I do not ever recall having a personal conversation with John Schaefer, a fellow IMB trustee from Georgia, but someone sent to me his comments from The Christian Index.
Frankly, John seems like a really nice guy, and I am greatly encouraged by some of what he says. However, I would like to gently and lovingly question John's understanding of a few events. There are some things that people say that will never elicit a response from me just because what is said is so bizarre, but in a case like this, John seems to be a great guy with a sincere heart, and I feel it is appropriate to respond to his thoughtful comments on the IMB situation.
John said, "in quotations" . . .and my responses
“Wade wasn’t happy with the vote on those issues and, not liking the results, went public with his views by expressing them in his blog."
John is mostly correct here. When a Board establishes policy contrary to the consent, counsel and advice of their President, there better be really, really strong reasons for doing so. I believe the new policies create problems rather than solve any. In fact, the old policies were quite sufficient. However, the Board took two years to address these issues and ultimately voted, by majority, to establish the new policies, contrary to the desires of our President who was not allowed to address the trustees on these issues with the freedom and authority his very office deserves.
Where John and I probably disagree is that I feel as a trustee I am ultimately accountable to the Convention for my service. Once the Board passed these new policies, the proper procedure for a trustee in the minority position is to take his dissent to the Convention at large. Trustee public dissent should always be gracious, principled and for the betterment of the mission of the Convention at large. I know my heart in this matter. I am willing to apologize to anyone and everyone that feels my blog is the cause of division. I am seeking to keep us from becoming divided amongst ourselves, splintered and separated from former areas of cooperation, and ultimately isolated from other Great Commission Churches. That is truly my heart.
I am not demanding that my fellow trustees "conform" to my beliefs in order to cooperate with me in missions and evangelism, but I am simply saying to them, "It is wrong and un-Baptistic when you are demanding that I and others conform to your beliefs on non-essential doctrines in order to serve on the mission field." Praying in tongues in private and the qualifications of the person who baptizes you are non-essentials. In my opinion, these two new policies are detrimental to the cause of Christ and our work on the mission field through the International Mission Board.
However, if these two new policies are Biblical and essential for the effectiveness of the IMB fulfilling her mission, there ought to be no concern that the Convention is made aware of them through public dissent. But if there are real problems with the policies, and the President chosen to lead the IMB is now DISQUALIFIED from serving as a missionary in the very organization which he presides over, then as my good friend would say, "Something smells rotten in Denmark."
Some people who find themselves still not able to comprehend the connection between these new policies and the future of the IMB, might give pause and consider that I might have information that sheds light on why these new policies are even an issue. In other words, though I am simply arguing principles and taking the high road in this matter, you may rest assured I would not argue on the basis of principle if I were operating off of "hearsay" and "conjecture." I am operating on what I know firsthand, or if you prefer, truth. I have gone through the proper channels to express my concern, but until this date, I have not had the opportunity to address them before the entire board. It is not because I haven't asked, but rather because no one, so far, is willing to discuss it. I am hopeful at some point to be able to do so.
“We run enormous risk in society if we begin using blogs to shape policy. There is great potential to destroy an organized, orderly process for governance, regardless if you are serving in the secular or denominational world."
I don't know what Board John has served on in the secular world, but I am sure that the investors in companies like Enron and WorldCom would have appreciated knowing about certain policies and practices before both went bankrupt. The IMB is not comparable in circumstances to those two secular companies, but the principle is the same. A trustee has a larger obligation than to simply be loyal to fellow trustees by doing what they expect him to do.
The attorney for the IMB has a written opinion that is available to the public that states a trustee's minority dissent of a majority action, whether written or verbal, is not a violation of IMB policy unless the dissent violates confidentiality, is intentionally deceptive, or seeks to harm the organization. Any careful reading of my blog will convince the fair minded reader that I am fastidious in meeting all three requirements.
Not one trustee has ever alleged I broke confidentiality regarding the new policies. I have simply voiced public opposition to the action of a majority of the trustees. I am seeking to help our convention for decades to come by ceasing the narrowing of the parameters of cooperation on the mission field by demanding conformity on non-essential doctrines.
“Because his blog is mixed with truth and heresay (sic), people now don’t know what to believe."
Again, I really appreciate John's perception of things, and I don't intend for this to sound harsh, but I would like to ask John a direct question."Since you have never contacted me in private before you made this public statement, allow me to ask you a gentle question, "What hearsay?" You show me what I have said that is hearsay (not first hand knowledge by me) and I will repent on the spot. Again, "Show me the hearsay!" Give me chapter and verse. Give me the sentence, the word, the paragraph." Show me. By the way Christian Index editor, I am sure the misspelling of hearsay in your article is an honest mistake.
"He seems to be comfortable with the idea of making public what is said at trustee meetings"
Well said John. You got this one on the money. I am very comfortable with the entire Southern Baptist Convention knowing what goes on in PUBLIC IMB meetings. Confidential meetings such as Forums and Executive Sessions must remain confidential. Confidential meetings are necessary for security purposes, but Christian organizations better be very, very careful to make sure Board meetings are open to the public at large as often as possible. I will never intentionally violate confidentiality rules, and if I do, and it is pointed out to me, I will be the first to repent and make it right. Confidentiality is very necessary in some instances of Board work, but the dissemnation of information and the communication of events that occur in public meetings are both even more essential than confidential meetings. The Convention should know, and MUST know, what is taking place in our agencies. Public meetings are by definition public and you can't get more public than the Internet!
"But I think there is basically a great spirit at the IMB and I can’t think of a trustee who is not supportive of President Jerry Rankin.”
This last statement excites me to no end. I wish it were true. In fact, I'll go a step further. I want it to be true; so much so, that I am making an offer to my fellow trustees.
If John's perception is true and there is unanimous support and respect of President Jerry Rankin, I propose at our next IMB meeting in March that the trustees go on record by roll call with a statement of our love and support for Dr. Jerry Rankin and his service to the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. I further propose that if this statement of support is unanimous, then the trustees should suspend the new policies until our respected President and staff offer a solution that is more satisfactory to the IMB's stated mission as defined by our President.
If this happens, all of my concerns are absolutely unfounded.
Someone might ask, "But why can't we just vote on the recommendation of support for our beloved President and KEEP THE NEW POLICIES?"
Again, the new policies disqualifies our respected leader from serving as a missionary on the very Board he oversees.
If we as trustees can't see this as a problem, then something is wrong with us.
In His Grace,