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A letter from Dwight McKissic to Paige Patterson


Related article:

Chapel speaker's comments raise ruckus at Southwestern Seminary


A letter from Dwight McKissic, senior pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas and Southwestern Seminary trustee, to Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern


*Bold emphasis as added in McKissic’s original letter.


Dear Dr. Patterson:

Thank you again for the opportunity to preach during chapel at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and for the opportunity to enjoy lunch with you and Mrs. Patterson. I appreciate the email you sent regarding chapel on Tuesday, August 29, 2006 and I do find it fair and affirming of all parties involved, yet inconsistent with views attributed to you, views you’ve written, and other outstanding Baptist scholars, theologians, and preachers.

With regard to the “public criticism of the actions of a sister board”, the IMB policy regarding missionaries who practice a private prayer language is a public policy that is in direct contradiction to what many noted Baptist scholars and preachers believe about the practice of a private prayer language. My statement was designed to cause the students to critically think about whether or not the IMB policy lines up with Scripture, not to criticize the IMB. If addressing the policy violated SWBTS chapel protocol, and apparently it did, I deeply apologize for having done so. Please forgive me; I was unaware of this protocol. I was speaking from my faith tradition (National Baptist Convention), and cultural background that encourages addressing unbiblical and discriminatory issues prophetically and publicly. However, I do believe in submission to authority and I will submit to SWBTS protocol in the future to the extent that I am aware of it.

I am very comfortable with your decision to discontinue the video streaming of my message because again, I honor and respect your position of authority at SWBTS. Because I said nothing during my message that contradicted the Bible or the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message, I fail to see how my comments are viewed as outside of the Baptist mainstream. I do believe that banning the free distribution of my message on the school website is a form of unnecessary censorship that is most unusual considering the fact, again, that many Baptist scholars and leaders (Dr. Billy Graham, Dr. Ken Hemphill, the late Dr. Jack Gray, Dr. Jerry Rankin, Dr. J.W. McGorman, Dr. Timothy George, and the current Southern Baptist Convention President, Dr. Frank Page as cited at the end of this letter) have expressed views similar to mine. Nevertheless, I value and love you and SWBTS, and I will continue to do so as I submit to your authority in this matter.

Just as you suspect that most of the faculty and trustees at SWBTS do not believe the Bible affirms a private prayer language, the leading evangelical African-American churches in America, including Black Southern Baptists, would affirm the practice of a private prayer language by those who are so gifted by the Holy Spirit. They would certainly not invoke a policy denying freedom of a gifted person to practice a private prayer language. The practical effect of the IMB policy is treating adults as if you have authority over their private lives and personal relationship with Jesus Christ, beyond the boundary of Scripture. For those of us who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, I find it difficult to understand how we can hold that view and at the same time disregard or deny tongues or a private prayer language as a valid spiritual gift.

I remain committed to support and recruit students to attend SWBTS, but if the majority of the faculty and trustees believe that the Bible forbids the exercise of a private prayer language for those gifted by the Holy Spirit, this would be extremely alienating to the vast majority of evangelical African-American Christians, and many Black Southern Baptist Pastors and congregants, including those who don’t believe in or practice a private prayer language. The IMB policy is not in keeping with Baptist conviction regarding religious liberties and it encroaches upon the autonomy of the local church. It also prohibits and thwarts missionary endeavors for which I thought was the main purpose of the convention.

Finally, if offered future opportunities to preach at chapel, I would submit my manuscript to you for your approval and would try not to veer from my approved manuscript. However, I do understand if I’m not invited again, and that would in no wise affect my love and respect for you and the school. My prayerful, moral, and financial support of you and SWBTS will continue whether or not I’m ever asked to preach again in chapel.

I am putting this statement on our website and will release it to those interested in the matter. I look forward to future fellowship opportunities with you and my tenure on the trustee board at SWBTS.


Sincerely In Christ,
Rev. Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. Senior Pastor