Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Don't Remove Burleson

I have hesitated to write any commentary on the IMB's decision to disallow any of its missionaries to practie speaking in tongues because others have done a fine job of discussin this issue. I do not personally believe that the Bible allows for the continuation of this Spiritual gift, but I also do not believe that being dogmatic about that fact is necessary. The IMB has altered their requirements for missionary status with the institution based upon neither a Biblical mandate or anything found within the Baptist Faith and Message, the convention's statement of faith. This in and of itself is frustrating, but it got worse recently.

Last month the Trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board called for the removal of a fellow trustee, Wade Burleson. Burleson, senior pastor of Enid, Emmanuel, former president of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (2003-05), expressed his disatisfaction with the board's decision when it was made on Nov. 15th. Since the trustees meeting last Jan. (9th-11th) the other members of the board have called for his removal. Burleson's comments, posted online via his weblog (www.kerussocharis.blogspot.com), were public, which has made many uncomfortable. But this board must answer to the body of the Convention, that means the local SBC churches across the nation, and I see no problem whatsoever with Burleson's making public, what is and should be public knowledge.

The decision to remove Burleson is really nothing more than an attempt by the board to isolate those who disagree with them. In accepting this policy concerning tongues the board has knowingly forbidden its own president, Jerry Rankin, from being a missionary. What will this say to the outside world? How will this effect the witness and cooperation of the IMB? The problem with this new policy is not that it takes aim at "private prayer languages," but that it diminishes, unnecessarily, those with whom the SBC can cooperate. Many Bible believeing Baptists believe in this spiritual gift and should they be disqualified simply because the trustees do not? To be fair the trustees believe that they are trying to root out all doctrinal heresy within the convention- I applaud their motives, yet disapprove of their actions entirely.

That is not to suggest, however, that the convention should open its doors to everyone. I am not one to pull for compromise within the SBC. But I believe we are to be dogmatic about the essentials and not dogmatic about the non-essentials. If churches and individuals profess to be Southern Baptist, adhere to the Baptist Faith & Message, demonstrate conservative and biblical church life then why should we disallow their fellowship and work with the IMB? If we are not careful the SBC will exclude other groups within Southern Baptists (Calvinists, Amillenialists, etc.) . The desire to demonstrate doctrinal purity and oppose any resurgance of liberalism within the convention is noble- but the trustees of the IMB should beware, as well, any inclinations towards fundamentalism, for it has as many damaging effects.


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