The following email was sent to me yesterday. Please note carefully that the author, my friend and fellow IMB trustee Winston Curtis, states in the body of the letter that it is for "public consumption." No pun intended. I called him to verify his desires for this to be public and he agreed I could post his letter and my response.
In order for you to understand Winston's second concern you need to have some definitions:
(S.D. 21) --- a major field study and report from a couple of years ago that detailed conditions on the mission field as it relates to new church starts and other areas of Southern Baptist ministry.
(2+2 Program) --- a seminary degree program, first instituted by Southeastern Seminary, that consists of two years of highly structered classroom learning and two years of missionary service, at the end of which graduates are much closer to qualifying as career missionaries.
(MLC) --- the Missionary Learning Center where missionaries are prepared and trained for their service. The MLC is in Virginia.
An E-mail from IMB Trustee Winston Curtis to the Executive Committee of the IMB
May 3, 2006
Dr. Tom Hatley and Executive Committee of the International Mission Board
Greetings to you all in the name of our dear Lord. It is with great anticipation that I am looking forward to serving the Lord with you on the IMB for the next four years. These are indeed exciting days to be so connected to the missionary sending agency of the Southern Baptist Convention.
I would like to meet with the Chairman, Executive Committee, President Rankin, and Trustee Wade Burleson in Albquerque, NM in May to discuss the concerns of this letter.
Having just completed a four year term I am grateful for the immediate past experience and, yet I also have concerns for our future as a Southern Baptist Board. My concerns rise from a process of attempting to simply be a good and well prepared Trustee. I do not by nature seek out controversy nor conflict. The Bible teaches in Romans Chapter 12 v.18 to try to not think more highly of your self than you should and to live in peace with all men. However sometimes the way to peace is difficult and somewhat unclear. This letter is for public consumption, I intend the contents of this letter to be a clarifying statement, and request that it be forwarded on to the next Chairman and Exec. Committee.
My concerns are twofold:
1. The current direction that the IMB is headed philosophically seems to me to be completely the opposite from the direction that we should be going, and
2. I continue to have a conviction and concern regarding fellow Trustee Wade Burleson and his, now clearer doctrinal positions on , baptism as a church ordinance, tolerance of glossilila in light of the S.D.21 study, the 2+2 program, and the weaknesses at the MLC, and finally a personal concern regarding Mr. Burleson’s convictions with the alcoholic beverage industry.
With the rising tide of the world population and the greater influx of missionary candidates I question the prevailing wisdom of fewer regions, fewer trustees and greater ecumenicalism. I do believe the time has come to revisit the clear advantages of relocating the IMB for purely good stewardship reasons. We would be better served by raising the number of regions , reconfiguring the trustee selection process to add more trustees because of the sheer work load that it seems that the Lord is sending us.
CONCERN # 2
During the Huntsville, AL meeting Mr. Burleson and I met in an informal setting for breakfast, we discussed why I supported the new guidelines and discussed SD- 21, 2+2, and the MLC. Later in an interview with pastors in Tulsa, OK when Mr. Burleson was asked “was there anything at the Board that precipitated the guidelines ?” Mr. Burleson answered no to that question, this concerns me. This is a clear misrepresentation of the facts. Mr. Burleson seems to take the doctrinal position on Baptism which is different than the BF&M 2000, this concerns me. Alcoholic beverages have been the cause for much tragedy in American life, and the time tested position of the SBC and her Church Covenant document regarding complete abstinence has been the correct and wiser position on this matter. I would like discuss this document with Mr. Burleson.
Mr. Burleson and I will be better served with this format of discussion to insure clear understanding for me, him and our Board.
Winston Curtis, IMB Trustee from Oklahoma
A Response from Wade Burleson to Winston Curtis
May 4, 2006
My Dear Winston,
Thank you for sending to me a copy of the letter you sent to Dr. Hatley and the Executive Committee. Since you have expressed the desire to make your letter for "public consumption," I acquiesce to your wish and will respond publicly. Thank you also for your friendship. I have considered it a privilege to be your friend for many years, and I look forward to our fellowship throughout eternity! Your love for the Lord, passion for His church, and easy laugh are all a blessing to me.
Winston, I find your letter puzzling, and I can't help but question its ability to help further the cause of missions and evangelism. You state, "I do not by nature seek out controversy or conflict." I believe you Winston, however, I would suggest this "contrary to Winston's nature" request to meet and talk about your "concerns" is an unwise use of our time by promoting future controversy.
New Directions, the Board approved policy for missions expansion, encourages missionaries to partner with other Great Commission people, churches and denominations. I don't believe your public concern expressed in this letter regarding "greater ecumenicalism" is an intentional criticism of New Directions, but I do wonder if the you may be creating controversy by criticizing Board approved policy which calls for broader cooperation among Great Commission Christians.
I affirm New Directions and the cooperation with other evangelicals it affirms, and I would encourage all trustees, including you, to publicly affirm this Board approved policy as well. If it is your intention to alter New Direction policy, it is appropriate for that discussion to be in front of the full Board.
Therefore, I question why only I need to meet with you and the Executive Committee regarding your concerns? I am only one of eighty nine trustees. Public, open, and transparent debate is better than a few, small strategy sessions when it comes to altering Board policy. Your desire to move the IMB from Richmond, Virginia, to increase the number of trustees to beyond the current eighty nine members, and your belief the IMB is moving philosophically in the WRONG direction deserve discussion before the entire Board.
I'm also confused about your concern the IMB is moving in the wrong direction philosphically. Do you mean that you do not like the policy the Board has already approved under the leadership of Dr. Rankin? If so, I would suggest those discussions take place in a public, plenary session for the benefit of all trustees and members of the Southern Baptist Convention to hear your ideas. I'm not sure a meeting with the Executive Committee, Dr. Rankin and I is the forum for this type of discussion.
If we trustees don't like current policy, then it is our perogative to change it, which has already been demonstrated by a willingness to pass a new policy forbidding public criticism by trustees of Board approved actions.
I also believe it is a waste of your time, my time, the EC's time, and Dr. Rankin's time to meet and discuss "(Wade's views on) baptism as a church ordinance, (his) tolerance of glossilila (sic) in light of the S.D.21 study, the 2+2 program, and the weaknesses at the MLC, and finally a personal concern regarding Mr. Burleson’s convictions with the alcoholic beverage industry."
I stand by my statement in the Baptist Messenger that any problems on the mission field these last few years were swiftly and efficiently addressed by administrative staff under the old policies regarding tongues and baptism. Dr. Rankin affirmed this at our last Board meeting. Thus, I stand by what I have previously stated that there was no need for the new personnel policies on tongues and baptism.
However, in desiring to abide by the new policy forbidding public criticism by trustees of Board approved policies, I do not feel it is appropriate to go any further in discussing my personal views on "Baptism" and "the tolerance of glossilila (sic)." I can assure you that all my beliefs are based upon Scripture and fall within the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
If and when the entire Board is ready to change the recently approved personnel policies, I'll be happy to weigh in again with my position, but in abiding by the new policy on dissension, I will not discuss my views with you in this public forum. Until then, I believe we should move on to concentrating on missions.
Finally, I must gently take issue with your statement about my support of the alcohol industry. I am choosing to believe that you really are confused on this issue and not attempting to disparage me. I'm not sure I even fully understand what your concerns are in this matter and how those concerns affects missions, but I'll take a stab at it.
If you are referring to my understanding that our first English speaking overseas missionary, William Carey, was supported in his missionary efforts through the collection of ale receipts from the Ale House owned by the Baptist Association, and my reference to the well known anecdote of the spittoon being passed around to collect money for William Carey to travel abroad to minister to "the Indians" in India, then you may be correct in your assessment! I am grateful that the Baptists of the 18th century saw fit to take the proceeds that they earned through the buying and selling of alcholic beverages to help sponsor our first English speaking overseas missionary.
But I'm fairly certain that the Baptist ownership of alcholic industries in the 18th century is not what you are interested in discussing, but rather, it is my defense of the Biblical ethic of moderation and my church's support of the Scriptural prohibition against drunkenness which interests you.
Our church loving disciplines any member who violates our covenant against drunkenness. I teach my children and my church that abstinence is a wise choice for every Christian, and the best way to avoid drunkenness. I wholeheartedly support all believers who have an abstinence conviction. However, I believe the authoritative, inspired Word of God forbids drunkenness, not necessarily the drinking of an alcholic beverage.
What seems to concerns you is the idea of working with a fellow IMB trustee who believes the Bible, but has a different interpretation on this issue on which the Baptist Faith and Message remains silent. It seems this is what bothers you --- cooperating with a fellow trustee who interprets the Bible differently.
I would simply say to you Winston --- I hope we can work through these issues you have with me personally, but your "concerns" have nothing to do with missions and evangelism in my opinion. I'm on the International Mission Board, Lord willing, for seven more years. I love working with you and I will continue to do all I can to support our missionaries as they take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations, but I think it is not healthy or productive for us to focus on non-essential issues that have nothing to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let's cooperate Winston!
Again, we may not agree on all the non-essentials of the faith, but we ought to be able to cooperate with each other. I know I can with you --- even if you don't agree with me. Frankly, it would be sin for me to try to change your mind and demand you believe the way I do on the non-essentials.
I'm hoping you can find it in your heart to work and cooperate with others who don't see eye to eye with you on issues which the Baptist Faith and Message remains silent. I, and others like me, look forward to working with you.
Anyway, thanks for your email. I'm looking forward to Albuquerque, May 22-24, 2006 and focusing on missions at our IMB meeting.
I respectfully decline your kind invitation at this time to meet and discuss the issues you raise. I don't think that kind of meeting will be edifying to any of us as we seek to focus on missions and evangelism.
In His Grace,