Tuesday, March 07, 2006

IMB Trustee chairman sends letters, posts explanations

Tom Hatley, chairman of the trustees of the IMB, has written letters to pastors and all Southern Baptists as well as posting the written rationales for the recent change in IMB baptism guidelines and policies on "private prayer language." In addtion, the working definition of a church has been posted. It actually is quite good, though a simple statement on discipline would have been appropriate. That can be covered, of course, in other language that is included about being "governed by His [Christ's] laws."

This material should make for a healthy conversation.


deacon said...

Hey I can't help but get off track, but did you notice that the requirement for "pastor/elder/overseer" to be a man was not given to deacons? Interesting. I don't mean to begin a debate about this, just wanted to point it out.

jfile said...


That's a good point to notice. I've found that that is another point of difference of opinion among conservatives. If I remember right, Dever's "A Display of God's Glory" leaves room for women deacons as long as there is clear teaching on the biblical role of deacons. This position would say that as long as the role of deacon is not a role that bears the primary responisbility for teaching and exercising authority that women are allowed to be deacons. Egalitarians would never adopt this position because they would reject the idea that the Bible regulates different complementary roles for men and women in the church. This is a conservative position; however, it's not the position that I myself hold. Maybe I'm putting too much weight on Acts 6 where deacons were first chosen, but when it says that they are to appoint deacons it says that they are to set apart seven "andros," rather than just saying seven. I personally would not want to lead a church to start having women deacons, but I see a good argument from guys like Dever. I've even heard Mohler advocate this position. And you can correct me if I'm wrong but someone told me that even William B. Johnson held that a woman could be a deacon for that reason. Sorry to continue a diversion from the original discussion, but I thought that this would go well with what deacon said.

Solo Deo Gloria!

David B. Hewitt said...

Jfile -- do I know you?

Castusfumus said...

For what it is worth, Phoebe is called diakonos in Romans 16:1. The position the men in Acts 6 fulfilled is known as diakonia. Hmmm??!! Neither of these positions looks like anything that which is remotely linked to eldership spelled out in the Pastorals.

Hey Tom,

The breakfast bunch from DFW really enjoyed the visit we had with you while your food cooled off.

Chuck said...


I attended the Midwest Conference this week, and I found out at the end that you and your brother will be there next year. I'm excited already!

Burt Harper said...

Due to the context of these verses I would say that deacons should be men. I Timothy 3 "8 Deacons, likewise, should be worthy of respect, not hypocritical, not drinking a lot of wine, not greedy for money, 9 holding the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And they must also be tested first; if they prove blameless, then they can serve as deacons. 11 Wives, too, must be worthy of respect, not slanderers, self-controlled, faithful in everything. 12 Deacons must be husbands of one wife, managing their children and their own households competently. 13 For those who have served well as deacons acquire a good standing for themselves, and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus." If this does not teach that a deacon should be a man? What am I missing here?

G. Alford said...

In a Letter to Southern Baptist Pastors Tom Hatley, Chairman, International Mission Board trustees, Southern Baptist Convention, made the following comments concerning the new IMP policy on (baptism and tongues):

“The need to address these areas (baptism and tongues) has been discussed from time to time for more than a decade. The decisions that were recently made have been matters of review and study for more than two and a half years. Similar precedents adopted by staff in dealing with these issues have been used for years. They were not as strong as the current guideline and policy, but they were the base upon which the current statements were constructed.”

As a Southern Baptist Pastor this is news to me! And regardless if I agree with this new policy or not, I think this is the larger issue; “What else are you guys working on that we, the pastors to whom this letter is addressed, are not aware of?”

Brother Hatley went on to close his letter with; “I pray this explanation and the included material will shed some light on the process and reasoning for recent trustee action on these matters.”

Exactly Brother Hatley! We need to shed some light on what all our SBC agencies are up to… And to be quite honest, after reading each and ever document posted on the IMB website concerning this controversy I am deeply concerned about the drift within the SBC agencies towards becoming an “Ecclesiastical Church” with decisions being made in obscurity by powerful boards that have far reaching influence on the Local Baptist Church.

This attitude of exercising “Rule” (making decision that most certainly impact the local churches without their notification or consent) over the future of the Southern Baptist Convention from the national level is more in line with a Presbyterian Synod than Baptist Polity. Perhaps I am overstating the issue, but I do not think so.

We have a Theological Contract that exists within the Southern Baptist Convention, between the local Baptist churches and her varying agencies; it is the BFM2000. Our Convention has three times gone through the process of writing or reviewing our statement of faith to more accurately reflect "certain definite doctrines that Baptists believe, cherish, and with which they have been and are now closely identified.". And each time these changes have been presented to the messengers of the Convention, representing the local Baptist churches, for finial approval.

Now the IMB Board is asking the Pastors of the local Baptist churches to accept their new “Ruling” on matters of doctrine that will greatly impact the future of our convention, the local churches ability to accept members from other churches (without treating them as second class members), and the local churches right to send missionaries through the agency we financially support with our C.P. dollars, all without our approval?

Brother Hatley, you may ask but I do not think you will like the answer.

Forgiven Sinner said...

Here it is 1 Timothy 3:12 Deacons must be husbands of one wife, managing their children and their own households competently.

Doesnt say in there anywhere Deacons can be wives of one husband.

Thats my Thoughts on the matter.

P.T. said...

G. Alford,

I concur. I am a 29 year old pastor that is deeply troubled by these issues. I recently taught on the tongues topic at our church, using Carson's book as a primary source. I personally take the open but cautious position. Regardless of the position, my problem is that these documents make sweeping generalizations like "most southern Baptist," or "Southern Baptist generally agree," etc. Really? Did you get a phone call and asked about this issue? The logic is also problematic. It was something like: "Since most Southern Baptist do not have a prayer language, then no one who goes on the mission field can." Really? Have we polled "most Southern Baptist." I thought we were supposed to be concerned with the biblical text, not Baptist preferences and practices. If they would write a position paper on tongues as a foreign language and then propose it to the convention, then I would be much more inclined to be quiet. But since it is not the case, I think I have three choices: leave, stop giving, or fight. Today I like the latter option. Thanks for letting me vent. I don't have a big enough church to have a voice in our convention.

Tim Batchelor said...

It would seem that an autonomous congregational church is free to authorize and create groups of "servants" in its church as it pleases. Those groups might be groups of women who perform acts of service. The WMU would be one example of such a group. It provides a ministry of service within the framework of leadership established in congregations. In I Timothy 5 a category of widows apparently had some special ministry of service to the local church and they had to be qualified with qualifications similar to the office of deacon. At same time such ministry groups are not to be confused with what baptists have historically considered the "office" of deacon.


Wade Burleson said...


I promise you, the vote of a small church pastor counts as much as the vote of a mega-church pastor.

Please participate in the SBC.

G. Alford said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
G. Alford said...

This Post has mostly been taken over by a discussion on the issue of, “Is it proper for women to serve as deacons?” I am assuming the question is limited to, is this proper in our Southern Baptist Churches.

Let me try and tie this discussion into the original intent of this post… Why don’t we ask the IMB board if a church that allows women to serve as deacons will be “allowed” to send missionaries through the International Missions Board or is there a new policy being developed even now that will address this issue also?

And if the candidate who is applying to be a Southern Baptist missionary believed at the time he was baptized that a woman could serve as a deacon of a local Baptist church is his baptism invalid? These potential missionaries could one day end up planting new churches in Africa, or Spain, and we do not won’t them misdirecting these new Southern Baptist churches into allowing women deacons…Right?

I think you see my point… “Brothers, it is a Slippery Slope!”

Castusfumus said...

I'm more concerned with how accurately the missionaries understand the truth of the gospel. Are we ready to sent them out armed with 40 Days of Purpose or the two edged sword?

deacon said...

g. alford,
Thank you for both of your posts. I am sorry that I pointed that deacon thing out because it has done what I thought it would do – taken us off track. Nevertheless, your point is well stated that the IMB is reflecting more of an Episcopal form of church polity than Congregational. I have noticed that the PCA usually post their motions to the General Assembly long before the meeting so that everyone can know what to vote for before the actual vote is taken. That sounds too much like what Baptist should be trying to imitate rather than this “good ole boy network” that we are seeing today. My, how the roles seemed reversed.

Personally, I think Pastor Tony is right, I would prefer to see the Biblical text backing their stance rather than this supposed convention-wide poll that was obviously never done. In fact, who care about polls or tradition? Are we not supposed to base our beliefs and practices on solid biblical doctrine rather than the traditions of men?

G. Alford said...


The issue of women serving as deacons within Southern Baptist Churches is one of no small amount of importance and my attempt to tie this issue into the IMB debate was in no way a rebuke of your comments on this issue. How ironic that “Deacon” should bring this issue up :-)

In fact I think it was the perfect set up to show just how dangerous allowing these kind of decisions, by any Southern Baptist Agency board, to go unchallenged really is. Your comment that “the PCA usually post their motions to the General Assembly long before the meeting so that everyone can know what to vote for before the actual vote is taken.” is something all Southern Baptist should take careful note of.

Good grief! The Presbyterians are behaving more democratic than the Baptist...

This is heresy... everyone knows (according to Dr. Caner) that the Presbyterian churches are ruled by a an oligarchy... how dare them operate in their General Assembly in a more transparent and open way than us Baptist...

This is completely unacceptable and the IMB should notify the PCA to STOP IT right away, before word gets out about this kind of extremely dangerous way of doing God’s work.

“Dripping with sarcasm :-)” --- G.Alford

J.D. Rector said...

I have a catholic brother who reads the religious news diligently and some of these blogs. His quote to me last week concerning these important decisions and matter... "Don't you ever make fun of the Papal or Vatican orders again. You Baptists are just as quilty!" He and I both laughed... but.... OUCH! Sometimes the truth is told jokingly.

stepchild said...

Over on David Roger's blog, David has engaged Dr. Malcolm Yarnell in an email exchange that is extremely revealing of the motivation behind the recent IMB policy changes. David says that "Dr. Yarnell is apparently one of the "idealogues" behind the new policies passed by the IMB Board of Trustees."

When I read quotes like: "Baptists come closest to the Anabaptists, for we are their theological heirs, even if we may or may not claim to be their direct historical heirs. Like the Anabaptists, we read Scripture simply, literally, and with a focus upon Jesus Christ." I thought of you and your readers. I'm not sure why...

By they way, Yarnell is Assistant Dean for Theological Studies, Director of the Center for Theological Research, and Director of the Oxford Study Program, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.

Thought this might be of interest to you.