After decade-long resistance, the Southern Baptist Convention will admit missionary candidates who speak in tongues, a practice associated with Pentecostal and charismatic churches.
The new policy, approved by the denomination’s International Mission Board on Wednesday (May 13), reverses a policy that was put in place 10 years ago.
It’s major that an SBC agency has swallowed its pride on this one. And I do mean pride too: Southern churches have a distinct socio-economic and cultural pecking order, and not speaking in tongues has been as much a part of that as it has been a doctrinal stance. Perhaps they’ll leave the pride to the LGBT community and get on with sharing the Good News.
There’s been a lot more cross-fertilisation between Baptist and Pentecostal than either admits. I’ve lamented Pentecostals’ uncritical acceptance of Baptists view on the Lord’s Supper (or what I call Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology). But with Baptists now setting forth missionaries that speak in tongues, all things are possible. (With God, they always have been, we just don’t like to wait).
But there’s one thing I wish Pentecostals would adopt: the Southern Baptists’ organisational skills, which (like their committees) are the stuff of legend, especially with disaster relief. This is a major step up in their home turf. Unfortunately Pentecostal churches, for all of their strong points, have not quite got the knack of this. The result sometimes is like Jack Kennedy’s description of Washington, DC: Northern charm and Southern efficiency.