Under new policies adopted by the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board, it will be more difficult for people who are divorced or speak in tongues to receive domestic missionary appointments.

The guidelines allow divorced people to be appointed as missionaries only if the divorce was based on “biblical rationale” as outlined by the agency’s board of directors. A second policy approved by the board disqualifies missionary candidates who actively participate in, or promote the practice of, speaking in tongues.

Any missions personnel already appointed, approved, or endorsed by the mission board who become involved in glossolalia will be counseled by a mission board representative. Continued participation in speaking in tongues would result in their dismissal. The new stance on glossolalia also applies to chaplains who, although not paid by the board, are endorsed by the Atlanta-based agency.

Only one board member voiced opposition to the policy on charismatics. Jim Strickland, pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Cartersville, Georgia, challenged the motion due to the lack of a definition of “glossolalia,” which he said could leave the policy open to misinterpretation.

Policy On Divorce

A separate policy regarding divorced persons defines a biblical rationale for divorce, limiting it to cases of adultery or fornication and instances of desertion or physical abandonment by a spouse. The mission board policy also states that no divorced person will be considered for a pastoral role unless the divorce meets the biblical guidelines and the applicant has not remarried.

Existing Home Mission Board personnel who have been divorced and remarried will remain in service. However, any personnel who divorce or remarry will be reevaluated under the terms of the new policy.

In the past, the Home Mission Board evaluated each instance of divorce on its own merits. Individuals were employed if it was determined that their divorce did not impair their ministry.

Board member James Walters, pastor of First Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama, was one of a half-dozen board members who challenged the new policy on divorce. “Certainly I’m for the ideal, but I’m also concerned about the redeeming aspects of the gospel and the message that we are implying,” he said. “Is divorce the unpardonable sin? Are we going to throw rocks or ropes [to divorced people]?”

Board member Olan Wills, pastor of Springhead Baptist Church in Plant City, Florida, said he was sympathetic to those who disagreed with the policy. But he added: “We as pastors and Christians cannot go on sympathy but on God’s Word, and it says, ‘Let him be the husband of one wife’ [1 Tim. 3:12].”

By Baptist Press.

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