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

Predictions for a New Year

I am neither a prophet, nor the son of one, but I thought I might like to give a few New Year’s Day predictions. I looked back at what I wrote last year at this time and find the posts to be as relevant today as they were then. It will be interesting to look back a year from now and see how close I was to hitting the mark on the predictions.

After my predictions, I am sharing with you an email sent to me by a fellow Southern Baptist that I believe many of you will enjoy.


(1). Frank Page will be reelected President of the Southern Baptist Convention at the June, 2007 Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio, Texas.

(2). Al Mohler will announce in late 2007 his candidacy for the SBC Presidential election in anticipation of the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, Kentucky.

(3). Steven Gaines will not step down as Pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee and the church will eventually enter into a more settled peace.

(4). The Baptist Identity Conference at Union University slated for February 15-17, 2007 will provide more memorable, maybe even infamous, quotes from the speakers than any Southern Baptist Conference in the last thirty years.

(5). The new IMB policies on baptism and private prayer language will be modified.

(6). The Oklahoma Sooners will go undefeated in 2007 season and play in the BCS National Football Championship in 2008. (Update: The Fiesta Bowl is NOT the 2007 season. :) By the way, my next post may be "Lessons on Predestination: Boise State vs. Oklahoma! )

(7). The nation of Israel will launch a preemptive surgical strike against Iran’s nuclear reactor in March or April of 2007 in conjunction with a battle in northern Israel and southern Lebanon against Hezbollah.

(8). The International Mission Board will set a record in both Lottie Moon gifts and Cooperative Funding in 2007.

(9). There will be a more first time appointees to serve as Southern Baptist trustees and members of standing committees and convention committees than in the past three years combined.

(10). There will be more Southern Baptist blogs on December 31, 2007 than January 1, 2007.


_______________________


The following was sent to me by a fellow Southern Baptist. It was written, according to the author, in the style of the late Johnny Carson’s ‘Carnac the Magnificent.’ Many of us remember how the late night talk show host would dress up like a gypsy mind reader, hold an envelope to his forward, then speak a word or a phrase that was an answer to an unknown question. He would then open the envelope and read the question (to the laughter of many).

The answers and questions below, in the style of ‘Carnac the Magnificent’ would do well on late night ‘Family Net’ Southern Baptist television. Not everyone will catch the inside humor of every question, but for people like me, several of them were good for a laugh this New Year’s Day.

Answer: The Southern ivory bill woodpecker, the Southern belle, and the Southern Baptist missionary with a private prayer language.
Question: Name three things on the endangered species list.

Answer: Déjà Vu
Question: The 2006 SBC Presidential election. The 2007 SBC Presidential election.

Answer: The Great Pyramid
Question: What will the stack of resolutions submitted to the 2007 SBC be called?

Answer: Grape Nuts
Question: Who are those who say Jesus turned the water into grape juice?

Answer: All In The Family
Question: What is the Missouri Baptist Nominating Committee report called?

Answer: The Silence of the Lambs
Question: What is SWBTS trustee dissent?

Answer: Supercalifragilisticexpialodocious and cooperation
Question: Name two words Southern Baptists know with no actual meaning.

Answer: The Loch Ness Monster
Question: Who will they find sooner than a liberal Southern Baptist?

Answer: Beet Red
Question: The color of some faces in Texas and Virginia upon hearing President Page’s appointments.

Answer: “They are written by fools and read by imbeciles”
Question: How do extra-biblical requirements for ‘holiness’ become Baptist traditions?

Happy New Year to All!


Wade Burleson

Rachelle Burleson: A Reflection on 2006

{The following is written by my wife of twenty-three years, Rachelle Burleson, in response to a request by fellow blogger Alyce Lee that Rachelle let others know her feelings about the events of thia past year. No editing by Rachelle's husband has occurred :)}

Several days ago, a dear member of our church approached me saying she was glad to hear that I was going to write a post with my thoughts of the past year. She went on to say that, “it is important that they realize how other people have been harmed.”

I appreciate her concern for me, but her statement got me to thinking. Have I been harmed by the events of the past year?

Certainly January, 2006, began in a way I would never have anticipated, but there are many things in life’s journey that are not anticipated and it is through those events that we are most changed.

Furthermore, in honestly reflecting upon the events of the past year, my feelings do not center around a perspective of harm done, but rather I feel enriched by what we have experienced, and enjoy a deepened sense of the presence of a great and gracious God in my life.

Since Wade speaks very well for himself, allow me to share a few of the personal things God has wonderfully encouraged me with over the course of this past year:

(1). The blessing and encouragement of both new and old friends. I have long loved the story of Aaron and Hur holding up the arms of Moses during battle as told in the book of Exodus. In the same way, we too have been strengthened through the strength of many.

(2). The peace of the knowledge that we are carried along by the Spirit of God in every area of our lives, and it is He Who is actively at work designing the tapestry of our lives for His good pleasure.

(3). My pursuit of a nursing degree which has served as a wonderful distraction to the whirlwind that has swirled around us.

(4). The stalwart support of our church family, which is a constant source of refreshment and encouragement, and for whom we both remain ever grateful.

(5). The rewarding experience of witnessing the same character qualities in the man that I fell in love with some 25 years ago still at work in his life today.

Wade and I met on a blind date two days before classes began my freshman year at Baylor University and I quickly knew that he was someone very special. I was attracted to him because of his deep convictions, his passion for life and his Lord, and his personal sense of identity and purpose. And on top of that, he was (and still is) a STUD!! I jokingly told him about six weeks ago, that if I’d only known where the character qualities that so attracted me all those years ago would lead us, then . . . . I’d fall in love with him all over again!

Finally, I am reminded of the story of David and Shemei. David was king of Israel and one of his subjects, Shemei, was not very happy with the king. As King David and his entourage walked through a valley, Shemei stood on a high ridge hurling insults and curses at the king, including slandering him by saying he had killed Saul.

Abishai, the huge and loyal body guard for King David, upon hearing the slander from Shemei said to the king, "Let me go cut off that dead dog's head."

King David responded, "No. Let him alone. God hath bidden him to speak."

I am always reminded of that story when I hear things said about my husband by people who have never met him or do not know him. I have loved him for nearly a quarter of a century and I know him better than anyone. However, King David's words ring in my ears . . .

"God hath bidden them to speak."

I am grateful that we serve a sovereign, gracious God who promises that His purposes for us are infinitely better than we could ever hope or imagine. 2006 has been a rich and rewarding year.

I can't wait for 2007.

Rachelle Burleson

Who Is Now Setting the Agenda for the SBC?

In December 2002 Trent Lott resigned as Senate Majority Leader in response to the furor and outrage over inflammatory comments he made at Strom Thrumond’s 100th birthday party.

Although Senator Lott's remarks were broadcast live on C-SPAN and
reported in the mainstream press, it took almost a week before the media devoted significant coverage to Lott’s comments. The Economist, in its analysis of the Lott fiasco concluded:

The mainstream media was initially blind to his [Lott’s] remarks perhaps because it is used to such comments. But the “blogosphere” – websites of opinion and news, first known as weblogs – denounced the remarks vigorously, and would not let up, finally forcing others to take notice.

THE POWER AND POLITICS OF BLOGS is a well written online article co-authored by Daniel W. Drezner, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago and Henry Farrell, Assistant Professor of Political Science at George Washington University. In the abstract of this article the authors make a very interesting, possibly prescient statement:

"Under specific circumstances – when key weblogs focus on a new or neglected issue – blogs can socially construct an agenda or interpretive frame that acts as a focal point for mainstream media, shaping and constraining the larger political debate.

I wonder if future Southern Baptists will not one day look back at 2006 and consider it a turning point in the Southern Baptist Conventon. Will future church historians say the SBC shifted course in 2006 because of the involvement of grassroot Southern Baptists, who through their blogs, web discussions and resourceful use of technology set the agenda for all Southern Baptists?

That question can only be answered by a future generation, but it is one worth considering. Why?

If it is a possibility that a shift has occurred in 2006 within the Southern Baptist Convention, with the convention tending toward a more irenic (peaceful) conservatism, including a desire to participate with all conservative evangelicals in world missions ministry, intentionally ignoring minor doctrinal differences, then just maybe some good has come to the SBC through blogs.

In His Grace,


Wade

P.S. My wife, Rachelle, will be guest posting on her reflections of this past year tomorrow (Saturday).

President Gerald R. Ford: A Tribute

I am setting aside my intended post to give a personal tribute to a man who in the early 1990's gave to me a very unique moment of kindness -- President Gerald R. Ford. Quite a bit will be said in the next few days about this former President who will go down in history as the only United States President never to be elected by the people to the office. I would like to offer a personal reflection regarding President Ford's kindness.

The year was 1990. America was involved in the First Gulf War. Police Officer Kevin Johnson and I were in an unmarked vehicle in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma when we decided to pull in front of the 15th Street Grill to eat lunch. I was surprised that there were several parking places available in front of this very popular restaurant during the noon hour, but was delighted to be able to park right in front of the restaurant.

When we got out of the car a man in a dark suit and sunglasses came up to us and said, "Gentlemen, I am going to have to ask you to move your car."

Officer Johnson, who at the time was working in the robbery division of the Tulsa Police Department, replied, "Sir, we are about to eat at the 15th Street Grill and we are parked in their reserved customer parking."

The stranger responded, "Sirs, I still must ask you to move your car."

Officer Johnson pulled out his badge and held it up for the man to see. "My name is Kevin Johnson, I am an officer for the Tulsa Police Department. This is Chaplain Wade Burleson. We are 10-7 for one hour and looking forward to lunch. This is a TPD vehicle, legally parked, and we will not move the car."

The man then pulled out his badge, held it up and said in a very calm voice, "My name is Steve Smith. I work for the Secret Service of the United States government. My badge is bigger than your badge, you need to move your car."

We moved our car.

Former President Gerald Ford was in Tulsa visiting his daughter and they both decided to have lunch at the same restaurant, at the same time, Kevin and I decided to have lunch.

After moving our car we went in and sat down at a table in a corner of the room. The restaurant was filled with agents due to the heightened security as a result of the Gulf War, and when Gerald Ford came into the restaurant with his daughter the agents formed a protective cocoon around the Fords.

I told Kevin that I would like to visit with the former President and he laughed and said I would not even get close to be able to talk to him. I waited till we were through with lunch and tried go visit with him.

Kevin was right! The agents stopped me before I could even get within twenty feet. However, the President must have seen the commotion and he told the agents to let me through. I introduced myself to the President Ford and his daughter and he graciously asked me to sit down. For the next few minutes we conversed about Tulsa, his family, the War and my ministry in Tulsa and his faith in God.

I was really shocked at the kindness the former President was showing me. I asked him if I could have an autograph and he said he could do much better than that. He asked for my business card, which I gave him, and he said he would send me something in the mail in a few days.

Two weeks later I received an official autographed Presidential photograph of President Gerald R. Ford with a very nice letter attached.

The day I received the package from the former President I determined then and there never to put off anyone who ever wanted to speak to me, talk to me, or requested something of me, no matter who it was. If this man who had been at one time in his life the most powerful man in the world would take the time to be kind to a complete stranger who desired just a moment of his time, then surely this preacher could show the same kindness to complete strangers as well.

The country will observe the burial of former President Gerald R. Ford in three days. Many pundits will offer views of his Presidency, both good and bad. This preacher simply thanks the Lord for my providential encounter with President Ford because through it, God taught me about the powerful impact a person can have on the 'little guys' of this world.

I close this small tribute with what I believe to be two of the best quotes from President Gerald R. Ford:

___________________________

It's good to be in the great state of Oklahoma, the home of Will Rogers who never met a man he didn't like, and the Oklahoma Sooners who never met a team they couldn't beat .

Gerald Ford, Presidential Campaign Speech in Oklahoma City, Spring 1976

___________________________

I ask again you prayers . . . With all the strength and all the good sense I have gained from life, with all the confidence my family, my friends, and my dedicated staff impart to me, and with the good will of countless Americans I have encountered in recent visits to 40 States, I now solemnly reaffirm my promise I made to you last December 6: to uphold the Constitution, to do what is right as God gives me to see the right, and to do the very best I can for America.

God helping me, I will not let you down.


Gerald R. Ford's Closing Remarks on Taking the Oath of Office as President, August 9, 1974

__________________________



In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

Thoughts on Biblical Numerology at Age Forty-Five

Today, December 27, 2006 I am celebrating my forty-fifth birthday. Rachelle and I will probably head to the Bricktown in Oklahoma City and eat at our favorite restaurant, Nona's, and spend a few hours shopping and watching a movie. There won't be any gifts since my plasma television for Christmas shot my personal gift budget for the next five years -- but it's worth it all as I watch Sportscenter in HDTV as I type this post.

Birthdays are not usually a big deal for me, but this particular one has caused me to reflect a moment or two on year forty-five of my life.

One of the first books I read as a Christian was Henry Bullinger's "Numerology in Scripture." It made a deep impression when I read it many years ago, and though I would not press too hard on insisting that each number in Scripture always holds a specific spiritual meaning, it is fun to notice the significance of numbers in Scripture. The meaning of the first ten numbers, according to Bullinger, are as follows:

One -- God
Two -- Division
Three --- The Trinity
Four --- Creation
Five --- Grace
Six --- Sin or Evil
Seven --- Divine Completion
Eight --- Superabundance
Nine --- Judgment
Ten --- Government

There are several larger numbers in Scripture with significant meanings including Twelve, Twenty-Four, Forty, Seventy, One Hundred Twenty, One Thousand, etc . . .

But the number that catches my attention today is the number forty-five. Forty-five is significant, writes Bullinger, because it is an emblem of 'grace without measure.' It is a multiple of three (God in His Triune Nature) and five (Grace), three times over.

Breaking my life down into three segments would look like this:

Fifteen years ago today --- December 27, 1991 --- I celebrated my thirtieth birthday and my wife and I made our first trip to Enid, Oklahoma to visit with the pulpit committee of Emmanuel Baptist Church at a local hotel. I was only twenty-nine when they began visiting with me in November of 1991 about becoming their pastor. I had just turned thirty when they issued the official call for me to come 'in view of a call' on February 2, 1992. In reviewing the last fifteen years at Emmanuel, Enid some really incredible things have happened in both ministry and family. We cannot fathom finer people than those at Emmanuel, and though it often sounds trite, I can honestly say it still feels to Rachelle and me that we are in a ministry 'honeymoon' our church. This city is considered 'home' to our children, and the church will always be considered by us as 'family.' God has truly been extraordinarily gracious to the Burlesons -- one might even say He has given us 'grace without measure.'

Thirty years ago today --- December 27, 1976 --- I celebrated my fifteenth birthday. My brother, two sisters, and my mom and dad had just moved to Fort Worth, Texas where my father accepted the pastorate of Southcliff Baptist Church, just a few miles from Southwestern Theological Seminary. For the next several years my father, Paul Burleson, had a tremendous ministry to hundreds of seminary students who are now scattered all over the world serving Christ. I graduated from high school in Forth Worth in 1980, attended Baylor University and was called my sophomore year to became the summer youth intern at First Baptist Church, Holdenville, Oklahoma.

Over the next two and one half years I served as the summer youth intern, full time youth minister, associate pastor, interim pastor and then was ultimately called to be the full time teaching pastor of First Baptist Church, Holdenville, Oklahoma at the tender age of twenty two -- a progression from summer youth intern to pastor in a little under two years. I stayed at First Baptist, Holdenville, Oklahoma for a total of five wonderful years and was eventually called to Sheridan Road Baptist Church, Tulsa, Oklahoma in June, 1987 at the age of twenty five. Our ministry at Sheridan Road, Tulsa also lasted five years, and it was while serving as pastor in Tulsa that I first became involved in police chaplaincy work. Those initial ten years of pastoral ministry, first at FBC Holdenville and then later at Sheridan Road Baptist Church, Tulsa, were just as fulfilling and wonderful to us as the last fifteen.

It was, of course, during this fifteen year time period that I met my beautiful wife Rachelle at Baylor University and we eventually married on August 6, 1983. God gave us during three wonderful children during this time (our caboose, Logan, was born in 1993), and our formative years as a family were definitely years of grace.' The relationships we developed during this time at our two places of ministry carry with us even to this day --- it has truly been 'grace without measure.'

Forty-five years ago today --- December 27, 1961 --- I came into this world at Edmond Municipal Hospital in Edmond, Oklahoma. I had been due the week of Thanksgiving, so by the time I was born two days after Christmas I came out reading the newspaper.

I was the second of what would eventually be four Burleson kids. During my first fifteen years of life, my father completed his seminary degree at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and pastored at a very small church near Hugo, Oklahoma; Trinity Baptist Church, Seminole, Oklahoma, First Baptist Church, St. Joe, Texas; Fairway Baptist Church, Wichita Falls, Texas; and First Baptist Church, Borger, Texas.

My most vivid memories of childhood come from St. Joe, Texas where I attended kindergarten, Wichita Falls, Texas where I attended first grade through fifth grade from 1967 to 1972, and Borger, Texas where I attended middle school, moving to Fort Worth, Texas, my freshman year of high school.

I thank the Lord for my family, and can truly say that I am who I am today because of the influence my family had on me during my formative years of life.

My wife, Rachelle, told me today that nobody else but us would be interested in reading about the previous forty-five years of my life, and she very well may be right!

However, I could not let this day pass without remarking upon the fact that I truly believe I have received from God 'grace without measure' because of the wonderful places God has allowed us to minister.

Tomorrow I will be posting on the three major things God has taught me during the three different fifteen year time periods of my life.

Friday, as promised, Rachelle will be posting on her personal reflections regarding this past year.

Well, enough reflections on being forty-five. If the time passes as quickly as the last fifteen years it won't be long until I will post about what it feels to turn sixty!

God's richest blessings to you today!

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

***** Merry Christmas From The Burlesons *****




Wade and Rachelle Burleson wish a wonderful, grace-filled Christmas to . . .

Our family members, both immediate and extended, all of whom make us so very proud!

The greatest church a pastor and his wife could ever desire -- the people and staff of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Enid, Oklahoma!

All of our friends from around the world who keep in touch with us every Christmas (our Christmas letter is in the mail!).

The hundreds of new Southern Baptist friends that we have made in 2006!



Merry Christmas!





Wade and Rachelle Burleson

Eureka! I Finally Understand

For many months now I have struggled to understand why the clear teaching of Scripture regarding baptism -- that it is the believer's outward profession of faith in Jesus Christ, identifying the participant with Jesus Christ and His followers -- seems to be ignored or minimized by some in the current baptism debate taking place within the Southern Baptist Convention.

My view of baptism, as defined above, is based upon Scripture, but it has also been defined in a similar manner by Baptist confessions over the centuries. The two quotes below are from our most recent confession and one of our earliest confessions respectively.

"Baptism is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour . . ." (BFM 2000).

"That Baptism is an Ordinance of the new Testament, given by Christ, to be dispensed only upon persons professing faith . . . (that) the persons designed by Christ, to dispense this Ordinance, 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" (The 1644 Baptist London Confession of Faith).

No Baptist disagrees that the baptism of a believer should occur prior to church membership. In other words, that baptism is a 'prerequisite' to membership is held by all true Baptists, but it seems that there are now some Southern Baptists who consider baptism as 'an initiation rite into the local church.'

Eureka!

Dr. Brad Reynolds is a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and seems to be a very nice man with whom I could cooperate in Southern Baptist ministry and missions without hesitation. However, Dr. Reynolds believes something I find rather unusual in terms of Scripture and Baptist history.

Dr. Reynolds believes baptism is 'an initiation rite into the local church.'

"Baptism initiates us into the local church and thereby symbolizes both our agreement to her theology and teachings as well as our accountability to her." (Dr. Brad Reynolds in a comment on his blog December 22, 2006).

There you have it.

A clear, succinct statement expressing baptism as an initiation rite into the local church. A common web definition of inititiation rite is "a formalized ceremony of passage where an individual acquires a position or a status through personal participation."

To become a member of a local Southern Baptist church, according to Dr. Reynolds, you must be baptized into that 'local' church as an act of 'initiation.'

This view of baptism as an initiation rite into the local Southern Baptist church is completely contrary to the historic Baptist understanding of baptism and the clear Biblical teaching regarding believer's baptism.

One Faith, One Lord, One Baptism, One Body (Church)

Charles Spurgeon held that there was only one church and it comprised all believers. This universal church was both visible and invisible. The invisible referred to the regenerating work of the Spirit hidden from human eyes. The visible church referred to the work of the Spirit as made visible by the profession and deportment of believers. Since the church comprised all believers, ecclesiological differences had little importance. There were many denominations, but only one church.

When a Southern Baptist church examines a believer who is petitioning for membership, the pastors and leaders of that church ought to examine the member candidate's faith and baptism. If there is present a personal faith in Jesus Christ, and if that memberhip candidate has been baptized by immersion after coming to faith in Christ, then that local Southern Baptist church has the wonderful privilege of receiving that membership candidate upon their statement of faith and baptism as a member --- without 'rebaptizing' that believer.

In other words, there is no need to rebaptize in order to 'initiate' that person into the 'local' church because he is part of the 'one' church of Jesus Christ. He is a member of Christ's body -- and the 'local' church has examined him, asked him questions, investigated his life and doctrine -- and his baptism -- and the local church believes all the above to be in order in terms of Christian experience. The church simply receives the member candidate into fellowship.

Five Questions You Should Ask

I would like to give you several reasons why practicing baptism as 'an initiation' rite into the local church is not even close to being Scriptural by asking several questions, and suggesting that you ask those who hold to 'the initiation rite' theory to answer them:

(1). Into which 'local church' was Jesus Christ baptized into?
(2). Into which 'local church' was the Ethiopian Eunich baptized into?
(3). Is the body of Christ found only in the 'local' Southern Baptist Church?
(4). Where in Scripture can you show me that baptism does not identify you with a Person (Jesus Christ), and where does Scripture say baptism identifies the believer with a system of doctrine (i.e. 'the teachings of the local church')?
(5). What if my church does not hold to baptism as 'an initiation rite' into the local church, but rather, my church views baptism as the believer's identification with Christ -- will you fellowship and cooperate with my church and her members as Southern Baptists?

The answer to that last question has been made clear to me in the last several months. What is the answer? I think Dr. Reynold's should give it. The following comment is from his blog on December 21, 2006.

"Let’s say First Baptist and Second Baptist church of Tuckersville, were like-minded theologically and decided to work together in sending out M’s. They decided they would keep the M’s accountable to the local church through an organization made up of representatives from both churches who would oversee the M’s and the M’s would be going out representing the two local churches.

This is what we have with the SBC only on a much grander scale. The Trustees are elected by the local churches (through representatives) to oversee the IMB. They hire a president who is accountable to them and they are accountable to the local churches. The President hire’s staff to help oversee the daily operation. This daily operation should conform to the President’s wishes which should conform to the Trustees wishes which should conform to the local churches wishes. And so the accountability does ultimately reside with the local churches. It is my firm belief that the M’s should also be members of their local church and be held accountable there. But when a local church tells the M to do something contrary to the wishes of the group of local churches then the M should side with the IMB over his local church or resign for no one church has authority over the IMB. (emphasis mine).

Let me show you the logical outcome of Dr. Reynold's statement.

A person petitioned to join Emmanuel Baptist Church. He was came to Christ at the age of 20 in Niger, Africa through the influence of a "Youth For Christ" evanglist. This evangelist gathered the family and friends of the new believer on the river bank and baptized this new convert, identifying him as a follower of Jesus Christ.

Persecution began immediately. The new believer's Muslim family rejected him. His earthly father 'disowned' him. He was friends mocked him because he was now a 'Jesus' man.

The new convert to Jesus Christ eventually fled to the United States where he obtained his college degree and petitioned to join our church. We examined his faith and his baptism, listening to his outstanding, biblical and personal testimony of faith and baptism. We extended to him the warm hand of Christian fellowship --- there was no need for him to be 'initiated' into our church by baptism -- he was already a part of the 'one' true church of Jesus Christ.

Three years later desired to apply to the International Mission Board to serve as an IMB missionary. His desire was around the time that the new policy on baptism was being discussed. I was told by the person who helped write what I would now call the 'initiation' view of baptism that our member would have to be 'rebaptized.'

When I asked him 'Why?', I was given three reasons: (1). We did not know what the 'Youth For Christ' evangelist believed when he baptized the new convert, (2). the new convert had not been baptized 'into' a local church, and (3). since the baptism 'ordinance' is only a 'local church' ordinance, the YEC evangelist was not 'qualified' to baptize.

Sigh.

I have a very difficult time seeing how this 'initiation into the local church' view of baptism is not Landmark. There are those who believe it and say it is not, but many others seem to believe it is, including me.

If the Southern Baptist Convention allows this view of baptism to be pushed by our leadership, whoever they may be, we very well could end up becoming a Landmark convention. What's odd about this particular view is that the convention is being treated like it is one big Landmark church --- baptism is not valid unless 'the denomination' determines it is valid --- not the 'local' church. In other words, the old Landmarkers abhorred denominationalism, but it seems that the neo-Landmarkers love the denomination, almost more than the local church.

Don't misunderstand: I could be a part of the Southern Baptist Convention if we became Landmark convention, for I don't believe this 'initiation' view of baptism is something which would cause me to separate from those who believe it. It is not an essential of the faith over which we should divide.

The problem, however, is that Landmarkers will not work with those of us who disagree.

They say, 'Agree or resign. Agree or quit. Agree or leave.'

This Southern Baptist pastor is sticking around to make sure we don't end up becoming a Landmark convention. I warned about this one year ago in a Christmas Day post, and I will continue to be persistent in giving similar warnings until there is a return toward a more Biblical and historic view of baptism by our mission agency which has been sufficient for us as a convention for 161 years, and for orthodox Baptists for over 400 years.


In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

Terrier Dogs Searching for Rats

Many know the story of Charles Spurgon and the Downgrade Controversy in England. Mr. Spurgeon, pastor of the largest evangelical Baptist church in London in the 1800's, voiced his opposition to a denial of the fundamentals of the faith by his fellow Baptists. He vigrously opposed 'the modernists.' Spurgeon pointed out that in the pulpit ministries of these modernists "the Atonement is scouted, the inspiration of Scripture is derided, the Holy Spirit is degraded into an influence, the punishment of sin is turned into fiction, and the resurrection into a myth." Spurgeon did not hesitate to separate from those Baptists, and others, who rejected the plenary inspiration of the scriptures and the substitutionary atonement.

On the other hand, Spurgeon never let his opposition to classical liberalism stir him up to castigate any of his fellow evangelicals who disagreed with him on secondary or tertiary issues. While he opposed encroaching liberalism in the Baptist Union of England, an act for which he was eventually expelled from the Union, Spurgeon always insisted that there must be unity among all evangelicals who held to the fundamentals of the faith.

Spurgeon said "We are not to be always going about the world searching out heresies, like terrier dogs sniffing for rats, and to be always so confident of our own infallibility that we erect ecclesiastical stakes at which to [figuratively] roast all who differ from us." (From the "Forward," to An All-Around Ministry, page 55.)

Greg Wills, associate professor of church history at Southern Seminary, goes so far as to call Spurgeon "a poor sectarian and a weak fundamentalist," (a phrase I would view as a compliment) because of Sprugeon's views on the church and evangelical cooperation.

Wills says, "Spurgeon's view of the church encouraged his emphasis on evangelical unity. He held that there was only one church and it comprised all believers" (emphasis mine). The universal church was both visible and invisible. Dr. Wills continues expounding on Spurgeon's views of the church by explaining, "The invisible (church) referred to the regenerating work of the Spirit hidden from human eyes. The visible church referred to the work of the Spirit as made visible by the profession and deportment of believers. Since the church comprised all believers, ecclesiological differences had little importance. There were many denominations, but only one church. ("The Ecclesiology of Charles Spurgeon: Unity, Orthodox, and Denominational Identity" by Gregory Wills).

Spurgeon based his commitment to open communion on this broad ecclesiology, or generous definition of the church as composed of all believers. It is perhaps the best known of Spurgeon's ecclesiological principles. He held that the only proper qualification for participating in the Lord's Supper was conversion. Hence he invited all who believed in Jesus to receive the bread and wine. Presbyterians, Methodists, Anglicans, whether immersed on a profession of faith or sprinkled as infants, were all welcome if only they were born again.

We Southern Baptist pastors could learn a great deal from the ministry modeled by Mr. Spurgeon. While cherishing the fundementals of the faith, may God keep us Southern Baptist pastors from becoming terrier dogs searching for rats.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

A Call to Prayer for a Young Girl, Her Family, and Bellevue Baptist Church

There are those cynics in the world who believe that Christians are incapable of dealing with problems in their midst, until forced to face them by the world.

Thankfully, it seems as the information age has allowed God's people called Southern Baptists to be able to police themselves.

Rather than go into the details of events at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, I would suggest you simply read this article and pray . . .

Already this morning I have prayed for healing in the life of a young lady, her family, and Bellevue Baptist Church. I am also praying for the pastors of Bellevue during this trying time -- that if any crime has been perpetrated that the criminal will be justly punished by the law and the courts, and that any Christian guilty of such crimes will be graciously forgiven upon repentance, and all those pastors affected by the actions of another pastor, if found to be guilty, would not lose heart in the face of trial.

Thank the Lord this issue has come to light.

The seed of transparency, when watered by God's people, always blossoms into the flower of mutual accountability.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Update: I have been told the child was a boy. Just as sad. Please pray for him and the family.

Reasons Why Tea Totalers Should Be Excluded from Southern Baptist Leadership and Missions Ministry

(1). Drinking tea leads a person to addiction to caffeine.

There might be some who allege that drinking just one or two glasses of tea does not lead to caffeine addiction. This is technically true, but unfortunately, not all Christians who partake in moderate tea drinking can stop with just a couple of glasses. It is not uncommon for Christian men and women to progress from tea, to coffee, to 64 ounce Colas or Mountain Dews. Where does it stop? How does one know when the line of addiction has been crossed? If caffeine is addictive, then why play with fire? We must conclude that Drinking tea is a sin (Counsels on Diet and Drink: Part II, Tea and Coffee, page 434).

(2). Tea and coffee are destructive to the Christian's body, which is the temple of God.

As pointed out above, caffeine is highly addictive. Quitting coffee can cause withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, sleepiness and irritability. The acidic nature of coffee can lead to stomach ulcers. When the excess acid enters the bloodstream, it also increases calcium loss in urine. Both coffee and tea have no nutritional value. Tannin, the substance that makes tea cups brown and coats tea pots, is used for tanning leather. Imagine the stomach after twenty years of tea drinking.

Caffeine is able to penetrate deep into vital tissue. Evidence shows that it may be linked to male infertility and also birth defects by passing through the placenta. Drinking coffee during breast feeding will cause caffeine to be present in mothers' milk.

Caffeine has a powerful effect on coronary arteries and the pulmonary and systemic vessels, causing a greater flow of blood to the heart muscle, but decreasing the flow of blood to the brain by constricting cerebral blood vessels. Caffeine can cause abnormally fast, abnormally slow and irregular heart beats. It also wreaks havoc on blood pressure, commonly producing hypertension. Coffee has been linked to heart disease, pancreas and bladder cancer, and hypoglycemia.

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, providing that familiar kick on which we have come to depend. But as with all stimulants, there is a price to be paid. If you run the body on overdrive for an extended period of time by artificially stimulating the adrenals, expect breakdown to occur.

(3). Though the Bible does not expressly forbid the drinking of tea, there is an overwhelming preponderence of Biblical evidence that tea drinking is a sin.

"Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him" (Proverbs 10:36). The same acidic quality of vinegar, tea and coffee is as damaging to the Christian as smoke is to the eyes.

“Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand” (Phil. 4:5), “…every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things” (I Cor. 9:25).

Though some might argue that these verses do not explicitly 'forid' the drinking of tea, it is clear that the Christian who desires to be holy in all things will not even begin to cross the line of introducing tea or coffee into his system.

(4). Though some have the gall to say Jesus drank tea on the cross, it was clearly not the same kind of tea or substance that tea drinkers consume today.

Some try to be cute in their arguments for moderate tea drinking by pointing out that Jesus drank 'vinegar' on the cross, which contains the same acidic and caffeneited quality as today's tea.

The Bible states, "And one ran and filled a sponge full of vinegar and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink...." (Mk. 15:36).

Biblical scholars have long pointed out that the acidic and caffeinated content of the vinegar drink offered to Jesus was less than 5% of the acid and caffeine found in today's most popular teas. To compare the actions of Jesus at Calvary with today's tea drinking should be considered a sin in and of itself.

To justify your own desire to drink tea by pointing to the conduct of Jesus is shameful.

(5). The argument that drinking tea is not illegal in the United States, and therefore, lawful for the Christian, is an argument straight from hell.

Homosexuality is not illegal in the states. Adultery is not illegal in America. Dressing inappropriately with boxers showing, and breasts peeking out of tight tops is not illegal in my hometown, but does that make it right?

Just to say drinking tea is not illegal is in reality no argument at all. "In everything we do, whether we eat or drink, we do for the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31).

(6). Some cultures drink tea as a normal part of daily life, but that is no excuse for Christians to drink it, since we are to be 'a cut above' the world.

Some missionaries might argue that drinking tea in China is a cultural event, and to identify with the Chinese one must drink tea. As it is said, "When in Rome do as the Romans."

Hogwash. We are not to let culture affect us, we are to be a shining example to culture of how Christ can transform people. The person who drinks tea on a regular basis simply has no idea what Christ can do for his life, and if you drink tea with him, while introducing him to Christ, then you may give him the impression he can continue drinking tea as a Christian.

When in Rome do as Christ would do. Christ would not sit and drink tea with the Chinese. How could He defile His holy body in such a manner?

(7). When a Christian purchases tea he is supporting an entire industry that has made a fortune by leading people to the mind altering, destructive, and nearly impossible to break addiction to caffeine.

This industry must not be supported by Christians. Every dollar you spend on green tea is like purchasing a death warrant for the person who will later die from an acidic stomach from the tea produced by the company to whom you gave profits.

It is time for Christians to shut down the entire, godless industry of tea making and associated tea products.

(8). It has been scandalously reported that some young, Southern Baptist pastors are actually having Bible studies in the local Starbucks in an effort to lead people to Christ.

The pastors who have begun this new outreach program seem to have no understanding of what it means to be 'in the world, but not of the world.'

No matter how many people have come to Christ through these creative efforts, it is unconscionable for SBC pastors to actually meet in a location where people are introducing into their bodies an agent that alters the mind, changes the disposition, and eventually destroys the body.

No matter how slick the environment, there is no excuse for the compromise of the gospel.

(9). A great concern for the loosening of the standard of total abstinence from tea drinking is the belief that those Southern Baptist moderates and liberals who drink tea will eventually cause the Southern Baptist Convention to turn back from a firm belief in the inerrancy of the Bible.

It is being reported that there are actually some pastors who are either not using the Bible in their ministries, or trusting in very loose translations of the holy and inerrant KJV.

For example, one loose knit association of SBC pastors have actually quoted Psalm 23 as:

The Lord is my barista; I shall not want.

He maketh me to recline on green sofas: he leadeth me beside the clean tables.

He repoureth my latte: he maketh me a ristretto of righteousness for goodness sake.

Yea, though I walk through the aisles of instant coffee, I will fear no nescafe: for thou art with me; thy cafe and it's staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest an espresso for me in the presence of mine tea drinking colleagues: thou anointest my ears with friendly banter; my latte hath art on it.

Surely warmth and bonhomie shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the cafe of the Lord for ever


(10). Drinking caffeinated tea for recreational purposes physiologically acts as a 'mind altering drug, "

Once a Christian says it is all right to alter his mind by introducing outside agents to change his perspective, where will he stop? Why not marijuana? Why not cocaine? The libertinism of the modern Southern Baptist Convention must be checked. The line in the sand must be drawn with tea and coffee.

There will be a resolution introduced at San Antonio to forbid any trustee, missionary or denominational leader from partaking in the recreational use of tea or coffee.

May God keep our convention pure.

May God bless the Southern Baptist Convention.

The Freakonomics of the Missouri Baptist Convention's Board of Directors

Dr. Steven Levitt is a Harvard and MIT Ph.D. educated economist who teaches economics at the University of Chicago. Last year he won the prestigious John Bates Clark Medal, an award given every two years to the best economist in America under the age of forty.

Dr. Levitt is a rogue economist who explores the 'hidden side' of everything. He has the uncanny ability to use information to peel back the layers of what is going on around us to get to the heart of what is happening under the surface of everyday life.

His newest book, entitled Freakonomics, explores the hidden side of every day life in America. His chapter titles are controversial, but his conclusions are hard to ignore.

In one chapter entitled "How Is The Ku Klux Clan Like a Group of Real Estate Agents?" Dr Levitt shows how information obtained in the 1940's by an activist named Stetson Kennedy helped break up the power and influence of the Ku Klux Klan. Kennedy secretly infiltrated the Klan and turned all the secret codes, greetings, passords and agendas of that organization to the producers of "Superman," the number one rated radio show of the day.

The producers of "Superman," sympathetic with Stetson Kennedy's desire to break up the Klan, wrote a four part series where Superman himself took on the greatest villain in America --- the Ku Klux Klan. The producers used all the real 'super secrets' of the Klan in the "Superman" show. Once America knew the 'secrets' of the Klan, people began to be able to 'identify' Klansman (who habitually wore hoods to not be identified) by the way they talked and acted in public when they were not wearing the hoods.

All the kids of America began using the code words of the Ku Klux Klan as they play acted out what they had heard the night before on "Superman." Soon the dads and gradndads of those kids decided it might be best if they no longer showed up at the Klan meetings, lest they ended up being identified by their own family as a Klansman.

Economist Levitt says, "Of all the ideas that Kennedy had thought up --- and would think up in the future --- to fight bigotry, his "Superman" campaign was easily the cleverest and most productive. It had the precise effect he hoped: turning the Klan's secrecy against itself, converting precious knowledge into ammunition for mockery" (Freakonomics, page 65).

What Do Klansman Have in Common with Real Estate Agents?

Before anyone who is a real estate agent gets upset with the above question, including my cousin in California who is the number one real estate agent in America, I remind you this is the title of one of Dr. Levitt's chapters in Freakonomics. Further, before you jump to any false conclusions, Dr. Levitt's does not say in the chapter that there is a commonality in the 'character' of Klansman and real estate agents.

He is, however, saying that there is a commonality in what he calls "the assymetry of information" between Klansman in the early 1940's and real estate agents in the early 1990's. Both groups had information that the masses of people had no way to obtain for themselves.

Klansman had secret codes, passwords and agendas that kept people outside the Klan in the dark regarding their activities.

Real estate agents had secret graphs, home prices, statistics and other facts and information about the housing market that was unavailable to the common layman. As a result, real estate agents developed a 'code' language among themselves. For instance, Dr. Levitt gives ten common real estate words associated with real estate advertisements placed by realtors in the early 1990's.

Ten Common Real Estate Ad Terms

Fantastic
Granite
Spacious
State-of-the-Art
!
Corian
Charming
Maple
Great Neighborhood
Gourmet

Dr. Levitt says that five of these words are 'code' words by real estate agents used to describe houses that have few attributes worth describing. He says 'fantastic' and 'charming' are dangerously ambigious adjectives. 'Spacious' is often code for decrepit or impractical. 'Great neighborhood' is code for 'the other houses are great, but this house leaves something to be desired.' Finally, the ! is a very dangerous sign that something is being covered up by displaying inordinate enthusiasm. Real estate agents often used these code words when selling other houses.

However, when selling their own homes, agents used words like 'maple', 'gourmet,' 'corian,' 'granite,' etc . . . to describe, in concrete terms the houses' good qualities and avoids empty adjectives and ambigious words. The real estate agents would also hold out for a higher price when selling his own home, rather than taking the first good offer that came along, earning at least three percentage points more in selling their own homes than the average American.

But just like the Klan in the 1940's, the secrets of real estate agents were revealed in the mid-1990's by all things --- the Internet.

Dr. Levitt said, "As a medium, the Internet is brilliantly effecient at shifting information from the hands of those who have it into the hands of those who don't. The Internet has vastly shrunk the gap between the experts and the public."

In the late 1990's real estate agents began to deal with a much better informed public, and as a result, 'the assymetry" (or imbalance) of information was corrected. People began to 'crack' the code language of real estate agents, and as a result, the average percentage difference between the prices of houses owned and sold by real estate agents compared to those not owned but sold by real estate agents shrunk significantly.

Information balances the playing field and gives to the have nots the same power and abilities of the haves.

In other words, the gap between 'experts' and 'laypeople' shrinks dramatically with the availability and easy accessibility of information.

What the Missouri Baptist Convention, the Ku Klux Klan, and Real Estate Agents Have in Common

Before anyone gets upset with the analogy, let me say, again, that the commonality is not character --- it is code breaking and making public what used to be done in secret.

The Missouri Baptist Convention's Board of Directors attempted to go behind closed doors last week to launch an investigation against Executive Director David Clippard, and according to this Baptist Press article, were unsuccessful in shutting out the public, so they dealt with a recommendation in 'plenary' or 'open' session to form an investigation committee to probe several issues related to David Clippard.

Like other groups profiled in Dr. Levitt's Freakonomics, Southern Baptists on the far right of the SBC political spectrum who seek to disparage their fellow evangelical Christian brothers is a group that must be exposed. Generic words like 'moderate' or 'liberal' and phrases like 'character problems' or 'a lack of integrity' are completely off base in a discussion about any fellow evangelical Bible believing Baptists. Specificity is a sign of truth. General, hollow adjectives is a sign that there is a hidden, underlying meaning behind events.

Code phrases used like "issues of misconduct," and "lack of overall effectiveness," and "varous concerns," and "questionable integrity," and "questionable character," have all been public allegations leveled at Dr. David Clippard, the Executive Director of the Baptist Convention of Missouri. This is a travesty.

I am not, nor would I ever, call into question a recommendation for an investigation into a board or agency. Calls for investigations of agencies are always appropriate when there is evidence of specific, concrete problems and a willingness to share the specific nature of those problems publicly (just ask the Baptist General Convention of Texas who ignored such calls for too long regarding their Valley Mission fiasco).

However, to call for an investigation of an individual for "questionable character," "questionable integrity," or "various concerns" without having the wherewithal to present specific, concrete examples of such concerns, sounds a lot like "informational assymetry" by 'denominational experts' who hope that the average SBC layperson will simply "trust" their rationale.

The tired old explanation "We don't wish to tell you what the problem is, but trust us on this," will no longer work. Southern Baptists are becoming too tech savy, too denominationally astute, and too interested in the future of our convention to let good people be railroaded any more.

I know Dave Clippard. I have known him for nearly twenty five years. I have worked with him in Oklahoma when he was our Associate Executive-Director.

I don't agree with everything Dave believes or says, but . . .

Dave Clippard has no character problem. He has no integrity problem. He is a godly, compassionate, gentle man who loves the lost. He is a Southern Baptist and I desire to cooperate with him in ministry and SBC leadership.

Just a little heads up to the Missouri Baptist Convention.

The days of secret codes for "We don't like you" are now over. No more closed door meetings. No more attempts at discrediting godly men or women with the dangerously ambigious words or phrases used in the Baptist Press article.

Look up in the air . . . It's a bird . . . No, it's a plane . . . No, it's . . .

Southern Baptist bloggers.

It's time for Southern Baptists to explore the hidden side of SBC politics.

It's time to examine the Freakonomics of the politics of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

In His Grace,

Wade

Shiloh Has Come

There is an often overlooked but powerful prophecy regarding the advent of the Messiah given over 1600 years prior to His birth.

"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come" (Genesis 49:10).

Alred Edersheim, the orthodox Jew who spent a lifetime studying the Torah's prophecies of the Messiah, who then converted to evangelical Christianity as a result of his study, considered this prophecy his favorite. Many believe Edersheim's converstion to Christ was a direct result of his study of this prophecy, which he found to be beautifully, and exclusively fulfilled in Christ.

Six years ago next Sunday I preached Shiloh Has Come at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma.

You may hear in Real Audio this twenty six minute message here, or you may use the notes for what could be a meaningful Christmas message.

Feel free to adopt, adapt and teach it as your own for the good of God's people. I believe you will enjoy the study.

Merry Christmas,

Shiloh Has Come,

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

THE IMBROGLIO: A CONFESSION

I estimate that I have received close to 10,000 written letters, emails or comments from fellow Southern Baptists in 2006. My life is richer through the relationships that I have developed with Southern Baptist men and women who have become as much a part of my extended Christian family as my own church. I never dreamed that a recommendation for my removal from the IMB Board of Trustees would ultimately lead to an admiration for, and friendship with, Pastor Dwight McKissic; hours of gut wrenching laughter with the soon to be "Dr." Ben Cole, delightful moments with wonderful missionaries who have told me that my blog has been a source of inspiration and a topic of conversation for them while on the field, and the growing realization that many people in the Southern Baptist Convention seem to know far more about me (or at least think they do) than I them.

All in all 2006 has been a memorable, rich and rewarding year for me. I would not wish what I have experienced on anyone else, but I am glad God has chosen this path for me. I am a better man for it. I am hopeful that 2007 can be as rich and rewarding.

I will not post again until Monday, but over the weekend I would like to leave you with a personal confession regarding this past year. It is something that I have told just a few, including my wife and my family. I don't know why I feel compelled to blog about it today, but it's one of those things that surfaced today in my thoughts. My confession may not be startling to you, but it is genuine and honest. Maybe it will help you understand why I remain just a tad confused, even to this day, over the imbroglio of this past year.

Here it is:

I remain puzzled why certain trustees made such a big deal over my dissent of the new IMB policies.

Whether it was my initial post regarding the new baptism policy, or my initial post about the new tongues policy, I simply voiced a difference of opinion.

I have always been respectful of my fellow trustees, and have repeatedly and emphatically stated that I do not advocate tongues, or as it is often called ,'a private prayer language.' I've never had one, don't want one, and am disinterested in obtaining one, but I am positively convinced, and equally adamant, that to exclude Southern Baptists who have been so gifted from leadership or cooperative ministry is a certain death nail in the coffin of future growth in Southern Baptist cooperation and missions.

Additionally, everybody knows that the debate on baptism has NEVER been over immersion, or the proper candidate for baptism. Frankly, any trustee who knowingly approved a Southern Baptist missionary for appointment who had not been baptized by immersion after having come to faith in Christ should be ashamed. The IMB policy, since IMB inception, has ALWAYS been firm regarding believer's baptism.

However, the new baptism policy (adopted in November 2005) added the qualifier that the administrator of baptism was as important as the candidate being baptized. Baptism, according to the new policy, identified the candidate with a 'doctrine' (eternal security) or a denomination (Southern Baptists), rather than, as the New Testament teaches, identifying the convert as a follower of Jesus Christ. My dissent over baptism has been in this area only, though some seem to obfuscate the issue.

I am of the opinion that if my written posts had simply been ignored no controversy would have erupted. I am an irenic person by nature. I state my views, accept everyone who disagrees, and move on. When the time is appropriate I will voice my dissent again, always pleasantly, accept everyone who disagrees, and move on.

I am not the guy who wears the rainbow wig in the stands waving the John 3:16 sign. I preach in the same pulpits everyone else preaches. I attend the same conferences everyone else attends. I dress the same. I talk the same. I look the same. I am a Southern Baptist.

Why use a sledgehammer to squash a gnat?

In the 161 year old history of the Southern Baptist Convention no trustee has ever been recommended for removal from a trustee board. Yet, simply because I voiced dissent this drastic action was taken. Why?

It may be a little late, but if a similar thing happens again on an agency or board I would suggest the following plan.

(1). Ignore dissent, or at least, just politely disagree, particularly if you are in the majority - when you seek to squelch it, you validate it. For heaven's sake, when you attempt to remove the dissenter you make a hero of him.
(2). Make sure you know what you are doing before you do it. The day of proposing an action and then saying -- "We must do this. Trust us, we'll explain later" -- have been buried forever. Thank God.
(3). Keep the main thing the main thing. Agencies should not delve into areas beyond their scope of responsibility. No agency that depends upon cooperative support of the entire Southern Baptist Convention has the right, nor the perogative, to establish an arbitrary doctrinal standard that exceeds the Baptist Faith and Message.

There are those who say, "This fussing and fighting make me wish I weren't a Baptist."

Don't say that.

The truth is, we may seem to 'fuss and fight' but all we are really doing is establishing the fact that we are by nature Baptists --- nobody dictates, demands, or dominates our beliefs. The Word of God is our guide, and no human instrument will bind our conscience. The presence of free debate and dissent is a sign of a 'healthy Baptist denomination.'

Cults don't fight. They swallow the kool-aid and die.

Catholics don't fight the bishop. They leave the faith.

Congregations made up of Southern Baptists will often fight --- but it is in the friendly fight that the friction sparks and shapes the steel that forms the future backbone of our Baptist denomination.

I may be puzzled by it . . .

But I don't begrudge it.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Lessons From An African Pastor

My friend and fellow trustee Rick Thomposon's blog contained an interesting story about a pastor in Africa who drowned attempting to play Jesus in front of his congregation.

An evangelist who tried replicating Jesus' miracle of walking on water has reportedly drowned off the western coast of Africa. Pastor Franck Kabele, 35, told his congregation he could repeat the biblical miracle, and he attempted it from a beach in Gabon's capital of Libreville. 'He told churchgoers he'd had a revelation that if he had enough faith, he could walk on water like Jesus,' an eyewitness told the Glasgow Daily Record. 'He took his congregation to the beach saying he would walk across the Komo estuary, which takes 20 minutes by boat. He walked into the water, which soon passed over his head and he never came back.'

Lessons from Africa:

(1). The wise pastor promises nothing and does much, the foolish pastor promises much and does nothing.

(2). None of us pastors is really like Jesus, no matter how much we try to tell our people we are.

(3). When you feel a little overwhelmed today remember this: Somewhere out there in the Atlantic is a pastor who is in it deeper than you.


In His Grace,

Wade

Your Thoughts on the Opening Statement to the Arlington Roundtable

My thanks go to John Stickley, who along with others, has made available all the audio links to the Arlington Roundtable (John is the first blog I saw the link). We now have the ability to listen to all the sessions of the Roundtable via internet.

I have a favor to ask.

The opening statement that I gave for the meeting is three and a half minutes long and I believe summarizes the purpose for the meeting quite succinctly. More than that, I think it capsules the issues in the SBC.

I would be very interested in the comments of those who listen to the statement, either pro or con. Seriously, I would like for people to tell me where I am wrong. I would like for you to be specific.

Particularly, I would like to know the exact sentences or ideas in the opening statement with which you agree or disagree. If you disagree, why? Where am I missing it? Where is my thinking faulty? Where I am right? Etc . . .

Thanks in advance for taking the time to listen and respond.

In His Grace,

Wade

'Spooky' Fundamentalism

Words, when well chosen, have so great a force in them that a description often gives us more lively ideas than the sight of things themselves. - Joseph Addison, The Spectator No. 416

The expositional teaching of the Word of God is central to my life and ministry. I unapologetically believe in the sufficiency, authority and power of the Word of God, for it reveals the power of God to save sinners through the Person and work of His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Some might wish to call me a Fundamentalist because of this. If properly defined, I accept the tag. I believe in the fundamentals of the faith. I will defend the faith against all challengers. To deny the full humanity and deity of Jesus Christ is to deny the faith. To deny Christ's substitutionary death for sinners, His resurrection from the dead, and His gift of eternal life to all who are in relationship with Him by grace through faith is to deny the faith.

Spooky Fundamentalism

I have recently used a term to describe a philosophy held by a handful of people in evangelicalism which goes beyond the traditional fundamentals of the faith, or even official Fundamentalism, and tagged the philosophy 'spooky Fundamentalism.' 'Spooky' Fundamentalism is to be distinguished from regular 'Fundamentalism' by the characteristics of the spirit and temperament of the persons holding to the tenets of Fundamentalism, as we will see shortly.

It is only fair to define 'spooky Fundamentalism' in order that people know what it is to which I refer. So, I will first give a definition of 'spooky Fundamentalism' followed by two descriptive statements, then three additional descriptions for official "Fundamentalism," which must be differentiated from 'spooky' Fundamentalism.

The Definition

Spooky Fundamentalism is the uncanny or eerie practice of speaking on behalf of God to other people, identifying what God desires, says or feels, without reliable, exegetical support from the all sufficient Word of God, and then being unpredictably excitable (angry, bitter, and intentionally slanderous) when someone challenges what is said.

The Identifying Marks of Spooky Fundamentalism

(1). A personality and temperament bent toward anger

A spooky Fundamentalist is an angry person. He is angry with those who disagree. He is angry with those who won't listen. He is angry with those who 'don't tow the line.' He is full of anger and he can be identified by his anger.

A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly (Proverbs 14:29). A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered (Proverbs 17:27). A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control (Proverbs 29:11).

When Frank Page was elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention he was asked what kind of people he would be appointing to Boards and Committees. He responded that he would continue to appoint 'conservatives' but he would not be appointing people who were 'angry about it.' Thus, the term 'irenic' or 'peaceful' conservative came into our lexicon as Southern Baptists.

(2). Intentional and purposeful attempts to slander those who disagree

A spooky Fundamentalist will identify everyone who disagrees with him as a theological liberal or 'moderate' and will do all he can to attack his opponents character, often by making things up. This slanderous attack is to seek to marginalize his opponent in the eyes of the general public.

Slander comes from an evil heart, Luke 6:45. It often arises from hatred, Psa. 109:3. The Bible says the wicked are addicted to it, Psa. 50:20, as well as hypocrites Prov. 11:9.

Those who hold to Spooky Fundamentalism have begun rumors of adulterous affairs, mental breakdowns, theological heresies and other 'problems' in the lives of people who simply stood up and disagreed with the tenets of a 'spooky Fundamentalism.' It serves no purpose to be specific with the details, but I have spoken to at least three individuals personally who have been the target of the above slander, and they themselves will tell you the damage this type of tactic brings to one's family.

This type of rumor mongering is now being directed at Southern Baptist pastors like Rick Warren. Other pastors who are seeking to reach the world in new, creative approaches -- while never compromising on the fundamentals of the faith -- are also the target. We Southern Baptists must be ever vigilant against this ungodly use of the tongue and the pen.

The ABOVE TWO DESCRIPTIONS ARE DEFINITIVE --- without these characteristics nobody can, or should, be called a spooky Fundamentalist.

Three Additional Descriptions of "Fundamentalism" without the 'Spooky' part

Below are three additional descriptions. One may disagree with the following descriptions, not get angry that they have been offered, and seek to work and cooperate with the person who offered them --- that person COULD NOT be considered an adherent to 'spooky' Fundamentalism. Maybe a Fundamentalism, even irenic Fundamentalim, but not a spooky Fundamentalism. :)

The difference is extraordinary --- many of us could vote for anyone who disagrees with the next three points, and has a good spirit about it, as President of the SBC -- but we will adamantly resist anyone who seeks to destroy the character of those who disagree.

Thus, the word "Fundamentalism" replaces the phrase 'spooky Fundamentalism' in the next three descriptive points.

(3). A small belief in God's sovereignty and providence in the affairs of men

Fundamenetalism has little understanding that 'God has established his throne in the heavens and His kingdom rules over all.'

Rather, Fundamentalism teaches the world is under the dominion of the evil one, and all 'evil' in this world is orchestrated by the devil as he often successfully subverts the will of God.

Thus, culture is the enemy. Culture is controlled by the devil. Rather than seeing God building His church by taking people who are 'in' culture and transforming them by His Spirit and power, the Fundamentalist must express his hatred of those 'in' culture and tell them that God condemns them as well.

Fundamentalism mocks those in culture rather than seek to win them by a lifestyle of kindness, goodness, compassion and love. For many there is an inordinate trust (emphasis on the word 'inordinate') in the personal, visible, future, culture-changing second coming of Christ that will transform the world, rather than the modern day good news that Christ died for sinners which transforms culture today -- one life at a time.

(4). An emphasis on a 'pure' and 'holy' church as defined by man made traditions.

Fundamentalism teaches the church's success revolves around his efforts to keep it 'pure.' There is very little understanding that God guarantees the purity of His body by His own work, and that the church is cleansed of sin and peoples' lives are transformed by the power of God's Spirit through the Spirit's application of the Person and work of Jesus Christ to the individual soul. Fundamentalism advocates the church must be transformed by shaming, demanding and ultimately forcing others into a like-minded doctrinal conformity on tertiary issues that are not essential to the faith.

As a result, religious tradition will eventually supersede the believer's identification with Christ in Fundamentalism. A 'pure' ecclesiology becomes far more important than a persistent missiology. The church of Jesus Christ is not so much a body of universal believers united by their Head, but an institution of ecclesiological hierarchy, where the priests hear from God and the lay people receive the blessings of God through His official, authoritative representatives. And if, God forbid, there is NOT a pure and proper 'church,' then there cannot be pure and proper 'evangelism.'

(5). A fear and skittishness about anything that begins with the word freedom.

Whether it be free debate or free dissent . . . Whether it be freedom of conscience or freedom of expression . . . Whether it be free praise or free worship . . .

Freedom is a curse word to Fundamentalism.

Nobody is free to do, believe, pray or say anything that is not on the 'approved' list. Rather than trusting in the Spirit of God to perform His work of sanctification in the lives of His people, the Fundamentalist will let you know by his desired tight control of your life, even your prayer life, whether or not you are progressing in holiness.

Baptists historically have been the great defenders of freedom. We must never sacrifice our cherished views of freedom on the altar conformity in a denomination controlled by Fundamentalism.

In Conclusion

In order to correct what many believe is wrong in modern evangelicalism it is necessary to define the spooky Fundamentalism which is slowly infiltrating our convention, and unfortunately that is impossible without words that help us understand our dilemma.

Let me also, again, be clear about something already said within this post--- a person in the Southern Baptist Convention can disagree on descriptive points (3), (4) and (5) and NOT participate in (1) and (2) and he could NOT be considered an adherent to spooky Fundamentalism ---

Spooky Fundamentalism is only 'spooky' when anger and slander saturate three, four and five. You can disagree with three, four and five and be an irenic "Fundamentalist" and many of us could vote for you as President of the Southern Baptist Convention!

As there are those who are adamant that 'liberals' should not have leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention, there are others of us who believe there is no room in leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention for 'spooky Fundamentalists.'

Stick with your Fundamentalistim --- but give up your spookiness.

In His Grace,


Wade

The End of the Debate on the New Baptism Policy

It seems in the very healthy blogosphere discussion on the subject of baptism, with contributors from all sides of the conservative theological spectrum, that two or three clear possibilities regarding the outcome of the new IMB policy on baptism have arisen to the forefront.

It must be remembered that the only people who can change the IMB policy are trustees themselves. Trustees are called upon to act in the best interest of the International Mission Board, and I, as well as other trustees, take that charge very seriously. I have received hundreds of emails, letters and phone calls from people around the United States and have attempted to patiently and personally answer every question.

With the knowledge that only the trustees may reverse the policy on baptism, here are two or three possible scenarios with the most likely first:

(1). The Baptism Ad Hoc Committee issues a report this January 30, 2007, or in a subsequent trustee meeting, that offers new wording for the baptism policy. As most people know, the debate is not over the mode or candidate (nobody is advocating 'sprinkling' or 'pouring;' neither is anyone advocating baptizing infants or 'the lost'), but rather, the debate is over whether one should be baptized to 'identify' with a particular doctrine (eternal security), system of belief, or denomination. Wording could be offered that made it clearer that Christian baptism is identification with Christ -- not a 'denomination.'Again, this committee has no authority to change policy, so any rewording of the new baptism policy would have to be voted on by the entire board in open, plenary session. The rewording might also reflect a recognition of the autonomy of the local church, and a willingness to never subvert said autonomy.

(2). A report is issued this January 30, 2007 during the California trustee meeting, or a subsequent trustee meeting, from the Baptism Ad Hoc Committee that, in effect, recommends the reversal of the new baptism policy passed November 15, 2005. Since the full board must establish policy, all 89 trustees would then have to vote on the reversal. If the new policy on baptism is rescinded, then the Candidate Consultants of the IMB would revert to following the 'guidelines' they used in interviewing a missionary candidate regarding his faith and baptism prior to November 15, 2006.

(3). The Baptism Ad Hoc Committee's report recommends no changes to the new policy. Under this scenario the new policy would remain in effect until there were a change of leadership by either attrition or the placing of new trustees who were of a mind to change the policy by the Southern Baptist Convention and her President, and those trustees then elect a chairman of the board who was sympathetic with the policy's reversal.

These are the three leading scenarios in my mind. There may be more, but I think these three are the major options. I do not know which one the Baptism Ad Hoc Committee will take since I have received no communication from the committee.

The Baptism Ad Hoc Committee includes the following trustees:

Bill Curp, Andy Johnson, Sam Morgan, Herman Pair, Blake Withers.

There are some very sharp individuals on this committee, and their report will be much anticipated. In this age of communication, information and transparency, we trustees must do allw we can to make our rationale public for actions taken, open the dialogue on important decisions to include all Southern Baptists, and to remember that in agencies and documents that desire 'cooperation' among all Southern Baptists it is always best to keep the parameters of cooperation broad and the doctrinal requirements focused on the essentials, not secondary issues over which people disagree.

I have not spoken to anyone on the Baptist Ad Hoc Committee since the committee was appointed earlier this year. I have received no information from them in writing, nor has anyone told me of an impending Board agenda. This post is my best educated guess as to what may take place in the near future. Many of you have asked how all this may play out and I hope this answers your questions. Your discussion of the subject has helped sharpen my understanding of the issues involved.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

A Baptism Policy That Excludes Legitimate Christian Baptism?

Brad McCain, Pastor of FaithPointe Baptist Church in Norman, Oklahoma recently contacted me about a member of his church that he calls "Ed" who has served as a Great Commisson missionary, cooperating with IMB missionaries, on the missionary field. He has been Southern Baptist for several years and has recently applied to be career missionary for the International Mission Board. However, he has been rejected for service because of the 'new' policy on baptism at the IMB. Pastor Brad's story about Ed is compelling. (Update: I have been told by IMB staff that the missionary candidate "Ed" could have continued the process if he would have submitted to 'rebaptism' and thus, was not 'rejected.' However, Pastor Brad and 'Ed' both believe that to be rebaptized in order to identify with a particular doctrine or'system of denominational beliefs' is contrary to the New Testament teaching that baptism identifies you with Christ and would make a mockery of 'Ed's' Christian baptism. Thus, Pastor Brad and 'Ed' see a 'rejection' by the IMB while others would say 'Ed' pulled out because he refused to be 'rebaptized.')

The following is an open letter Pastor Brad sent to me and every other trustee of the International Board. He asked that I post his letter on my blog that those who read it can help him make sense of why the couple, whose Christian baptism has already been accepted by the local Southern Baptist Church he pastors, is now being told they are disqualified from serving as missionaries for the International Mission Board because their baptism violates the 'new' policy.

An Open letter to the Trustees of the International Mission Board and all Southern Baptists,

It is through the encouragement of a number of pastors and convention leaders that I have come in contact with, that I write these words. The intent of them is to cause us to reflect on the path we are taking and make the corrections that are necessary.

Oftentimes, it is much easier to deal with policies than it is to deal with the people those policies end up affecting. If we are not careful we end up getting so disconnected from reality that the process resembles edicts being passed down from a governing entity that simply does not care. I fear we are getting perilously close to that as a convention and especially as a mission board. With that in mind, I would like to introduce you to a friend of mine.

For purposes of anonymity and the safety of current IMB missionaries who are in country, I will call my friend “Ed”. Ed grew up in a Christian home in Norman, Oklahoma – with a brief time in St. Louis and New Jersey - where his parents were sure to raise him in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. As a child Ed came to an understanding of his need for a Savior and surrendered his life to Christ. Afterwards, he obediently followed Christ in being baptized as a testimony of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, as well as his commitment to strive to faithfully walk in his “new life.”

Upon graduation of high school, Ed attended Oklahoma Baptist University, from where he graduated with a degree in history. Following college, he began to explore God’s call on his life concerning missions. After raising his own support, he went as a Great Commission Christian (GCC) to a level 3 country.

Ed worked closely with IMB personnel while he was on the field and came to appreciate their spirit and the way Southern Baptists support missionaries around the world. After his time on the field was up, he returned to Norman, desiring to join a Southern Baptist church. He knew that one day he would want to return to this country and preferred to go through the IMB.

He found our church. At the time, FaithPointe was not even a year old. He joined us because of our intense focus on being missionaries to the culture in which God has placed us.

Before joining he came to me and we talked for quite some time concerning the details of his salvation experience. Ed’s parents had raised him in a church that did not teach the security of the believer. This church believed that a person, of their own free will, could choose to turn away from Christ, never to return. While I do not agree with this church theologically, I do understand their interpretation of scripture and believe they are allowed the freedom to see it that way. I do not believe one’s leaning toward Arminianism or Calvinism invalidates their salvation. Scripture clearly teaches that salvation is by grace through faith. Intricate understanding of the finer points of Soteriology, or the doctrine of salvation, is not a requisite of salvation, according to scripture.

After, our conversation, I assured Ed that he would be allowed to join our church on a statement of his faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord and he did. Since that time, Ed has returned to the same country, at his own expense, to get reacquainted with contacts he made, both with the IMB and with indigenous people of the region. After much prayer, he realized it was time to pursue being in country on a more permanent basis, and so he sought appointment through the IMB. He began that process this fall.

Now Ed is being told that he cannot be appointed through IMB because of policy that was implemented in November of 2005. I am deeply concerned with this. On November 15, 2005, the Trustees of the International Mission Board approved a baptism guideline for candidates desiring appointment. This guideline is self-contradictory and also non-Biblical. Your policy states…

That each candidate’s baptismal experience be examined, during the application process, in light of the Baptist Faith and Message statement and the points listed below:

BAPTIST FAITH AND MESSAGE: ARTICLE VII – BAPTISM

Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Savior; the believer’s death to sin; the burial of the old life; and the resurrection to walk in the newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.

I have no problem with any of these statements, as I find them to be scripturally based. The problem I am having is concerning added statements you have placed on candidates in item 2B of the same policy.

A candidate who has not been baptized in a Southern Baptist church or in a church which meets the standards listed above is expected to request baptism in his/her Southern Baptist church as a testimony of identification with the system of belief held by Southern Baptist churches.

On one page of this document, you have called baptism “a testimony to…faith” and “an act of obedience.” While on the second page you have downgraded baptism to “a testimony of identification with the system of belief held by Southern Baptist churches.” Which one is it? Is baptism to be done in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in testimony of Christ’s redemption for me through his shed blood on the cross? Or is baptism to be done in the name of the Southern Baptist Convention, in testimony to their “system of beliefs”? Can both coexist? One highlights the “traditional” view most Southern Baptist churches have held for decades concerning admission to membership, while one adheres to scripture alone. With which would you prefer Southern Baptists to side?

You are asking Ed to be baptized again because the church in which he was baptized does not perfectly align with what is “acceptable salvation theology.” In so doing, you have made two mistakes that I wish to address.

First, asking Ed to be baptized again “as a testimony of identification with the system of belief held by Southern Baptist churches” is shameful. Any candidate that would treat baptism so lightly should not be a candidate at all. Any Trustee that would treat the ordinance of baptism so lightly should not be a Trustee at all. Baptism is in the name of Christ alone! Not in the name of the Southern Baptist Convention. To ask a candidate to “go through the motions” because their first baptism was not “good enough” is, in my mind, making a mockery of the ordinance itself. I hold Christ’s sacrifice too high in my life to ask someone to do such a thing. I believe most of you do as well, but overlooked the implications of the words being used for this guideline. It is not at all that Ed is ashamed of his commitment to Christ. It isn’t even that he is opposed to being baptized again as a testimony of Christ’s saving grace in his life. He is, however, opposed to being baptized in the name of the Southern Baptist Convention. Additionally, I, as his pastor, refuse to baptize him in that manner. While the intent of this wording may have been honest, the implications are dangerous.

Second, if the Trustees of the International Mission Board can reject a person who is already a member of a Southern Baptist church, based upon there credentials for membership, then the Trustees of the IMB are holding authority over that church. Each church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention is a local, autonomous body, responsible for governing itself according to the word of God. The International Mission Board is an extension of the local, autonomous church, and not an agency with the authority to govern over the church. The action the Trustees have taken in this matter has placed the IMB in authority - an authority that is not granted apart from convention approval. Was this your intent? The action itself denotes a lack of trust on your part for each church to do its due diligence in regards to each person desiring to join the local, autonomous church. The ultimate end to this path will lead our convention to some form of presbytery in which churches have no authority to govern themselves, but rather, must adhere to mandates passed down to them through governing boards, or face expulsion from the convention. This should be alarming to any Southern Baptist pastor and congregation.

I respectfully wish to request that you reconsider your action concerning this matter. I would like to invite all Southern Baptists to join me in dialogue on this topic. My goal is not further division within our ranks. We have had enough of that. My desire is for us to examine ourselves and see if these are the paths we are intentionally taking. If not, we need to learn from these mistakes and seek to head in the right direction. Our enemy is delighted by the way he has side-tracked us with political, social, and doctrinal debates which are important, yet non-essential to the exaltation of Christ. Please, let’s move into this century with the overwhelming desire to “make disciples” as we are going. If you wish to dialogue with me and other concerned Southern Baptists, I invite you to visit www.faithpointe.org/IMB to discuss the issue further. May God shine His light before us to illuminate the path we must follow.

In His Service,
Brad McCain, Pastor
FaithPointe Baptist Church
Norman, OK 73069

There Is No Anecdotal Evidence of Charismatic Problems Not Appropriately Handled by IMB Administration

On Les Puryear's blog today he asks a very important question.

"Is there evidence of a charismatic movement on the (mission) field?"

Pastor Tim Rogers, in the comment section, expressed concern that only the trustees should be asking that question, not Les, and we should trust the trustees' conclusions.

It might be helpful for Pastor Tim to know that I have asked a very similar question repeatedly since I first heard of the proposed policies during my first International Mission Board trustee meeting.

My question was this:

"Can you please give to me, as an International Mission Board trustee, anecdotal evidence that the new policies are needed in order to combat charismatic problems on the field, or in the case of baptisms, evidence that candidate consultants have approved missionaries to be appointed who were not scripturally baptized by immersion after having come to faith in Jesus Christ?"

Nobody in trustee leadership would ever answer this question for me.

It was also strange to hear from President Jerry Rankin publicly, and repeatedly, a vigorous denial that there has ever been a 'charismatic' problem on the field that has not been swiftly, efficiently and properly handled by staff and administration according to the existing (now old) policies, while at the same time attempting to logically comprehend why, according to trustee leadership, the new policies were allegedly needed.

On my blog nearly six months ago I reported that the question I had been asking, as a duly elected trustee, was finally answered for me --- one year after I began asking it and six months after the new policies were approved. I was chagrined that it was only answered after the approval of the policies, but grateful that it was at least finally answered.

You may read the full acount here, in a post entitled "The Problem Is Too Little Communication, Not Too Much," but I have placed the pertinent part of that post below for your information.

The IMB is your agency. You have the right to know.


Here is what I wrote on on July 20, 2006:

{Beginning Quote}

As a trustee I asked at my first meeting, over a year ago, for anecdotal evidence that the new policies were needed in order to combat charismatic problems on the field, or inappropriate baptisms on the field. I never received an answer to my question. I believe that had there been an attempt to answer my question with straightforward, clear communication when I initially asked the question, then much of what happened last year could have been avoided.

However, my question was only finally answered THIS week, one year after I initially asked it --- and I was told that there is no anecdoctal evidence of IMB staff not dealing appropriately with charismatic problems on the field, or unbiblical baptisms taking place on the field, that would support the need for the new policies. I really appreciated the honesty in answering my question by the Chairman of the Committee that dealt with the policies, and now I know that the policies were pushed not because of any anecdotal evidence of problems on the field not handled properly by the IMB administration, but because of a particular doctrinal mindset within the Board (in other words --- "this is what we believe the Scripture to teach").

Again, if that information had been communicated to me early last year we could have moved on to other issues, but there was too little communication, not too much.


{End Quote}

I hope this answers the questions that are being asked by people on Les's blog. In my opinion, this is one of the beauty of blogs. Information is available at the fingertips.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson