Published March 16, 2006
RICHMOND, Va. (BP) — International Mission Board Trustee Chairman Tom Hatley issued an “open letter” March 7 to Southern Baptists – and a much longer letter to Southern Baptist pastors – addressing recent decisions by IMB trustees.
The letters accompany detailed background material outlining the trustees’ votes on glossolalia (the practice of tongues), the use of private prayer language by missionary candidates and the candidates’ mode of baptism. Southern Baptists can access both letters, the new policy on use of tongues, the guideline on baptism and additional background materials are available online (see box).
“I have addressed (the detailed explanation) to pastors because they are the teachers and guardians of the Word for their congregations,” Hatley said in his letter to Southern Baptists. “But feel free to look over their shoulders and read this material.
“There has been no small controversy concerning some of our recent decisions,” Hatley acknowledged. “However, as I have shared this information with pastors and others, most have expressed joy because information they had previously received was incomplete. Seeing the greater context has helped many to appreciate the decisions recently made.”
IMB President Jerry Rankin expressed appreciation for the statement released by the board chairman.
“Much of the confusion and misperceptions regarding these actions came from the lack of clearly defined explanations for the policies,” Rankin said. “While some will not be in agreement with the rationale, these documents will help others understand the deep convictions of those on our board for moving in this direction.
“There is no question that those on each side of these issues are committed to the effectiveness of the International Mission Board and are conscientious in their desire to be accountable to the Southern Baptist Convention. God is at work around the world in unprecedented ways. We want Southern Baptists to be assured of the doctrinal integrity and practices of our missionaries and move forward to win a lost world to Jesus Christ.”
During their Nov. 14-17 meeting in Huntsville, Ala., the trustees approved a policy stating that a missionary candidate eliminates himself or herself from potential IMB service if he or she has the practice of tongues or a “private prayer language” as an ongoing part of his or her conviction or practice. They also adopted a baptism guideline stating that future missionary candidates must have been baptized in a church that: practices believer’s baptism by immersion alone; does not view baptism as sacramental or regenerative; and that embraces the doctrine of the security of the believer.
Hatley said he is asking the IMB trustee personnel committee to take “a fresh look at these documents with the intention of providing further clarification.”
To view the statement and additional materials go to www.imb.org or http://imb.org/core/story.asp?StoryID=3841&LanguageID=1709. Suggestions and feedback may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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