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Texas pastor calls for BF&M statement on tongues

ARLINGTON, Texas (BP)–A prominent Texas pastor is asking Southern Baptist Convention leaders to consider an amendment to the convention’s faith statement dealing with spiritual gifts, including tongues and private prayer language.

Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, in a letter posted on the church’s website and addressed to SBC President Frank Page and the convention’s Nashville, Tenn.-based Executive Committee, wrote that “a lack of consensus and clarity on these issues among Southern Baptists” exists.

McKissic wrote that although those who dispute the modern use of tongues are the majority in SBC leadership, they are “defining Southern Baptists in the public square” without the convention’s faith statement speaking to the matter.

The letter asks Page and the Executive Committee to “initiate a process of addressing and formally adopting a position sanctioned by the SBC in [the] 2007 or 2008 Annual Meeting, to be included in the Baptist Faith and Message, regarding our position(s) on spiritual gifts, private prayer language and speaking in tongues.”

The tongues and private prayer language issue has been prominent within the convention since late 2005, when the trustees of the SBC International Mission Board adopted a policy excluding missionary candidates who practice tongues or a prayer language.

McKissic sparked controversy on the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary campus Aug. 29 with his statement during a chapel sermon that he uses a private prayer language. Consequently, the school refused to post McKissic’s sermon on the website of the school, where McKissic serves as an SBC-appointed trustee. Southwestern later released a statement from seminary president Paige Patterson, citing a concern for churches, the appearance of criticizing another SBC entity — the International Mission Board — and a consensus among Southern Baptists about charismatic practices, as reasons for not posting the sermon.

McKissic wrote in his letter: “It is an assumption by many that the majority of Southern Baptists are cessationist [those who believe the charismatic gifts ceased in the first century], but many of our leading professors and preachers do not hold a cessationist viewpoint.”

“The reason the IMB adopted a cessationist viewpoint is because there is no doctrinal distinctive or directive by the SBC Baptist Faith and Message on the issue of a private prayer language, so you had different factions making decisions about missionaries based on what they considered to be right in their own eyes. The IMB board is not unanimous on the cessationist viewpoint. My August 29, 2006 chapel message at SWBTS was partially censored because … of ‘testimonial advocacy of a private prayer life,’ yet no one can point me to verses in the Bible or language in the Baptist Faith and Message that contradicts anything I said. I’ve only been given explanations of private interpretations of Scripture. What makes one Baptist’s private interpretation of Scripture authoritative and not another Baptist’s view of a topic or text in the absence of an official position on the topic by the Baptist Faith and Message?”

Attempting to show the New Testament allows for a private prayer language, McKissic’s letter includes quotes from an array of evangelical theologians, such as Southwestern New Testament professor Siegfried Schatzmann, Wayne Grudem of Phoenix Seminary — whose “Systematic Theology” is used in many classrooms — the oft-quoted textual scholar F.F. Bruce, and Patterson.

In closing, McKissic wrote: “There should always be room in Southern Baptist life for the cessationist, semi-cessationist and continualist viewpoints.”

McKissic wrote that if the letter were not acted upon, he would offer a motion next June at the SBC annual meeting in San Antonio requesting the convention deal with the matter in the Baptist Faith and Message.

McKissic is a former president of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention’s Pastors’ Conference.
This article first appeared in the Southern Baptist Texan.

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  • Jerry Pierce