson, Sam Morgan, Herman Pair, Blake Withers.

There are some very sharp individuals on this committee, and their report will be much anticipated. In this age of communication, information and transparency, we trustees must do allw we can to make our rationale public for actions taken, open the dialogue on important decisions to include all Southern Baptists, and to remember that in agencies and documents that desire 'cooperation' among all Southern Baptists it is always best to keep the parameters of cooperation broad and the doctrinal requirements focused on the essentials, not secondary issues over which people disagree.

I have not spoken to anyone on the Baptist Ad Hoc Committee since the committee was appointed earlier this year. I have received no information from them in writing, nor has anyone told me of an impending Board agenda. This post is my best educated guess as to what may take place in the near future. Many of you have asked how all this may play out and I hope this answers your questions. Your discussion of the subject has helped sharpen my understanding of the issues involved.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson


Tim Rogers said...

Brother Wade,

I believe your possible scenarios are on spot. Of course your educated guess is more educated than mine being that you are a Trustee.:>)

Just a question. I would not in good conscious be able to allow a person baptized in a Free Will Baptist church join the church I pastor becuase of a statement in our ByLaws that says "of like faith and practice". Does that terminology no longer exist in SBC churches?

Tim said...

Volfann and others,

I am asking kindly to stay on track in the comment thread for this post. Comments pertaining to other posts need to go there. said...


You ask an appropriate question.

Some churches consider 'Free Will Baptist' like faith and practice (most Southern Baptist churches are closer to 'free will' than the historic Particular Baptist doctrine stream from which Southern Baptist churches come).

Other Southern Baptist churches may have removed that language from their bylaws.

Our church takes each person who petitions for membership, counsels with them extensively regarding their faith and their baptism, and only after examining them ourselves will we write a letter to the church they are coming from to join ours.

A 10-40 Window Missionary said...


I read what you wrote to Volfann, and think that this is on subject...If I wanted to write to any of the men on the Baptism Ad Hoc Committee, how would I go about it? I have written the IMB, asking for names and mailing and e-mail addresses of all 89 trustees. To date, I have not received a reply.

Also, I am still wondering why the secrecy with minutes of trustee meetings. Can you shed some light on this? Can anyone? said...

10-40 missionary,

I am not sure why you will not be told how to get in touch with trustees. I believe every Southern Baptist should have the right to contact their trustees. I think they all have contacted me :).

I am told the reason that minutes are now 'secure' is to prevent the identification of missionaries in Security Three zones. Only trustees see what are now called 'Executive Minutes.' I am not opposed at all with the protection of our missionaries, in fact, I advocate it.

However, we must be very careful that the only thing we keep from the public are names and locations of missionaries in dangerous zones. Every Southern Baptist has a right to know everything else.

Bob Cleveland said...


Your answer regarding folks coming to Emmanuel from other churches strikes at the heart of the issue. Talking and perceiving spirituality, vs. questions for which there is a "checkbox answer".

That issue will be the topic of my next blog post.

Sort of.

Jack Maddox said...

I agree with your assessment Wade. I also believe that we need to wait on this report. It would be a good idea to keep the rhetoric to a minimum so that they can do the job given to them without undo political pressure from without or within. Should their report not be acceptable to the SBC as a whole, then course correction is called for and as in pre 79 SBC life, many will have to make a choice. "Is this an issue that I can live with?" If it is not then they must :

1) Work within the system to see a change of leadership and trustee appointment

2) Seek the will of the Lord to unite with another group who shares their views.

In 1979 many Southern Baptist felt that the old ship was worth saving and not only did the bail water, they got a new rudder.

The question for all of us is this, Is the issue of Baptism on a par or the same level of Inerrancy?

Let's hope we don't have to ask that question.


Pastor John said...

I agree with Tim that your assessments are 100% correct.
Personally, I have mixed feelings on the IMB’s baptism policy. I wouldn’t shed any tears if it was repealed, but at the same time I don’t know that I would lose any sleep if it remains.
My question is what is next?
If it is repealed, I suppose that would be the end of the controversy.
But what happens if it is upheld?
Much has been said on this blog about cooperation, will the emphasis on cooperation hold if the vote doesn’t go your way?
I did not make it to the Arlington Roundtable – but from what I have been able to gather a few think that they should leave the SBC – cooperation on our terms only.
Others seem to think that they should fund a new missionary sending organization while remaining in the SBC – cooperation in name only
I am under the impression that you and the other hosts argued for full participation in the SBC while working through SBC channels to challenge/change the policy no matter what happens – true cooperation.

Do you believe that there will be true cooperation in the SBC if the IMB upholds its current policies?

John said...


Amazingly, I agree :)

However, it seems to me that you have a far broader definition for rhetoric than I.

The discussion on the baptism issue on this blog, as well as Brad Reynold's and Wes Kenney's blogs, has been extremely profitable. In fact, I only wish all our trustees would read them.

Jack, you seem unduly concerned with the manner in which dissent is voiced. In fact, if I didn't know any better, I would say you sounded just like the 'liberals' back in the 70's that held trustee positions and told 'conservatives' to 'work through the system' any time anyone was critical of direction of one of our boards.

Anyway, you can rest assured that people are working through the system, but I think your concern that these issues are being discussed publicly, and are harmful to the SBC, is without merit.

The SBC is better because people, solid, ordinary evangelical people who love are convention, are involved.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Wade,

I have another question, but first I need to let you know I have spoken about some of this on Brother Robin's blog. Afte re-reading it I feel I owe you an explaination. I do not mean any harsh words towards you just trying to state the things as I see them.

Now, concerning this particular comment stream, if 10-40 M is a 10-40M doesn't he have protocol he needs to follow? It seems there is a certain level of employee/employer relationship that he should adhere.

Also, if I understand proper protocol with meetings, minutes are not official minutes until they are approved. Releasing minutes of meetings after the meeting is adjorned is not kosher. The reason? They are not official minutes until they have been approved by the board as such.

I believe we should be more discreet in advocating minutes being released without them being approved by the board.

Tim said...


Of course protocol needs to be followed.

Recently, however, protocol was changed.

It used to be that any Southern Baptist requesting approved minutes could receive them. No more.

Now, only trustees receive the full minutes. The public and John Q. Southern Baptist receives an edited version.

Again, I am not necessarily opposed to this, particularly if the Executive Minutes (those full minutes given to the trustees) contain names and locations of missionaries in sensitive areas, but . . .

I would be opposed if minutes issued to the public did not contain action items that are not related to security concerns. In other words, the SBC has a right to know everything that is going on, and trust that this will be so. said...

Pastor John,

I have continued to cooperate with all things Southern Baptist though the policies are, in my judgment, anti-biblical, divisive and without merit. I would continue.

John Moeller said...

Wade et al,

Wouldn't it be wonderful if every member of the IMB went to their local church, or congregation and got re-baptized as a demonstration of their support for the new IMB policy. This would provide credence to all the words they have been typing about it. It would show how important it is to them too. It would also demonstrate to their respective congregation the importance of the ordinance of baptism. It may spur a revival of sorts…..

Anonymous said...


Thank you for these scenarios. I am prayerfully awaiting January 30th.

I completely trust these who are entrusted with this decision to do what they feel is biblically accurate regardless of "political pressure from without or within". I can't imagine if I were placed in this position that I would care one bit what anyone thought of me after the decision was made, as long as I had done my best to uphold what I saw as scriptural adherence. I know they will do the same.

If, in the end, the decision greatly varies from where I am, then many people will have some interesting choices to make.

Might I make a suggestion? Maybe all of us should commit to a day of fasting, or perhaps longer, for God's will, not any person's agenda, to be done. If someone will tell me when the most apropriate days to do this would be, I will ask my entire church to join me in fasting for whatever length of time it would require.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Pastor Brad: I am only one person but I would be willing to join you in such a request. Please post when you will be doing this and I will gladly join you. :)

Pastor John said...

I greatly appreciate your heart and humility in that. I remember how difficult it was for me to remain in Baptist circles when liberalism held us in its grip.
I remained despite misgivings and the loss of many friends. Yet my desire to cooperate has ended in a blessing. May it bless you as well.


Anonymous said...

from a IMB missionary...

There maye one more scene that was not mentioned. The policies would remain as they are and every missionary on the field would be required to sign a statement saying they agree 100% with them or face termination. This would be a repeat of the BFM 2000 requirement. I hope it does not come to that, but even with good men like you, Wade, on the BoT it could happen. I hope it doesn't. If it does I will probably be the first in line to be terminated.

Missionaries on the field are weary and learly of the changes coming from the board of late. We feel, as with, the BFM 2000 signing requirement that there are those in leadership in the SBC and the IMB who do not trust of have confidence in the missionaries on the field. This hurts more than any rejection of the Good News we may encounter in trying to reach our people group.

Just a few thoughts from a plain ol' missionary...

Jack Maddox said...

Pastor Brad

A more wonderful sugestion has not been offered. I to will join with you and any others in a time of fasting and prayer for this issue.

And let us all remember our missionaries this time of year during the Lottie Moon emphasis and the Christmas season.

For those of you serving through the IMB...May God bless you one and all and do know that to many of us you are our heros!


A 10-40 Window Missionary said...

Tim R.,

You asked if there were a protocol for missionaries on the field to follow, and I assume that you meant in contacting trustees. As far as I know, there is no protocol, no policy, no word from our leaders concerning any missionary wanting to voice an opinion to a committee. Common Christian courtesy impels me to go to my leadership with complaints or concerns. So, if I could find the e-mail address of all 89 of our trustees, and wanted to communicate with the Baptism Ad Hoc Committee about this policy, I would copy my immediate authority.

About minutes with names and me, that is a joke. The person tasked with compiling minutes could easily delete names or countries. So, again I ask, "Why all of the secrecy?"

Tim Rogers said...

Brother 10-40 Window M,

As an employee of the IMB, that is the point I was trying to make. It may be that you are not able to contact Trustees. It could be that as an employee your chain of command is as far as you are allowed to go. That was my point. I do not see your not being given names and emails for Trustees as trying to hide something from you.


A 10-40 Window Missionary said...

Tim R.,

If, as you say, the "grunts on the ground" are no longer encouraged or permitted to communicate with trustees, then there has been a major paradigm shift (and we on the field are all too aware of paradigm shifts with little or no warning). We have not been informed directly that we may no longer communicate with those who are several thousand miles and a large cultural chasm removed from the field, who hold the reins on what we may and may not do. I cannot remember the last trustee we saw on our field, but I know it has been in excess of 12 years.

Anonymous said...


Do you know when the ad hoc committee will be meeting to discuss/decide this policy?

John Fariss said...

There is something that bothers me in the "presuppositions" of much of this discussion. Missionaries are frequently being referred to as "employees," and are being referred to with "chains of command" and "correct protocol." Two things: first, I used to be a officer in a police department of some 350 sworn individuals in a small city, and we had a chain of command. But just as in the military, if there was a legidimate and compelling reason, we could either by-pass the chain of command or at least appeal something beyond our immediate superior. This is necessary in any institution first because that immediate supervisor is not always right, and second it is necessary to protect the rights (and sometimes the life) of that person. If the world works this way, should not the "employees" of a Christian organization also be allowed to? Second is this whole business metaphor. I recognize the need for structure and order over chaos of course; but at the end of the day, aren't these missionaries CALLED rather than hired? Are not they called first and foremost by God? While the IMB "employs" them for legal reasons, are not they really doing nothing more than affirming God's call? It seems to me that to keep applying business terminology and phrases is (even if unintentional) a control technique, and one which belittles the identity of thses fine, called folks. Just my opinion mind you: but an issue which bothers me.

Anonymous said...

Dear "A 10-40 Window Missionary",

I seem to remember that someone posted contact information for all of the IMB trustees sometime earlier this year. Some of the information is out of date (i.e., some trustees have rotated off the board, new ones have been elected) but you should be able to make use of most of the information. The link to that contact information is as follows: 2006/01/imb-trustee-contact-info. html

Sorry that I am not computer literate enough to make it a hyperlink (and i had to put in a few spaces within the link to make it fit on one page so you'll need to take out the spaces after ".com/" and "-info.". I hope this helps you in your quest to contact the trustees.

An Anonymous Baptist

Liam Madden said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator. said...

Pastor Brad,

I do not know when they will be meeting.