For more than a decade, the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board (IMB) disqualified candidates who spoke in tongues or who had been baptized in churches that disagreed with the convention’s view of baptism.
Similar rules barred divorced people or those with teenagers from being missionaries.
That changed Wednesday, when the IMB’s trustees, at the prompting of their new president David Platt, approved a new, simplified set of rules for the agency’s more than 4,800 missionaries.
Missionary candidates must affirm the doctrines found in the Baptist Faith and Message statement of beliefs, be baptized by immersion, be a member of a SBC church, and demonstrate an “intimate, growing relationship with Christ.”
Previous rules required would-be missionaries to have been baptized in an SBC church, or in a church that held SBC-like beliefs about baptism. Candidates baptized in a church that did not believe in eternal security—the idea that true Christians can’t lose their salvation even if they sin—or a church that views baptism is a sacrament were rejected.
The new rules allows those who were baptized by immersion and who are members of an SBC church to be candidates.
The changes also address the question of charismatic worship and prayer practices, which have been controversial for Southern Baptists. Under the previous rules, candidates who spoke in tongues or had a “private prayer language” were barred.
Under the new rules, speaking in tongues does not disqualify missionary candidates. Too much emphasis on charismatic gifts, like speaking in tongues, could still lead to discipline.
“IMB may still end employment for any missionary ...1
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