As you read blogs discussing the recommendation for my removal as a trustee of the International Mission Board, it might help you if you remember the following five salient points.
(1). There is no policy, bylaw, or rule prohibiting blogging by trustees of the IMB. In addition, trustees may publicly criticize the majority decision of trustees unless the criticism is (a). intentionally deceitful, (b). a breach of confidentiality, (c). or an attempt to harm the organization's mission.
Read my blog. Any question regarding whether or not my blog violates any of the above will be easily answered by the attentive reader. I have always desired to make our IMB better, broader, and more Biblically consistent. Further, I have shown, and will continue to show, great respect for my fellow trustees.
(2). As a man who lives by principle, you can be assured my objections were voiced repeatedly, consistently and graciously to all of the trustees in business meetings. In fact, the press quoted some of my comments because they were in the public Plenary Sessions when I made them. This is what led some Southern Baptists to contact me after the affirmative vote for the tongues and baptism policies, they saw my name in the IMB press release of the business session.
However, once the decision on the new policies was made by the trustees, and I was on the minority side, the forum for dissent became the convention as a whole, since my accountablity is to the convention. I publicly stated I would not be seeking a reversal of the policies within the next IMB meeting. The convention as a whole would need to address the issue.
This is where the rub comes. Many are under the impression that dissent should become silent when a measure or policy is passed by a majority. "Majority rules!" they adamantly cry.
I agree that the trustee on the losing side of a vote should acquiesce to the majority, EXCEPT in one instance: if the dissent is a principled dissent (based upon a violation of conscience or Scripture), then as Luther would say, "My conscience is held captive by the Word of God. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me."
"Resistance to accountability," is the charge leveled in the trustee public statement regarding my removal. I interpret this phrase to mean "you aren't doing what we want." I think many trustees had the expectation that a new trustee should be quiet. I was not. That which I have been most vocal about is a subgroup of trustees who seem to control the direction, agenda and business of the IMB. I have much first hand information about this, but have chosen not to go into detail in my blog at this time. Frankly, I was trying to change things from within the Board.
I said to anyone who would listen in the hallways, parking lot and hotel that I would stop blogging if the trustee board passed a policy that blogging by trustees was detrimental to the IMB. I would not stop because people wanted me to stop, I would only stop because policy required me to stop. I still am amazed that the motion was to remove me rather than a recommendation for a policy that all trustees stop blogging.
One trustee asked me how I would feel if a deacon blogged our deacons meeting. I said, "I would love it!!" but I wasn't sure how many would read it. The fact that so many read my blog about the IMB indicates there is a great level of interest in the convention with what goes on at the IMB.
I think that the real issue is there was no control of what I said, though I was careful to always be respectful to the people associated with the IMB, encouraging about the work of winning the world to Christ and always careful to avoid any matter of confidentiality. I stand by what I have written. I think I have shed some light on things where light needed to be shined, and I believe that light is for the longterm good of our convention.
(3). There was no attempt at any private mediation prior to the actions at the Board meeting to recommend me for removal from the IMB. I expected, but did not know with certainty, that a few trustees might be upset with the blog. Only two, maybe three trustees ever wrote with their displeasure regarding my blog, and I even included one email of dissent (removing the name) in my blog to let readers know that not every trustee was happy with my public dissent via the blog. I also included my response to that anonymous email so people could conclude on their own whether or not blogging by a trustee was appropriate. By reading the comments of people who read that particular post, it led me to believe the blog was beneficial for the vast majority of the people in the SBC. It gave them a great seat into the greatest agency of our convention. Since I am accountable to the convention, I feel I was fulfilling my trust in shedding some light on our great work.
It seemed to me a leap across the Grand Canyon for any trustee to recommend my removal without first trying to arrive at a compromise. I could not understand the sudden action. Maybe I am missing something. I am sure willing to listen to the explanation from someone in the know, but I am clueless as to why the recommendation to remove.
"Lack of trust," is another statement in the official press release, and it seems to me to mean "we can't trust Wade when he writes and tells people what is going on." Several people have written or called me and said that trustees are telling them "Wade was new and did not work within the system," or "It was not what Wade said, but how he said it" (in a blog). I wonder how many trustees have even read my blog. I have a funny story about that which I will one day be able to share.
(4). My experience has been that people draw conclusions without ever reading my blog. In fact, many trustees did not even know what a blog was, but there was not a shortage of people who volunteered to tell them their opinion of blogs. It is a generational thing. One compared it to "internet pornography," and another said it was like "gossip."
I can only assume the words "gossip" and "slander," words used in the actual wording of the recommendation which was read into the offical record during the PUBLIC plenary session, refer to the blog (thus they probably meant "libel" rather than "slander" because the blog is written, not spoken). Nevertheless, what bothers me the most is that after repeated requests for someone to show me the slanderous statements, I have to this day, never received one piece of evidence.
Obviously it is distressing when a trustee can feel free to publicly accuse a Christian brother of slander when that brother has never been confronted privately. That is a violation of Matthew 18 and borders on the violation of other things.
But, I also make mistakes often. I can forgive easily. I am not interested in retaliation. There is far too much work around the world. I am hoping that the trustees will retract their statement and we can work together to make the IMB an even greater ministry of the SBC. My whole desire is to get us to a place where we simply focus on missions. We already have an excellent doctrinal framework --- the Baptist Faith and Message sees to that, now let's focus on missions!
(5). Finally, I am convinced that these actions were caused by God to bring about a result that would be impossible without such a public act. Because I believe God is behind it all I don't pay much attention to what men say.
It is critically important for everyone to remember that the big issue for me is not about "tongues" or "baptism." These two new policies are serious issues, but they are not the biggest.
The biggest issue is simply this:
Are we going to continue to narrow the parameters of cooperation in our convention by tightly controlling trustee boards and agencies to the point that that those who disagree on minor doctrinal issues are excluded from service? Are we going to allow principled dissent? I am just one trustee among over 80 trustees from around the world. Surely, the convention is big enough for people who disagree to work together? Cults conform. Christianity connects. I definitely enjoy being connected with fellow conservatives who cooperate in fulfilling the Great Commission even though there is no conformity in minor doctrines. That is the Baptist way!
I have been told by someone who has researched it, though I do not know if it is true, there has never been a trustee brought before the convention for removal from an agency board.
Well, I like being first, but I must confess, I would rather be last in this category.
Nevertheless, I am speaking to my church with a smile on my face this morning, a song in my heart and a perfectly clear conscience.
I hope you have as great a day as mine. I will blog on Monday night about the the weekend and a speaking engagement I have in Tulsa on Monday.
In His Grace and in Support of our SBC Mission Work Around the World!