Patience can be defined as restrained passion. For passionate people, the virtue of patience should be highly prized for it is not easily obtained. I am grateful for friends who help me see the blessing of patience. Yesterday I needed a great deal.
The article, written by Southern Baptist Texan writer Tammi Ledbetter and released through Baptist Press nationwide, is an article that caused me, after reading it, to immediately pick up the phone and call Tom Hatley, Chairman of the IMB. I needed to ask Tom three questions. I did, and I appreciate the clarification I received from him.
(Question 1). Is the statement in Tammi's article as follows, "IMB trustee chairman Thomas Hatley of Rogers, Ark., told the Southern Baptist TEXAN the committee determined the matter of disciplining a trustee could be handled internally," a misquote of what you actually said? (Update: 4:30 Central Time February 16th, 2006. The above sentence has been changed by the Texan).
I discovered that Tom did not mean to imply that the Board would discipline me, and that if I read the article carefully, I would notice the sentence was not in quotations. In other words, this was the reporter's words, not his. In no way was he referrring to me specifically. I thanked Tom for this explanation, and I told him that people reading the article, including Baptist editors nationwide were adding a subtitle that said, "Trustees to seek discipline internally" and made it sound like the Board would seek discipline behind closed doors. I would never agree to that because this public matter now needed to be addressed publicly.
I reminded Tom that I, and others on the Board, did not want this issue to go before the convention in the first place. We felt the motion to remove was unsubstantiated, without precedent, and occurred without any attempts at mediation. The first time I ever heard of the motion for my removal was the day it was presented. Nobody had come to me privately to tell me what they were going to do.
However, once the recommendation for my removal for "gossip and slander" had been read into the public record, I was fully prepared to provide my defense. In fact, I reminded Tom that I have repeatedly and consistently requested through email that everything that serves as the basis for the recommendation be made public. I have received nothing in writing to show me the basis for the two charges, except one letter from the man who originally made the motion. This letter came TWO WEEKS after the IMB Board meeting and I immediately asked that it be made public. That request was denied.
I wanted Tom to realize that since the Board chose to make this issue public, if there is to be "discipline" it would need to be of a public nature.
(Question 2). The reporter writes "When the original action proposing removal was announced, Hatley said the board first explored others ways to handle the impasse with Burleson" which caused me to ask Tom, "What were these other other ways?"
I asked Tom why nobody came to me to talk to me about the motion to remove prior to it being made. With great candor, for which I am very appreciative, he described a scenario where somebody who felt my blog to be inappropriate suggested to him that a motion to censure me be made because of my blog. Someone else asked the question, "But what if Wade won't stop?" The answer to that question became apparant. The only other option was to remove me.
The problem for those trustees who felt my blog was inappropriate was that if they moved a motion for my censure, but I continued blogging, then the motion to remove could not be addressed by the Convention in 2006. It would be another year, the Convention of 2007, before the vote for my removal could take place. There is a bylaw that states the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention must be informed in writing by a certain date before the SBC in June can even consider a motion to remove a trustee. At our January Board meeting the deadline was only three days away, and therefore, the timetable caused everybody to rush through the process a little faster than they would have desired.
Again, the prospect of waiting another year and a half spurred immediate action.I assume this is why I was never approached. I told Tom I wish someone would have just come to me and said, "Look Wade, we really don't like what you are saying on the blog, and if you don't stop we are going to move that you be censured. If that doesn't work, we will recommend to the convention that you be removed." I told Tom that kind of dialogue is healthy.
(Question 3). Is the record of the minutes with the recommendation for my removal going to be expunged?
The recommendation, read into the offical minutes at the final PUBLIC plenary session of the January IMB meeting used the words "gossip and slander" as the basis for the recommendation for my removal. These are very serious words. In fact, there are legal definitions for at least one of them. I think the gravity of using these words for the basis of my removal was seen the next day when the Chairman told the press I was being released for "loss of trust" and "resistance to accountability."
I was stunned when I read those two phrases the day after the Board meeting in January. I asked Tom why the "loss of trust" and "resistance to accountability" phrases were used with the press when "gossip" and "slander" were used in the official recommendation. It seems Tom had been given the freedom to release to the press the words that he felt best portrayed the Board's feelings of the motion.
I told Tom I wish we had debated the recommendation for my removal the day before for "loss of trust" and "resistance to accountability" because I think we could have made progress in an understanding of the people to whom a trustee is accountable.
But, again, the recommendation for my removal was for gossip and slander. I stand by everything I have written. It is public, it has never violated confidentiality policies, and it is written with the sole intent of making the IMB better, and I can back up everything I have said with documentation.
Either the record needs to be expunged, or I need to defend myself publicly against the allegations of gossip and slander. The "loss of trust" and "resistance to accountability" issues are things that can, and should, be debated. But you will not find those words in the offical recommendation.
Tom felt that some trustees on the Board were intending to make this motion for expungement at our next meeting, and though he could not speak to the action the Board might take, he felt that a motion to expunge may be a forthcoming recommendation. In addition, Tom communicated he would be releasing an offical press release today that should clarify my concerns.
I want to thank Tom for his visit with me. I really feel I understand things much better through our dialogue.
Finally, let me say a couple of things about this entire process.
I have an accountability group that I visit with regularly. These men and women number ten people, and all of them are far wiser than I. All of them offer counsel, and I listen.
One of the wisest of them all is my father, Paul Burleson, the man who has taught me everything good I know in life. This pastor/teacher/evangelist made an interesting statement to me yesterday that has given me great comfort. He said that when I blog, I am blogging the truth. Christians do not need to defend themselves, they just simply need to speak the truth. A consistent willingness to speak the truth may make one unpopular, but when people know the truth, it sets them free.
In His Grace,