Before I detail the events of the day, allow two personal anecdotes to serve as an allegory for events at the IMB today from my perspective.
Cranberry Juice and God's Providence
On the plane trip to Richmond a stewardess spilled a can of cranberry juice all over my suit. I was in mid-conversation with a fellow passenger (sharing Christ), and my brand new suit (Christmas gift) was dyed red. The stewardess was mortified, but I was very gracious and laughed about it, and told the young lady not to worry, these types of things happen. I tried to remove the stain with a club soda and the man next to me said, "Christ really has made a difference in you hasn't he?" I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "It's one thing to tell me words, but it is another to show by your actions." I told him that it was easy for me to be soft and gracious because I believed, that in God's love for me, something better was coming. At precisely that moment the stewardess showed up with a voucher and said, "Sir, the airlines would like to pay to have your suit cleaned. If the stain can't come out, we will be happy to buy you a new suit with this voucher."
Principle: Sometimes things get messy because God is about to accomplish something greater.
Fire Alarms and Never Before Seen Reflection
I was awakened by a very loud fire alarm Monday morning at the IMB hotel. I was not really excited about leaving, but then began to consider, "What if there really is a fire, and I get trapped?" So I called the front desk and let the phone ring, and ring, and ring until someone finally answered. Above the din of the alarms I asked, "Is there really a fire?" The answer, "Someone burned their toast in the continental breakfast room, but by company policy we can't turn off the alarm until the firetrucks arrive." It took 5 painful minutes before the first trucks arrived. But for the first time in my life I examined the evacuation routes located on the back door of every hotel room in America.
Principle: Sometimes a loud alarm causes people to pause and reflect on things never before considered.
EVENTS OF DAY, MONDAY, JANUARY 9TH 2006
9:00 a.m. Breakfast with Fellow Trustee Winston Curtis
Winston is a good friend and the pastor of a church in Duncan, Oklahoma, and has served on the Board of Trustees for three years.
Winston and I went to a little cafe called "Katy's Pantry" and had a wonderful "southern" breakfast and even better fellowship. The only thing I regret is Winston did not bring his family photos as I asked!
As I said yesterday in my blog, Winston voted for the new baptism and private prayer language policies, but his dialogue with me is always refreshing, and never personally caustic. I told him in advance I would blog about our breakfast, and during our conversations I learned a great deal that is beneficial for me through Winston's wisdom, and I came away believing we both understood each other better. Good Christian dialogue in the open has that kind of effect.
What I learned:
(1) Some trustees feel I am harming the effectiveness of the IMB through this blog.
(2). Many trustees think that every trustee should give unconditional and unqualified support of all decisions made by the majority of trustees --- regardless.
(3). The Board is fluid. Winston feels I may have jumped the gun on making these issues broader than just the Board of Trustees, because the Board may change their minds without others getting involved.
My response to Winston:
(1). If I ever felt I was hurting the IMB's mission I would cease this blog. I believe with all my heart I am helping the IMB longterm by standing against the narrowing of parameters of cooperation.
(2). I cannot give unconditional, blind support to the new policies on a private prayer language and baptism. I believe both policies violate the Scripture and are nowhere found in the Baptist Faith and Message. This is a matter of conscience for me. The previous policies of the Board were sufficient. The new policies exclude some of our greatest missionaries of the past including Bertha Smith as a qualified candidate for the IMB mission field.
(3).This blog is necessary BECAUSE the Board has spoken. The forum for this issue is no longer the International Mission Board, but the sole owner of it, the Southern Baptist Convention.
I explained to Winston that there were a ton of people in the Southern Baptist Convention who would not be in agreement with the new "doctrine" of the IMB, and that those churches, some of whom are large contributors to the CP and Lottie Moon Offering, would want to know that there is somebody who is representing their interests on the board. In addition, some pastors have written to me saying they are ready to pull out of the convention because of these new policies. I am doing my best to keep people and churches involved in the SBC. I feel that some trustees are out of touch with where the convention is as a whole. The SBC is conservative on the doctrinal ESSENTIALS, but people are more concerned about cooperating with each other for missions, instead of narrowing the cooperation to only those who only have certain, and similar, interpretions of non-essential doctrines.
That was, is, and will always be, my message.
It was a very good breakfast and I believe Winston heard my concerns. He understands my position that the new policies are but a symptom of a deeper problem within the conventions mission board --- the narrowing of parameters of fellowship and cooperation to the point of excluding people who, in the past, would have been welcomed to serve on the mission field --- including our President, Dr. Jerry Rankin.
10:30 a.m. Visits with Personnel and Staff of the International Mission Board.
I was able to go around to the different offices of the IMB and visit with people who are employed at the IMB. These people are some of the hardest working people on the earth! For example, the Central Asia office at headquarters on Monument Avenue is operated by three people. They service over 450 personal in a huge region of our world, and they do a phenominal job.
I visited with some folks in the finance office and stopped by for just about a minute or two unannounced visit with Dr. Rankin. I let him know that I love and support him, and told him I would continuing praying for him. I have to tell you, I did not know Dr. Rankin before being appointed to this Board, but my estimation of this man has risen immeasurably in the last few months. He is doing a phenomenal, faithful, Christ-honoring job for our convention and all our missionaries.
I then had a very lengthy visit with the head of our Office of Overseas Personnel. Bro. Lloyd is a man of integrity. I discussed with him the practical effects of these new policies, and he stated that it is not the staff's role to establish policy, but to fulfill it. He carefully explained the process by which we have arrived at the new policies and stated that as far and he and his staff were concerned there would never again be brought before the trustees anyone who stated that he or she had a private prayer language. The candidate consultants would also make sure that the baptism of the missionary candidate matched the written policy of coming from a church that taught "eternal security."
I said hello to a few more staff members and made my way back to the hotel.
1:30 p.m. Lunch with Trustee David Button
I did not know David before today. I really like him. He is a Director of Missions in New York, an elected official of a township in that state, and owns a communication business in Waco, Texas.
David was nice enough to buy lunch at a Mexican restaurant for Rick and I. We visited about each other's backgrounds and then we talked about our work on the IMB. David was at FBC Dallas in the late 70's when the "Battle for the Bible" began in the SBC. We reminisced a little about the good old days and then talked about the diretion of the IMB.
I shared with you yesterday on this blog that David had expressed displeasure with an email I sent to all the trustees questioning private caucus meetings of groups of trustees within the IMB. I offered to meet with David over coffee and he ended up buying lunch.
David is a good listener, and I explained, again, that all I am attempting to do is keep our IMB Board focused on the main things --- missions and evangelism, and stop wasting our time on non-essential doctrines that people disagree about. Our narrowing of cooperation by demanding conformity with non-essential doctrinal interpretations of Scripture are resulting in the exclusion of some Southern Baptists from participating in the mission work of the SBC.
In speaking to David I formed a circle with my two hands and said, "This is our convention --- sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus, sola Scriptura. We agree on the essential doctrines (Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Christ Alone, Scripture Alone). I am trying to keep our convention from," and I squeezed my hands together, "narrowing the boundaries of cooperation further."
David has a background in communications, and though he would not agree with my view on the new policies, I really appreciated his humble spirit, his willingness to listen, and his paying for lunch. (David, I owe you a steak next time).
3:00 to 5:30 p.m. Trustee Forum.
I cannot say anything about this meeting. It is confidential. Trustees must be allowed to speak freely during this time without fear of their words being recorded.
5:30 p.m. Dinner is Missed
I cannot make my way to dinner because I am stopped by several people in the hallways. Some were nice and cordial.
Some were not.
I will not go into details or name names.
However, I was accused of being arrogant, deceitful, a liar, and above all, a man who lacked integrity.
Dr. Allen McWhite, a brilliant theologian and a very soft spoken, gracious man of God, heard the following conversation as we tried to make our way for dinner. Alan, too, was the recipient of a fairly hostile personal attack as well on the way to dinner.
"Wade you are an arrogant person who lacks integrity. You should apologize for your blog and say your sorry for making public what should remain private."
I said, "Let me ask you a question. When Luther stood before the Pope did he stand on truth?"
"That is not illustrative of this situation, you aren't standing on truth."
"I understand that is your opinion. Was that also the opinion of the Pope toward Luther? Did the Pope think Luther was a standing on truth, or did he believe him to be a heretic?
I went on, "The Pope sought to silence Luther, to cause him to repent and recant, because the Pope said, "Luther, you are a heretic." Luther then responded with his famous statement, 'My conscience is bound by the Word of God. I can do no other. Here I stand.'
"Integrity is living your life based upon principles, never the opinion of man. I am living on the principle that I think our convention is going beyond Scripture, and I am standing on what I believe Scripture to teach. I can do no other. Here I stand.'
"That is simply your opinion that you are standing on truth."
"I understand," as a took a deep breath, "but a lack of integrity would involve me laying down my principles out of fear of the opinion of man, or your opinion of me, or fear of persecution. I am living my life with integrity because I will not apologize for standing up against an "extra-biblical" interpretation of baptism and tongues that ends up excluding fellow conservatives from service."
I went on, "If you really believe I am doing something wrong, then you need to make a motion that I cease and desist from this blog."
6:30 - 8:00 p.m. Regional Meeting with Central Asia
What a great time this was. Only two missionaries to meet tonight before their appointment to the Central Asia region tomorrow night at the IMB Appointment Service. This couple, in their fifties, reminded me why I am a Southern Baptist. They are going in a pastoral care role to our missionaries on the field in Central Asia, and my heart was excited for them as we all knelt and prayed for them.
Other matters of business were dealt with that were of a confidential nature, but as I said yesterday, I love these interactions with our regional committees and missionaries. It is wonderful.
We dismissed early and I had a fairly heated conversation with a trustee who felt I was "ruining" the IMB with this blog. I asked him if he had ever read it, and he said, "no." I encouraged him to read it for himself and I told him I loved him and said good night.
8:30-10:15 p.m. An Unbelievable Dinner
I went to dinner with three other wonderful men. Fellow trustee Rick Thompson, Senior Pastor, Council Road Baptist Church (as an aside, probably one of the most gracious, humble, sharp pastors I have ever met), and two new friends, Marty Duren, the blogger for SBC Outpost and a pastor himself in the Atlanta area, and Marty's youth pastor Joel.
We had a great dinner and fellowship and it was enjoyable to laugh.
The highlight of the evening though came when we were able to lead a young lady to faith in Christ. This young lady, named Heather, had never met four pastors like us. She waited on us, but because the business was slow we talked to her at length about her relationship with Christ. Before the evening was over she burst into tears, told us she wanted to receive Christ as her Lord, and we pointed her to the Savior and also gave her our email and web addresses so we could follow up with her.
I recall walking into the IMB Building today hearing someone say, "Anyone going to Cambodia?"
"Wow," I remember thinking when I heard that, "What a great place this! A place where others join together to help support our brothers and sisters in the SBC who feel called to go overseas to take the gospel to unreached peoples."
Tonight, four SBC men who support those missionaries across the seas simply went across the street and took the gospel to a Richmond, Virginia lady named Heather in need of a Savior. This is what the SBC is all about.
10:30 p.m. A Meeting for the Ages
As we entered the hotel a group of about 10 or 12 trustees were seated in the foyer of the hotel. I decided to come back down and listen in on the conversation without being observed by the group. After 10 minutes of hearing things that I am not yet prepared to place in print, I went back up to the fifth floor, found Marty and Joel, and went back down to the lobby to confront these men. They said they were simply eating pizza.
I asked them to explain to me what I heard which I believe to be a clear violation of trustee policies and procedures establishing agendas and motions outside of normal trustee meetings. I also asked them to explain other things I heard.
The confrontation was intense to say the least. Some left immediately when I appeared and went to their rooms. Others stayed and we visited.
Marty Duren may blog about what he heard or what was said, but one trustee did apologize to me personally, and I told another if he brought a motion to the floor of the Plenary Session tomorrow afternoon, a motion that I heard him discuss in the lobby of the hotel with the others, but not all trustees present, I would go through the roof. This, to me, was a clear violation of IMB policy and procedures.
Our blue book clearly forbids other trustees meeting in caucus to establish agendas, motions or policies during the course of a regularly scheduled IMB meeting, without other trustees present. This policy prevents politics where prayer and the Spirit of God should be preeminent.
He said he thought planning business for the session tomorrow among this group of trustees was not wrong.
I love these men in the lobby, men who are my fellow SBC trustees. Though I strongly disagree with them doctrinally in the Biblical interpretation of various non-essential doctrines (as I predict upteen thousands of other people in the SBC do as well), I want to cooperate with them in missions and evangelism.
But the motion I heard being made had nothing to do with missions, our missionaries, world evangelism, or anything else to do with the promotion of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but it had everything to do with a private agenda --- period
This is what must stop.
We'll see what happens tomorrow.
Lord willing, and again, I reiterate, Lord willing,
I will post tomorrow what happens in our business meeting since everything in the Plenary Session of the board is open to the public and press.
In His Grace,
P.S. Listen carefully everyone. I am blogging to allow people to get in on what is happening at the IMB. I reiterate --- I will NEVER violate any rules of confidentiality.
P.P.S. ABOVE ALL ELSE, we (all the trustees, not just me) love the IMB and want to say to you, "Good work missionaries AROUND THE WORLD!"
We love you and pray for you.
I think over time my fellow trustees will see that we can disagree with each other over non-essential doctrines and still cooperate. It may be painful for a season, but great things are around the corner.