The state paper of IMB Chairman Tom Hatley, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, ran an article this past weekend on the Board of Trustees' recommendation for my removal and the subsequent move by the IMB Executive Committee to seek the recension of the motion for removal.
There were two statements in that article, attributed to Tom Hatley, that are very odd.
(Statement 1). "We are not against his blogging or anyone elses communication in public..."
That is definitely news to me.
This blog was THE issue at the last Board meeting in January. In fact, the basis for my removal in the official recommendation was "gossip and slander" associated with this blog. When I asked for specific evidence of gossip and slander from my blog I was given nothing, and to this day, I have still been given nothing. For me to defend myself against "gossip and slander" I must know what it is that is "gossip and slander."
A day after the board meeting the basis for removal became "resistance to accountability" and "loss of trust." The first time I heard these two phrases was when I read them in the Baptist Press release. I was really shocked.
But the point is this. THE problem was my blog. What I said on this blog caused some to be very upset. On this blog I have questioned why we needed these new policies. I asked why these policies were being pushed without staff support or evidence of problems on the field, and I simply wondered out loud why we were disqualifying people from service as a missionary for the IMB, including our own President, Dr. Jerry Rankin. As a trustee this just did not make any sense to me at all.
However, I remind everyone that I violated no confidentiality, I only repeated what I have attempted to say publicly to all the trustees on several occasions, and I simply fulfilled my responsibility, according to our policy manuel, to make known my interpretation of events to the Southern Baptist Covnention at large. I have been supportive of the work of our IMB, our President, and our missionaries. I have never spoken a critical word about any individual. I have simply asked some tough questions that demand some straight answers.
I believe that this is my job as a trustee, and I have used this blog as a tool to fulfill my responsibilities. I have repeatedly said, and I continue to say, that I will cease blogging if there is a policy passed by the trustees that forbids a trustee from blogging, or if a policy is passed that forbids a trustee from voicing minority dissent.
However, to say that the problem is not "blogging" is really big news to me.
(Statement 2). Chairman Hatley described the problem as Mr. Burleson's "behavior toward his fellow trustees...just a general approach to his relationships on the board."
I am stunned.
I have enjoyed each and every relationship I have with the trustees of the IMB, even with those with whom I disagree. Every opportunity I have had to fellowship with another trustee, to share a cup of coffee or to buy a trustee a meal, or simply to spend a few minutes of conversation in the hallway, is an opportunity that I have taken and enjoyed. Sure, there were tense moments when I first heard the motion for my removal (having never been approached privately about the motion before it was made public), but even then, it was an experience that I will never forget and one through which I have learned a great deal about myself and others.
I guess what shocks me about Dr. Tom's statement is the implication that there has been something wrong with MY BEHAVIOR toward my fellow trustees. Hmmmm. First, it was what I said ("gossip and slander"), and now it is how I behaved. Dr. Tom was asked by the reporter for specific examples and he said, "We're not going to sling mud publicly." I thought I might not have read that last sentence correctly, so I wiped the back of my hand across my muddy eyes (humor is intended here) and I read it again.
Nope, I read it right.
It seems there are things that I have done that Tom refuses to reveal. Hmmm.
The person who has been with me during the IMB meetings is Rick Thompson, a fellow trustee, and pastor of the influential Council Road Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Rick read the same article in the Arkansas newspaper and blogged his response. Following is an excerpt from Rick's blog:
I do not believe that there is another person on the board who can speak to this issue (Wade's behavior toward fellow trustees) more thorougly than I can. I have been with Wade from the beginning, as we are good friends and fellow pastors from the same state. I have sat with him at all the meals, accompanied him to most of his meetings and have stood in the hallway with him in the normal discourse of fellowship between meetings. I have been with him when he has discussed difficult issues with fellow trustees and have heard his public statements to the board in plenary and executive session.
Believe me when I tell you that he has been gracious in his opposition. He has never lost his temper, blown his cool or discredited or disparaged others opinions that were different from his own. He has never shied away from an opportunity to bring closure to a disagreement. He has expressed his love and respect for others at every turn.
Wade may be guilty of being unflappable and unyielding and disciplined in his opposition, but from what I have observed, he has not been hard to get along with. He goes out of his way to show kindness and respect.
I suspect that what Chairman Hatley is referring to is Wades tendency to be resolute and to not bend when be believes he is right (even when he is greatly outnumbered). It is in his nature. When a man believes with all of his heart and soul that he is standing on the side of scripture, if it is his nature to do so no matter what the reaction or "vibes" he is getting in response, he will go to the wall with that conviction. This has been the dynamic at play, because Wade is one of those kind of guys. I am sure that some have been offended by this straightforward resolve.
Wade has told me on many occasions that he really does like many of these people who have voiced their anger and disgust at him. That is an admirable quality.
Thanks Rick, I really appreciate the affirmation.
Why would something different than what Rick knows to be true be implied by others?
I don't know, but one thing I have learned through this process is that it is probably not wise to judge someone else's motives.
Therefore, I will just continue to do what I know is right, do it with a smile on my face, and a genuine love for people who serve with me as trustees, especially those those who disagree with me and wish I would simply go away.
In His Grace,