More on language policy of IMB in private prayer

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sun May 6 16:33:50 UTC 2007

The Kansas City IMB Meeting, May 7-9, 2007

This Sunday I will drive to Kansas City for the May trustee meeting of the
International Mission Board. At this meeting, the report of the Ad Hoc
Committees studying the new policy forbidding the appointment of
missionaries with the private prayer language and the guideline that
forbids the appointment of missionaries who have not been baptized in a
Southern Baptist Church or one that teaches 'eternal security' will be
considered. At the St. Louis trustee meeting on November 1, 2006, it was
stated in the plenary session by trustee leadership that trustees would
receive the Ad Hoc committee report in advance of the meeting in which we
would consider it.

I have not yet received the report via mail, and it was not available on
the trustee internet site, so after calling the International Mission
Board staff last Wednesday and learning the offices were closed due to a
staff retreat until Friday. I called the IMB staff in Richomond again on
Friday and received a prompt call back from support staff saying the
report would be made available to trustees in Kansas City. They were very
helpful and said if I had any further questions to contact Paul Chitwood,
Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committees. I decided not to contact Paul since I
had already visited earlier in the day with fellow trustee Rick Thompson,
Pastor of Council Road Baptist Church in Oklahoma City and he had two
calls into Paul to ask the same question (where is the report?), and up to
that time Rick's calls not yet been returned.

I do not know what the Ad Hoc committe report contains. I don't know if
there are recommendations or not. I don't know if it is simply 'a report'
with no action, or a report with recommendations that require action. I
don't know how long or short it is, and I don't know if the private prayer
policy and baptism guideline have been reworded, rescinded or left the
same. I'm sure the Ad Hoc Committee has worked diligently putting this
report together, and I trust that it will be well written, with supporting
evidentary, logical and Biblical reasons for whatever action they have
taken. Whatever happens in Kansas City, we will leave with one of three
things occurring: (1). The board will keep the new policy on private
prayer language and baptism guideline as is, or (2). The board will reword
the private prayer language policy and/or baptism guideline, or (3). The
board will revert back to the practices of the mission board prior to
November 15, 2005 in the evaluation and acceptance of missionary
candidates regarding their baptism and use of a private prayer language.
Prior to November 2005, missionary candidates had to give to the board
expression of their faith in Christ and that they had followed Him in
believer's baptism, by immersion, trusting Christ alone for their
salvation. If the candidate had a 'private prayer language,' they were
instructed to simply keep it in their prayer closet and not practice it
publicly or they would face staff discipline and/or correction.

My question, as a trustee for the IMB, from the day I heard of the effort
to implement the new requirements for missionary candidates has been 'why
do we need the tighter restrictions?'

There are some who say the policy and guideline are needed, 'because of
problems on the field.' Well, by George, if there are problems, let's
change the policies and guidelines, but show us the problems, don't just
tell us there are and act as if staff has not appropriately dealt with it.
Others say, "it's a doctrinal issue," well, by George if you are going to
impose a new doctrinal standard upon the largest SBC cooperative ministry,
you better be sure that there is clear cut agreement on the issue. As has
been pointed out numerous times, the issue is not the PUBLIC speaking of
tongues, for that has always been prohibited by policy; the new issue is
barring a person from having 'a private prayer language' in his closet.
There are a handful of people in the SBC who hold to viewpoints on both
ends of the extremes regarding the gifts, and neither group should hold
sway. The vast majority of Southern Baptists are hesitant about tongues
being spoken publicly (and rightly so, for Scripture restricts the
practice as well), but I think you may be surprised that most Southern
Baptists don't care what someone does in their prayer closet.

I am hopeful that a full and free discussion of this report will take
place in a public plenary session and not behind closed doors. Closed door
forums are for the protecion of missionaries and appropriate for security,
but Southern Baptists have every right to know the reasoning behind major
policy shifts at agencies that occur on 'doctrinal grounds.' Specifically,
if our agencies determine a shift to an adoption of a total cessationist
viewpoint is needed at the IMB, then the explanation for the demand for
cessationist conformity before cooperating in missions needs to be heard
and understood by the average Southern Baptist who has no access to closed
door meetings. If there is a desire to accept only those baptisms done in
a Southern Baptist Church or a church that teaches 'eternal security,'
then the average Southern Baptist needs to hear and understand the
rationale behind baptism being identification with 'a church' rather than
Jesus Christ and faith in Him.

It should be an interesting meeting. In the past year I have spoken
publicly in our board meetings only one time. The meetings have been run
quite well, with proper decorum by all present, and the focus has been on


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