The trustees of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention have any and every right to implement policies for any purpose. As a Board member, I have repeatedly stated that I will comply with every policy of our Board. For instance, there is no policy against a trustee blogging on the Internet, but if there were, I would not blog. I have said repeatedly to all the trustees that I would stop blogging if the Board would pass a policy to that effect. A trustee should always abide by policy.
That is why it is important for you to remember that the new policies on a private prayer language and baptism are policies that are well within the right of the Board to pass. A Board must have policy. A Board must live by policy. We now have two new policies. I was in the minority who voted against them.
Why did I vote against the new policies? Because the OLD POLICIES WERE EXCELLENT, and I had deep concerns about the reasons the new policies had become an issue after 161 years of no need for them.
But I have repeatedly said that I would now never vote to put a missionary on the field who has a private prayer language or one who was not baptized in a church with Southern Baptist principles (or one that does not teach "eternal security") because it is now policy (voted by a majority of trustees) and I am a trustee who lives by policy. Frankly, staff (Candidate Consultants) will never put us in the position to vote on a missionary candidate who violates the new policies because staff is paid to enforce the policy that is set by the trustees.
The trustees of the IMB can set any policy they choose, for whatever reason they choose, even if the policies reach beyond the Baptist Faith and Message. For instance, the Board can choose to set a policy that no person from Oklahoma will ever be appointed as a missionary. I would argue against the policy, but if the Board voted for it, I would abide by it, just as I will abide by the two new policies implemented on November 15, 2005.
The reason I am being recommended for removal seems to be four-fold:
(1). I have said that I believe there are just a few, I reiterate, just a few trustees of the IMB who meet on a regular basis to subvert the leadership of Jerry Rankin. I was invited to participate in this group before I ever even attended a meeting of the IMB. I believe that is wrong. It is not only a violation of IMB policy, it leads to power politics, back room hidden agendas, and negates the prayerful petitioning of God for guidance in our work as the greatest mission sending agency of the conservative, evangelical world. I have never been able to speak about this issue of back room politics with the Board as a whole, though I have raised my concern on several occasions with trustee leadership. I have wondered incredulously why President Rankin was NOT allowed to fully and freely share with his Board the problems he had with the new policies.
I was hopeful the above issues would be addressed at our last Board meeting, and in fact made known my desires that they be addressed.
(2). I have voiced principled dissent through this blog to the convention at large. The attorney for the IMB has issued an opinion that is available to the public in which he says a trustee's criticism of the majority decision of the trustee body is not a violation of policy unless, (a). it is intended to harm the work of the Board; (b). it intentionally distorts the truth; (c). it violates confidentiality.
I have been fastidious and conscientious since beginning this blog in early December 2005 to make sure what I write meets all three of those requirements. I have sought to be gracious, kind and supportive of our work, while, at the same time, articulating my concerns.
(3). "Lack of trust" and "resistance to accountability," the phrases used in the press release by the chairman of the trustees as the basis for the recommendation for my removal from the Board, seem to be phrases that speak to this blog. I think the thing that has really bothered me was the actual recommendation voted on by the trustees and read into the offical record stated, "We recommend Wade Burleson be removed from the Board of Trustees for gossip and slander and loss of trust." My blog is public, not hidden (gossip). My blog is truthful (not an intentional distortion of facts, ie. "slander" though they probably meant "libel") and my trust as a trustee is primarily to the SBC at large, not solely to my fellow trustees. I have repeatedly asked for evidence as to the basis of this charge, and to this day have received nothing. To publicly accuse a brother in Christ of slander is very serious on several fronts. I stand ready to either repent when shown my sin, or defend any and every statement I have made in an effort to make our convention better.
(4). I have stated that there seems to be an effort by some, not all, to purge anybody from service within the SBC who does not interpret non-essential doctrines
the way some leaders say they must be interpreted. If we continue down this slippery slope of conformity on non-essential doctrines, there will come a day when you very well may be excluded for your eschatalogy (You mean to tell me you are not a pre-millenialist?), soteriology (You mean to tell me you are a "5 point Calvinist?"), ecclesiology (Surely you don't believe in "open communion?"). Where will it end? Our convention is large enough for people who disagree on the minor doctrines. Unity on the essentials, but freedom on the non-essentials. This is not a battle for the text, it is a battle for the freedom of conservative evangelicals to honestly interpret the text and arrive at different conclusions, BUT still cooperate in missions.
There are some very complex issues that need to be addressed.
I am willing to address them within the confines of the IMB in my role as a trustee. In essence, it does boil down to a control issue. I would like our convention to ask several questions and prayerfully seek an answer to them.
(1). Why do we have husband and wife teams on the major boards and agencies of our convention? Are there not enough Southern Baptists to share the appointments?
(2). Why do we reelect the same people to serve as trustees, up to an astounding sixteen years? Maybe more? Also, do we want former employees of the IMB or any agency, who either resigned under duress or were terminated, to be placed back on the Board as a trustee? For that matter, should any former employee of our agencies be able to serve as a trustee for the agency with which they were employeed? I don't know. I am simply asking.
(3). Do we as Southern Baptists really want a subset of trustees meeting in secret to establish agendas, plan strategy and make decisions about staff and leadership, or do we desire ALL of our trustees to discuss ALL the pertinent issues in our regularly scheduled meetings? I realize that some business is confidential, but we have forums and Executive Sessions to deal with sensitive matters, not hotel lobbies or even separate hotels.
(4). Do we really want sitting trustees "vetting" potential new trustees, contacting them prior to even the Nominating Committee contacting them, in order to insure that all new trustees are "like-minded" regarding the head of the agency and staff?
(5). Do we really want to contiue to close the door of the tent of cooperation to the point that every Southern Baptist must interpret the Scripture in non-essential doctrines in order to cooperate on the mission field?
These are questions that I was seeking answers for within the confines of the trustees of the IMB (and many more that are not yet appropriate to make public).
I remain a trustee of the IMB, vested with trust by the convention that I will do my work on behalf of the convention.
If these are inappropriate questions, then the convention needs to remove me, and I will continue to support our work as a convention in missions and evangelism through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Offering, but only as a pastor, and not a trustee.
Either way, my conscience is bound by principle, not the opinion of man.
In His Grace,
P.S. Just a word of reminder. I really do love, appreciate and respect every trustee, even those who vehemently disagree with me or dislike me. Every one of them loves the Lord Jesus, desires what is best for our convention, and has given sacrificially for the cause of Christ --- every one of them. I am articulating opposition to principles, not people. To the extent I can be shown that my principles are illogical, unscriptural, and detrimental to the cause of Christ, I myself will change.