Reversing the Guidelines of the IMB?
I have chosen to place my name as one of the original signatories of a letter calling on the International Mission Board to reverse its "new policies." The letter, and the issues surrounding it, you can read here. The statements on this website reflect sufficiently my own reasons for supporting such a call.
To note, I have received some question because my name appeared on the original signatory list, then disappeared, and is now back on… the story is this: One of the authors, Allan Blume, had shared with me the intent of the letter in a face-to-face conversation and I had expressed my full agreement with it. He told me he would send me a copy of the letter for me to review and did so but somehow I didn't get it. He took my silence as my consent. When the website went live yesterday, however, I had not seen the letter so I asked Allen to pull my name until I had a chance to review the letter myself. Allen graciously agreed and I took last night to look through it. This morning I re-added my name.
Our church has chosen to work with the IMB in helping us to plant churches overseas. They are a wonderfully effective organization, and we are grateful for the expertise they bring to our efforts. They do a great job strategizing, training, leading, supporting and caring for our teams overseas. They make us MUCH more effective in obeying our call to plant churches among the nations.
I do not object to the IMB trustees doing their job of determining what "kinds" of missionaries best represent churches like ours. It seems to me, however, that they have elevated some issues of personal preference to matters of primary importance. I hope they will listen to the voice of those of us who say that their new policies are not at all reflective of our wishes.
I have many strong, personal opinions on matters of great importance to me that I choose not to make "defining issues" that determine whom I will support and work with in missional endeavors. These include many secondary doctrines, political opinions, and favorite college basketball teams. The Baptist Faith and Message, 2000 is a document sufficiently clear, in my opinion, to establish the parameters of the kinds of missionaries we want to support. I love the BFM2K because it is sufficiently specific to ensure general agreement on the main things and vague enough to allow for difference in style and opinion on more secondary matters.
If the IMB trustees believe that these two issues (only baptisms in churches that hold a certain stance on selected doctrinal issues are valid and the use of a private prayer language) are of primary importance, I would encourage them to bring them to the floor of the Convention to have them officially added to the BFM2K. Let's let the churches decide which issues are of primary and which are of secondary importance.
We recently had one of our staff pastors who was going to serve in our Central Asian church plant who was told he could not go with the IMB because he had been baptized in a Pentecostal church whose position on eternal security could not be verified. Being a very humble guy, he graciously submitted to be rebaptized, but I just felt kind of silly about the whole thing. It didn't seem to have the same glorious feel of the famed Grebel/Blaurock mutual re-baptism of 1525. (There's a throwback for you Baptist history nerds).
I realize that it is difficult to establish what are "primary" matters in Christianity and which are "secondary." I do not envy the position of the Trustees on this, and pray that God will give them wisdom in the days to come.
I am also grateful for how the Convention we work with is set up, in that all of our agencies are accountable to the churches and not visa versa. In many denominations, what the hierarchical leaders say goes, as they are in authority over the churches. The SBC is organized on the principle of local church autonomy, meaning we recognize no authority over a local church except for Jesus Himself, and that all of our missional agencies utlimately answer to the church congregations they serve.