Saturday, May 16, 2015

The IMB Is Not Going Charismatic!!

A recent change in IMB (Int'l Mission Board) policies related to appointment of missionaries has generated some misreporting by some and misinterpretation of reporting by many. For instance, Religion News Service​ had a headline yesterday, "Southern Baptists to open their ranks to missionaries who speak in tongues". Like most things that to be appear black-and-white on Facebook and via the media, this is way more complex than that.

Realizing that most will not be interested, for those who are, yesterday, David Miller wrote an excellent (and long) blog post about this change. It's worth reading and should be read by all Southern Baptists. I found nothing in the article with which to disagree, including his thoughts about the policy changes that were made in 2005. IMB Policies: Breathe, Folks — This Is NOT a Cataclysm!

I would, however, go one step farther than Miller. He says that those who supported the 2005 change on the policy related to baptism were not Landmarkists. I agree, but I would clarify that by adding that they certainly exhibited a tendency to accept the key tenent of Landmarkism — that Baptist churches can be traced back to the first century church and are the only true New Testament churches. Even more specifically, that the only valid baptism was that done in a Baptist church, by a Baptist — it was a reaction against alien baptism. And, yes, for those who are reading carefully, this is a simplification, akin to what I complained about in the first paragraph.

So, the results of the policy changes are, I think, good:

  • A private prayer language does not automatically disqualify an otherwise qualified candidate from being appointed as an IMB missonary. Now, teaching and encouraging glossolalia (speaking in tongues) would cause an appointed missionary to run afoul of another policy.
  • Biblical baptism (by immersion after salvation as a symbolic, testimonial,  memorial, and obedient act) is once again the criterion for a missionary candidate with the IMB, not who did the baptizing.
  • Having a child who is a teenager does not automatically disqualify an candidate couple from being appointed. This one is a bit more complex as it depends on the teenager, the location of potential service, and the availability of socialization. While it may seem strange to even make this a consideration for appointment but not for continued service, believe me, there is a huge difference between a family going overseas for service with a teenager and a family serving overseas when their children were not teenagers when they were appointed.
  • Divorce is not an automatic disqualifier for appointment by the IMB. Each case will be considered individually for circumstances of the divorce and for cultural considerations in the place where the individual or family would serve. This will be much more complicated for those who examine candidates, but is a more appropriate process than automatic disqualification.
For those who have made it this far, my plea is that you pray for IMB staff who are charged with the responsibility to examine candidates for appointment as Southern Baptist missionaries, sent by churches through the IMB and that you pray for Trustees who give final approval. Each of those persons needs divine wisdom.

Run well … whether it's "just" life or running on the roads, trails, dreadmills (OK, my bias), and tracks,
Bob