Blogging and the SBC/IMB

(Email from a SBC Pastor regarding this controversy)

“Andrew, . . . You pointed to the SBC controversy with baptism and speaking in tongues policies in the IMB on your blog a while back. I don’t know if you have kept up with this any, but it is really heating up and is being driven by blogs (especially Marty Duren at sbcoutpost.blogspot.com. The trustees of the IMB pushed ahead with their agenda, but a trustee named Wade Burleson (pastor from Oklahoma who was the former state convention president) opposed them. They thought that they could just overpower him, but he started blogging (kerussocharis.blogspot.com) and exposed what was happening to the larger convention.

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The trustees then voted to dismiss him (this had never been done in the entire history of the SBC) and the controversy roared. Information keeps getting put out there by bloggers who are exposing what is happening and the trustee board seems to be in shock. They thought that they could just push this through like they have everything in the past, but the blogosphere has changed all of that. Instead of a slam dunk for the new policies and against Wade Burleson at the convention in June (I talked to Wade on the phone, by the way, and he seems to be doing the right thing), things could go either way as light is shone in dark places.

I am not writing you this to get you involved in any controversy. I just thought you would be interested in another example of how blogging is changing everything, even denominational politics, power struggles, and theological debates. By the way, it seems that what drew the ire of the IMB trustees has been teaching on Church Planting Movements at the Missionary Learning Center in Richmond. Follow that discussion here (sbcoutpost.blogspot.com). So, the source of the struggle goes to our ecclesiology (what is a legitimate church and who is in control).”

Hey – Thanks. When i get the time i will follow up the links. The SBC and IMB have some GREAT people on board and a BIG God , who I pray will guide them through this one into the place they need to be.

Its true that the blogosphere adds a lot more visibility to conversations. What we whisper from an inner room might be shouted from a rooftop. The challenge is to be integral and open as Jesus was.

UPDATE: Here is an overview of SBC policies from Joel Rainey

Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name "Precious" :-)

7 Comments

  • I just spent a half hour reading through two of the linked blog postings and I have no idea of what is going on. There’s an apparent struggle of some sort, but I’ve yet to find the issue.
    Is this because I’m not Baptist?

  • John,
    Good question. This isn’t the place to get into all of this stuff, but it is a continuation of the effects of the conservative takeover of the SBC in the 80’s. There seems to be a desire among the group in power to make sure that everything fits their paradigm, and if not, it is seen to questionable and possibly unbiblical. This seems to be happening with missions and this latest controversy is over restrictive guidelines for Southern Baptist missionary candidates concerning speaking in tongues and who was your administrator in baptism. A better summation of what is happening can be found here: http://journal.biblicalrecorder.org/story/2006/2/10/135234/061.
    The interesting thing is that bloggers seem to be chronicling a good portion of this debate and have drastically changed the nature of it through their involvement. It also involves questions involving Southern Baptists view of “what is the church” that seem to be pertinent to the emerging church discussion.

  • I find it fascinating to see how theology is becoming a communal enterprise with the advent of blogs.
    The problem is that we need a new concept of theology and control if this is going to work. We can’t have one group in power dictating what the accepted theology is. I don’t know what needs to come next, but it seems like there needs to be some kind of group consensus under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
    While some may think that this is heresy, I also think that heresy can come just as easily when one, small, limited group dictates theology. Open, collaborative theology brings more insight and wisdom, but it can also bring in some crazy ideas that don’t belong in the church.
    Examples:
    I honestly believe that the SBC, in condemning tongues, is in danger of blaspheming the Spirit. Be careful that you do not call the work of the Spirit the work of ____???? Satan? Personal Delusion? I’m not sure who they think tongues are from, but we can at least find them in the Bible and documented evidence that God can use them for good as a prayer language, even if they are abused at times. (oh, the Bible is abused a lot . . . how do we regulate it?).
    On the other side of things, I have seen collaborative theology go south when some start denying that most of the Bible probably isn’t true, even the parts that claim to be historical records.
    So both sides can abuse their power of control or collaboration. I think we’re moving toward collaboration. What can we do to make room for God’s Spirit to move and to respect the views of others while not giving in to anything that comes down the pike?

  • Ed, please be careful with the way you put things. The new policies don’t speak against tongues per se- they say that because the majority of SBC churches do not generally accept them, the IMB won’t. It’s all in the policies- I’m sure Marty, Joel, or Steve McCoy have explained the policies- and I have copies if you want them in .doc format. I guess what I’m saying is- there’s no overt condemnation in this, and it’s important that you’re careful not to infer anything like that upon the SBC.
    Having said that, I am against the new policies and have said so. Just please be careful how you insinuate things.

  • there is another way to look at. SBC is a denomination but IMB is a mission structure – a sodality – a second decision structure – and like many mission or monastic structures over the past 1000 years, they are entitled to be quirky, or require/forbid certain practises.
    Those who enter sodality structures must be willing to count the cost and abide by the rules
    i spent two years with Operation Mobilization which had a no dating rule for the first year and then a “social permission” required after that – with time limitations, etc
    that was ok – OM is allowed to do that. And IMB can tell people not to wear stripes or wear sandals or whatever.
    the problem comes, as i see it, when
    1. Such biases are considered normative or have biblical authority
    2. Such practises are enforced or forbidden on the wider church or other institutions
    3. The institution is the ONLY option for a particular denomination.
    As for the SBC, there is the IMB (Richmond) AND there is the CBF (Atlanta) and now another structure out of Texas called WorldConneX.
    Each one will be quirky, for sure, but there will be options for the types of quirkiness.

  • Andrew,
    Good observations above, but there is one exception to what you have said.
    The IMB is like Operation Mobilization (or Campus Crusade, or IVF, or Navigators) in that they are a missions organization. They are unlike these others in that they are owned by the Convention, and as such, are accountable to our churches.
    As such, trustees are to make policy and guideline decisions based upon the Scriptural convictions that they perceive to represent the churches as a whole. The current issue as I see it is that many pastors and churches believe that these new guidelines exceed not only the Bible, but also the views of the majority of Southern Baptists.
    With that said, you are right to say that certain mission organizations “have a right to be quirky.” However, I contend that the IMB has no such right, unless such things have been granted by our churches. They may not be a denomination, but they are owned by one. I hope this helps to clarify how the IMB may differ from other missions organizations.

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