"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

The Memphis Summit and "Action Greensboro"

Three years ago, May 1-2, 2003, civic leaders from around the country gathered in Memphis, Tennessee to discuss the future of their respective cities and to dialogue about ideas and possible solutions to make our nation's cities better culturally, economically, and educationally.

The city of Greensboro, North Carolina sent eleven young professionals to The Memphis Summit in 2003. The report from these eleven participants, entitled Action Greensboro, contained eight relevant questions that arose from the meeting.

This Tuesday I will be joining between thirty and forty Southern Baptists from around the nation as we dialogue about how to make our beloved Southern Baptist Convention better. I would expect that the report coming from this particular Memphis Summit will consist more of recommendations and resolutions rather than questions. However, to keep you fully informed of my thoughts prior to the meeting, I am proposing eight questions that I think might be good for the dialogue all of us, including the Memphis particants, as the questions might help us address pertinent issues and arrive at some concrete solutions.

Action Greensboro:

Question 1: "If the Southern Baptist Convention will prosper by creating the conditions that allow future leaders and their creative ideas to flourish, then what are those conditions, and how are they created?"

Question 2: "How is technology altering our world and our convention, and what are the related policy issues?"

Question 3: What factors can propel the Southern Baptist Convention into a “golden age” of missions, evangelism, and cooperation?

Question 4: "What is the harm, if any, for individual agencies to establish doctrinal standards that push beyond the Baptist Faith and Message 2000?"

Question 5: "What are some creative ways in which more people can be involved in the appointment process for boards and agencies of our convention?"

Question 6: "How can a framework of communication be established that allows employees of our agencies to freely express their ideas and thoughts without fear of intimidation, retaliation or termination?"

Question 7: "What are the implications of (a). former employees of agencies serving as trustees of the very agencies that employeed them?, or (b). sitting trustees vetting future trustees prior to nomination in order to determine their feelings for administration? and (c). trustee accountability to both his fellow trustees and the Southern Baptist Convention?"

Question 8: "What can be done to enhance the Southern Baptist Convention's spirit of cooperation toward all conservative evangelicals?"

I think these are eight good questions for our consideration.

In His Grace,


Wade

19 comments:

Villa Rica said...

Brother Wade,

There is one thing I think you should change.

Rather than use the phrase "Golden Age" use "Greening Age".

Greening speaks of growth and that which is in bloom.

Golden Age reminds me to much of a rest home. That is what I am looking at in my future unless the Lord shows mercy. Young SBC folks should be Greening in their thinking.

No big deal--Just food for thought.

Villa Rica

Kevin Bussey said...

Wade,

My prayers are with you. I'm sorry I could not attend. I will be in Hickory at a confernence witht the BSCNC. See you in Greensboro.

Wade Burleson said...

Villa,

Agreed!

wade

Wade Burleson said...

Thanks Kevin,

Hope you enjoy the conference.

wade

kevin said...

I wish I could come but my time in the States is too limited.

I have another series on my blog that I will start writing soon regarding the SBC. You'll love the title.

Trevor said...

Is this meeting in Memphis open or invitation only?

I am in the Memphis area and my curiosity is at an all time high.

Can you reveal the location and time?

mixilmash said...

How about utilizing the internet for a maximum involvement by each cooperating SBC church?

Conventions could be reduced in number with the funds spent being rechanneled into missions. When held, conventions could be forums for praise and worship, etc., because business could be conducted electronically as each cooperating SBC church votes, being FULLY informed of issues PRIOR to each vote.

Trustee meetings for all SBC entities could be available online a'la CSPAN, with the possibility of "real time" involvement by cooperating SBC churches.

If adopted, MANY of the "errors" which have recently surfaced in the SBC entities could be avoided by the certain knowledge that a "SUNSHINE" transparency was in place. Stalking sectarianism would be replaced by openness in ALL denominational processes.

Bob Cleveland said...

Wade:

When people have a goal, they draw plans to achieve the goal, and the plans then become the objective. The goal is often forgotten.

Joseph Garlington preached a sermon called "God's Stange Ways", some years ago. In it, he told a story about a "3-D Picture" in another pastor's office. To the normal eye, it looks like squiggly lines, but when you un-focus your eyes and look "through the picture", another image suddenly pops out. They are frankly a bit spooky.

Pastor Garlington said that, when he finally saw the image, God told him there were a lot of things He's show him, if he'd learn a new way to look at them.

Conversely, he said, when you don't know what you're looking at, you may not know how to look at it.

Too many folks have lost sight of the objective. The end one is souls, and the only way we can fill that role is the way Jesus did it. When questioned about His work, He responded that He didn't do anything on His own, but rather looked around to see what God was doing, and then He jumped in on that. I have a hard time seeing that thought applying to a lot of the things I've seen coming out of the IMB. CERTAINLY kicking out a missionary couple who started a church, ain't it.

I recently became aware of Trustee Standard of Behavior (if that's the term) #7, which states that, when differences arise which threaten Trustees' ability to work together, they're to be resolved between the parties via biblical instructions. That rule fairly shouts to me the view that "differences" ARE a hindrance to people working together. For submitted Christian leaders, that's an unthinkable thought.

Further, I see no need for a "rule" which merely echoes what the bible tells all believers they're to do in the ordinary course of life. Especially so in light of the fact that these folks are to be leaders of the IMB.

The inescapable conclusion, for me, is that the BoT sees any disagreement as a stumbling block and a hindrance to working together. And it's to be handled in a way that will avoid any publicity.

That's just sad.

Ron West said...

Wade,
I do not want any part of my last post to be considered a criticism of you. I believe that if you had served as a trustee in the mid 80s when the conservative resurgence appointees were gaining control of each trustee board you would have seen that the trustees then were using the same methods that you are observing today and I believe you would have reacted then the same way then you are reacting today. If not, I have misjudged you.
I thought I would give my suggestions to answers for the questions you asked.
Question 1: "If the Southern Baptist Convention will prosper by creating the conditions that allow future leaders and their creative ideas to flourish, then what are those conditions, and how are they created?"
Transparency instead of secrecy should be the goal on our trustee boards and the appointment process. Follow the recommendation of the 1987 Peace Committee - Therefore, we exhort the present and future presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Committee on Committees and the Committee on Boards to select nominees who endorse the Baptist Faith and Message Statement and are drawn in balanced fashion from the broad spectrum of loyal, cooperative Southern Baptists, representative of the diversity of our denomination. This recommendation has been ignored for the last 19 years.

Question 2: "How is technology altering our world and our convention, and what are the related policy issues?"
Immediate communication of trustee board actions will be possible as well as feed back. This is a good thing. Transparency instead of secrecy should be the goal.

Question 3: What factors can propel the Southern Baptist Convention into a “golden age” of missions, evangelism, and cooperation?
Transparency instead of secrecy should be the rule. We should not allow political cliques to control access to denominational participation in missions and evangelism.

Question 4: "What is the harm, if any, for individual agencies to establish doctrinal standards that push beyond the Baptist Faith and Message 2000?"
This could allow those with private agendas to exclude others based on theological parameters not approved by our convention or supported by the churches.

Question 5: "What are some creative ways in which more people can be involved in the appointment process for boards and agencies of our convention?"
Allow each state convention through their own nominating process to submit 6 names to the President of the SBC from which the two Committee on Committee members form that state will be selected. In the case of Virginia and Texas or any state with two conventions, one member must be selected form each state convention. Also, see the answer to 1.

Question 6: "How can a framework of communication be established that allows employees of our agencies to freely express their ideas and thoughts without fear of intimidation, retaliation or termination?"
You can only be intimidated if you allow yourself to be. I realize that for a young family with children looking forward to a long career it will not be easy to over come fear of termination or retaliation. True or not there is the preception by some at the IMB that frontline missionaries are considered throw away spare parts. If they irriate those in authority or do not perform as desired, they can be cast aside and another spare part plugged in until it is used up and thrown away. This could be the perception at other agencies also. One possible solution would be a stronger review process of the termination and if the person being terminated wishes it should all be open to the public.

Question 7: "What are the implications of (a). former employees of agencies serving as trustees of the very agencies that employeed them?, or (b). sitting trustees vetting future trustees prior to nomination in order to determine their feelings for administration? and (c). trustee accountability to both his fellow trustees and the Southern Baptist Convention?"
a. To eliminate the appearance of trustees settling old grudges with former bosses former emplyees of agencies should not be allowed to serve as trustees of that agency for at least 10 years.
b. This should be condemned and those taking part should be censored.
c. Every trustee should be allowed to report any feelings for or against the actions of that board to the churches of his state without fear of censor. Any action by a trustee board to hinder a trustee from expressing his support or disapproval of an action should be considered a violation of convention procedures.

Question 8: "What can be done to enhance the Southern Baptist Convention's spirit of cooperation toward all conservative evangelicals?"
Ask the Baptist World Alliance to reinstate us as members.

We will look forward to your blogs from Memphis. Since it is not a secret meeting, who is attending? Is it only for supporters of the conservative resurgence who are not happy with the way things are going? Are any who are theological conservatives and have not supported the resurgence invited? If not, then I do not believe this group even understands questions 1,3 and 5.

Anonymous said...

Wade,

In regard to your question, "What harm, if any... ?", the obvious answer is that any entity which, since BFM 2000 was passed, has added anything beyond it, is essentially saying that they think that the new BFM is insufficient.
Now, if their action in adding additional factors actually served as a "motion" to the SBC to further amend BFM, that would be one thing. That way, there would be an "up" or "down" vote and, if the entity really cared about truly serving the SBC, they would accept the verdict of the vote of the messengers, including rescinding their previous action, if it were voted down by the SBC. But, as it is, such additions are nothing more or less than thumbing the nose of the entity to the SBC at large and saying in effect, "We are not accountable to you and we are going to do what we want to, no matter what you think."

Saddened by the amazing arrogance of such actions,
Concerned

Wade Burleson said...

Ron,


I have become impervious to criticism: :)

I did not consider your last post such and I appreciate your comments.

Suzie,

I welcome criticism of me on this blog, but try to avoid criticism of other personalities. I couldn't post your comment.

Wade Burleson said...

Trevor,

You will hear about this meeting through Baptist press and several blogs (including mine). I'm sure there will be other opportunites for similar meetings, but due to limitations in the meeting area itself it will not be open, but it will definitely not be secret.

Anonymous said...

Question 5: "What are some creative ways in which more people can be involved in the appointment process for boards and agencies of our convention?"

Ron West suggested, "Allow[ing] each state convention through their own nominating process to submit 6 names to the President of the SBC from which the two Committee on Committee members form that state will be selected."

Of course, that would be an interconnection between the State Convs. and the SBC, which are separate entities. To layer on the nomination process such would be counterproductive, IMO.

The president could easily change things by his own selection of the C on C members according to a standard of integrity, commitment to the SBC and her work, openness to more than the usual churches and prominent individuals and their spouses. A stroke of his pen, ratified by the subsequent SBC, would do it. We've done the hard work of change which demanded careful C on C selection, now let's genuinely broaden this tent.

Anonymous said...

Well, here are my thoughts, for what they're worth, on your questions.

1. Openness, willingness to listen to different opinions. I don’t know what your church is like, but your blog is a good example. These conditions are not what the SBC has been in recent years. Creating them in the SBC will require a major effort.
2. Some have suggested virtual convention meetings. I don’t know whether this would be a good idea or a bad idea, but it seems worth further consideration. Mission work through tv and radio, especially in places where such could go but not people, might be worth exploring. A presence on the Internet won’t replace these yet, but also has possibilities for the future. But one-to-one with people will always be needed.
3. Bold Mission Thrust was supposed to be headed for this, but it got derailed. We had the missions, although in recent years the idea seems to be finding ways to cut back on missionaries rather than increase them. (Could that be to mask the fact that giving is down, so rather than cut back for that reason, other reasons are found? - just a weird thought) Who will believe evangelism when public actions seem less than Christian? I’m not talking about occasional mistakes or even sins of individuals, so much as constant wrangling and putdowns of people. Cooperation, what do I need to say, there is little if any at present.
4. I think the 2000 BF&M was divisive. Going beyond it is just more divisiveness. If it isn’t good enough [bad enough?] then revise it. Otherwise don’t keep narrowing things.
5. Ron West’s idea of nominations from state conventions might be worth a try. Possibly nominations from the convention floor or people being allowed to apply to serve - not sure about either of these, but thought I would throw them out for consideration, though they might be more confusion than help.
6. I expect that winning back trust will be a hard thing to do. I don’t know how communication is handled now so I would have a hard time suggesting anything. But where possible, open meetings with chances to ask questions and state opinions are good. But no retaliation for opinions expressed. Decisions made as openly as possible and with as much lead time as possible for all involved (no matter where they are on the organization chart) to express opinions. Open door policies for leaders, and publication of email addresses for comments. The old fashioned suggestion boxes might still be a good idea where possible.
7. A. I think it might be a good idea since they would have a unique perspective, although as another suggested, there might be a waiting period, although I think 2-3 years might be long enough.
B. Sitting trustees might suggest names, but nothing beyond this. New trustees should not be chosen by current trustees, nor intimidated by them.
C. Trustees, or anyone else in leadership positions - for that matter, all Christians - should be accountable first to the Lord. Next to the Convention as a whole. To fellow trustees only that they interact in a Christian manner and perform their duties as they should: attend meetings, respect necessary confidentiality, etc., but this actually could be considered to fall into the previous accountabilites.
8. . They might start by being more cooperative with each other! After that, I agree with Ron West about asking to rejoin the BWA. Other things: Find ways to work with others rather than criticizing them. Stop encouraging splits such as has happened in Texas, Virginia, and Missouri (and probably more that I’m not aware of). Join in the group of U.S. Baptists that Jimmy Carter recently gathered (I know, the dread CBF is part of that, but maybe someone from a group the SBC likes will sit between - if there is such a group left. :-)).

Susie

Anonymous said...

Right on, Susie Q!
Florence

Justin S. said...

I agree with the several other posts about rejoining the BWA. As a young Southern Baptist (in my mid-20s), this, among many other concerns and issues, is very important. We must learn to be more cooperative with others, especially other Baptists, if we are to progress forward.

Anonymous said...

Wade,
I think a lot of folks like me never thought we would have a chance to express our thoughts on how to make the SBC better. That doesn’t come often in a lifetime. Thanks for your blog.
Any rule adding to the SBC would be crazy. So many picky doctrines have been added, it’s like putting band-aids on a severed arm. Doctrine is what severed the arm by doctrine replacing ‘missions.’ Missions is the glue that held Baptists together and it will unify the arm.
Our guide to making the SBC better should be the song, “Happy birthday darling, I never got you any fancy presents but I sure took a lot of things away.”
Is God’s Word so weak it needs a man-made paper to be our doctrinal guideline?
1. Take away this ‘guideline’ and stand on the Word of God.
2. Take away creeds.
3. Take away the mistrust of missionaries and let the Holy Spirit guide them.
4. Take away the employees of the IMB and reinstate them as the employees of God.
5. Take away the attitude of ‘our way or the highway’ and ‘we’ll win the world for Christ with or without you.’
Wade, if you can get these taken away, most of your questions will be accomplished.
Rex Ray

Greg Cloud said...

Amen, Rex Ray!

Is the grace of Jesus Christ sufficient, or isn't it?

Brad Reynolds said...

Wade,
I commend you and the Memphis attendees for your repentance and how God worked in your lives. As one who disagrees with much of what is expressed on many of the blogs of those who attended this meeting I do want to thank you for your desire to improve the SBC, to seek God and the salvation of the lost and your openness to different opinions, even on your blog. Yet, I have some questions concerning the statement that came from this meeting. As a fairly young Southern Baptist pastor (mid-thirties) I have some concerns that many like-minded pastors have in regard to the SBC and what has happened at the Memphis meeting.

1. I would like to have seen a statement expressing sincere gratitude to God for the leadership of Dr. Paige Patterson, the honorable Paul Pressler, Dr. Jerry Vines, Dr. Bailey Smith, Dr. Morris Chapman, Dr. Richard Land, Dr. Al Mohler, Dr. Jimmy Draper and others in leading the convention to a recoverance of our historical roots of believing in the authority, reverence, and yes, the inerrancy of God’s Holy Word. While, some may resent the gratitude we express for these men and maintain “the time has long since past” for the honoring of their efforts. This seems, at best, unwise. Is it inherently wrong to express gratitude to God’s saints for being used by Him?

2. I would like to have seen a statement expressing gratitude to the Trustees of our institutions for their labors for the cause of Christ and a respect for their positions. I can certainly understand disappointments and disagreements with the policies our Trustees have set forth throughout their tenures. I feel I am a fairly good Monday morning quarterback and am confident I can explain in what I believe to be unarguable terms why Drew Bledsoe (quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys) made a wrong decision or why President Bush made a wrong decision or why Trustees made a wrong decision. Nevertheless, there is a reason I am not in the positions they are in and even when I disagree I should still respect their appointments by a sovereign God (Romans 13) and their decisions, unless they go against Scripture. There is a difference in saying “I think the Bible specifies a different direction” and saying, “they are unbiblical and sinful in the direction they went”…the latter is a much more difficult position to affirm scripturally. Finally, I should express my gratitude for their willingness to serve as I now express to you. Wade, thank you, sincerely for serving and I am confident God will bring good from all of this.

3. I would like to have seen an affirmation of the inerrancy of Scripture and a commitment to work only with like-minded Christians in missions. I have no doubt that Paul would not have worked along-side Gnostic or Judiazing Christians, even for the sake of a unified stance for missions or for the world.

4. Finally, in the spirit of publicly repenting “of having turned a blind eye to wickedness in our convention, especially when that evil has taken the form of slanderous, unsubstantiated accusations” I call on all bloggers who signed this declaration to remove from their blogs any and all forms of gossip (speculative or otherwise) such as the IMB trustees may “move against Wade Burleson in May.” You see to some of us who are reading the blogs it appears insincere to voice this repentance without living it on the blog sights.

Brad Reynolds