Private Prayer language policy and the Southern Baptist Convention (continued)

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed May 7 14:56:11 UTC 2008

Tuesday, May 06, 2008
The Hammer Has Fallen

 Rodney Hammer is one of the finest missiologists ever employed by the
International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. He has
served for the last ten years in various leadership positions,
including Regional Leader for Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) the
last eight years. Yesterday, May 5, Rodney Hammer resigned effective

He resigned his position as Regional Leader because he was not free to
further share his convictions about the new IMB missionary candidate
policies. It seems Rodney and the missionaries in his region were
visited by a group of trustees from the International Mission Board,
and Rodney dared expess, again, his contrary views to the new
policies. It would be interesting for you to know the trustees who
serve that region, particularly the regional trustee chairman, but in
essence, Rodney was given an order - be silent, accept trustee decrees
or resign.

Rodney sent a letter to the missionaries in CEE explaining that the
Lord had clearly led him for two and half years to speak further about
the policies to both Trustees and Southern Baptists. Some IMB trustees
have sought his termination due to his conscientious dissent on these
issues, and senior leadership at IMB instructed Rodney that he cannot
appeal further from his position as a Regional Leader. He is expected
to accept, own, and support the policies of the IMB trustees. He
reached the conclusion that he would rather obey the Lord than man.

I was informed by an IMB trustee this afternoon that Dr. Rankin sent
all trustees a letter explaining that Rodney had sent a letter
requesting that it be forwarded to each of the trustees. But in the
good wisdom of those who make the decisions of what information is (or
is not) acceptable at the IMB, Rodney's letter is not being forwarded
to the trustees, as he requested. This type of heavy handed, hardball
religion is one of the reasons every Southern Baptist ought to show up
in Indianapolis. I do not know what Rodney's letter to the trustees
contained, but here's hoping that the information I present below
might shed a little light on why the Southern Baptist Convention is
losing her luminaries.

Several IMB missionaries on the field forwarded to me a personal
letter Rodney wrote to them expressing the reasons for his departure
and his love and appreciation for them as missionaries. I have chosen
to publish just the last portion of the letter to show you the kind of
Southern Baptists we are losing from the mission field. Read carefully
the following, unedited explanation that Rodney gives for why he had
to resign. Pay close attention to the last section of Rodney's letter
which describes those who are being disqualified from Southern Baptist
missionary service. For those who think these issues are not
important, a reality check is needed. Rodney writes:

"I am in fundamental disagreement with the current IMB missionary
candidate policies concerning baptism and private prayer language, and
the unnecessary, extra-biblical narrowing of parameters for Southern
Baptist cooperation in the Great Commission they represent. While I
have other serious concerns, I believe the missionary candidate
policies are most in need of redress and illustrate most significantly
why change is needed.

The IMB is its people. The missionaries and Board personnel ARE THE
IMB and what makes it great in so many ways. Southern Baptists and IMB
personnel deserve not only continued prayer and financial support, but
also a Kingdom-oriented, transparent, accountable, BF&M-aligned
trustee board and missionary candidate policies and guidelines that do
not exceed the only consensus doctrinal parameters of the SBC nor move
us from sounder biblical foundations. Even more importantly, the
unreached people groups, the unevangelized of the world's cities, and
the lost without Christ everywhere compel us to biblically maximize
our efforts and missionary force, not restrict it unnecessarily.


The current "guideline" (a de facto policy) for IMB missionary
candidates regarding baptism puts the emphasis on the faith/beliefs of
the baptizer, rather than the one being baptized. This seems to be a
shift away from biblical teaching and Baptist tradition.

The BF&M 2000 Article on Baptism states: "Christian baptism is the
immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the
believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the
believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the
resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a
testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a
church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church
membership and to the Lord's Supper."

Romans 6:3-5 states "Or don't you know that all of us who were
baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were
therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that
just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the
Father, we too may live a new life."

The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and the Holy Scriptures put the
emphasis on the work of Christ, and the faith and testimony of the
believer being baptized into Christ, not the particularities of the
beliefs of the Christian administrator of the baptism.

The new missionary candidate policy regarding baptism goes beyond the
above consensus doctrinal parameters of the SBC, and Scripture, adding
extra-biblical stipulations concerning the church and administrator of
the baptism. It also puts the IMB in the place of the autonomous,
local Southern Baptist church in determining the validity of a
candidate's baptism…and worse than that insists to some that they
re-baptize the missionary candidate. Organizational compliance is not
a biblical reason for baptism or re-baptism. A Southern Baptist church
member whose baptism was by immersion, after regeneration, in
obedience to Christ and as a testimony to their faith in Christ,
should be accepted for service in a Southern Baptist entity or agency.


In regards to the "guideline" (another de facto policy) about private
prayer language, three things should be noted.

1.Much of the discussion and rationale given for needing such a policy
forbidding missionary candidates from having a private prayer language
was that there were widespread problems regarding this among our
missionaries on the field. Regional leaders demonstrated that was not
and is not the case.

2.Many biblically conservative Baptist scholars disagree on the
hermeneutic that was used to support disqualifying candidates who pray
privately in a prayer language.

3.Trustees were assured that the vast overwhelming majority of
Southern Baptists could not and did not support the concept of private
prayer language. This contention was proven false in a survey by
LifeWay research last year.

I will forgo revisiting the ample cessationist and continualist
viewpoints on spiritual gifts. I will simply say this…in our IMB
Manual for Field Personnel we have a robust, sufficient policy against
the advocating of any particular spiritual gift as normative for all
believers, or the public use and causing of division by such advocacy
or practice. This policy is enforced whenever necessary, although that
is rare. It has been an adequate protection against inappropriate
behavior or teaching.

What we are talking about now is the forbidding of a private prayer
language. Private. Prayer. We have no business going into anyone's
private prayer closet who calls Jesus their Lord and Savior, nor
forbidding otherwise qualified Southern Baptists from service through
the IMB because they may pray differently in private than you or I
may, nor judging any current or potential IMB policy-abiding
missionary to privately utilize under the Lordship of Christ a gift
they believe is bestowed upon them by the Holy Spirit. There was and
are no field realities requiring or necessitating such a move.

Upon the outcry in opposition to these policies from many Southern
Baptists, IMB Trustees made minor, cosmetic semantic changes and made
both "guidelines." They are de facto policies and applied

We've been led down a Landmarkist ecclesiological path by some
influential IMB Trustees. They used unfounded rationales to justify
missionary candidate de facto policies that overly restrict and
disqualify many good, conservative, God-called and otherwise qualified
Southern Baptists from missionary service through the IMB.


Dozens and even hundreds of Southern Baptists for short and long-term

... are God-called to cross-cultural missionary service.

... are members of an SBC church for at least 3 years.

... are conservative Christians baptized by immersion after conversion
as a testimony to their faith in Jesus Christ.

... affirm the BF&M.

... meet the qualifications for service OTHER than the new, overly
narrow restrictions.

... are willing to abide by IMB policy and parameters.

... are willing to sacrificially go to the ends of the earth.


I have attended multiple IMB Board of Trustee (BOT) meetings per year
now for the last 8 years. I am personally well acquainted with the
methods, policies, and practices of our collective Board of Trustees,
its leadership, and their impact on our work on the field, our support
within the Convention, and upon candidates for missionary service. It
brings me no joy, and no personal gain, to express these concerns and
appeal for change. I have no illusions of any real or perceived
personal influence within the SBC. However, I firmly believe that God
would have me express these concerns further, and to advocate for
those who can no longer serve through the IMB due to these policies. I
will trust God to do with it what He desires.

Regarding the policies, I sought to dialogue and express my concerns
along the way. I waited, prayed, sought counsel, and asked for wisdom
and peace from the Lord to move on when they were enacted two and a
half years ago. While I sought to address the overseas committee and
entire trustee board unsuccessfully, I did internally discuss with
staff, my regional committee and some trustees for almost one year.
After those efforts I made one public appeal for reconsideration of
the rationale given and the policies that were enacted. I was formally
reprimanded. I accepted that and submitted myself again to Senior
Leadership and to the policies and direction of the Board.

The IMB BOT received much concerned feedback and decided to review the
policies on baptism and private prayer language. Again I waited,
prayed, sought counsel from Scripture and others, dialogued with some
Trustees and asked for wisdom and peace from the Lord to move on. I
repeatedly requested the opportunity for myself and other regional
leaders to give our perspective and field input into the review
process. It was finally granted after many months. But then our field
leadership input that the policies hurt our legitimate candidate pool,
the work and morale of many missionaries on the field, and the lack of
any field realities requiring such policies was summarily dismissed.

I have sought to pray, understand, yield, reconsider, search the
Scriptures, and dialogue with Senior IMB leadership and Trustees about
these concerns and policies over the last two and a half years now. I
have submitted to them. I have watched as the supposedly softened
"guidelines" are implemented as de facto, hard policy and many a good
missionary candidate is turned away. I know of some personally, I hear
of many others. I am expected as a regional leader to accept, own, and
support the policies of the IMB Trustees. I can do so no longer.

I am now forced to resign my position as regional leader because of my
biblical convictions and leadership from the Lord to dissent further
and to advocate for those Southern Baptists who cannot serve through
the IMB now, and have no voice. I would like to think that Southern
Baptist agencies can tolerate conscientious dissent based on biblical
convictions. However, Senior IMB leadership have instructed me that
further dissent and appeal of said policies voted by our Trustees
would result in my removal as regional leader.

I believe part of the reason for the decline in the SBC (as reported
by LifeWay's Annual Church Profile and LifeWay Research/Ed Stetzer's
blog) is unnecessary narrowing of parameters for Great Commission
cooperation. I know for sure it is keeping us from getting many
additional Southern Baptist missionaries, turning off a younger
generation of future missionaries and leaders, and harming the
confidence of some IMB missionaries in their stateside supporters and

I simply want to appeal to our IMB Trustees and Southern Baptists to
return to a sufficiently conservative, yet broader consensus and
parameters reflected in the BF&M 2000 for missionary service through
the IMB. I am asking that all born again, bible-believing, BF&M
affirming, otherwise qualified Southern Baptists who are called to
overseas missions and desire to serve through the IMB be allowed to do
so…for the glory of God, the betterment of the SBC, and the sake of
making disciples among all nations.

Respectfully submitted,

Rodney L. Hammer, Regional Leader

P.S. Let me state unequivocally that I love our IMB Trustees in the
Lord. I appreciate their voluntary service. I recognize that they love
the Lord Jesus Christ and wish to see Him glorified among the nations
as well. I appreciate that they have put up with my own faults as
well. There are many who serve with no agenda other than faithfully
supporting Southern Baptists' obedience to the Great Commission, and
to send and support God-called Southern Baptist missionaries. Some
have worked behind the scenes to resist the implementation of these
policies and opposed these practices. A few have dared to publicly
dissent until such was also voted out of order. I appreciate them
greatly. I also love and appreciate those with whom I disagree."

It is because of people like Rodney that I remain a Southern Baptist.
It is because of people like Rodney that I will be in Indianapolis. It
is because of people like Rodney that I will continue to resist the
narrowing of the doctrinal parameters of gospel cooperation and the
Baptist Identity initiative within the Southern Baptist Convention.
When God called, Bible-believing, Christ-honoring, Southern Baptists
are being forced out, then it's time for the silent majority to make
their voices heard.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

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