Friday, June 13, 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 http://imbchange.info. 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 believer.

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.

Blessings,

Todd


***Addendum (June 19, 2008): Let me add that a significant reason these policies should be reversed is that there is no where near a consensus of opinion among Southern Baptists on either PPL or alien immersion. While I do not support imposing a rule on how trustees can govern their entities, I do believe that mission board trustees have a responsibility, on doctrinal matters, to reflect the consensus of Southern Baptist belief.

6 comments:

pastorleap said...

Todd,

I agree with you totally and respect your boldness in signing the petition. I myself am praying about it. My reasons echo yours almost identically. I have "appropriate baptism" but I believe, as a pastor, that this is an issue best decided at the local church level. Furthermore, at the national level, I believe that a case-by-case examination is much more prudent than a blanket policy which usurps the local church's wisdom in the matter and excludes many otherwise good candidates. My way of seeing it is, if a man or woman comes to my church from a Freewill Baptist church and feels led to join and embrace eternal security, I should rejoice that he/ she has come to the truth on the matter. My church holds a tight "rebaptism" policy that is, at present, keeping about 15 otherwise great membership candidates from joining. They will not be rebaptized and though they attend, are excluded from leadership and voting privileges. I find it difficult to justify the policy when talking to them, but b/c it is our churches policy under which I became the pastor, I feel (for integrity's sake) that I must uphold it or change it.

As per PPLs, I, like you, find no scriptural justification for the practice and do not practice them myself. However, I have been told by more than a few missionaries that policies were already in place for addressing the issue if it arose on the field. Why was another exclusionary guideline necessary? I have not yet heard or read any real "problems" coming from the field that warranted this policy. I too wonder if it was not merely to embarrass Jerry Rankin, but I have no evidence of that.

Though I have not yet affixed my name to the call for change, I am praying for guidance in the matter.

Thanks for the encouraging words. It was a joy to spend time talking to you at the convention and hope to keep in touch.

Terry

Anonymous said...

I am with you and the many others who see the need for this policy to be changed.
-Chris G

James said...

Todd,

Would you mind, in another post or in response to this comment, give a quick definition of PPL for myself and any others that might not be familiar with it.

As a lay person, this seems a troubling situation.

Matthew 9:37
37Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

Seems ludicrous to further limit the number? Or perhaps I'm over simplifying it.

Todd Benkert said...

James,

Thanks for asking. Simply stated, PPL is the belief "that the Holy Spirit gives some people the gift of a special language to pray to God privately." In a recent survey of SBC pastors, 50% believe in private prayer language. For the record, I am in the other 50%. (see, http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=25765).

For the wording of the policy itself, see http://www.imb.org/main/news/details.asp?LanguageID=1709&StoryID=3834

On PPL and Jerry Rankin, see http://www.floridabaptistwitness.com/5513.article

Hope that helps.
-- Todd

James said...

Thanks,

That helps.

Michael Wilhite said...

Todd,

Great post. I agree with your positions. I have just signed the petition myself. Thanks for pointing it out to me. Though I don't agree with PPL myself (I'm in the 50% of pastors with you), I think it by definition is a "personal" thing between an individual and God. I have no right to judge an otherwise, throughly Baptist qualified candidate.

As for baptisms, my church does hold restrictions on who can join, as do many others. Basically our constitution makes it clear that to join they must be baptized "by a church of like faith and order". So a pentecostal would have to be rebaptized to join Limestone. I don't care for that, but like the other comment, for integrity's sake I abide by it until it can be changed in the future. I really think it should be left up to the pastor to discern on a case by case basis personally.

Michael