More on Southern Baptist Convention's language policy on "private prayer language"

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Sat Jun 14 17:37:36 UTC 2008

Why I have signed the IMB Change Petition

I am appealing to all Southern Baptists with a concern for missions.
Many of you are aware of the personnel policies put in place two years
ago concerning Baptism and "Private prayer language." Recently, Allan
Blume, a North Carolina pastor, and his wife Pam, a former IMB
trustee, started an online petition to reverse these policies. At the
Convention this week, I had the opportunity to have dinner with the
Blumes and hear their heart on this issue. Heidi and I have added our
names to this petition and encourage you to do the same. You may do so
at Of course, I realize the decision to add
your name to such a list should not be taken lightly, however, I ask
that you prayerfully consider doing so.

Previously, I have blogged on my reasons for opposing the "eternal
security" clause of the baptism policy. This clause is the most
personal for me, because it is the point of disqualification for me,
were we to be called to international mission service. I was baptized,
though by immersion and as a believer, in a church that did not
believe in eternal security. I have come to believe that the baptism
policy should be reversed in its entirety as well as the policy on
private prayer language. Here are my reasons.

On the Baptism policy:

The policy goes beyond the BF&M 2000 and adds restrictions not
included in the language of this consensus doctrinal statement.
The proper place for making decisions about baptism is the local
church. The policy usurps the authority of the local church in
determining whose baptism is valid and whose is not. The policy makes
a blanket restriction which does not allow for a more careful analysis
of each situation – the local church is the best place for such a
careful analysis and the proper place where such decisions should be
made. The remedy required, requesting (re)baptism by one's local
church is not practical in many cases. Many missionary candidates are
pastors who have themselves baptized many members of their church.
Others belong to churches who, because of their (correct) doctrinal
stand, will not baptize the person again. There is no biblical warrant
for rebaptism of someone who has been baptized by immersion as a

On the Private Prayer Language (PPL) policy:

PPL is a doctrinal issue, not a moral one, and is not addressed in the
BF&M 2000 nor any resolution of the SBC. While I believe PPL to be a
incorrect understanding of Scripture, I do not believe that a belief
and/or practice of PPL should disqualify one from service, especially
given the Convention's silence on the issue up to this point. PPL is
part of a person's private devotional life. There is no evidence that
PPL practice among some Southern Baptists leads to
Pentecostal/Charismatic doctrine or practice. Further, PPL is by
definition a "private" practice not a public one.

Finally, it is absolutely bad form to pass a personnel policy which
the current president of the IMB would himself be disqualified. The
passing of this policy gives the appearance (whether or not this is
actually the case) of intentionally embarrassing the current
president. If there is a legitimate problem with Jerry Rankin, then by
all means ask for his resignation. If not, then at the very least wait
until Rankin retires to pass such a policy. To pass a policy which
disqualifies the president, especially when there is no evidence of a
pressing need to do so, is just plain wrong and in poor taste.


Well, for what its worth, these are my reasons. If you are familiar
with the issue at all, there is probably nothing here that you have
not heard before. Because of these policies, I would be disqualified
from service with the IMB. I know several highly qualified persons,
fine Christian servants, who also are disqualified from service with
the IMB. If you are concerned about this issue, I encourage you to
sign the petition. At this time, I believe this is the best course of
action to see these policies reversed.



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