FORT WORTH–The lone opponent of a statement clarifying how Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s board of trustees expect faculty to approach teaching the practice of a private prayer language found a silver lining to the cloud he sees over the Texas school following the Oct. 17 vote.
Arlington pastor Dwight McKissic Sr. said he is grateful for the “honesty and straightforwardness” with which the view of private prayer language was set forth, believing it will help prospective students and interested churches that hold to the practice evaluate whether they’re welcome at the nearly century-old school.
“Now students know the school has shifted from the openness of the era of Hemphill, Garrett and MacGorman,” McKissic told the TEXAN, referring to the former seminary president and two faculty members whose views he described as contradictory to the new statement.
“Southwestern Seminary does not believe in the legitimacy of private prayer language,” he stated, adding that the “philosophical shift” causes him to question the school’s belief about biblical inerrancy.
The Texas pastor makes that accusation based on a reference to the apostle Paul’s instruction that the exercise of the spiritual gift of tongues should not be forbidden.
“I’m just surprised when the Bible says do not forbid that this institution is going on record clearly disobeying what the Word of God says on this. It clearly excludes anybody who endorses a private prayer life,” McKissic said, contending that Billy Graham, Jack Taylor and Frank Page would be in that camp.
“I know a lot of people who go before God with a groan, a moan, a sound you cannot translate into English. [The seminary] has said to all those people, you’re not welcome here. If there’s anything I feel good about, it is that it brought this to a point of going on the record.”
Had he known the seminary was in the process of drafting such a statement, McKissic would not have accepted the assignment as a trustee, he said. “I don’t need any more meetings,” he added.
While discouraged to the point of at times considering resigning as a trustee after his first meeting, McKissic said, “I’m not gonna let my flesh do that. It’s not about what I want.” He found encouragement from the many Southern Baptists who called or e-mailed praising his stand.
“For those people I will continue to act.”
McKissic believes Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page was placed in office “for such a time as this,” describing the author of “The Trouble with TULIP” as having endorsed a private prayer life despite not practicing such a devotion himself.
“He wouldn’t be qualified to be a professor” in light of the statement, McKissic contended. “The fact that he’s open on this question is the principal reason that I remain.”
McKissic found it ironic that Southwestern Seminary is the place where he first spoke in tongues in private to God.
“The policy speaks loud and clear to me that such a person would not be welcome. I feel like Martin Luther when he stood alone against the Catholic church.”
Having called on Page and the SBC Executive Committee to consider revisiting the Baptist Faith and Message doctrinal statement revised in 2000 to clarify the view toward private prayer language, McKissic said he would await their decision.
“I pray the SBC makes a decision that continualists, semi-cessationists and cessationists can co-exist in SBC life and through all our agencies. That will determine my future in Southern Baptist life.”
After preaching a chapel sermon Aug. 29 in which he criticized a new International Mission Board policy refusing missionary candidates who practice a private prayer language, McKissic apologized for “failing to get the memo” that forbids criticism of a sister entity. “The memo came out today.”