Unfortunately, the last few months have been problematic for the Southern Baptist Convention, my denomination. Controversy has been swirling around the Board of Trustees of the International Mission Board (IMB). Many of the larger issues being raised by this smaller one need to be addressed for the health of the denomination and the progess of the Kingdom.
The IMB board recommended to no longer allow any missonary candidate who supports and practices “private prayer language” or who has not been baptized by a church that supports Southern Baptist doctrine on baptism.
Many board members disagreed severly with this decision. One member Wade Burleson wrote about the decision and his disagreement on his blog. This prompted many of the board members to take offense. They decided to recommend Burleson’s removal from the board for “gossip and slander.” Regrettably, this whole affair has made its way into the media and has played itself out there.
At this latest announcement IMB Board Chairman Thomas Hatley said the board “discovered more options for handling trustee relationships than we thought we had.” But at the initial move to oust Burleson, Hatley said that the “difficult measure was not taken without due deliberation and exploration of other ways to handle an impasse between Wade Burleson and the board…. The trustees consider this a rare and grievous action but one that was absolutely necessary for the board to move forward in its duties as prescribed by the SBC.”
I do not know Burleson, but I do personally know one of the other board members who voted against the initial resolution. He has sought out explanation for the move – a biblical reason for the board’s action – and has yet to receive one. The BP article says that Hatley will release “a comprehensive explanation of the board’s earlier decision to assess missionary candidates regarding private prayer language and baptism, giving the historical and theological framework.” I very much look forward to that explanation.
Also, recently IMB President Jerry Rankin, who practices a private prayer language, talked with the editors for the state Baptist papers. (SBC Outpost and Burleson highlight some noteworthy questions and answers.)
Personally, I don’t pray in tongues. I don’t know anyone who does. I have never heard anyone speak in tongues or pray in tounges. So personally I have no stake in the position I hold to – but this has to be one of the most unbiblical and harmful decisions I have ever seen my denomination make.
In the 70’s and 80’s conservative Southern Baptist stagged one of the only successful take-backs of a denomination from liberal controlling powers. Now with no real dragon to slay within our denomination many conservatives are itching for a crusade to wage. They are going after fellow conservatives who may disagree on smaller issues such as private prayer language and worship styles.
In Burleson’s case, they reacted wildly against his writing on his blog because most of the members had no idea what a blog was, some even thought it had something to do with pornography. This is where much of the tension has settled – young versus old.
Many young leaders in the SBC feel as if they are on the outside looking in – they have no real say over what goes on in the convention. Many older leaders feel the young leaders are looking to change too much and maybe even take the denomination back towards a more liberal route.
It is sad that so much distrust has built up within our denomination and among fellow believers. I hate to say this, but most young Southern Baptist will leave the denomination unless something happens. They feel no vested interest in what goes on, so they will form break-off denominations or more likely start or join non-denominational churches.
It is not because we (and I include myself in this) don’t love the SBC or agree with the doctrines of the denomination, but we see boards and committees going beyond Scripture and accepted Baptist practice in various ways. We don’t feel as tied to the denomination as older generations did and do.
Personally, I feel bound to Scripture not any edict from a board of trustees. So if I see a pronouncement that does not line up with the Bible I feel no qualms about disagreeing with or, if pushed to the edge, leaving the Southern Baptist denomination. My allegiance is to Christ not a convention president.