Arlington roundtable seeks SBC policies not exceeding BF&M

ARLINGTON?The gathering of 112 people of assorted ages, ethnicities, doctrinal interpretations and worship practices gave host pastors Dwight McKissic of Texas and Wade Burleson of Oklahoma reason to be encouraged after a year in which each man has been the center of controversy on the denominational trustee boards they serve.

McKissic welcomed participants to the church he pastors, Cornerstone Baptist in Arlington, for what he dubbed the Sandy Creek-Charlestonian Convergence (SCCC), recalling two 18th-century traditions out of which Southern Baptists arose.

Any life that the SCCC has beyond the Dec. 5 roundtable would be for the purpose of networking to “encourage spiritual renewal, theological and ecclesiastic dialogue, fellowship and mentoring in an environment where diverse viewpoints are welcome,” McKissic said. He quickly dismissed any speculation that a new convention-like entity would be formed.

“I don’t believe everyone is gifted to speak in tongues. That’s not the issue,” said McKissic, whose defense of private prayer language while preaching Aug. 29 at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary thrust him into controversy as a new trustee of the school. Burleson objected to an International Mission Board guideline passed a year ago that disqualifies missionary candidates who practice a private prayer language.

McKissic said love of Jesus Christ is the common ground for those meeting together while Burleson focused on treasuring their heritage as a people of dissent. “Any attempts by Southern Baptist agenciesor denominational leaders to exclude fellow evangelical, Bible-believing Baptists from Southern Baptist leadership or cooperative ministry because of differences on secondary issues must be vigorously resisted,” he said.

Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Okla., also encouraged working “within the system” to seek change. Before ever becoming part of any alliance for missionaries who had been rejected by the IMB, Burleson said he would have to resign his position as a trustee for the sake of his own integrity.

He told of a couple recently appointed to a dangerous location who was at first rejected after the wife acknowledged having a private prayer language, to the surprise of her husband. Rather than reject a candidate who demonstrated personal integrity through her truthfulness, Burleson said IMB trustees were persuaded to recommend their appointment.

“We have met in Arlington today in order to model what it means to put aside our differences on secondary issues for the sake of cooperative gospel ministry,” Burleson said. “We desire unity in the essentials, liberty in the non-essentials and charity in all things. Iintend to send to the world and our evangelical brethren a sure and certain message. It is the gospel that unites Southern Baptists and what unites us is greater than anything that might potentially divide us.”

While not personally possessing nor seeking a private prayer language, Burleson pledged to stand beside McKissic and other African-American, Korean or white Southern Baptists who claim such a gift and to “unashamedly cooperate” with them. He encouraged young pastors “who may befeeling disenfranchised by what seems to be continuing, narrowing of parameters” to be patient. “I will stand strong against those who seek to exclude and marginalize” others.

While most of those present were from Texas, registrations came in from many other states, including Virginia, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, California and Maryland.

McKissic announced plans for Cornerstone Baptist to host a Baptist Conference on the Holy Spirit April 27-29 to address cessationist, semi-cessationist and continualist perspectives regarding sign gifts. While personally holding to a continualist perspective that says such gifts are still valid because no Scripture indicates they have ceased, McKissic said, “We’ll look at it from all sides.”

A second roundtable meeting will occur in connection with the conference since the Dec. 5 meeting was attended by more people than had been anticipated, requiring further dialogue. Further information will be posted at

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