IMB committee to revisit glossolalia policy

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Mar 9 14:59:13 UTC 2006

>>From the Raleigh Biblical Recorder - Raleigh,NC,USA

Updated Tuesday, March 07, 2006
IMB committee to revisit controversial issues

By Steve DeVane
BR Managing Editor

The chairman of the International Mission Board (IMB) is asking the
board's personnel committee to take another look at two controversial
measures the board passed in November. Tom Hatley, who chairs the board,
announced the decision in a letter to Southern Baptist pastors on March 7.
The IMB released that letter, an "open letter" to all Southern Baptists,
two documents supporting the two decisions and other material.

The information focuses on the trustees' votes on glossolalia (the
practice of tongues), the use of private prayer language by missionary
candidates and candidates' mode of baptism. The information is posted on
the IMB's web site at imb. In his letter, Hatley told pastors that they
can comment on the matters through an e-mail address for trustees,
imbtrustees at "As chairman I am asking our personnel committee to
take a fresh look at these documents with the intention of providing
further clarification," he said. "Your suggestions will be passed along to
this committee as they are received."

During a November meeting in Huntsville, Ala., the IMB trustees approved a
policy stating that a missionary candidate will be disqualified if he or
she has the practice of tongues or a "private prayer language." They also
adopted a baptism guideline stating that future missionary candidates must
have been baptized in a church that practices believer's baptism by
immersion alone; does not view baptism as sacramental or regenerative; and
that embraces the doctrine of the security of the believer. Exception
clauses were included in both for special situations. Neither the
guideline nor the policy is retroactive and neither will be applied to
anyone already in the missionary appointment process.

Some critics of the policy on the private prayer language have suggested
that it might have been passed as a way to embarrass IMB president Jerry
Rankin, who has acknowledged that he uses the practice. Hatley responded
to that in his letter to pastors. "Trustees have been blamed for having
the motive of trying to hurt our president," Hatley wrote. "The force that
pushed the issue to this higher level, however, included the president and
a few others on staff and on the board." Rankin said last month that he
insisted that the board deal with the issue because he felt it needed to
vote the measure up or down.

"I did insist it come before the full board because I think you have to be
very circumspect in your processes," he said in a question and answer
session with a group of Baptist editors. "It was at my insistence that the
full board act on it rather than it just being a committee that puts this
in place." Rankin said then that he didn't think the issue was dead. "I
think there's a lot of reaction ... that's been generated across the
convention to revisit it," he said Rankin said that he wasn't confident
that the policy will be reversed.

"As much as there's been reaction against it, there's been a lot of
support for it as well," he said. "I think even controversy strengthens
the resolve of our board to kind of justify or defend what they've done."
Rankin said March 7 that he appreciated Hatley's statement. "Much of the
confusion and misperceptions regarding these actions came from the lack of
clearly defined explanations for the policies," Rankin said. "While some
will not be in agreement with the rationale, these documents will help
others understand the deep convictions of those on our board for moving in
this direction.

"There is no question that those on each side of these issues are
committed to the effectiveness of the International Mission Board and are
conscientious in their desire to be accountable to the Southern Baptist
Convention. God is at work around the world in unprecedented ways. We want
Southern Baptists to be assured of the doctrinal integrity and practices
of our missionaries and move forward to win a lost world to Jesus Christ."

Hatley said that he edited position papers on the speaking in tongues and
private prayer languages and baptism. The paper on tongues quotes past and
present SBC leaders, including the late W.A. Criswell and Paige Patterson,
the current president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in
Texas. "Most pastors and theologians among Southern Baptists of recent
decades and of today regard the charismatic movement as divisive,
encouraging spiritual pride, and stressing minor gifts out of proportion
to biblical evidence," the paper says. "Although there remain some
charismatic churches excluded by associations that consider themselves as
still belonging to state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention,
their number has declined over the years since the mid-seventies."

The paper on baptism notes that the 1925, 1963 and 2000 versions of the
Baptist Faith and Message all demonstrate that Southern Baptists have
interpreted scripture to teach that baptism is an ordinance administered
by the local church. "A church's beliefs, therefore, matter," it says.
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