Major Baptist seminary rejects practice of speaking in tongues
The preacher wants the Southern Baptist Convention to weigh in on the subject.
FORT WORTH, Texas -- After a Baptist pastor said in a chapel service at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary that he sometimes speaks in tongues when he prays, seminary trustees adopted a resolution this week that states the institution will not tolerate the promotion of the practice of speaking in tongues.
The resolution comes almost two months after the Rev. Dwight McKissic made the admission during a sermon at the Fort Worth school, which is one of the largest seminaries in the nation.
That prompted Southwestern President Paige Patterson to issue a statement that the video of the Rev. Mr. McKissic's sermon would not be posted online or saved in the archives of the seminary, as are the sermons of all other chapel speakers.
Patterson submitted the resolution to trustees. It states: "Southwestern will not knowingly endorse in any way, advertise, or commend the conclusions of the contemporary charismatic movement including private prayer language. Neither will Southwestern knowingly employ professors or administrators who promote such practices."
The resolution passed 36-1.
Mr. McKissic, a new trustee, cast the dissenting vote.
"If there's anything that I feel good about as the result of my chapel message, it is that it brought this issue to a point where a decision was made," said Mr. McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas.
But now, he said, "I'm praying that the Southern Baptist Convention would weigh in on this. The convention is the authority that defines theology."
The trustees' action "usurps the authority of the convention," Mr. McKissic said.
Saying that the convention elects the seminary's trustees, Patterson said, "I don't have any choice in my trustees."
Of Mr. McKissic, Patterson said, "I love him very much."
Speaking in tongues is described in the Bible as a spiritual gift from God that empowers humans to speak in other languages.
But many contemporary theologians teach that the practice was distinctly for first-century Christians. In the past century, however, Pentecostal and charismatic Christians have contended that speaking in tongues should be practiced in today's churches.
A different view
Patterson said he has consistently maintained a different view.
"I have opposed [speaking in tongues] for all of these years because I think it's an erroneous interpretation of the Bible," he said. "Southern Baptists traditionally have stood against what we feel like are the excesses of the charismatic movement. All we're doing is restating where we've always been."
Baptists are "the most intense advocates of religious liberty," Patterson said, defending the right of other Christians to believe in speaking in tongues. "But don't wear a Yankee uniform when you play for the Mets."
The Rev. Eric Redmond of Temple Hills, Md., a trustee, said they acted correctly.
"We interpret the Scriptures in such a way that we do not see room for a private prayer language, and we're saying we will not waver on that," the Rev. Mr. Redmond said.
Two months ago, Mr. McKissic was invited to speak at the seminary's weekly chapel service. He told students that he first privately prayed in tongues in a dormitory at the seminary when he was a student there in 1981. He also criticized the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board for adopting a policy excluding missionary candidates who acknowledge that they speak in tongues.
"I think it's tragic in Baptist life when we take a valid, vital gift that the Bible talks about and come up with a policy that says people who pray in tongues in their private lives cannot work in certain positions," he told the students.
Although it has been a painful experience, Mr. McKissic said, he's not planning to step down as a trustee. He has posted his views on his church's Web site and said he receives many e-mails and phone calls from like-minded Baptists.