October 4, 2007 Publishing Good News since 1884 Volume 124 Number 235

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Florida Baptist Witness Questionnaire for Southern Baptist Convention Officer Candidates

Jim Richards, First Vice President


Editor’s note: Florida Baptist Witness sent questionnaires to all of the candidates for Southern Baptist Convention offices that are being contested at the annual meeting in San Antonio, June 12-13. Jim Richards is executive director-treasurer of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. For more information about him, please click here.

1.  Why did you agree to allow yourself to be nominated?

Several people asked me to allow my name to go before the convention. They felt I could make a contribution. Through a series of circumstances and with a confirmation in my heart, I sensed God leading me to allow my name to be placed in nomination.

2.  What’s right with the Southern Baptist Convention and how will your election contribute to what’s right?

The SBC has the resources of people and money to impact a lost world. We have a ministry structure that has served us well. We have staked out a position on the nature of scripture for our ministries. Should I be given the opportunity to serve, I will support the direction of the SBC for over the last 25 years known as the Conservative Resurgence. I would seek to help mobilize our resources to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

3.  What’s wrong with the Southern Baptist Convention and how will your election contribute to correcting what’s wrong?

We have recently been distracted by the clamoring for attention by special interest groups. Various groups wanting their positions affirmed as normative in Southern Baptist life. If elected, I would seek to help us stay focused on the mission at hand which is reaching a lost world for Jesus Christ.

4.  Do you support or disagree with the recently revised doctrinal guidelines for prospective missionaries of the International Mission Board regarding baptism and tongues and private prayer language?

I support the trustee system of the Southern Baptist Convention. With that said, I think a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on private prayer language might have averted some of the controversy. What someone does in private devotions is between them and the Lord. When a person becomes an advocate for their individual experience to become normative in Southern Baptist life is when it becomes distractive.

Personally, I believe baptism is a church ordinance. If I understand the IMB guideline it fits my ecclesiology.

5.  Some have argued in the last year that the IMB doctrinal guidelines, among other things, are examples of narrowing the parameters of doctrinal cooperation and that

such narrowing should stop in Southern Baptist life. What is your view of that claim?

To say the BFM provides exhaustive guidelines for our SBC ministries is total nonsense. NAMB has a policy on divorced persons and ordained women (not just senior pastors). IMB has requirements on the age of children and current debt for career missionaries. As far as I know IMB still uses the Body Mass Index. The BFM 2000 does not directly address alcohol or tobacco use. Are we willing to allow missionaries and seminary professors to partake?

Our trustee system is set up in a way to be representative of Southern Baptists. There are things I disagree with, but I support the trustees.

6.  Do you believe that prayer tongues is a spiritual gift given by the Holy Spirit to Christians? If you believe it is a spiritual gift, do you practice that gift? What are your views about other doctrinal positions commonly associated with charismatic theology?

My personal belief is that the supernatural sign gifts ceased when the Word of God became complete. While I do not believe in the so-called “prayer tongues”, I do believe a Southern Baptist should have the right to practice in private his or her own belief.

I do not practice speaking in tongues.

I do believe there is room in the Southern Baptist Convention for those who believe in the active practice of the sign gifts. The most popular interpretation is that God could enable a person to speak in a language they had not learned in order to present the gospel. This would correspond with Acts 2, 10 and possibly 19. If the restrictions on the use of tongues found in 1 Corinthians 12-14 were enforced almost all of the modern practice of so-called tongue speaking would disappear.

Southern Baptists will have to decide whether they are willing to affirm some “gibberish” non-language as a valid position within Baptist life. Since the Charismatic movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s (which split many SBC churches at the time), there have been Charismatic Southern Baptists. Up to this point their practice has not been viewed as normative.

7.  Should the Baptist Faith and Message be amended to address charismatic theological issues and, if so, in what way should it be amended?

Every controversial issue cannot be addressed in the BF&M. Hopefully this issue can be settled without an amendment.

8.  When considering SBC officer candidates, how should Southern Baptists consider the Cooperative Program giving of the candidate’s home church?

Cooperative Program giving should be a factor in electing leadership. It is not so important that a certain percentage is given as it is that the church is progressing.

For example, a church maybe giving 4% but only a couple of years ago the church was giving 2%. They are making an effort to do more in the way of giving. This is to be commended.

Mega-mega churches with large budgets may not give as large of a percentage but their dollar amounts through the Cooperative Program make them a vital contributor to Southern Baptist causes.

9.  What is your view of the Conservative Resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention? Do you see your election as an extension of the Conservative Resurgence?

The Conservative Resurgence was an act of God that brought the largest non-Catholic denomination from the brink of theological liberalism back to biblical fidelity. Today all six SBC seminaries have faculty and administration who affirm the inerrancy of scripture. International and North American missionaries affirm the high view of scripture.

Some messengers will not be aware of my personal involvement in the Resurgence nor the reason for the founding of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Those who do will see me as a Resurgence candidate.

10.  How should Southern Baptists relate to the culture with regard to matters of biblical morality?

Southern Baptists are called as followers of Jesus Christ to adhere to 1 Peter 1:16, “be holy, for I am holy”. This means practicing biblical sexuality, keeping ourselves from habit forming substances and participating in only wholesome amusements.

11.  What is your view of the resolution on alcohol adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention last year in Greensboro?

I wholeheartedly support it.

12.  Should Southern Baptists participate in the “New Baptist Covenant Celebration” led by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and sponsored by the North American Baptist Fellowship, an entity of the Baptist World Alliance?

Aside from questions about political motives, there are enough theological reasons for Southern Baptists to find other alliances. The SBC voted to end a long-standing relationship with the Baptist World Alliance due to their liberal bent. Jimmy Carter does not believe in the inerrancy of scripture or in the exclusivity of salvation in Jesus Christ. Bill Clinton who vetoed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban when he was president is also a co-sponsor of the event. Southern Baptists should avoid cooperation with groups that have a low view of scripture or a low view of life.

13.  What else would you like to say to Southern Baptists?

My prayer is that we can get before the Lord in San Antonio and see an unprecedented move of God. If we will humble ourselves before our Lord, perhaps he will pour out His fire upon us that we might become flaming witnesses for Jesus. To my knowledge there has never been a powerful move of the Holy Spirit at an annual meeting where there was a spiritual awakening. If it happens to us, maybe it can happen across our land.