The Board of Trustees of the International Mission Board will be convening this Monday, January 9 through Wednesday, January 11, 2006 in Richmond, Virginia. The headquarters of the IMB is located at 3806 Monument Avenue, a prominent, beautiful street in a very historic city.
The IMB trustees meet six times a year for regularly scheduled board meetings, and an additional two or three times per year as needed. The highlight of each IMB meeting is the appointment service of new missionaries on Tuesday night. I have met some absolutely wonderful new missionaries at each and every board meeting, and have even flown some new missionary friends to our church to have them share their testimonies to the people I pastor in Enid, Oklahoma.
In my opinion, the work of the IMB is unparalleled in the evangelical world. I know I may be biased, but I love the IMB!
It is in my heart to help those of you affiliated with the SBC to love the IMB as much as I do. For that reason I will be blogging from Richmond, Virginia for all three days of the board meeting. I would like to give you the reasons I will be blogging from Richmond.
THE REASONS FOR BLOGGING FROM RICHMOND:
(1).To Bring More Understanding and Support for the Cooperative Program, the Lottie Moon Offering, and the Work of the IMB among Younger Pastors and Church Leaders.
There is a generation of young pastors who are feeling disenfranchised from the Southern Baptist Convention. Many of them pastor churches that are non-traditional in most areas of church polity and practice. These pastors are feeling disenfranchised because they seem to feel they are not welcome BECAUSE they are different. It is my desire to let these young pastors see that the Southern Baptist Convention is composed of many pastors, including me, who do not walk lock step with the current trustee leadership of the IMB. I want these young pastors to see that at the heart of the polity and practice of the Southern Baptist Convention is the tremendous privilege of disagreeing, yet cooperating. As those of you know who read my blog, I do not agree with the new policies of the IMB regarding baptism and tongues, but I am as much a cooperating member of the IMB and Southern Baptist Convention as those young pastors can be, and even should be. Doesn't it make sense to let these young pastors see the inner workings of the IMB to help them feel involved?
(2). To Allow Missionaries Around the World to Have a Peek Inside the Board Meeting that Ultimately Holds All Missionaries Accountable
I have received several emails from missionaries around the world who are grateful that they can find out about the IMB trustee work through my blog. The following is a sample of the letters that I have received:
From a meeting in an undisclosed location, let me say thank you so very much for your prayers for us during this time. We are having a fabulous meeting, one of the best I have ever attended in my 12 years in Central Asia. Dr. Rankin spoke to us today. It was a Spirit-filled, annointed word from him and something that encouraged and inspired all of us.
There are many here, due to their isolation that are only now finding out about what has been happening in Richmond. It is imperative that you continue to stand for all of us here. I have yet to find a single worker among our 450 people that serve in Central Asia that is supportive of the new policy. What is utterly amazing is that apparently decisions are being made without our knowledge and no one is bothering to ask those of us who are out here whether we even have an opinion or not.
Again, thank you for your words of encouragement and mostly for the prayers that sustain us all.
Sincerely in Christ,
Central Asian Region, IMB
(3). To Bring Support to the IMB Staff from Trustees through Calling Attention to Any Undermining Influence Among Some Trustees.
I have felt for some time that there are a few trustees who are dead set on opposing the direction, vision and leadership of Dr. Jerry Rankin. It is impossible for IMB staff and Dr. Rankin to set and implement vision if trustees continue to oppose the head of the IMB. Obviously we have a duty to hold Dr. Rankin accountable, but for any organization to run effectively, the trustees must hold the Chief Executive accountable, and either fire him for cause, or give 100 percent support to his vision for the IMB and to NEVER UNDERMINE HIM. I can assure you this godly man cannot be fired for cause. As a result, we trustees MUST support him --- period.
I am blogging to make sure Dr. Rankin is no longer undermined, or if he is, to call it out. Of course, the most recent undermining of Dr. Rankin's leadership is the passing of the new policies on tongues and baptism, policies opposed by staff and Dr. Rankin. As a new trustee, I asked specifically to be able to hear from Candidate Consultants regarding their views on the new policies, and was declined the opportunity by a trustee in charge of the meeting. Further, I feel strongly that the trustees were kept in the dark regarding Dr. Rankin's true feelings regarding the new policies lest he "influence" the trustees. I personally think Dr. Rankin ought to always be able to "influence" the trustees. To refuse him this opportunity is undermining his leadership.
(4). Most Importantly, I Am Blogging During the IMB Meeting to Make Sure We STOP Narrowing the Parameters of Cooperation in Missions and Evangelism.
Some people misunderstand the purpose of this blog. I am not trying to convince anyone that I am right and they are wrong about the new policies. I am trying to convince EVERYONE that if we continue to disqualify people because of specific interpretations of Scripture on non-essential doctrines (see Tears for Miss Bertha, we will soon so fragment and isolate the SBC that there will be very few dollars to support a shrinking pool of SBC missionaries, because everyone who is told, "You don't qualify" will leave the SBC. I AM ATTEMPTING TO KEEP PEOPLE IN THE SBC, AND TO NOT LEAVE.
This comment from Gordon Cloud expresses my feelings in a very articulate manner:
Bro. Wade I think that you are on track with your concerns. Having several friends in the independent Baptist ranks, I have seen what the progression of legalism has done to them. Eventually they reach a point of not only independence but also isolationism. I hope that our convention leadership will keep a broad perspective: that is, that Satan is our enemy, not man, and if he cannot defeat us with persecution from without then he will most certainly try to subvert us from within with useless divisions. Let us pray for them and one another that we will all run the race looking unto Jesus.
THE SCHEDULE FOR MONDAY, JANUARY 9th
I arrive Sunday night and will have breakfast with Trustee Winston Curtis at 9:00 a.m. on Monday. Winston is a wonderful, gracious, kind-hearted man that I respect deeply. He and I do not see eye to eye on the issues before us, but to me, he is what Christian cooperation is all about. He understands that I am passionate and persistent, and he knows that I am not even trying to change his mind about the new policies (which he supported). Winston understands that I am attempting to involve MORE PEOPLE with the SBC and IMB and to stop the restrictive and isolating tendencies that are currently in place. HE DOES NOT AGREE WITH ME ON MY POSITIONS, but he and I can work together because he and I LISTEN to one another. I want to have breakfast with him, catch up on his family and life, and let him know how much I appreciate and love him.
I will spend the rest of the morning visiting with staff at the IMB building, simply going from office to office encouraging all the people that I can, thanking them for their work and meeting new people.
At noon I will be having lunch with David Button, a former employee of the IMB, former head of what we now call Mobilization, and currently a trustee of the IMB who is employeed by the state of New York. David sent an email to all the trustees expressing his displeasure with this blog. I invited him to coffee and he graciously asked to meet me for lunch. I'm looking forward to getting to know him better. He seems like a really bright guy, and I absolutely love New York. I have already told David I would also like to discuss the appropriateness of a former employee of the IMB serving as a trustee. There are a handful of trustees who used to work for the IMB and I'm just trying to figure out why this is so. I have always thought that this kind of thing would lead to conflict of interest problems, but I am sure willing for someone like David to change my mind about this issue.
At 3:00 p.m. the IMB will enter what is called "The Trustee Forum." No press or guests are allowed for this two hour or longer meeting. It is here that trustees express whatever it is they feel. I will be unable to tell you what happens during this two hour forum, but I anticipate trustees will make known their displeasure with this blog (again, I will be unable to tell you if I was right or wrong in my prediction). The reason I predict this is because of three emails I have received from three different trustees who have expressed displeasure with Grace and Truth to You.
I have removed the name of the trustee who sent me the following letter because I do not want to embarass him/her, but it gives you a feel for what a few think about me.
The following email is a response to an email I sent to all the trustees explaining how excited I was that we would be holding accountable trustees who were meeting in private meetings and caucuses, contrary to written policy and guidelines of the IMB. These caucus meetings have been held on Tuesday night DURING THE APPOINTMENT SERVICE (and various other times), and are held to set a preplanned agenda, sometimes directly opposite of the agenda of IMB Staff.
Well, I have been listening to you rattle on and on. I guess I am ready to talk a little.
You say you do not want trustees to visit with each other in any location because it is bad policy. Are you going to bug all our rooms like they do in China? Do you think women don't talk? We talk all the time! Do you have committees in your church and you have a policy that they cannot discuss church issues at any time? Do you check on Sunday School class members about whether they discuss church issues on Sunday mornings?
Do you have policy that your deacons cannot discuss anything going on or decisions made at your church? How do you police this? Do you control your members this tightly? What are you afraid of them saying?
I think any trustee who is a blogger on the internet and gathers in blogger groups and discusses IMB policies in writing for others to read and pass around is much worse than a group of trustees verbally visiting in private. In fact, it is much worse in that your mail has been published on the Baylor web site which is much more harmful to the cooperative program and IMB than the visiting of a small group of trustees might do privately. You are guilty of a much bigger infraction in my opinion. I would never get on the internet and discuss IMB business with those who are not trustees. You are calling the kettle black! I find you a very arrogant young man who has no respect for those who have come before you. I do not find
you gentle and caring.
The following email is my response to the above:
In my blog I have been very respectful of every person on the IMB Board. Every time I mention my fellow trustees I have said, genuinely, that I found them all to be some of the most wonderful people I have ever met.
I realize that you may not be used to somebody saying what he feels as openly and honestly as I have, but I assure you, what you see in me is what you get!
My blog was an attempt to explain to the number of people who called or wrote me asking, "How could you pass the new policies?"
Frankly, it saves time rather than answering all the emails individually.
I also have been very respectful and supportive of all the work of the IMB, including saying we are doing the best work we have ever done, our missionaries are true heroes, etc . . .
So . . .
I love and respect the IMB and all the trustees, even those who have come before me.
I'm attempting to keep the IMB open to the cooperation of all conservatives.
I'm 44, and always respect the words of direct people like you who write me personally.
Thanks for taking the time to write me.
In His Grace,
I think you can see why I feel certain things may be said in the forum.
After dinner with IMB staff, trustees and missionary appointees, one of my favorite times of the week begins. At 6:30 p.m., and continuing until 9:30 p.m., trustees will be meeting with their regional committees to interview missionaries who will be appointed to their region the following night at the Appointment Service. We will also conduct business. I have felt my eyes water on several occasions over the last several months as I have heard the incredible testimonies of some wonderful people being appointed as missionaries from the SBC. My commitee is Central Asia, and in my opinion, we have a REMARKABLE group of missionaries. I love this three hour meeting.
From 9:30 to 10:30 I will visit with friends and other trustees about the day and, Lord willing, I will post my next blog at midnight on Monday. You can read my thoughts and reflections on the first day beginning first thing Tuesday morning.
THE REMAINING SCHEDULE FOR TUESDAY AND WEDNESDAY
Tuesday morning I will be working with the Personnel Committee (and/or Regional Committees) reviewing what we call "green sheets," confidential information on prospective missionary candidates, and after review of the green sheets, we will vote "for" or "against" the missionary candidates brought to us by the Candidate Consultants of the IMB. These missionary candidates have already been through an extensive and exhaustive interview process, and the next to last step before they are appointed is approval by the Personnel Committee.
It is in this Tuesday morning meeting of the Personnel Committee (and/or Regional Committees) that the new policies will go into effect. The Candidate Consultants of the IMB will not bring before our committee anyone who has a "private prayer language" or anyone who has not been baptized in a Southern Baptist Church, or a church that meets certain qualifications including teaching in eternal security.
The IMB plenary session, the time when business is conducted and press and observers are allowed, is not until Tuesday afternoon from 2:00 p.m. till 5:00 p.m. The Appointment Service will be Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m. at Staples Mills Road Baptist Church, 10101 Staples Mill Road, Glen Allen, VA.
I am looking forward to dinner with fellow trustee Rick Thompson and fellow blogger Marty Duren and his youth pastor Joey. Tuesday night will end with an exciting Appointment Service!
Wednesday morning we will have our closing plenary session beginning at 9:30 and running till 11:30. I will be leaving promptly at 11:30 in order to catch my flight back to Enid and teaching the Wednesday night Bible study. I will post the blog reviewing the day after midnight.
My prayer is that the trustees of the IMB will focus on world evangelization and missions coordination among all Southern Baptists, and stop focusing on non-essential doctrines that have nothing to do with missions and evangelism.
I really desire for trustees to LET THE STAFF DO THEIR JOB.
Hopefully, we can worship, pray, encourage, support and send some wondeful new missionaries appointed around the world!
I have heard that others intend to seek to reverse the new policies. Though I will not be the person who recommends that the new policies revert back to old policies, or possibly changed to a better set of well-written policies that don't "exclude" fellow conservative Southern Baptists, but rather "includes" all conservative Southern Baptists, if something to that effect is recommended, I will wholeheartedly support it.
I don't think enough trustees have changed their minds about the recently adopted baptism and tongues policies. I have heard from five who have, but since the vote on the policy that forbids missionaries to have a private prayer language was 50 to 15, it would require a larger number than 5 to reverse it.
Since our Board is ultimately held accountable to the entire SBC, I simply want people from across the convention to hear what is going on as it happens.
I apologize that this blog is so long, but the information will help you understand what is upcoming in the next three days.
May God give you a great Sunday and Monday, and I will post next at 1:00 a.m. Tuesday morning!
In His Grace,