Language policy in prayer: cessationist or non-cessationist?

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Tue Sep 19 12:23:40 UTC 2006

McKissic asks SBC to add policy on tongues to statement of faith

By Robert Marus

Published: September 18, 2006

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (ABP) -- A Southern Baptist trustee, whose recent
seminary chapel sermon was partially censored over his comments on
speaking in tongues, has asked that the denomination address the issue in
its official confession of faith. Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone
Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, and a trustee at Southwestern Baptist
Theological Seminary in nearby Fort Worth, publicized a letter Sept. 15
that he sent to members of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive
Committee, which meets Sept. 18-19 in Nashville. In it, he asks SBC
President Frank Page and other leaders to study the issue of tongues among
Southern Baptists.

"The purpose of this letter is to respectfully and prayerfully request
that the president and Executive Committee of [the] SBC initiate a process
of addressing and formally adopting a position sanctioned by the SBC in
2007 or 2008 annual meeting, to be included in the 'Baptist Faith &
Message,' regarding our position(s) on spiritual gifts, private prayer
language and speaking in tongues," he wrote. The Baptist Faith and Message
is the denomination's official confessional statement. It was last amended
in 2000. In his Aug. 29 chapel sermon at Southwestern, McKissic recounted
how, while a student at the seminary in 1981, he had an experience of
speaking in a "private prayer language" that he believes was evidence of
the Holy Spirit helping him communicate with God. McKissic said he
continues to have such experiences.

He also criticized a policy, recently established by trustees at the
Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board, that bans the
appointment of missionaries who practice such private versions of
glossolalia, or speaking in tongues. On orders from seminary president
Paige Patterson, the school refrained from its normal practice of
immediately placing a recording of the morning chapel sermon on its
website. In the early evening hours, school officials released a statement
saying they made the decision because McKissic had criticized actions by
the trustees of a sister SBC institution and because seminary leaders
"reserve the right not to disseminate openly views which we fear may be
harmful to the churches."

McKissic's statements -- and Patterson's reaction -- caused a whirl of
activity among Southern Baptist bloggers, many of whom accused Patterson
of hypocrisy. They noted he had earlier used his office to circulate a
"white paper," written by a former colleague, criticizing the SBC's
International Mission Board and its president, Jerry Rankin, on strategy
issues. McKissic's request for official SBC action came on the eve of the
SBC Executive Committee's fall meeting. That body is expected to address
several concerns raised about the denomination at the convention's annual
meeting in June.

In his letter, McKissic said the denomination and its institutions need
doctrinal clarification on the issue of speaking in tongues because some
SBC leaders appear to hold to a "cessationist" view of tongues and other
extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit outlined in Scripture.
Cessationists believe tongues and other such gifts ceased after the
apostolic era. "There is clearly a lack of consensus and clarity on these
issues among Southern Baptist[s]," McKissic wrote. "Because some in our
convention are 'cessationist' and semi-cessationists who hold powerful
positions of authority, they are defining Southern Baptist[s] in the
public square as cessationist or semi-cessationist, and this position has
never been sanctioned in the 'Baptist Faith & Message.' It is an
assumption by many that the majority of Southern Baptist are cessationist,
but many of our leading professors and preachers do not hold a
cessationist viewpoint."


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