Rachelle and I will be leaving next Monday for the International Mission Board Meeting in Richmond, Virginia. A new group of trustees will be receiving their training beginning Monday morning, July 17th, and ending next Thursday, July 20th. The Trustee Orientation Committee did a great job last year at my orientation, and I'm sure they will do so again this year.
I enter my second year of service with the International Mission Board attempting to walk a very fine line.
First, I have a responsibility to the Southern Baptist Convention. The issue that began the conflict last year was the adoption of missionary personnel policies by the Board that I felt disregarded the clear teachings of Scripture and went beyond the Baptist Faith and Message. I believe those policies should be reversed.
Those policies form one of the concerns in my motion presented to the Southern Baptist Convention, and since I am the author of that motion, I can speak to it in a public manner. The forum of debate on the whether or not an agency is within her boundaries to establish doctrinal parameters that exceed the Baptist Faith and Message has moved to a very public forum because of the actions of the Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro.
Second, I have a responsibility to my fellow trustees. I want them to be able to accomplish their work, but at the same time I want to remind us all that we are accountable to the Convention as a whole, even though we are a separate and autonomous agency. We are accountable in the sense the Convention has invested "trust" in us that we will accomplish our mission according to the Word of God, and in the best interest of the Southern Baptist Convention at large.
The fine line I walk is between principled dissent and my participation in the ongoing work of the IMB. I do not want these policy issues to dominate the discussions of the full Board. I am hopeful that a panel of independent trustees (and there are many) will be able to do that which the convention asked, investigate the sources and origins of these policies, and issue a report and recommendation to the San Antonio Convention in such a fashion that the work of the IMB is not impeded.
Blogging Rules (or Rules for Blogging).
I will continue to blog, but I think it is wise to inform everyone, again, of the rules I maintain for blogging.
(1). First, I will not post a conversation, email or letter unless I have specific permission. I will always ask, and you are always free to say no.
Early on I posted an email from a trustee without asking. I removed the trustee's name, so that nobody could identify the trustee, and used it as an example of what some thought about blogging. Even though that trustee's email had been "blind" copied to multiple people, and even though I was very respectful in my response and tried to show that blogging is nothing but a different form of communication, similar to email, I made a decision after that incident never to post any information unless I have been been specifically granted permission.
Since that time I have received thousands of emails and phone calls and people have asked me not to post our communication. My standard response is, "Unless I ask your permission to post, and unless you give it, anything you say to me is considered confidential." In all those occasions of personal communication there has been only one instance where I was given permission to blog about the conversation, blogged it, and the next day the person seemed to have a change of heart.
Any conversation I have in the hallway in Richmond will not be posted unless I ask and receive permission. Any communication with me via phone will not be posted unless I ask and permission is granted. Any written communication to me will not be posted unless I ask and it is agreed upon.
On the other hand, anything I say to my fellow trustees that is not of a missionary security matter and covered by rules of confidentiality can be blogged by them from here to kingdom come. I believe we trustees should learn to talk, fellowship, pray and communicate in openness and transparency. But that may be my personal utopia, so I will continue to follow this rule for the sake of others.
(2). I will always be respectful to those trustees that disagree with me and pushed for the adoption of the new policies. If you look back and read what I have said about those trustees you will see that I have said only nice things about them as people.
I really believe they wish to do the right thing as they see it.
But when I have questioned how we can exceed the Baptist Faith and Message, disqualify our own President to serve as a field missionary over the very organization over which he presides, and pass policies that seem to contradict the very Bible which we profess to believe, it seems that some trustees (not all) took this as a personal attack.
It is not personal. It is about the policies.
If the policies are beneficial and biblical they should stand. If they are not, they should be reversed. But I can disagree with my fellow trustees and still work with them. If an agency makes decisions that are detrimental to their ongoing work, then only the trustees can change it.
The investigation should go into the origin of these new policies. Where did the process begin? Who called for them? Who pushed them? Where is the statistical basis and anectodal evidence to show the need for them? Do they exceed the BF&M? Did our President ask that they be shelved? Was that request denied? Who denied it? Why?
My blog is not the forum for the answers to those questions. The Convention has asked for a report, and it is only proper for the Board to be given an entire year to issue their report.
I would suggest the Southern Baptist Convention needs to learn again how to love and cooperate in missions with people who don't walk lock-step in all doctrinal matters.
(3). I will never intentionally violate confidentialy --- ever.
If I am ever shown where confidentiality is breached, regardless of where it occurs, I will seek to correct it immediately.
Let me give you two examples:
During the West Africa events of last year I received a letter from a missionary couple in another denomination pleading that our IMB missionaries not be terminated. They were partners with our IMB missionaries. I did not publish the letter, but a friend of mine did. I immediately called him and told him he needed to change some things to protect the confidentiality of the couple. He did. It was only later that the mainstream media identified the couple (BP, APB, etc . . . )
At our Board meeting in Albuquerque the Vice-President of the IMB announced that a "blog" had published the "minutes" of the January Board meeting on the internet. These were the "public" minutes that were distributed to anyone who asked. Unfortunately there were some names of some missionaries in sensitive areas in the minutes. The Board was irate with the "blogger" for blogging "confidential" information. I'm not sure how many wondered why in the world "senstive" information was ever placed in the PUBLIC minutes in the first place.
I did some quick searches on the net, found the blog and called the young man. He removed the minutes but asked what I was thinking; "If this information is so sensitive why is it in the public minutes?"
Since that meeting the way minutes are handled has changed. There are now "Executive Minutes" that contain sensitive information and will not be made available to the public.
I think that everyone is now very aware that I will not be intimidated by false allegations of breaches of confidentiality. I will only post what the Southern Baptist Convention and public have a right to know.
My Attendance at Trustee Meetings
I have been informed that two opinions have been given by the legal counsel for the Convention that no trustee can be barred from attending meetings where all the trustees of the International Mission Board are convened.
I have also been told that Dr. John Floyd is not intending to try to prevent me from attending the meetings although he has not spoken to me about this matter and all I knew was what he was quoted as saying by Associated Baptist Press.
It is within the right of the Chairman not to appoint me to any committee, and I will respectfully accept his decision.
However, since I have been assured that my presence at Forums and Executive Sessions cannot be challenged, I intend on going to all Forums, Executive Sessions, and any other meetings where the full Board convenes.
May the next year be profitable for the International Mission Board.
In His Grace,