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

What Is At Stake In the Southern Baptist Convention

The 2006 Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro, North Carolina is rapidly shaping up to be the most important and strategic convention in the past twenty five years. There are several issues that we face which have already been articulated in a post entitled Five Themes for Greensboro. However, someone might ask, "Why are these issues important?" I can think of at least four very important things that are at stake depending on the results of actions taken (or not taken) at Greensboro.

(1). A very large group of young leaders within the Southern Baptist Convention could possibly leave Greensboro genuinely committed to working within the established processes of the SBC to fulfill our mission of world-wide evangelism.

This young generation of SBC leaders is more interested in transparency, authenticity and following the leadership of the Holy Spirit than closed door secrecy and religious expressions without corresponding actions. In other words, it may be time for our convention to really deal with problems we face in a spirit of honesty, humility and a deep desire to make things better, than to sweep things under the proverbial rug and act as if everything is just fine, all the while using spiritual lingo that often sounds hollow to young ears.

(2). The future expansion of the gospel to unreached people groups of the world through the appointment of thousands of more Southern Baptist missionaries is not only possible, but it can be the driving force behind the cooperation of a very diverse group of Southern Baptists within the United States.

However, demanding doctrinal conformity on those things not addressed by the Baptist Faith and Message is the death knell of cooperation in missions within the SBC. Local church autonomy and the priesthood of the believer are historic Baptist principles that are now, by necessity, needed within the SBC. Many evangelical conservatives remained silent on those two principles when the issue was the veracity of the sacred text, but now that there seems to be a desire by some for every Southern Baptist to believe the same in those areas of interpretation not addressed in the BF&M, young leaders of the SBC are now energized to stop the narrowing of the parameters of cooperation. Broad, evangelical cooperation among brothers in fulfilling the Great Commission is more important to those young leaders than the jot and tittle doctrinal jousts of the the SBC. Young SBC leaders simply want to share the gospel. Greensboro has the potential of showing them a SBC that is warmly evangelical, and broad in cooperation. Young eyes will be watching closely at what happens in Greensboro, and it will be a wonderful opportunity to capture the hearts of those young leaders by showing them a desire to cooperate in the midst of disagreement and diversity.

(3). The average age of the Southern Baptist Convention messenger has the possibility of going down for the first time in many years, and as a result, Cooperative Program giving may be stronger in years to come.

Someone asked me on a phone conversation the other day if these young leaders who will be attending the Young Leaders Conference on Monday night, June 12, at 9:30 at War Memorial Coliseum were interested in positions of power. I was really amazed by the question. It shows a generational misunderstanding of these young leaders within the SBC. They are no more interested in political power than they have been interested in participating in the convention these past ten years. These young, conservative, progressive-thinking, evangelical Southern Baptist pastors, teachers, and leaders don't get too excited about the dynamics of how the Cooperative Program funds missions in Turkey, but if you tell them about an opportunity to go to Turkey with a mission team from their church, they are the first to sign up! For many reasons within the Providence of God, many of these young leaders will be coming to the SBC in Greensboro to participate in the process.

It is now time for them to learn how the SBC works. The Cooperative Program is a unique system that is in need of a tranfusion of energy and excitement for it to be stronger in the future. You can't rehash the status quo statements about cooperation and expect the CP to automatically improve. You must capture and engage the hearts of young leaders in the SBC, who will then in turn, lead their churches to support missions through the CP. Greensboro has the potential of capturing the interest of these young leaders to be more involved in CP giving and ministry.

(4). The ability to disagree, debate, and then leave the arena with genuine love for one another is something that has not been seen in over 30 years, but if and when it happens, it will be the very sign of health within the SBC.

Much great change seems to come through the dynamic of the give and take of disagreement. However, not all disagreement has to be bitter and acrimonious. When you have thousands of people present at a convention there will be disagreement. Would it not be wonderful to see disagreement on motions, disagreement on doctrine, disagreement on the election of officers, but everyone leaving the Convention Hall in a spirit of cooperation to fulfill the mission of evangelism?

I think it can be done. Greensboro is shaping up to be the a very major test on the future and direction of our Southern Baptist Convention.

I've Learned You Can't Judge Someone's Motives

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,



Wade Burleson

Theology, Baptist History, and the Privilege of Dissent

I hope that you realize by now that the purpose of this blog is all about protecting the freedom of Southern Baptists to disagree on areas of doctrine that are not considered the essentials of the faith. Further, even though many of the posts are doctrinal in nature, they are not intended to criticize any Southern Baptist who believes differently than I, but rather, to show those who believe differently that there is a Biblical basis for my view.

For instance, the idea that each and every disciple of Jesus Christ (man or woman) has the authority to baptize converts to the Christian faith is both Biblical and consistent with Baptist history and ecclesiology. There are some who believe the only ones with the proper "authority" to baptize are properly "ordained" ministers of a true gospel church (i.e. a Baptist church). I am not attempting to convince those of you who hold to the need for proper qualifications of the administrator of baptism to see it my way; I am simply asking that those of us in Southern Baptist circles who believe differently than you not be considered heretics, liberals, or unworthy of brotherly cooperation in our mission.

In other words, let's keep the main thing the main thing. However, for those of you who need evidence for the basis of the belief that every Christian has the authority to baptize a convert, you have to look no further than the 1644 London Baptist Confession of Faith, the wonderful statement of faith issued by the early English Baptists. In it there is a very clear article that describes the proper administrator of baptism, and the authors of the confession to declare that person to be any disciple of Christ.

The pertinent section of the 1644 London Confession follows with Scriptural texts that serve as the basis for the article follows:

Section XLI On Baptism.

The persons designed by Christ, to dispense this Ordinance (of baptism), the Scriptures hold forth to be a preaching Disciple, it being no where tied to a particular Church, Officer, or person extraordinarily sent, the Commission enjoining the administration, being given to them under no other consideration, but as considered Disciples. (Isa. 8:16; Matt. 28:16-19; John 4:1, 2; Acts 20:7; Matt. 26:26)


The adjective "preaching" that modifies the word "disciple" simply refers to the Christian who is proclaiming the gospel. In other words, as you witness about Christ, in fulfillment of the Great Commission, and someone to whom you "preach" (witness) comes to faith in Christ, it is your privilege to baptize that convert.


In His Grace,


Wade

International Mission Board Trustee Dr. Allen McWhite

One of the tremendous privileges of serving as a trustee on the International Mission Board is the blessing of meeting fellow Southern Baptists, godly men and women from around the United States, who also serve as IMB trustees.

One of those trustees who I have come to know, and also admire, is Dr. Allen McWhite. Allen is Director of World Missions at North Greenville University, Tigerville, South Carolina.

The South Carolina state Baptist paper ran an excellent article about their IMB trustees and and posted an excellent letter written by Dr. McWhite explaining his rationale behind opposing the new policies.

As I have repeatedly said, I have enjoyed getting to know all the trustees. People like Dr. McWhite remind me of why I am glad to be called a Southern Baptist.

Resurging Landmarkism and Its Deadening Effects on the Mission Field (Part II)

I am going to keep this post as simple as possible. For theological discussions of Landmarkism read Part 1 of this series and the excellent comments and posts by Gene Bridges and Bob Ross. This post will pertain only to the problems that arise through an adherence to Landmarkism on the mission field. I believe that the clear majority of our SBC missionaries on the field, trained under the Missionary Learning Center program and our President Dr. Jerry Rankin, are NOT Landmark in theology. However, there seems to be a growing resurgance of Landmarkism within the SBC, as evidenced through the partnership with the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Texas and Jacksonville College, as well the voiced approval of Landmarkism by key trustees of the IMB and a few other key leaders within the SBC. Some attempt to deny an adherence to Landmarkism by simply saying, "We are desiring good ecclesiology," which simply means "We want Baptist churches on the mission field and nothing less."

I too want Baptistic churches established on the mission field. However, what determines whether or not a church is a Baptist church is NOT its institutional structure, as Landmarks would have you believe, but its adherance to Jesus Christ and the Word of God. Are our missionaries establishing "Baptistic" churches on the mission field? ABSOLUTELY! But if we teach that they must practice church the way Landmarks would have you believe "church," as an institution, should be practiced, then we are in BIG trouble within the IMB. Let me illustrate.

(1). Some assemblies on the mission field are composed solely of women.

Yes, that is right, just women. I realize that the Landmark would say, "That IS NOT A REAL CHURCH" because only "men" can hold the ordained offices of the church. I would remind my Landmark friends that the church is a living, breathing organism composed of PEOPLE CHRIST HAS SAVED, not an institution man has established. In one particular country where one of my church members is an IMB missionary, the people he and his wife have led to Christ are all women. They meet on a regular basis in a home. They worship, pray, break bread together and talk about how they can lead their husbands to Christ. They meet regularly, even when "the Americans" cannot participate. Now I ask this very simple question? Is that group of women a church or not? The Landmark would say, "NO! And to say it is a church is heresy." I say, however, that these women are the ekklesia, or called out ones of Jesus Christ.

The Bible teaches it is the privilege of every Christian, including THOSE WOMEN WHO ARE DISCIPLES OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, to function fully as an assembly of believers. This was C.H. Spurgeon's view as well (see Part 1) and is consistent with the Scripture. However, if a person is Landmark in ecclesiology, he will consider this ekklesia of women to be heretical in nature because there are now "women in ministry." My friends, this is not about a Western view of "women in ministry," but rather, as Lydia, Phoebe, Dorcas and others in the New Testament, this is about God using women to help bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to a pioneer, unreached area of the world. The mission field cannot look like First Baptist Church, Mainstream USA.

(2). Communion and baptism are the privilege of every Christian, not just "ministers."

The idea that only "ordained" ministers can participate in the administering of the Lord's Supper and Baptism is a view that cannot be supported by Scripture. It is the privilege of every Christian to remember the Lord through celebrating the bread and the wine with his fellow believers and it is the privilege of every Christian to baptize his converts. Again, this is the SCRIPTURAL way! To say that only "the ordained" have the authority to baptize means only "the ordained" have the authority to evangelize, because the command to evangelize and baptize are given at the same time to the followers of Christ in the Great Commission (Matthew 28). C. H. Spurgeon's believed that if you gave the authority to baptize only to "ordained ministers," you were but a step away from popery and the belief that the priests of the "official church" alone have access to God. However, the Bible teaches that every Christian is a priest unto God.

If someone objects by saying, "But the ordinances are "church" ordinances according to the BF&M" I simply respond by saying, "Of course they are." The question is, 'What constitutes a church?" I am simply saying a church in Uzbekistan, Pakestan, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, China, and other far reaches of our world will not look like churches in the west.

In the west we have structured our church "institutions" around paid pastors (including this one), who act as "the authority" for the dispensing of the elements and the officiating of baptism. Though this is the way we do it in the west, and though it is not a breach of any commandment of Scripture to do it this way, it is NOT unscriptural or a breach of a commandment to do it another way, and in fact, on the mission field, it must by necessity be done other ways. In pioneer areas the only people in the community who name Christ as Lord may be the very people recently won to faith through the work of the missionary, and that missionary may be a male or a female. Some great work is being done by single females, as it was done years ago by Miss Bertha Smith.

In Level III security areas of our world (those areas where we have missionaries but we can't discuss their locations, work, or other matters due to security concerns for their lives), there are believers who huddle together in basements to conduct baptisms in washtubs and share the Lord's Supper under cover of darkness. Do you really believe that our plastic cups filled with grape juice, distributed by "ordained" men is the way they should "practice the Lord's Supper?" Of course not. Do you really believe that if a man or woman leads their son to faith in Jesus Christ that they should "wait" until someone with "authority" can come to the mountains to baptize their son? I hope not. The church is composed of people "called out" by the grace of Jesus Christ, and the celebration of Christ's work through baptism and the Lord's Supper is not dependent upon the passing down of this authority by a "mother" church through "ordained" men.

(3). Fellowship with a brothers and sisters in Christ on the mission field, regardless of their denominational background, is essential for the common good of the Kingdom and the advancing growth of Christianity.

The Landmark church is known for its isolationism and separatism. The idea is put forth is this: "Only the true church baptizes correctly. Only the true church administers the ordinances correctly. If you are not part of the true church (a Baptist church), then we can't fellowship with you."

Heaven forbid.

On the mission field it is a privilege to partake of the Lord's Supper with a Free Will Baptist, Assembly of God, Presbyterian and Non-denominational mission worker. Compare it to sitting in a prison cell with a Muslim guard who threatens you with death because of your faith in Jesus Christ?

I would propose that denominational walls, by necessity, come down on the misson field. I would further propose that if we ever wanted our silly controversies between denominations in the U.S. to end, all we would need to do is be overtaken by a radical Muslim nation. It is amazing how persecution gives perspective. If you are wondering every day whether you will live or die, then I promise you won't ask the person sharing communion with you if he believes in eternal security. You will enjoy his fellowship and friendship around the person of Jesus Christ.

(4). Our mission work within the IMB is the greatest ever because we are pushing the boundaries of evangelism and launching out in new directions to people groups never before reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is the vision and direction of Dr. Rankin and the IMB staff. I believe they should be supported in this task. Are there problems on the field? Of course, but when you look at what is happening, any problems are outweighed by the wonderful good of reaching a lost world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I hope people understand that my resistance to resurging Landmarkism is not a theological game for me; it comes from a deep rooted belief that a great good is being done on the field, and we must not let doctrinal disagreements which are not addressed within the BF&M get in the way of cooperation in fulfilling the mission of reaching our world with the good news of Jesus Christ.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

P.S. I remind everyone that this is a personal blog. The policies of the IMB must be followed by every trustee and missionary. I believe in policy. I abide by policy. I do believe, however, we should constantly evaluate our policies to see if they are a true reflection of the teaching of Scripture.

The Deadening Effects of Landmarkism on the Mission Field (Part 2)

I am going to keep this post as simple as possible. For theological discussions of Landmarkism read Part 1 of this series and the excellent comments and posts by Gene Bridges and Bob Ross. This post will pertain solely to the problems of adherence to Landmarkism poses on the mission field. I believe that the clear majority of our missionaries on the field, trained under the Missionary Learning Center program and our President Dr. Jerry Rankin, are NOT Landmark in theology. However, there is a growing resurgance of Landmarkism within the SBC, including the partnership with the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Texas and Jacksonville College, as well the voiced approval of Landmarkism by key trustees of the IMB and a few (just a few) key leaders of the SBC. Some attempt to deny adherence to Landmarkism by simply saying, "We are desiring good ecclesiology," which simply means "We want Baptist churches on the mission field and nothing less."

I too want Baptistic churches established on the mission field. However, what determines whether or not a church is a Baptist church is NOT its institutional structure, as Landmarks would have you believe, but its adherance to Jesus Christ and the Word of God. Are our missionaries establishing "Baptistic" churches on the mission field? ABSOLUTELY! But if we teach that they must practice church the way Landmarks would have you believe "church," as an institution, should be practiced, then we are in BIG trouble within the IMB. Let me illustrate.

(1). Some assemblies on the mission field are composed solely of women.

Yes, that is right, just women. I realize that the Landmark would say, "That IS NOT A REAL CHURCH" because only "men" can hold the ordained offices of the church. I would remind my Landmark friends that the church is a living, breathing organism composed of PEOPLE CHRIST HAS SAVED, not an institution man has established. In one particular country where one of my church members is an IMB missionary, the people he and his wife have led to Christ are all women. They meet on a regular basis in a home. They worship, pray, break bread together and talk about how they can lead their husbands to Christ. They meet regularly, even when "the Americans" cannot participate. Now I ask this very simple question? Is that group of women a church or not? The Landmark would say, "NO! And to say it is a church is heresy." I say, however, that these women are the ekklesia, or called out ones of Jesus Christ.

The Bible teaches it is the privilege of every Christian, including THOSE WOMEN WHO ARE DISCIPLES OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, to function fully as an assembly of believers. This was C.H. Spurgeon's view as well (see Part 1) and is consistent with the Scripture. However, if a person is Landmark in ecclesiology, he will consider this ekklesia of women to be heretical in nature because there are now "women in ministry." My friends, this is not about a Western view of "women in ministry," but rather, as Lydia, Phoebe, Dorcas and others in the New Testament, this is about God using women to help bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to a pioneer, unreached area of the world. The mission field cannot look like First Baptist Church, Mainstream USA.

(2). Communion and baptism are the privilege of every Christian, not just "ministers."

The idea that only "ordained" ministers can participate in the administering of the Lord's Supper and Baptism is a view that cannot be supported by Scripture. It is the privilege of every Christian to remember the Lord through celebrating the bread and the wine with his fellow believers and it is the privilege of every Christian to baptize his converts. Again, this is the SCRIPTURAL way! To say that only "the ordained" have the authority to baptize means only "the ordained" have the authority to evangelize, because the command to evangelize and baptize are given at the same time to the followers of Christ in the Great Commission (Matthew 28). C. H. Spurgeon's believed that if you gave the authority to baptize only to "ordained ministers," you were but a step away from popery and the belief that the priests of the "official church" alone have access to God. However, the Bible teaches that every Christian is a priest unto God.

In the west we have structured our church "institutions" around paid pastors (including this one), who act as "the authority" for the dispensing of the elements and the officiating of baptism. Though this is the way we do it in the west, and though it is not a breach of any commandment of Scripture to do it this way, it is NOT unscriptural or a breach of a commandment to do it another way, and in fact, on the mission field, it must by necessity be done other ways. In pioneer areas the only people in the community who name Christ as Lord may be the very people recently won to faith through the work of the missionary, and that missionary may be a male or a female. Some great work is being done by single females, as it was done years ago by Miss Bertha Smith.

In Level III security areas of our world (those areas where we have missionaries but we can't discuss their locations, work, or other matters due to security concerns for their lives), there are believers who huddle together in basements to conduct baptisms in washtubs and share the Lord's Supper under cover of darkness. Do you really believe that our plastic cups filled with grape juice, distributed by "ordained" men is the way they should "practice the Lord's Supper?" Of course not. Do you really believe that if a man or woman leads their son to faith in Jesus Christ that they should "wait" until someone with "authority" can come to the mountains to baptize their son? I hope not. The church is composed of people "called out" by the grace of Jesus Christ, and the celebration of Christ's work through baptism and the Lord's Supper is not dependent upon the passing down of this authority by a "mother" church through "ordained" men.

(3). Fellowship with a brothers and sisters in Christ on the mission field, regardless of their denominational background, is essential for the common good of the Kingdom and the advancing growth of Christianity.

The Landmark church is known for its isolationism and separatism. The idea is put forth is this: "Only the true church baptizes correctly. Only the true church administers the ordinances correctly. If you are not part of the true church (a Baptist church), then we can't fellowship with you."

Heaven forbid.

On the mission field it is a privilege to partake of the Lord's Supper with a Free Will Baptist, Assembly of God, Presbyterian and Non-denominational mission worker. Compare it to sitting in a prison cell with a Muslim guard who threatens you with death because of your faith in Jesus Christ?

I would propose that denominational walls, by necessity, come down on the misson field. I would further propose that if we ever wanted our silly controversies between denominations in the U.S. to end, all we would need to do is be overtaken by a radical Muslim nation. It is amazing how persecution gives perspective. If you are wondering every day whether you will live or die, then I promise you won't ask the person sharing communion with you if he believes in eternal security. You will enjoy his fellowship and friendship around the person of Jesus Christ.

(4). Our mission work within the IMB is the greatest ever because we are pushing the boundaries of evangelism and launching out in new directions to people groups never before reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is the vision and direction of Dr. Rankin and the IMB staff. I believe they should be supported in this task. Are there problems on the field? Of course, but when you look at what is happening, any problems are outweighed by the wonderful good of reaching a lost world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I hope people understand that my resistance to resurging Landmarkism is not a theological game for me; it comes from a deep rooted belief that a great good is being done on the field, and we must not let doctrinal disagreements which are not addressed within the BF&M get in the way of cooperation in fulfilling the mission of reaching our world with the good news of Jesus Christ.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

Resurging Landmarkism in the Southern Baptist Convention and Its Impact on the Mission Field (Part 1)

Several years ago a man by the name of Bob Ross took it upon himself to republish the messages of Charles Haddon Spurgeon by reprinting The Metropolitan Tabernacle Series, a multi-volume set of every message preached by C.H. Spurgeon during his pastoral ministry. Many Southern Baptist pastors have this Metropolitan series in their libraries, including me.

Recently Bob Ross sent me a letter explaining his former background in Landmarkism and his eventual repudiation of this belief system. I am posting his letter to me on this blog, along with his excellent summary of Landmarkism, closing with several quotes from Mr. C.H. Spurgeon himself. I know the post is long, but it is vitally important you understand the implications of reemerging Landmarkism in the SBC.

Tomorrow I will explain why a repudiation of Landmarkism is absolutely essential for the planting of churches on the mission fields around the world.


Dear Brother Burleson:

I have read some of your comments on Landmarkism, and I surely hate to see that it is apparently rising again to some significance among Southern Baptists.

I spent the first several years of my Christian life in Landmarkism, after having been baptized at Parkview Baptist (SBC), Jackson, Tennessee in 1953 by a godly and beloved Pastor (now deceased) who first introduced me to the writings of J. R. Graves.

I left the SBC over Neo-orthodoxy in the schools (particularly at Union University) in 1954, and spent the next eleven years of my life advocating Landmarkism among the "strong as a bear's breath" type of independent Baptists. In the Providence of God, I was enabled by His grace to study my way out of it and abandoned it in 1964.

Since I knew Landmarkism very well from the "inside" of independent Baptists and saw its divisive and sectarian character, I wrote a book, OLD LANDMARKISM AND THE BAPTISTS, briefly discussing the history and teachings of Graves and other Landmark Baptists, including myself. If you have not seen the book, I will be happy to send you a free copy. It is a 188-page paperback, fully documented.

Over the past 41 years, I have received many testimonies from readers -- especially preachers -- who have been helped by my various writings on the erroneous theories and practices of Landmarkism.

Here in Texas, as recently as this week I read the SBTC Texan magazine article by Jim Richards which advocated some of the principles involved in Landmarkism (Feb. 6, 2006, page 5). I hate to see the SBTC leadership get on this dead-end trail which leads to the type of Landmark sectarianism which I have witnessed among independent Baptists, the American Baptist Association (Texarkana headquarters), and the Baptist Missionary Association (Little Rock headquarters).

I have tried my best to maintain fellowship with Christian brethren who hold to Landmarkism, but they usually have held me at arm's length and regard me as a heretic!

Bob L. Ross
Pilgrim Publications
Pasadena, Texas




"Old Landmarkism" and the Baptists

An examination of the erroneous theories of CHURCH AUTHORITY and CHURCH SUCCESSION of the so-called LANDMARK BAPTIST movement.

The term LANDMARKISM is a nickname which refers to ecclesiastical views arranged as a logical system or ecclesiastical order and popularized by the late James Robinson Graves (1820-1893). According to Landmarkers, there is no authority in either the Word or from the Spirit for doing the work of the Great Commission; this authority comes solely from the local Baptist church.

It is held in theory by an undetermined number of Baptists in various conventions, associations, fellowships and independent churches. The system, sometimes called "church truth," is not exclusive to the Association Baptists, but according to Dr. I. K. Cross, the term "Landmarkism" has been widely used in "derision" for those Baptists in the fellowship of the American Baptist Association of Churches with which Dr. Cross is affiliated. There are quite a number of independent churches that are Landmark, but they do not affiliate with a convention or association. Usually, these churches do not believe there is scriptural authority for anything larger than the local church, although many of them do affiliate in "fellowships" and special "conferences."

Landmarkism involves the authenticity of a church as an organization, the administration and administrator of baptism, and the ordination of ministers. It is asserted that a church is unscriptural, baptism is invalid, and ministers are not duly ordained unless there is proper Church Authority for them. This is Landmarkism's "chief cornerstone."

Some writers of the past referred to this position as "high churchism." Consequently, the Landmark view is that Baptist Churches ALONE have the authority of Christ to evangelize, baptize and carry out all aspects of the commission. The system further involves the perpetuity, succession, or continuity of Baptist churches through which authority has descended through the ages and will continue. This position, though not uniformly defined among Landmarkers, is believed to have been taught by Christ in such verses as Matthew 16:18, 28:19-20.

While Landmarkers in general profess either an inability to demonstrate the succession or no necessity of doing so, their efforts to advocate their system of "church truth" are almost invariably characterized by several quotations from secondary sources and their own respected authors, supposedly establishing the historical claim. Generally therefore, they believe that

1) the true and scriptural organization of a church,
2) the valid administration of baptism, and --
3) the proper ordination of a gospel minister,
all MUST all be enacted upon the authority of a sound and true, scriptural church namely, a church that was born through the authority of a "mother" church continuing in like manner back to the original apostolic church of Matthew 28 where "church authority" first "began".

In refuting these errors, Baptists and other Christians today can believe in the continuity of Christianity since Christ and may devote themselves to regulating their faith and practice by the Scriptures (in an orderly manner) without adhering to the Landmark teachings of church authority and succession. The authority which validates baptism, or any other scriptural action of our time, does not reside in the church institution any more than does the authority which validates salvation itself; authority resides in Jesus Christ and is expressed in His Word. The church itself is dependent upon this authority, but this authority is not dependent upon the church.

This book advocates no new or novel views in opposition to Landmarkism. The first Confession of Faith set forth by English Particular Baptists is the well-known Confession of 1644, and in Article 41 it states:

"The persons designed by Christ, to dispense this ordinance (baptism), the Scriptures hold forth to be a preaching disciple, it being no where tied to a particular church, officer, or person extraordinarily sent, the commission enjoining the administration, being given to them under no other consideration, but as considered disciples."

Landmarkism, as a system, is of relatively recent origin among the Baptists, although various items in the system have been obvious at certain times in our history. But at least not until J. R. Graves popularized all of the related concepts in systematic form did a significant segment of Baptists finally become a fragmentation from other Baptists (in the Preface of his book, Old Landmarkism; What Is It?, Graves takes credit for "inaugurating the reform" which became known as Landmarkism).

May this book assist all who read it to see Landmarkism in its proper perspective among the Baptists. -- Bob L. Ross



The following are some great quotes from C.H. Spurgeon. The emphasis is all mine. Spurgeon said in his day what I am attempting to say today.

C. H. SPURGEON (The Sword and Trowel, 1974, page 267, 268):

From "Fragments of Popery Among Nonconformists" --


It is very natural that our friends should desire their minister to baptize them, and yet there is no reason why he should do so on account of his office. It does not appear from the Scriptures to have been an act peculiar to preachers; in fact, at least one of them, and he by no means the least, was not sent to baptize, but to preach the gospel. A vigorous Christian member of the church is far more in his place in the baptismal waters than his ailing, consumptive, or rheumatic pastor. Any objection urged against this assertion is another unconscious leaning to tradition, if not a relic of superstition.

The usefulness of the ordinance does not depend upon the baptizer, but upon the gracious meditation and earnest prayer of the person baptized: the good which he will receive will depend upon how far his whole soul is receptive of the divine influence, and in no sense, manner, or degree upon the agent of the baptism.

We do not know what Paedobaptists think upon their ceremony, but we fear that the most of them must have the minister to do it, and would hardly like their infants to be left to the operation of an unordained man. If it be so, we do not so very much wonder at their belief, for as it is clear that no good arises to an infant from its own prayers or meditations during the ceremony, there is a natural tendency to look for some official importance in the performer of the rite; but yet we do not and cannot believe that our Paedobaptist friends have fallen so low as that; we make no charge, and hope we shall never have cause to do so.

For Baptists to attach the smallest importance to the ordinance of baptism being administered either by a minister or a private member would be to the last degree inconsistent, and yet we are not sure that the inconsistency is not to be found in many quarters. It behooves ministers to break down in time every tendency to make us into necessary adjuncts of the ordinances, for this is one step towards making us priests.

All I can say is "Amen" Mr. Spurgeon!

Hocus Pocus Ordinances

The Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 taught that at consecration the substance of the bread and the wine at communion is replaced by the substance of Christ's actual body and blood, thus the word transubstantiation.

When the average parishoner would ask the priest, "But why does the bread and wine still taste like bread and wine and not taste like flesh and blood?" the priest would answer, "It is not essential that it taste like blood or flesh to actually be blood and flesh."

Some of the laypeople became a little skeptical of the priest's explanation. In fact, some even felt the priests were pulling a fast one on the church. As a result the archaic phrase "hocus pocus," which means "to trick someone," was derived from the priest's words, in Latin, "hoc est (this is) the body and blood of Christ."

We must remember that God's people demand reasonable, Biblical explanations for the ordinances and will not settle for man's traditions or instititional pontifications.

A good reminder for us Southern Baptists.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

Did Anyone Actually Read the Peace Report?

Some of our young leaders may not be aware that at the 1987 Southern Baptist Convention a task force, composed of Southern Baptist men and women elected by the Convention, presented to the SBC a paper offically called "The Peace Committee Report." The full text of this report can be found at the Report of the Southern Baptist Convention Peace Committee.

A member of that Peace Committee emailed me and said it would be good for younger leaders in the SBC to be reminded of what was said in 1987 regarding the future of the SBC. Below are a few excerpts from Section III.

In this section, entitled Conclusions, the Peace Committee makes a statement that seems to be as applicable to our Convention in 2006 as it was in 1987. The statement begins with a question . . .

"How then can we (the SBC) survive . . .?

First, the hostility must cease within the heart of each of us. That brings peace.

Second, our leaders must have and must demonstrate a view of Baptist life that reaches beyond the limits of their own personal theology. No effort should be made or should be permitted to be made which would seek to eliminate from Baptist life theological beliefs or practices which are consistent with the Baptist Faith and Message ...

Third, and most important, nothing must be allowed to stand in the way of genuine cooperation in mission . . .

Finally, we should recognize and freely admit that the greatest source of our strength as a denomination lies in the thousands of local church congregations that support our cooperative undertakings."

All I feel like doing right now is asking a queston . . . Did anyone actually read the Peace Report?

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

Deliver Us From Dogmatism We Pray

A very famous preacher died and left his sermon notes to his alma mater's library. In one particular exposition of a text from II Corinthians the preacher had underlined a point and placed in quotation marks the following comment:

"Argument here very weak; raise voice for added emphasis."

It seems to be human nature for people to shout at one another when the basis for one's beliefs is built on tradition. However when the truth settles in a person's heart, there is a great deal of room to love those who disagree. Truth stabilizes. A lack of truth destabilizes.

I am praying that there will come a time in our Southern Baptist Convention when people are so secure in our understanding of the gospel and our mission of world evangelism that we DON'T CARE, and are QUIET, when brothers and sisters in Christ disagree with us in areas of non-essential doctrines. All doctrine is important, but not all doctrine is essential to fulfilling our mission.

The proper qualifications of the administrator of baptism and the private use of tongues, commonly called a private prayer language, are the two most recent examples of non-essential doctrines that ought to cause us all to say, "Look, I know what I believe about these issues, and you may not agree with my intepretations, but frankly, I am not concerned about convincing you that I am right and you are wrong. All I am concerned about is that you and I cooperate together to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to a lost world."

I personally am not convinced from Scripture or experience that speaking in tongues in public, or even in one's prayer closet, is a gift of the Spirit. However, there are some Southern Baptists who do believe tongues is a gift of the Spirit of God, and they claim to have it. If they told me I had to have it then we would have a problem. Likewise, if I told them they could not have it, then we would have a problem. Neither one of us has to yell and scream at the other "you are a heretic," because we both are in agreement on the cardinal doctrines of the faith.

Sunday morning we received into our church a young lady who shared her faith in Christ quite eloquently. She was quite confident her sins were forgiven because of Christ's work on her behalf. Her hope was solely in Christ. She was baptized at the hands of a minister who does not hold to eternal security, in a church that does not either. However, the young lady does believe in eternal security. We received her baptism.

A few churches in our convention might not believe her baptism to be valid. We do. We are not asking other churches to believe like us, for then we would have a problem. But likewise, when those churches who believe the hands of the baptizer are as important as the heart of the baptized, and then tell us we must believe like them, then we also have a problem.

I am not asking other churches to see it like we do, but I am asking other churches not to demand that we see it like them. The essence of COOPERATION is the freedom to disagree in interpretation of non-essential doctrines, but to cooperate with each other in the midst of our disagreement in fulfilling our common mission.

Surely I am not the only one who thinks this is such a simple thing for us to do, am I?

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

Sometimes The Tongue I Don't Understand Is the English One

I am sure much will be made of Dr. Rankin's interview with state Baptist editors, but as an insider let me tell you the shocking statement in that interview. It did not come from Dr. Rankin, but rather, in the form of a question from one of the state editors, Bob Terry.

Bob Terry (The Alabama Baptist) -- Jerry, yesterday, I was told that the discussion of, uh, behind the new policy that the board has adopted concerning private prayer language was really advocated by board members who favored using a private prayer language and they were hoping to get it approved so there could be a broader use of a private prayer language . Do you have any feeling as the president of the organization that that scenario is founded in reality?

I don't understand that statement in bold print. In fact, I would go further and say that the statement is over the top. I understand that Bob is a wonderful editor, and I have enjoyed his erudite editorials, but I have two questions I will be asking him, that as a reporter, he may not be able to answer.

(1). Who told you that Bob? A trustee? Surely not.
(2). What is the purpose of someone saying that to you Bob? To scare people? Surely not.

Let me reiterate, I am not faulting Bob Terry for what he said, or for even asking the question, but I am just hoping that there is not underlying this question an attempt by people somewhere, using maistream media, to give intentionally misleading information to cause the Southern Baptist Convention to be scared of something that does not exist.

I HAVE NOT MET ONE TRUSTEE WHO IS ADVOCATING PUBLIC CHARISMATIC TONGUES SPEAKING.

The old policies of the International Mission Board were very effective at controlling any abuses of the gifts on the field. In fact, they were so good, there was never a problem that was NOT handled quickly, firmly, and ultimately effectively.

Those of us trustees who opposed the new policy on tongues simply were concerned about going into a person's PRIVATE prayer closet and saying, "YOU CANNOT HAVE A PRIVATE PRAYER LANGUAGE." We believed that going into a person's prayer closet and demanding they not pray in tongues is not only a violation of Scripture, but is going way beyond the BF&M and the duties of the trustees in establishing qualifications for missionaries.

However, the question posed to Dr. Rankin by the editor of the Alabama Baptist paper sounds to me like somebody is spreading false information to try to explain the rationale for the new policy. It is hard for me to understand why someone would intentionally give the editor of the Alabama paper FALSE information.

Sometimes the tongue I don't understand is the one that uses English.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

The Soul's True Rest

This morning I will be bringing a message to our church from Genesis 8 where the Bible states "The ark rested on the seven- teenth day of the seventh month."

Have you ever wondered why the Bible gives us the exact day the ark came to rest? We all believe every word and phrase of the Bible is important. We also know evey event in the history of the world is significant. Why did the ark come to rest on the seventeenth day of the seventh month? What is significant about that day.

God changed the Jewish calendar in the days of Moses so that the seventh month became the first month. On the tenth day of this new first month of the Jewish Year (corresponding to our March/April), the lamb for the Passover was chosen. On the fourteenth day, the Passover Lamb was slain.

Jesus Christ, our Pashcal lamb, died on Passover, the fourteenth day of the first month. Three days later He rose from the grave. The day of Christs' resurrection was the seventeenth day of the first month, which was formerly the seventh month in the days of Noah.

The day Noah's ark came to rest is the exact same day Jesus Christ rose from the grave.

When Christ rose from the grave the Bible says "He sat down." He rested. His work was finished. Our redemption was accomplished.

Christ is our Ark. Those who are in Christ find their souls at rest in Him.

May your soul be refreshed this Lord's Day as you are reminded of the finished work of Jesus Christ on your behalf.

In His Grace,


Wade

Southern Baptist Leaders and Their Blogs

Along with Marty Duren at SBC Outpost I felt it best this weekend to link with other Southern Baptists whose writings have been especially poignant. The following is a list of blogs I have been reading.

Todd Littleton at Just Todd.
David Phillips at CrossConnect.
Art Rogers at 12 Witnesses.
Kevin Bussey at Confessions of a Recovering Pharisee.
Tim Sweatman at The View from the Hill.
Jason Sampler at A Baptist Perspective.
Jason Shepherd at Paridigms Lost.
Clifton Cummings at Graceful Words.
Bowden McElroy at Interregnum.

All these men are young leaders within the Southern Baptist Convention.

Pastor Clif Cummings at First Baptist Church, Duncan, Oklahoma is hosting a Pastor's Conference Monday, March 6, 2006 with Dr. Sam Storms and myself. Details are found on his blog Graceful Words. The conference is free and lunch is provided, but you will need to contact the church for a reservation. I think you will find the meeting at FBC Duncan, March 5-8, 2006 with Dr. Sam Storms a wonderful Bible Conference with the Pastor's Luncheon on Monday a time of great dialogue.


In His Grace,


Wade

Five Themes for Greensboro

The Convention in Greensboro, June 2006, could be the most important Convention in 30 years. There is a possibility five different issues will be addressed.

(1). The establishment of a framework for the free exercise of principled dissent.

The Southern Baptist Convention has been built around the principle of people being allowed to dissent. Cooperation does not mean conformity. Cooperation by its very definition implies diversity. We must get out of this mindset that every Southern Baptist must look the same, act the same, talk the same to be considered a Southern Baptist. We need to examine carefully whether or not we are fostering an environment in our agencies, churches, mission fields, and convention as a whole where God's people feel free to express their concerns without intimidation or fear of reprisal. Abusive authority silences dissent. Since the authority within the convention is the local church, every convention leader ought to be a gracious listener. As a trustee with the International Mission Board, I also believe our field missionaries should be allowed a voice in the process, without fear of retribution, and I will do what I can to establish an avenue for their voices to be heard.

(2). The institution of safeguards to prevent the manipulation of the nominating process of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Conservatives complained in the 60's and 70's that the Southern Baptist Convention was dominated by the "good old boy" system. We need to be really careful that the good old boy system just didn't move its headquarters to across the street. Any close inspection by the Nominating Committee of sitting trustees might reveal problems of a tight knit, controlled process of selection. The Nominating Committee was designed so that diverse, godly people from across the convention could serve. It is unconscionable for a Nominating Committee member to ever be threatened for not following the desired course of actions by the powers that be.

(3). The forbidding of undue influence of agencies and institutions of the SBC by other agency heads.

For an agency head of one of our Southern Baptist institutions to seek to control, influence, or undermine the President of another SBC agency through influencing that agencies trustees is parallel to a pastor writing letters to the deacons of another church telling those deacons what is wrong with their pastor. This should not be allowed, and if there is alleged evidence that it is taking place, an official investigation ought to be launched. Southern Baptists do not need a doctrinal watchdog. We do quite well as a convention on our own.

(4). The resolution that trustees are servants of the Convention, not directors of the convention.

Trustees are accountable to their respective institutions and to the Convention as a whole. Trusteeship is not a privilege or a reward, but a serious duty and obligation.
Trustees don't tell the convention what we should believe, the convention tells trustees the doctrinal foundations of our convention.

(5). The expression of belief that Southern Baptist Convention works best with a broad front door of cooperation.

There are dozens of heartbreaking stories of wonderful Southern Baptist men and women have have felt called to the mission field, and would have been able to serve in decades past through the SBC, but due to the narrowing of the parameters of cooperation, are no longer qualified. Hopefully, in the next few months these stories will be able to be spread around the convention. Look for some on this blog in the very near future.

See You In Greensboro,



Wade Burleson

And Now You Know, The Rest of the Story

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.

Thanks Dad.


In His Grace,



Wade

I Will Continue to Blog About the IMB

I would like to thank everyone who has written in with suggestions about whether or not I should continue blogging. I really appreciate your continued calm, measured approach to this issue. I have chosen to continue blogging in support of our efforts through the International Mission Board and will continue to be extremely conscientious, as in the past, to fully abide by every policy and procedure of the IMB. I am always positive about our work, conscientious about confidentiality, and will only write those things that I believe can improve our cooperation together to win the world to Christ.

I have spoken this afternoon with Tom Hatley, Chairman of the Trustees of the IMB. He told me that Tammi Ledbetter's article", released via Baptist Press earlier this morning, needs clarification. What Tammi said in her journalistic article, according to Tom, should not be considered official statements by him.

Tom will be issuing an official statement tomorrow. I have read Tom's offical statement and it is different from the Texan article in two critical areas --- the very areas which caused me concern.

I would think the Texan will issue a couple of clarifying statement themselves, and will wait to see if that is the case.

If it is not, I will blog about it here, but no need to talk about things that may be corrected tomorrow.


Have a great evening,



Wade Burleson

A Pause for Reflection

This morning Baptist Press issued a press release from the Chairman of the Trustees of the International Mission Board. I drafted a response that I then read to a group of men who have provided me wisdom during this difficult time. Everyone within my accountability group thought I should post my response and I did so one hour after the press release.

I then heard from one person on my accountability group that I had been unable to contact earler. He read my response and told me that he agreed with everything I said, but he wondered if I should wait a few hours before I officially responded. I respect this man's wisdom and have taken off my initial post. I have told him that I will wait until this evening. I am currently seeking to contact trustee leadership to ask them personally about two very serious concerns I have with the press release. I am waiting until I hear from them before I respond officially.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson


Wade

When the Humble Become the Mighty

My current reading material includes an excellent biography of the history of Oklahoma Southern Baptists entitled "The Two Became One," written by Dr. Robert L. Ross. Most Southern Baptists, including Oklahomans, have little knowledge of the distinguished history of Southern Baptist mission work in our state.

In 1832 the President of the United States employed Isaac McCoy to be the official government surveyer of what was then called Indian Territory. The government promised the Indian tribes of the United States land in "Indian territory" in exchange for taking their land in states already a part of the union. McCoy made a number of trips into what is now northeastern Oklahoma to survey the land. In addition to his government job he also had a relationship with the American Indian Mission Association.

In the fall of 1832 McCoy arrived at a place called Ebenezer Station, located three miles north of the Arkansas River and eighteen miles west of Fort Gibson. Here McCoy met John Davis, a Creek Indian who was under appointment by the American Baptist Board of Foreign Missions, the forerunner of the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, and of course, now called the International Mission Board. In 1832 Indian Territory was considered a foreign mission field and remained such until 1907 when Theodore Roosevelt declared Oklahoma the forty-six state of the
union. Okla is the Choctaw Indian word for "people" and humma is the Indian word for "red." Oklahoma means red people.

The Baptists of America placed their mission emphasis in the 1830's on the Indian territory I now call my home state. The great missionary Isaac McCoy, along with the Creek Indian John Davis, founded the first Baptist church in Oklahoma on September 9, 1832. That first church had six charter members. One Indian, two Caucasians and three Negros who were named Quash, Bob, and Ned, all three black slaves for the Creeks.

Within a month, this church grew to a membership of forty-five. On October 14, 1832, thirty-seven new converts were baptized. Ten were Creek Indians, the others were black slaves of the Creeks. On November 10, nine more were baptized.

Every time I pass by Fort Gibson I think of this first Baptist church in Oklahoma and its humble beginnings. Within seventy years this one Baptist church in Indian territory had turned into many Baptist churches and on November 9, 1906 the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma was born, one year before official statehood.

This fall 2006, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma will celebrate her one hundredth year anniversary. Since the first missionary efforts in Oklahoma in the 1830's, Oklahoma Baptists cooperating together have become the largest, most prominent evangelical movement in Oklahoma. Our headquarters are in a gleaming six story modern building on Interstate 44 in Oklahoma City and we are impacting the world for Christ through our missionary efforts.

The humble have become the mighty.

May God allow us as Baptists, whether it be Baptists from Oklahoma, Southern Baptists within the United States, or International Baptists through the mission efforts of the International Mission Board, to never forget our humble beginnings.

When the gospel becomes big business the gospel is ultimately compromised.

When the gospel remains the main thing, the world is ultimately transformed.

Let's keep our minds on the main thing and remain a humble people seeking to reach the world for Christ. It's tempting to forget our main mission when we get so powerful, but by God's grace, we will resist that temptation. When the humble become mighty it is always good for God to send trials to keep us humble. It helps us focus.

In His Grace,


Wade

A Fair Minded Request

Grace and Truth was established as a single purpose blog. I have heard that if a person blogs it should be regarding something of interest, and it should maintain singular focus. I felt convicted that the average Southern Baptist did not have an understanding, and sometimes a voice, in the direction of the International Mission Board. I have taken my responsibility serving as a trustee very seriously, and before my first meeting in July of 2005 read every pertitent document that dealt with my duties and responsibilities as a trustee.

As I have stated on numerous occasions I have been conscientious never to violate any confidentiality. I have told everyone who desired to speak to me about the work of the IMB to let me know if it is confidential, because if it is not, I believe Southern Baptists need to know of the direction we are moving. I have been fastidious in my efforts tell it like I see it. My wife tells me that often I am too positive, too optimistic, because I am always seeing the good in every situation.

That may be, but I enjoy being positive, and I think if you carefully read this blog you will see that I am positive about EVERYTHING. God is in control, and His word tells us He works all things together for our good.

I have said some things with which others disagree. I am trying to show that a healthy organization not only allows dissent, but welcomes it, because in the end, dissent makes everyone sharper. The people who know me will tell you that I am, indeed, a very soft, gracious person. My only weakness is when I feel people abuse authority or power my soft side turns to steel. It is not my steel fortitude that is the weakness; it is the absence of enough velvet around the steel during those occasional clashes with abusive power. However, other than the occasional lapse of word choice (see Political Conservatives vs. Cooperating Conservatives), I have sought to be extraordinarily positive about our work.

Trustee leadership has been very communicative with me these past three weeks, and I appreciate their hearts in dialogue. I have been asked to prayerfully consider shutting down this blog. Let me be clear. I have said, from the beginning, if I can be shown where my blog violates any policy or procedure of the IMB I will cease blogging immediately. In all fairness to my fellow trustees, blogging by a trustee is something new, and for everyone's benefit I am considering possibly ending the blog until an official policy on blogging can be established in the May meeting.

To help me in my decision I have been sent by email a section of the "Blue Book," the manuel for trustee decorum that is currently in effect, and I have been graciuosly asked to read this section again. This, I am told, is the basis for the unofficial request that I cease blogging until an official policy that is a little clearer can be established.

I have carefully read the section sent to me by email again and again. I originally read it prior to my first meeting. I frankly cannot see where my blog is a violation of the this current manuel on trustee decorum.

However, I am open to wisdom on this matter from many people. I am going to print the current policy and ask your opinion. Please be very careful in your comments. Let's not attach motives to anyone's request. I really believe trustee leadership is sincere, and frankly, I am committed to do the best thing for our International Mission Board and our Southern Baptist Convention. If I can be shown I am misreading the current policy I will cease blogging immediately. If the Board passes a policy that forbids blogging by a trustee I will cease immediately. Thanks for your help in this matter. The current policy read:


Ordered of God - Manual for Trustees

#18, pages 33-34

Trustees have a particular service to render between meetings and after the tenure of service has ended. Being a trustee means that you live on a two-way street. Similar to a messenger from a church to a convention, you are not only to bring your voice to the meetings when serving, but you are to take your interpretations back to the people after adjournment. A messenger should go home to report and interpret the actions taken and seek to build goodwill for the convention. In the same sort of process, a board member returns from the official meetings to have a good word for the institution which he/she is serving. A faithful trustee can and must be one of the best public relations workers the board has. A trustee is a person of influence within the institution and without. Information and interpretations from him/her will be considered accurate by the people to whom the reports are given.


In His Service,


Wade Burleson

The Wonderful Work of the IMB

With the blogs blazing with excellent discussions of the work of the IMB and different doctrinal issues that face our convention it is good to pause and reflect on the good that is taking place around the world through the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

(1). We could possibly appoint in 2006 the most missionaries in the history of the IMB.

(2). We are experiencing incredible church growth overseas and people are coming to Christ in huge numbers.

(3). The cooperation among evangelicals on the mission field overseas includes our Southern Baptist missionaries in ways that have not occurred in the history of our evangelistic efforts as a convention.

(4). We are positioning ourselves to reach unreached people groups in record numbers. The strategies of our missionary staff and personnel are both visionary and attainable.

(5). The Lottie Moon Mission Offering is extremely healthy and financially we are moving forward after a couple of years of regression since 9/11.

Healthy dialogue is good. The freedom to debate and dissent is the essence of being Baptist. As we continue to forge our path for the future of missions in the IMB, let's continue our discussions while never forgetting the positive future we all have as Southern Baptists.

In His Grace,


Wade

The Best Modern Study on the Ekklesia (Church)

My father, Paul Burleson, sent me this morning an excellent series of articles on the true nature of the ekklesia by John Reisinger, one of my favorite Bible teachers of all time. This Southern Baptist pastor/teacher/author has spoken in my church on several occasions and I have spent much of today reading his five part series on The Ekklesia. Every article is excellent. The first article sets the foundation and the fourth article addresses specifically issues we are facing within our convention.

The Ekklesia - One.
The Ekklesia - Two.
The Ekklesia - Three.
The Ekklesia - Four.
The Ekklesia - Five.

You will enjoy these articles and if you really study them, you will always have an answer for that person who tends to take a Landmark view of the church. Many, many issues are at stake in this debate, including evangelical cooperation, missions funding through denominational boards, etc . . .

In His Grace,


Wade

A Weekend of Prayer and Reflection

I am setting this weekend aside some time for prayer and reflection . I have intentionally sought to not press certain issues regarding the recommendation for my removal as a trustee of the IMB these last three weeks, but I have worked privately toward bringing a resolution that is both honoring to Christ and helpful to our convention.

There may be some trustees, and others, who believe I used poor judgment in establishing this blog. However, I cannot apologize for doing what I believe was both necessary, and in the long term, beneficial to our convention and the IMB. I will always abide by the formal wishes of our trustees regarding blogging, as I have said from the beginning, but I will not stop just because some wish I would. I will stop if I am convinced it is harmful to our convention or if it violates a policy of the IMB, which it currently does not.

Further, I will not apologize for any of the content of this blog unless it is shown to me where there is distortion of the truth. I have been very careful to only write that which I can support with an abundance of documentation. However, if it can be shown that I have distorted the truth, I will immediately apologize and correct my error. To this date, not one person has ever pointed out to me a paragraph, a sentence, or even a word that he or she believes to be factually in error.

I should know after this weekend the direction that the trustee leadership will be moving regarding the recommendation for my removal. I am prepared to forgive for what I believe is a very hasty, unwise recommendation, or I am prepared to make public what is necessary to allow the convention to make an informed decision on this matter. I have repeatedly asked that the basis for the recommendation for my removal to be made public. I would like for others, including myself, to know what the basis is. I have nothing to hide. I welcome scrutiny and debate. It is healthy for any Christian organization and people who should be operating in complete transparancy.

I will post Monday morning.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

J.L. Dagg and Christian Baptism

A Southern Baptist with an eye toward history has written an excellent article reporting on early Southern Baptist fathers attempts to resist a growing influence of Landmarkism. Gene Bridges has posted an entry on his blog entitled Southern Baptists and Baptism where he eloquently refutes the Landmark positions of two modern Baptists.

In Gene's blog he quotes J.L. Dagg, President of Mercer University in the 19th century and the greatest theologian the Southern Baptist Convention has ever produced. Dr. Dagg wrote a classic work entitled "Manuel of Church Order" where he discusses many practical issues Southern Baptist pastors will face in their respective ministries.

J.L. Dagg points out that pastors will meet some people who wish to join a Southern Baptist church, but they have been Scripturally baptized by "Pedobaptist ministers" ( i.e. Methodist pastors, Presbyterian pastors, Episcopal pastors, etc . . .) Dagg asks the question "is rebaptism necessary according to the Holy Scriptures?"

Dagg answers:

It is clear from the Scriptures, that, in ordinary cases, baptism was designed to be administered but once; and the pastor, as a servant of Christ, is bound to decide, in the fear of God, whether the case before him justifies a repetition of the rite.

It has sometimes happened, that ministers have differed in their views; and a candidate, whom one minister has refused to rebaptize, has been rebaptized by another. In such cases, no breach of fellowship between the ministers occurs; nor ought it to be allowed.

In like manner, a difference of opinion may exist between churches; and one church may admit without rebaptism, when another church would require it. This difference should not disturb the kind intercourse between the churches. But if the individual who has been received without rebaptism, should seek to remove his membership to the church that deems rebaptism necessary, the latter church has authority, as an independent body, to reject him.

A local church is to make the evaluation.

Oh how we need strong theologians like Dagg today to be statesmen in our convention. Southern Baptist pastors for a century and a half have disagreed over the validity of baptisms at the hands of non-baptistic pastors, but Dr. Dagg rightly points out that it ought not cause anyone to separate from fellowship or cooperation, or what he calls, "kind intercourse" within the convention.

How right he is.

We ought not keep people off the mission field who have been Scripturally baptized in different denominations, have been accepted by Southern Baptist churches as members, and are in every way qualified to serve as a missionary. Just because a Landmark pastor will not receive that missionary candidate into fellowhship in his church, should not mean that missionary candidate is disqualified from representing the Southern Baptist convention.

In His Grace,


Wade

What Is True About IMB Trustees

There are many who are jumping to my defense on the internet and through letters and comments on blogs. I would like to remind everyone of some things regarding my fellow IMB trustees and hopefully you will keep these few facts in mind when you seek to weigh in with your opinion.

(1). Each trustee is a brother or sister in Christ and deserves to be treated with love and respect.

(2). Every trustee truly desires to do what he or she believes is best for the IMB.

(3). The issues that we trustees face us will only ultimately be resolved through prayer, humility and cooperation.

(4). No trustee desires the Cooperative Program or Lottie Moon giving to suffer, and every trustee is committed to insure that does not happen.

(5). Though a few trustees are guilty of serious errors of judgment, many trustees who voted for the new policies and ultimately my removal from the board did not even comprehend the issues raised through this blog. What will convince these trustees to change their minds will be patient, gracious discussion of the issues.

I guess I felt impressed today to remind all of us who are Southern Baptists to be kind toward one another and pray for each other. I am praying for my fellow trustees.

Our mission work deserves our best efforts to work with each other in the spirit of grace and truth.

In His Grace,


Wade

A Tale of Two November 15ths

On November 15, 2005 a new policy adopted by the IMB regarding the forbidding of a private prayer language stated than anyone who possesses this spiritual gift has disqualified himself from representing the Southern Baptist Convention on the mission field.

I do not have a private prayer language. I do not want one. But I have several friends who profess to have this gift, and I know them to be Christ honoring, Bible believing Christians. Several Southern Baptists, some of whom you know, speak in a language unintelligible to men in their prayer closets.

I believe our convention is such that they should be able to represent the Southern Baptist Convention on the mission field.

On November 15, 1999 Judge Paul Pressler and Paige Patterson spoke at the Arkansas Pastor's Conference at First Baptist Church, Springdale, Arkansas. An account of their messages to the pastors can be found in a BP article entitled Patters and Pressler Caution Baptists Against Detractions from Evangelism.

Patterson is addressing the notion that the Southern Baptist Convention is large enough to be represented by people who are all over the soteriological spectrum. We have room for 5 point Calvinists and those who would not consider themselves even close to Calvinism. The BP writer states, "Patterson described Southern Baptists as a people who believe the Bible to be the Word of God as their final authority, that salvation is by grace through faith alone and that adult-like faith witnessed by believer's baptism provides a testimony to a watching world. "If we believe those things all fall within the purview of the Baptist faith, then there's plenty of room for all of us in these various emphases that we bring. I think they're all very helpful."

I agree.

I think we as Southern Baptists need to keep a broad view cooperation. Our abiity to cooperate with each other and represent the Southern Baptist Convention should not be based upon a conformity of interpretation of non-essential doctrines.

Let's not get distracted from our goal of missions and evangelism.




In His Grace,


Wade

The Wisdom of the President of the Executive Committee of the SBC

Dr. Morris Chapman is a very wise man. He has led our Southern Baptists for over a dozen years as President of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. In 2004 Dr. Chapman gave an address that may go done in history as a turning point for the Southern Baptist Convention. I am reminded that when Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address no reporter on the scene thought it to be profound, but history has proven Lincoln's speech to be both a profound and prescient caution that ended up being heeded by our country years later. I am hopeful Dr. Chapman's address might have the same impact within our SBC.

Below is an excerpt of that address to the 2004 Southern Baptist Conveniton. The speech can be read in its entirety at The Fundamentals of Cooperating Conservatives.


"It is imperative that our Convention return to some sense of normalcy in the operation of the Convention. May I suggest one way to begin the process? Southern Baptists now agree that our trustees should be inerrantists. We believe they should embrace the Baptist Faith and Message (there is only one, you know… the last one). Most believe that trustees and their churches should be faithful in giving a significant amount through the Cooperative Program. We believe our trustees should have a heart for lost souls and be affiliated with churches that evangelize at home, and support missions around the globe. And finally, but most importantly, our trustees should be people who have a close daily walk with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Anyone with these characteristics of devotion to the Lord, His church, and our Convention qualifies to serve Southern Baptists in these positions. We should elect trustees who attend trustee meetings with the freedom of conscience to pray about decisions facing that board, and voting accordingly. We cannot let this Convention be driven by politics. It must be driven by passion for our Lord Jesus Christ and for the unsaved and compassion for those who are persecuted for Christ’s sake around the world. In a practiced democracy, politics, the art of influence, is always an ingredient. But the passion of a trustee should be born from deep within in an encounter with the Living Christ, and then he is free to enthusiastically persuade others of the burden God has laid upon his heart. This is how it should be in the church, the association, the state convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention. This Convention deserves to be led by trustees who listen to God’s Spirit on the way to making decisions, not trustees who are susceptible to political agendas. Politics for the sake of control by a few is not how our forefathers envisioned the operations of our Convention. But I must warn you. Politics do not die easily. Do you know why? It is because the death of politics in a spiritual environment only comes after we die to self.

Contemporary shibboleths are employed to exclude people. It is the sin of Pharisaism when good people, whose theology and ministry are above reproach, are slandered, discredited, or ostracized simply because they refuse to blindly follow particular political posturing. Innuendos, unfounded rumors, sly winks and nods are as deadly as an assassin’s bullet and usually as ungodly.

Could Southern Baptists fall into the error of Pharisaism? Could we ever, while priding ourselves on orthodox beliefs, be out of fellowship with the Living God and the true saints of God? The threat is real. I am concerned…now that we have affirmed by vigorous endeavor that Southern Baptists are people of the Book, that we will develop a censorious, exclusivistic, intolerant spirit. If this occurs, we will be the poorer for it. It will not only result in narrower participation in denominational life, a shallower pool of wisdom and giftedness in our enterprises, and a shrinking impact upon the world, but we will be in the unenviable position of being right on doctrine but wrong with God."

The Wisdom of the President of the SBC Executive Committee

Dr. Morris Chapman is a very wise man. He has led our Southern Baptists for over a dozen years as President of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. In 2004 Dr. Chapman gave an address that may go done in history as a turning point for the Southern Baptist Convention. I am reminded that when Abraham Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address no reporter on the scene thought it to be profound, but history has proven Lincoln's speech to be both a profound and prescient caution that ended up being heeded by our country years later. I am hopeful Dr. Chapman's address might have the same impact within our SBC.

Below is an excerpt of that address to the 2004 Southern Baptist Conveniton. The speech can be read in its entirety at The Fundamentals of Cooperating Conservatives.


"It is imperative that our Convention return to some sense of normalcy in the operation of the Convention. May I suggest one way to begin the process? Southern Baptists now agree that our trustees should be inerrantists. We believe they should embrace the Baptist Faith and Message (there is only one, you know… the last one). Most believe that trustees and their churches should be faithful in giving a significant amount through the Cooperative Program. We believe our trustees should have a heart for lost souls and be affiliated with churches that evangelize at home, and support missions around the globe. And finally, but most importantly, our trustees should be people who have a close daily walk with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Anyone with these characteristics of devotion to the Lord, His church, and our Convention qualifies to serve Southern Baptists in these positions. We should elect trustees who attend trustee meetings with the freedom of conscience to pray about decisions facing that board, and voting accordingly. We cannot let this Convention be driven by politics. It must be driven by passion for our Lord Jesus Christ and for the unsaved and compassion for those who are persecuted for Christ’s sake around the world. In a practiced democracy, politics, the art of influence, is always an ingredient. But the passion of a trustee should be born from deep within in an encounter with the Living Christ, and then he is free to enthusiastically persuade others of the burden God has laid upon his heart. This is how it should be in the church, the association, the state convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention. This Convention deserves to be led by trustees who listen to God’s Spirit on the way to making decisions, not trustees who are susceptible to political agendas. Politics for the sake of control by a few is not how our forefathers envisioned the operations of our Convention. But I must warn you. Politics do not die easily. Do you know why? It is because the death of politics in a spiritual environment only comes after we die to self.

Contemporary shibboleths are employed to exclude people. It is the sin of Pharisaism when good people, whose theology and ministry are above reproach, are slandered, discredited, or ostracized simply because they refuse to blindly follow particular political posturing. Innuendos, unfounded rumors, sly winks and nods are as deadly as an assassin’s bullet and usually as ungodly.

Could Southern Baptists fall into the error of Pharisaism? Could we ever, while priding ourselves on orthodox beliefs, be out of fellowship with the Living God and the true saints of God? The threat is real. I am concerned…now that we have affirmed by vigorous endeavor that Southern Baptists are people of the Book, that we will develop a censorious, exclusivistic, intolerant spirit. If this occurs, we will be the poorer for it. It will not only result in narrower participation in denominational life, a shallower pool of wisdom and giftedness in our enterprises, and a shrinking impact upon the world, but we will be in the unenviable position of being right on doctrine but wrong with God."