Fort Worth—According to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s chapel archives, a sermon by Dwight McKissic that was once withheld from the website is now available online.
McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington and then-trustee of SWBTS, made news in 2006 when he preached a chapel sermon in which he admitted his personal use of a private prayer language and obliquely critiqued International Mission Board policies in place at the time.
“I’m here to say that as the Spirit gives me utterance I pray in tongues in my private prayer life, and I’m not ashamed of that,” McKissic said. “I do believe that all spiritual gifts listed in Scripture are operable today, and by the grace of God some Christians will experience the gift of tongues when filled with the Holy Spirit.
“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 prayer lives cannot work in certain positions.”
In November of 2005, IMB trustees had voted to establish a policy precluding its incoming field agents from participating in the use of a private prayer language, stating that “if ‘private prayer language’ is an ongoing part of” a missionary candidate’s practice, “the candidate has eliminated himself or herself from being a representative of the IMB of the SBC.”
SWBTS issued a press release later that day explaining the decision to not post McKissic’s sermon.
“[W]hile Southwestern does not instruct its chapel speakers about what they can or cannot say, neither do we feel that there is wisdom in posting materials online which could place us in a position of appearing to be critical of actions of the Board of Trustees of a sister agency,” the statement read. “[T]hough most of Rev. McKissic’s message represented a position with which most people at Southwestern would be comfortable, Rev. McKissic’s interpretation of tongues as ‘ecstatic utterance’ is not a position that we suspect would be advocated by most faculty or trustees.
“For these two reasons stated above the President made the decision not to continue the video-streaming of this message lest uninformed people believe that Pastor McKissic’s view on the gift of tongues as ‘ecstatic utterance’ is the view of the majority of our people at Southwestern.”
Two months after McKissic’s sermon the trustees adopted a statement on private prayer languages, which stated that “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.” McKissic was the lone dissenting vote on the motion to adopt the statement.
McKissic’s sermon set off a chain of events—including a meeting with trustee officers and a publicly issued apology—that ultimately led to his 2007 resignation from the seminary’s board.
In his letter of resignation, directed to then-chairman Van McClain, McKissic expressed his love for the seminary despite differences of opinion and regret for “pain and frustration” he had caused the school during his brief tenure as a trustee.
“I shall always be grateful and honored for the opportunity to have served the SBC and SWBTS this past year,” McKissic wrote. “However, my involvement as a trustee has been a huge distraction from my ministry priorities for the past nine months. I’ve devoted too much mental, physical, emotional and even spiritual energy to matters resulting from the aftermath of my chapel sermon. I’ve been distracted and consumed with SBC/SWBTS matters the past nine months in a way that I haven’t been the past 24 years of pastoring an SBC church.
“It has taken a tremendous toll on my family and ministry, and my wife believes it has negatively impacted my health. I simply want to return to the place I was prior to being a trustee. The time and attention that I’ve given to SBC/SWBTS issues since my chapel sermon, I must now once again devote to my family and the Cornerstone Church.”
The seminary’s release of the sermon was not accompanied by a press release or announcement on social media.
On Twitter, McKissic reacted to the seminary’s decision to restore his sermon to their website.
“Grateful for the decision by SWBTS to remove my ‘06 chapel sermon from censorship. I’m even more excited and grateful for the heart for revival and reconciliation on all fronts at the seminary, where The Word of God & The Spirit of God calls for reconciliation. Praying that SWBTS [sic] best days will be before her, not behind her,” he wrote. “God bless SWBTS.”
The ban on private prayer languages for IMB personnel was reversed by the entity’s board of trustees in 2015, along with loosened restrictions regarding divorce and baptism.
In response to a question from the TEXAN, Charles Patrick, VP of communications said that the addition of the archived sermon was part of the seminary’s task to “ensure and preserve the history of the institution. …“Approximately 30 items a month are updated to the digital archive database … Dr. McKissic’s sermon from 2006 was merely one of those monthly updates. The addition of Dr. McKissic’s sermon has nothing to do with him, Dr. Patterson, or any theological position.”
Update Oct. 26, 4:30. Charles Patrick offered the following clarification to his remarks Friday morning:
“Many decisions have been made as Southwestern moves forward, including the decision to not censor chapel sermons from the historical archives process. Dr. McKissic’s sermon was affected by this decision and it was uploaded to the archives; it was the right thing to do.”