Sunday, December 09, 2007

When Aberrant Policy Births Inconsistent Practice

A November 25, 2007 news article from the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported on the missionary work in India of Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee. Bellevue is the home church of many professors and administrators of Mid-America Seminary - a seminary whose leadership that is pressing for far tighter and narrower doctrinal parameters on the authority of the baptizer and ecclesiology than Scripture demands and the Southern Baptist Convention has approved. Bellevue is the congregation that has acted as the patron and bankroller of the seminary (at least in its current location). International Mission Board Trustee Chairman John Floyd and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Trustee Chairman Vann McClain are employees of Mid-America.

Though I am not sympathetic with the anti-missionary viewpoint of the article’s author, I was struck by a little detail or two related to baptism and ecclesiology. It appears that women from many villages across the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh came to a training center run by an Indian evangelist named Sathuluri who hosted a training program for village women that was fully - and solely - sponsored by Bellevue Baptist Church. During the course of the training event, at least one village woman, and implicit within the article - many more women - were baptized. There was no local church involved in the baptism. Women from all over the state were baptized by an evangelist, but they did not become members of any 'local' church that day. The women identified themselves with Christ - baptized at the hands of the evangelist who led them to Christ. This non-local church based baptismal service raises questions of inconsistency when juxtaposed to Dr. John Floyd’s, Mid-America's, and the 'new' (2005) IMB Baptism Position Paper that all posit an inflexible insistence that proper baptism is to be conducted only as an ordinance of the local church.

The following is a direct quote from the Memphis newspaper article:

“Sathuluri [the Bellevue sponsored evangelist] isn't as easygoing as his neighbor. When he discovers that an interpreter, who is Hindu, is in the compound the day he [Sathuluri] is to perform baptisms, Sathuluri threatens to call police to remove her and a Commercial Appeal reporter and photographer from the property.” (p.4). And then this: “The Bellevue missionaries watch from a viewing area next to the pool. Some offer tears, others camera flashes. None get close to the baptismal pool and wet women.”

I find it hard to believe anyone could be opposed to the good work that Bellevue is doing. I praise God for this Indian brother, Sathuluri, who is advancing the Kingdom among village women. Unless you have been on the mission field yourself, and personally understand the dangers new converts face for being baptized upon their profession of faith in Jesus Christ, you cannot fully appreciate Sathuluri's concern for the Hindu interpretor's presence. The evangelist is concerned for the safety of the converts he is about to baptize.

Again, pay careful attention. There is no 'local church' involved in these baptisms. There is no 'local church' into which these woman are being 'baptized into.' They are being baptized biblically, into identification with Jesus Christ. What this newspaper article reveals is the ironic and incongruent position of anyone who insists upon imposing tight definitions and parameters on our IMB missionaries while then finding it impossible to implement such rigid norms when they actually find themselves on the mission field.

The 2005 Paper Explaining the IMB’s Position on Baptism reads as follows:

First, that the only biblical mode for baptism is immersion. Second, that the only proper candidate for immersion is a regenerate believer in Jesus Christ. Third, that the act is purely symbolic and distinct from salvation itself and has no saving merit. Fourth, that baptism is a church ordinance and therefore the only proper administrator of it is a local New Testament church that holds to a proper view of salvation.

Further, the IMB Baptism Position Paper states:

Baptism must take place in a church that practices believer’s baptism by immersion alone, does not view baptism as sacramental or regenerative, and a church that embraces the doctrine of the security of the believer.

It is this last statement that baptism is 'in a church,' in conjunction with the fourth point above, which has created the baptism controversy at the IMB. This peculiar position on baptism is directly contradicted by The 1644 Baptist London Confession of Faith:

Article XLI

THE person designed by Christ to dispense baptism, the Scripture holds forth to be a disciple; it being no where tied to a particular church officer, or person extraordinarily sent the commission enjoining the administration, being given to them as considered disciples, being men able to preach the gospel.

John Gill, the great Baptist theologian of the 18th Century says this about baptism:

Baptism is not an ordinance administered in the church, but out of it, and in order to admission into it, and communion with it; it is preparatory to it, and a qualification for it; it does not make a person a member of a church, or admit him into a visible church; persons must first be baptized, and then added to the church, as the three thousand converts were; a church has nothing to do with the baptism of any, but to be satisfied they are baptized before they are admitted into communion with it.

Where Scripture is clear (as in the mode and candidate of baptism), we should be clear and unflinching. But, likewise, when God has chosen for Scripture to be ambiguous or ambivalent, we must resist the temptation to become dogmatic and prescriptive (as in 'baptism in a church that embraces the doctrine of eternal security').

I think the Memphis newspaper has done all Southern Baptists a good service in showing the danger of establishing a policy that reaches beyond the 2000 BFM, adds to the sacred Word of God by placing additional qualifications regarding the administrator of baptism, and is in the end, impractical in terms of implementation on the mission field. What's ironic to me is that the benefactor church of Mid-America and the home church of many Mid-America seminary professors is being used to show us the inconsistency.

I think it would be helpful if we, the trustees of the International Mission Board, focused on our duties of giving oversight to the work of Southern Baptist missions, but we refrain from seeking to implement tight doctrinal 'policies' or 'guidelines' that far exceed the 2000 BFM and make it very difficult for actual missionaries on the field to implement. In my opinion, the 2005 baptism 'guideline' is far worse than the 2005 'private prayer language' policy in terms of its overall effect on our Southern Baptist mission work.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson


Anonymous said...

My principal prof in undergraduate would say, "Blessed and few are the men who live outside of their time." I have been servant of our Convention in an overseas setting for several years. I wear as a badge of honor that I and not a few others have served Christ before changing fads of belief.

Is Bellevue being inconsistent in their baptism practices? Perhaps. But better to be inconsistent and faithful than consistenly wrong.

Steve said...

The issue of Baptism on the mission field appears to be a "graveyard" past which Dr. Floyd and many of his insider comfort clubbers at the IMB have been "whistling" for some time now. There's nothing like a local example to stir the great and mighty to confront the fruits of their errors.

irreverend fox said...

I think there are issues far deeper than doctrine at work in all of this...hmmmmm...

not that I am questioning our most holy, blessed forever, fathers...our denominational vicars...ERRRRRRRRR...leadership.

William said...

While Bellevue Baptist Church has been and is a supporter of the seminary, your description of the same contains a number of factual inaccuracies. If you call the school, I'm sure they would happily send you sufficient information to allow you to build your case from the facts.

I would also encourage your readers to read the entire Commercial Appeal article which you conveniently linked. In it they will find an autonomous local church following what they see as the Lord's will in doing mission work. That work may indeed include some missiological transgressions but it does not include anything related to the IMB, John Floyd, or MABTS.

In the past you have complained about being associated with the comments that appear on your blog. It may be helpful to point out that your thrust here is of the same nature.

There is indeed no mention in the article of a local church sponsoring the baptisms; however, making an argument from silence carries some risk. Perhaps you have already called Bellevue's staff member in charge of the trip to doublecheck.

Or...perhaps this is just blogging as usual.

Anonymous said...

Dear Wade,

In the interest of accuracy please note if MABTS had a 'founding church' it would be Olivet Baptist Church in Little Rock not Bellevue
Baptist Church in Memphis(Cordova).


J. Guy Muse said...

There is much I would like to comment in regards to this post, but will limit myself to commenting on the article from the 1644 Baptist London Confession of Faith...

THE person designed by Christ to dispense baptism, the Scripture holds forth to be a disciple; it being no where tied to a particular church officer...

This to me is more in line with what Scripture actually teaches in Matthew 28:18-20 where the disciples--those men and women who are obedient followers of Christ--are COMMANDED to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach. I have personally never understood the Biblical basis of the IMB 2005 baptism policy change which seems to go against not only the London Baptist Confession, but SCRIPTURE itself.

The only hermeneutical way around this to justify the policy would be to say the Great Commission was given ONLY to the eleven original disciples of Christ. If one interprets this passage in this way, I can see where they might build an entire missiology upon a male-only, authorized church administrator for baptism.

It's been two years now, and still I am waiting for someone to point out the BIBLICAL rationalization for this policy change.

Scott Shaffer said...


Could you clarify the connection between BBC and the IMB? I'm not sure I follow.

Bob Cleveland said...

Factuality as to the history of MABTS aside, it seems that the current IMB stance as to baptism indicates something is wrong with what Bellevue, and the Institute in Hyderabad, are doing in India. That it doesn't measure up to IMB standards and that perhaps people thus baptized are somehow less in their standing somewhere, than folks baptized by an "authorized" person in an "authorized" place.

I doesn't appear that those folks in India need the SBC; but then neither do a lot of SBC churches in the USA. Not to mention the eight point something million "members" of SBC churches that neither they nor the FBI seem to be able to find. I don't think it takes a genius to see who's on the right side of which issue in all this.

Steve Young said...

If the connection is going to be made to tie Dr. Floyd, Belleveue, Mid-America, IMB, and censorship into one neat bundle, then MABTS would need to be "Bellevue's School." It isn't and never was.
Mid-America was founded in Little Rock, Arkansas. Bellvue has been a good frind of the school - as have hundreds of churches. As far as I know Dr. Rogers was never on the Board of Trustees at MABTS.
The last time i wrote to correct these assumptions it was to the CBF's paper. I expected it there, I did not expect it here.
Steve Young
MABTS 1988, 2002 said...

The connection to Bellevue and Mid-America is strong. The school sits across the street from the church. The church donated the land. The President of the school was a member of the church. BUT,

I'm not sure why people are trying to emphasize or deemphasize the connection to the school. I think it makes no difference.

I only refer to it BECAUSE I am showing the impractibility of implementing an abberant policy on the mission field - proven by a newspaper observing a Southern Baptist church's work in India, a church that has been at least a significant part of the school where the school that produced tthe leaders from which this policy orginates.

This post is only given to show the impractability of trustees establishing tight and narrow policies that restrict IMB missionaries, particularly when there is no Scriptural basis for them.

In His Grace,


Scott Shaffer said...


IMHO you are absolutely correct about the baptism issue. The only reason I asked about the connection between Bellevue and the IMB is because you mentioned it in the article. You could remove those sentences from your post and your point would remain - without the distracting questions!

Anonymous said... did not get in trouble with IMB Board over doctrine. You are in trouble because you spoke up. For many years now, speaking up is not the Baptist Way. Doctrine has not been and is not the issue. It is something to be used. Power and obedience to leadership is the dominate doctrine. History of freedom is not that important anymore. That is the way it is....wayne

Rex Ray said...

John Floyd,
I would suggest the following rules of baptism need to be added to cover the following incident that happened in a Baptist Church, Fairbanks, Alaska.

Already in the rules: baptism cannot be self imposed.
Ann (not her real name), a lady of the night, had never seen a baptism and the preacher (SWBTS graduate) talked so long, she put herself under.

1. Baptizer will not lose baptizee underwater.
Ann slipped.

2. Length of time underwater will not be over two seconds tops.
Ann stayed under longer than a minute.

3. Proper reverence shall be maintained by witnesses.
Congregation was horrified Ann would drown, and then laughed at preacher.

4. The head will appear first when raised from water.
Ann’s leg arose from the water, and with her knee bent over the glass, her toes hooked under a choir seat.

5. No staring allowed.
Self explanatory.

6. Baptizer will keep hands in proper places.
Preacher’s hands froze around leg, but could not touch; congregation laughed, and preacher continued searching underwater until he got her head up and drug her off the glass.

7. Following prayer shall not include a giggle.

John, would Ann’s baptism disqualify her as a missionary? said...


Point well taken.

Wade said...


You are too funny.

Is that anecdote true?

Please, don't give anybody any ideas for new policies.


Rex Ray said...

My brother suffered rib pain from his wife’s elbow to shut him up.

The one who prayed (associate pastor) almost ran from the pulpit and went outside.

Don’t want new policies; just want to caution to be on the look-out.

Anonymous said...

I am writing this anonymously to protect the identity of the missionaries I will refer to.

We had a Lottie Moon promotional banquet last night and had some missionaries to a Middle Eastern country in our church.

I am a former MK, growing up (for a while) in an old-line mission where it is legal to have missionaries and were SB missionaries have served for decades.

Talking with them made something click in my mind.

This young couple is probably everything that Paige, Floyd, Hatley, Corbaley, et al are upset about. They have no SBC background. They got involved in an SBC church in college and became SBC missionaries. They are passionate about evangelism and faithful to their duties. They appreciate the CP and the Lottie Moon offering and are committed to SBC missions. But they are not SBC-first or SBC-only type people.

They are deeply involved in the Church Planting Movement. In the country they serve, you cannot do traditional mission work (you'd get kicked out or worse). You cannot build buildings and establish traditional churches. They operate a business and help establish house churches that muliply.

I am guessing that it is missionaries like them that make so many folks concerned.

All I can say is that if every SBC missionary is like this young couple, HALLELUJAH! They are quiet, humble, but effective witnesses and I am glad our Lottie offerings can support them.

Now, for my revelation: The battle is really about the old colonial method of missions and the newer way.

The missionaries I grew up with were good people (most). But their attitude toward missions was colonial. We were the "Great White Fathers" who helped the locals understand the will of God. Our missionaries lived in walled compounds. We left our homes and compounds to minister to the nationals, but did not invite them into our homes. We established churches and ministries that may have operated in the local language, but they looked very much like American churches.

That way will not work in the modern world. The colonial era is gone and colonial-style mission work is no longer effective.

Now, American missionaries have to serve the locals and empower them, not guide them. We have to be resources, not authorities. And we have to be much more subtle. Perhaps the old style still works in certain America-friendly Central American countries, but not in Islamic, European or former Soviet republics.

The Church Planting Movement (which may have some theological issues that need to be refined, who knows?) is an attempt to accommodate mission work to the new realities of a new world.

Again, if the couple I talked to last night are representative of the CPM and our missionary corps, may their tribe increase.

I suspect a lot of the controversy here is the same as the "hymns vx. contemporary" controversy, or some of our battles over church strategies.

How much will we change to reach a radically changed world? There are old school folks who think that what we have done is what we should always do - the old ways should never change. Perhaps others are ready to abandon truth and doctrine to be "relevant." But we must find a way to hold on the essentials and be culturally relevant in our ministry.

I hope the couple I met last night, questionable SBC heritage and all, are representative of the missionaries we are sending.

(Wade, if you want an email verifying my identity, I will try to find an email for you and send it, but I hope you understand why I do not, on this blog, want to identify these missionaries or myself. The IMB arranged for them to be here.) said...


In my experience, all the SBC missionaries I know exhibit a similar competence and humility.

Lin said...

I want to make sure I understand this. If the BBC people on this mission expedition were IMB missionaries, they would be in trouble for these baptisms?

Am I understanding this correctly? said...


The idea that an evangelist can move through India and baptize his converts - upon their profession of faith in Jesus Christ - is contrary to a policy that states baptism must be 'in a (local) church.'

Wade said...


Prove your idenity, your place of ministry, and you are who you say you are and you will be able to comment.



Anonymous said...

could it be that they see the Bellevue Church
as giving the baptismal service & experience its legitimacy since there may not be a local church willing or able to do it?

volfan007 said...


is the point of your post here, and the other one on dr. floyd, an attempt to make dr. floyd look bad? is that your purpose?

also, you might want to check out wes kenney's post where he actually called bellevue to find out more factual info about this whole scenario.

bellevue is supporting the local churches in india's work over there. what's wrong with that?

david said...


I have no disagreement with Bellevue giving 'legitacy' to the baptismal service. Our church does the same thing all the time in Africa and India - BUT the converts do not become members of our church.

The point is that when some advocate baptism 'in the church' as the entryway 'into the church,' then they must be necessity have a 'local church' present at the baptism service.

That is often very impractical on the mission field - and,

it is also unbiblical.

wade said...

Volfann, the purpose of this post, contrary to your implication, is not to make anyone look bad, but rather, to point out the difficulty in attempting to project a tight and narrow ecclesiology - comfortable for many independent, Landmark, and Southern Baptist churches in the USA - onto the mission field.

greg.w.h said...


There is this caption in the document referring to some local ekklesia:

"Converted: Local women offer prayers to Jesus with the Bellevue Baptist missionaries at Grace Church in Atmakur. Built by Edgar Sathuluri, the church provides vocational training for women in the village."

But the point remains that Edgar's work seems broader than the traditional footprint of a single local ekklesia. Besides causing the pre-cross baptisms of Jesus and presumably some of his apostles (the ones that first followed John) to be called into question regarding post-cross legitmacy (once you open a can of worms, you have to deal with ALL of the worms inside), just the general nature of the liturgical exercise as either lightweight and obedience-focused or heavyweight and process focused is brought into light.

I'll also point out the use of "sacred" wine in observance of the Lord's Supper is mentioned in a caption. We know that our friend Edgar is unfit for service in the SBTC and disapproved by the SBC just on that basis alone!


Greg Harvey

Unknown said...

I, like guymuse, am still waiting for someone at the IMB to point out the Biblical justification for this policy change…? Unfortunately there is none.

It has been two YEARS and no answer… Come on folks that is a “Slap in the Face”!

This whole thing just makes it ever so clear that the whole Convention System, with its many autonomous agencies; each having their own independent board is an “Ungovernable Mess!” There is no accountability and the BOT’s of theses agencies know it…

Meetings held behind closed doors, Gag Orders, Censures for not toeing the party line, Missionaries being excluded for reasons “Outside” of our agreed parameters of cooperation (the BFM2000)… What we have, plain and simple, is system rife with confusion, corruption, and power struggles.

“From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it…” (Isa.1:6)

The Southern Baptist Convention deserves better than this… but until there is a “Revolution” their will be no “Remedy”!

“Death to the King!”

Grace Always,

Baptist Theologue (Mike Morris) said...

I talked to Steve Marcum this afternoon, and he confirmed that the women baptized in India had local church connections. Don’t miss the next-to-last sentence in the article: “A pastor dipped her body into a pool of water.”

I think a lot of folks misunderstand the following statement about baptism from the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message: “Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper.” The fact that it is a church ordinance does not mean that baptism must be performed in the baptismal tank of a local church. Each church decides who may perform the baptism. Where the baptism is performed is not that important to most churches. If a new convert wants to be baptized in a river or pond rather than the baptistery inside the church, most congregations have no problem with that. There is usually an understanding that the ministers will perform the baptisms, but the local church may also allow others to perform the baptisms. In small churches, the person who performs the baptism often is also the one who examines the candidate, so for convenience the minister often handles both responsibilities. The fact that it is a church ordinance does not restrict the baptismal ceremony to one church only. Several churches may permit their baptisms to occur together. I heard about Baptist churches cooperating in such a mass baptismal ceremony in the Han River in Seoul when I was an IMB missionary in South Korea. There was still a local church connection with those mass baptisms. Most Southern Baptist churches have a congregational form of church government, so there should be no problem in understanding how a congregation has the ultimate authority to make decisions in the matter of baptism. The local church is the administrator, not its minister(s).

The case of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch has been discussed a lot already in this regard. There was no local church in the desert (Acts 8:26), but there was water (Acts 8:36). There was also a candidate who believed in Jesus with all his heart (Acts 8:37). Philip was an officer of the church at Jerusalem (Acts 6:5). The church at Jerusalem had been scattered because of persecution throughout Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1). Philip had already been involved in a baptismal service in Samaria (Acts 8:13) before he baptized the eunoch. John Gill commented on the baptism of the magician Simon by Philip: “Philip could not discover his hypocrisy: but taking him to be a sincere believer, admitted him to baptism.” The apostles in Jerusalem sent Peter and John to Samaria (Acts 8:14), so there was continued involvement of the Jerusalem church with the new converts in Samaria. The baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch did indeed have a local church connection.

Best wishes to all for a Merry Christmas and a good Lottie Moon Offering,

Mike Morris (aka BT)

Anonymous said...


I understand you have an axe to grind, and I appreicate the value of dissent in Christian history, including Baptist history. I can even appreicate the fact that well-intending brothers disagree over important issues. Although you have the freedom to think and express your views, I hope you'll also be committed to charity.

Bellevue Baptist and MABTS have been friends for a long time. Dr. Rogers was a key supporter from it's founding in Little Rock and he was instumental in leading the church to donate the land on which the new campus is located. Yes, BBC has been a blessing to MABTS and its students over the years. However, you speak out of ignorance when you imply an almost sinister connection. Many churches support MABTS.

I understand that you have differences with Dr. John Floyd in matters related to ecclesiology and mission board policy, but as chair of the IMB trusttes he speaks for himself not MABTS. You make it sound as if the seminary is on some kind of fundamentalist, ecclesiological crusade. The faculty here is diverse on such matters. Dr. Floyd represents himslef on the IMB board. (a man of integrity that I respect) Please try not to paint your pictures of people, churches, schools, conventions with too broad a brush. You can make your points without disparging those you don't know. said...

Dr. Cornett,

Respectfully, I do not understand your comment about 'a sinister connection' between Mid-America and Bellevue.

I love Bellevue. I think the church is doing a great job in terms of outreach and missions.

I also respect Mid-America. What I don't want is a tight and narrow ecclesiology and Landmarkish view of baptism - pushed by some - to become the norm for all.

I find it ironic that the only reason there would be a 'sinister' connection with Mid-America is IF Bellevue were doing something wrong.

They weren't. In fact, Bellevue was being missional, evangelistic, and biblical. If I were Mid-America, I would welcome the connection with Bellevue for the example they have set for us all. said...

Dr. Cornett,

There is one statement that you made in your comment that I am absolutely thrilled to hear.

In fact, it is so wonderful, I wish to give it emphasis. I am absolutely DELIGHTED that you wrote the following:

"You make it sound as if the seminary is on some kind of fundamentalist, ecclesiological crusade. The faculty here is diverse on such matters. Dr. Floyd represents himself on the IMB board."

I just may be recommending my students at Emmanuel to attend Mid-America - a school that champions diversity. I mean it. My experience with some employeed by the school is that such diversity is not welcome. said...


I always welcome my Landmark friend, AKA "Baptist Theologue," and appreciate your comment. You write some very peculiar things:

(1). The local church is the administrator, not its minister(s).

Uh, Mike, that is the point of my post - to refute such thinking. In the India baptisms there was NO LOCAL CHURCH PRESENT. You speak of connections the women, a 'pastor' who baptized, etc . . . but the women were baptized by the EVANGELIST who was not a 'church officer' and not under any 'local church authority.' The evangelist was like Philip when he (Philip) baptized the Ethiopian eunich. Mike, the people at the conference and Bellevue members were WITNESSES, there was no entry into a 'local church' at the time of baptism. Membership into a local church will come later for these new Indian comments but it is SEPARATE from their identification with Jesus Christ and his followers through baptism.

(2). "John Gill commented on the baptism of the magician Simon by Philip: 'Philip could not discover his hypocrisy: but taking him to be a sincere believer, admitted him to baptism.'"

Mike, by using Gill's quote you have proved the very OPPOSITE of what you are arguing for. Philip ALONE determined the professing believer's qualifications for baptism. No church was involved.

(3). The apostles in Jerusalem sent Peter and John to Samaria (Acts 8:14), so there was continued involvement of the Jerusalem church with the new converts in Samaria. The baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch did indeed have a local church connection.

You offer no proof of your conclusions. You simply assume others will trust your deductions that since there was a 'local church' in Samaria, there MUST have been a 'local church' available for the ETHIOPIAN to join. Why the assumption? Because if there was NO local church and then - according to your Landmark views - the eunich's baptism was invalid. Unfortunately, you would wish to make your views on baptism prescriptive for all Southern Baptist practice. That, Mike, is the problem with ideologies that go beyond the Word of God.

However, I can so with everything in my heart, that I love dialoguing with you because you are always civil and gracious.



Bob Cleveland said...

I'm glad I'm a Baptist. I'm having a lot of fun being one, but if I wasn't one, I wouldn't want to be one. :^)

These sorts of disagreements would run me off in a New York minute.

Maybe the 8.5 million Missing In Inaction are really the ones who saw the real deal early on. :^)

Baptist Theologue (Mike Morris) said...

Wade, thanks for the warm welcome. I would probably be more accurately identified as a “semi-Landmarker” because I do not agree with everything taught by “pure” Landmarkers. You stated,

“In the India baptisms there was NO LOCAL CHURCH PRESENT.”

The entire church does not have to be present. The case with Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch is an example. The local church can still be considered to be the administrator when its authority is delegated to the person performing the baptism. You also said,

“Mike, the people at the conference and Bellevue members were WITNESSES, there was no entry into a 'local church' at the time of baptism.”

Remember what I said in my earlier comment: “I talked to Steve Marcum this afternoon, and he confirmed that the women baptized in India had local church connections.” There was indeed a local church connection. You continued:

“Philip ALONE determined the professing believer's qualifications for baptism. No church was involved.”

How do you know that Philip was not authorized by the Jerusalem church to perform baptisms in Samaria? The involvement of the local church could have been the delegation of those duties, as is the case in most of our SBC churches today. Remember that Philip was an officer of that church. You also said,

“You simply assume others will trust your deductions that since there was a 'local church' in Samaria, there MUST have been a 'local church' available for the ETHIOPIAN to join.”

Philip examined the beliefs of the eunuch, and the eunuch’s beliefs were in accord with those of the mother church. It’s that simple. I’ve got to go eat with my family. I’ll be back later to deal with replies.

William said...

I'm crushed. I though we were old pals.

Of course, it is your blog and you can demand proof, facts, of others even though you are loose or absent with them on your own. Most folks can see the irony, or worse, in that. Your reply to the several of us (including the mabts faculty member whom I do not know) is really lame. Get your facts straight. It looks that you fail on that account is about everything you said in your article.

See my profile at

William Thornton said...


Thanks. I appreciate you identifying yourself.

I'm sure you will emotionally recover soon.


Feel free to comment. I apologize for not knowing who you were, but when I clicked on your profile I did not find any information.

Baptist Theologue (Mike Morris) said...

P.S. - I just reread my comment and realized that I may have been misunderstood:

“I talked to Steve Marcum this afternoon, and he confirmed that the women baptized in India had local church connections.”

I should have specified that the "local church connections" are with local churches in India.

RM said...

I just kind of wonder what the Lord thinks when He sees a bunch of Baptist preachers arguing over who had the right to baptize someone. Somehow I also doubt that Jesus would be able to work with the IMB. I'm sure they would find some way to exclude Him!

This whole discussion really bothers me.

Lin said...

"I should have specified that the "local church connections" are with local churches in India."

I am not sure I understand this point. If these women came from all over as could they have local church connections...even in their area? Were they unchurched? Were they referred to a particular church in their area after baptism? said...


This Baptist preacher is not arguing over who can baptize whom.

I say any Christian who has the privilege of leading a sinner to Christ carries the same Great Commission privilege of baptizing his convert.



P.S. This is both the biblical and historic baptist position.

Baptist Theologue (Mike Morris) said...

Lin, I had a very brief conversation with Steve Marcum, and I have already commented on what I learned about the trip from Steve. From the article, we know that all the women came from villages in the state of Andhra Pradesh, and they were baptized in the capital of that state, Hyderabad. In some cultures, new converts are not baptized immediately by the Christians in that culture; rather, there is a delay before candidates are baptized. This was the case in South Korea where I served during my 10-year IMB career. There was no overt persecution of Christians in South Korea during my time there, so the Korean Christians had no qualms about very public baptisms in their own communities. I would think that in some cultures (where folks may be persecuted or killed if their baptismal ceremonies are very public) the local churches might prefer that converts be baptized at a distant facility, away from the people that know the converts and could do them harm.

Only By His Grace said...


Probably as you were, our church services were iced out yesterday. I spent the afternoon reading Philip Schaft and trying to put my library on a file folder. Trouble is that every time I pick up a book I tend to read it in place of simply entering it in the file. This plays havoc with documenting my library. I still hope to get it done before Jesus comes.

I was reading the "Schaft Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge yesterday and just so happened to read his excellent article on the development of Baptist.

Our early beginnings from Separatist, Puritans and Anabaptist did not develop full blown over night. One of our early founders, John Smyth, baptized a friend who in turn baptized him. Much evidence seems to point that at first baptism was not by immersion with Baptist, but by any means available. The controversy was not so much of who was baptizing or what mode used as it was that baptism was for believers only.

I think it is ironic. I was reading Schaft last night and you write this article today.

Counting the long history of the church from about 50 AD until now, Church membership is a relatively a new thing. I doubt if Philip filled out an "application for membership in the local Oasis Church" when he baptized the Ethiopian Eunuch.

I think you hit the nail on the head in an earlier article. The local church is the determining factor and not some BOT of some organization or for that matter, the SBC itself. The SBC was always intended to be a loose organization very submissive to the will of the local churches.

Only by His Grace,
Phil in Norman

Anonymous said...

Breaking my vow of silence for one and only one comment, and as not directed to blog owner, I shall keep the comment specific to the debate.
IMB "guidelines" aside, it would appear to me, in "typical" Baptistic practices, that baptism is required for local church membership (and rightly so). But who ever said church membership was required as an automatic effect of baptism? Bonheoffer called it "cheap grace." That is, baptism without church discipline. But he was referring to the negligence of the local church leadership. So, should one be denied baptism because no local church exists? Or can these women simply be considered a church with no male pastor? Additionally, are we not going to give Bellevue a chance to plant a church? That aside, did not the evangelist carry out the great commission? “ Make disciples of [women in India] Baptizing them in the name of Father...and teaching them...??? Why he even did it under the authority of a local church. Just happened to be a local church on the other side of the local planet created by a local God in a local universe. God we pray that you send us William Carey’s with selfless ambition to do it right, and on your timetable. And Father we pray that the IMB leadership not use Matthew 24:14 as a directive to rush the process, but rather hold fast to our Lord’s final words in Matt. 28.

I still would like someone to raise the issue concerning the REAL issue in the IMB. The use of “orality,” or chronological story telling without so much as consideration for the need to teach people to read Scripture. Or missionaries like Dr. Jim Palmer who believe that men can be pastors and ministers and shepherds without the ability to read long as they can orally tell a few stories. This dear friends is going to destroy the IMB.

And this unbiblical method is being passed around the IMB regions like a joint in a frat house.

I yield back the balance of my time and resume my self-imposed life-time exile from posting on this site and ask for the sincerest of apologies for this comment. (But not its content.)


J. Guy Muse said...

K. Michael Crowder,

You write, I still would like someone to raise the issue concerning the REAL issue in the IMB. The use of “orality,” or chronological story telling without so much as consideration for the need to teach people to read Scripture. Or missionaries like Dr. Jim Palmer who believe that men can be pastors and ministers and shepherds without the ability to read Scripture.... This dear friends is going to destroy the IMB.

Maybe I am missing something, but are you saying unless someone has the ability to read, they cannot lead? I just read on Micah Fries blog that 70% of the world are oral communicators. If I understand Jesus, the command is to go make DISCIPLES, not teach the world to read Scripture.

My heroes are people like Jim Palmer and his wife who have dedicated their lives to reaching and planting churches amongst oral learners in a lot tougher conditions than you or I live in. They are light years ahead of the game in their understanding of the Gospel and what it takes to bring a lost world to Christ. I would consider it an honor to sit for an hour at their feet and learn from them. They have sacrificed much to make the Gospel known amongst indigenous PG's. Before pointing a finger at them and their methods (IMB methods for that matter), what do you propose they do instead? Better yet, instead of criticizing from the side lines, why not go down and actually DO SOMTHING to help them reach the masses of unreached illiterate indigenous people groups in Central and South America?

Bill said...

Why does "local church connections" sound to me like "weapons of mass destruction program related activities"?

If they had local church connections, why weren't they baptized in and by their local church? "Local church connections" is a way of saying nothing that sounds like something.

The evangelist did the right thing. The biblical thing. He doesn't have to be authorized by a baptist magisterium to baptize. He was granted that authority by Christ when he became one of His own. said...


That is exactly what Mr. Crowder is saying.

He is young. He is naive.

One of these days he will understand that the message of Christ can come apart from reading the written Word of God -



Strider said...

Hey Guy and Wade, Thanks for addressing K. Michael. I was going to say something but couldn't trust myself to be civil.

Bob Cleveland said...

Luke 7:22, John 3:22, Acts 4:20 & 22:15, and 1 John 1:3 all refer to speaking of things people had seen and heard. Sounds like those guys were into orality, too.