You don't have to agree with me in my perceptions. You don't even have to read this blog or my opinions. My purpose is to give information, and I come with a set of guidelines that I follow, which are:
(1). I will always tell the truth.
(2). I will never intentionally denigrate any individual.
(3). I will not be afraid to voice disagreement.
(4). I am but one voice among many, and I admit I could be wrong in my views.
(5). I desire for the International Mission Board to be as effective as possible in accomplishing her mission to take the gospel to all peoples.
I also have a set of biases that the reader should know:
(1). I believe Dr. Jerry Rankin is a tremendously effective leader for the IMB.
(2). I believe the IMB is most effective when we focus on our mission.
(3). I believe that accountability comes through complete transparency.
(4). I believe that every trustee of the IMB loves Christ and desires what is best for the SBC.
(5). I believe that unless leaders of the SBC stand up and say we have gone "far enough" in the conservative purge and resurgence we will continue to alienate Bible-believing, Christ-honoring, mission-loving people who happen to disagree on the non-essentials of the gospel but wish to serve in SBC mission work.
Now, to my opinion of the meeting.
Dr. Rankin's Presidential Report
This man is a missiological genius.
I heard one of the finest reports I've ever heard justifying the mission of the International Mission Board to extend the gospel to all people groups of the world through church planting movements by reaching into unevangelized regions of the world.
Dr. Rankin explained that the board must always carefully balance between placing missionaries in established countries like Brazil and Mexico, where Southern Baptists have had a presence for over 100 years, and reaching into those high security regions where there is little or no gospel work. Dr. Rankin explained that the IMB needs the "whatever it takes" attitude of the Apostle Paul, who in Romans 15:21 stated his objective of taking Christ to the unevangelized so that those WHO HAD NO NEWS OF HIM SHALL SEE, AND THEY WHO HAVE NOT HEARD SHALL UNDERSTAND.
Dr. Rankin believes we are striking a good balance in providing missionaries for established regions and sending out new missionaries to reach new, unevangelized regions. He asked that all Southern Baptists not focus so much on numbers that we lose the big picture. The harvest is directly linked to people having access to the gospel - and our mission is to take the gospel to "all peoples." To be reproducing indigenous local churches requires a great deal of work in preparing and sowing the new fields. Only after years of dedicated work and field preparation will the harvest come.
Dr. Rankin's report was filled with some relevant statistics and slides that showed the progress of our work, and I felt challenged, after listening to him speak, to facilitate even more people from our church to move to the far, unreached lands of the world to share the gospel of Christ.
Questions For Dr. Rankin After His Report
Immediately after Dr. Rankin's report, Jerry Corbaley stepped to a microphone, not to ask a question, but to make a comment. Jerry said he desired to place Dr. Rankin's endorsement of the blog SBC Outpost "behind us" and commended Dr. Rankin for withdrawing his endorsement of a blog that had risen to the level of slander. Jerry spoke for about five minutes about how blogs can be used by our opponent - the devil - and we best come to grips with what is happening. He said that we must not just say we believe the Bible, but we must do it (I Cor. 5). Jerry also thanked Dr. Rankin for his missiological views and then he sat down. After he spoke I was personally confused about two things:
(1). What did SBC Outpost have to do with Dr. Rankin's report?
I do not believe Dr. Rankin should have ever endorsed SBC Outpost, but I am not troubled by the fact he did - especially after he explained why he did and the reasons he withdrew his endorsement. I was asked to participate in SBC Outpost in the beginning and politely declined because I only wish to answer for my own words, not the words of others. In fact, one of the things that still bothers me is an attempt by anyone to associate comments on my blog to me. I have no problem answering for what I write, but I don't even wish to pretend to defend what someone else writes. Endorsements imply agreement. I can guarantee you Dr. Rankin does not agree with everything written on SBC Outpost - never has, never will; but in our very intense political environnment, it should be obvious that a tactic of some is to try to make someone guilty by association.
(2). What is the slander on SBC Outpost?
I asked Jerry Corbaley after the meeting to give me a specific of what he would call "slander" on SBC Outpost. I wanted a specific post, paragraph, sentence or word that he believed to be "slanderous." He may not have understood my question because he simply said if people would read the Bible they could come to an understanding of what "slander" is and apply that to their reading of the blogs. I desire to continue to do all I can to prevent general, generic allegations of "slander" or "hypocrisy" or "liberalism" - without supporting evidence. I have yet to be given any evidence of slander on SBC Outpost, but frankly, I don't care.
When will trustees learn that the best way to deal with slanderous blogs is to ignore them? Jerry feels SBC Outpost is slanderous but did not offer evidence. I can't understand all the attention. Could it be that some blogs, including SBC Outpost express good ideas, ring true, and are having an impact on the SBC because Southern Baptists are smart enough to discern truth? Who knows?
Maybe what you ought to do is read for oneself and decide if it is slanderous or rings true. Southern Baptists always operate best when evidence is presented on both sides, not just one, and people make up their minds for themselves.
A couple of other trustees went to the microphone after Jerry Corbaley and thanked Dr. Rankin for his leadership and prayed for our President. I couldn't help but smile when trustee Jeff Ginn, a really wonderful man and pastor, thanked the Lord in his prayer for Dr. Rankin's "transparency" and "openness" on the blogs when he answered the questions posed to him about salary. I'm quite confident Dr. Ginn felt Rankin's answers did not rise to the level of slander.
The Treasurer's Report
David Steverson gave us an excellent report on the finances of the IMB. We are well into the fiscal year and revenue exceeds the budget, and expenditures are within the budget. Those two things bode for a good year financially.
I really like David. He is from Oklahoma. He is only the ninth treasurer the IMB has ever had (there have also been only ten IMB Presidents in 150 years). David is the first CPA to serve as treasurer, and he is the first missionary to serve as treasurer. But probably the greatest compliment for David came from his predecessor, Carl Johnson, who served as IMB treasurer for 21 years and was asked to offer the prayer after the report. Carl proceeded to tell us that David is the finest treasurer the IMB has ever had.
I spoke to Carl Johnson during the break. It is the first time I had met him and, I must say, I am impressed. His calm demeanor, baritone voice and easy smile remind me that the IMB has had some wonderful servants over the years. Carl told me this anecdote about the treasurer's office. Well into Baker James Cauthen's tenure as President of the IMB, the finance office never invested in the stock market. There was always a very conservative approach to finances. During one trustee meeting, a trustee suggested the IMB invest a portion of their reserves. To overcome the fear that the IMB might lose in the market, the trustee pledged to cover the first ONE MILLION dollars in losses. The pledge was accepted - but the IMB never lost money and has never looked back. I like trustees who are willing to take a stand for what they believe is best and I appreciated Carl telling me this story.
A Conversation with Dr. John Floyd During the Break
Right before a brief recess, Dr. Floyd, Chairman of the Board, reminded all trustees that they needed their passports. Regional committees will be flying to the regions they serve in the spring of 2008. The IMB will pay for the trip for all trustees (all except a small portion of the fee). During the break I asked Dr. Floyd to which region I should go in the spring. He said that since I was not on a regional committee I would not be participating in the spring trips. I then asked Dr. Floyd what his rationale was for not appointing me to a regional committee this year. He said that I had never apologized to the board and I continue to blog.
I was stunned. I reminded Dr. Floyd that before the March 2006 vote to rescind the recommendation for my removal, a recommendation that had to come before the entire 2006 Greensboro Southern Baptist Convention, I was publicly asked if I would apologize before the board. I said at the time before the entire board, "I have no problem apologizing for something that I know is wrong, but I will not apologize for what I know is NOT wrong. Not only do I not wish to apologize, I stand by every word, sentence and paragraph I have ever written on my blog." The vote to rescind the recommendation was still unanimous - even after every trustee heard me say this publicly before the entire board.
I told John that I would not apologize now and I would not stop blogging. I also told him that I accepted his decision not to appoint me to a regional committtee. As I said in a comment yesterday, in this past year I have been to the South Asia Regional Office, the Pac Rim Regional Office, and I will be going in January 2008 to the East Asia Regional Office, and have plans to go to the Central Asia Regional Office as well. The regional leader for Middle America and the Carribbean is in our church and we wish to partner with him in missions; and our youth are looking for a partnership with the Western Europe region.
The conversation with Dr. Floyd became intense. Right before the end of the break I apologized to Dr. Floyd for allowing too much emotion to come into my conversation with him. I ended my conversation with Dr. Floyd with these words, spoken in as soft and gracious of a voice as possible, "Dr. Floyd, I will not apologize. I will continue blogging for the good of the Southern Baptist Convention and the International Mission Board. I accept your decision to not appoint me to a regional committee."
Dr. Floyd told me he believes that if I appealed his decision to the entire board he has enough votes to uphold his decision. It is my understanding that to overrule the ruling of the chair requires a two-thirds vote. I do not wish to appeal - there may not, at this time, be enough votes - I honestly don't know. I will continue to be patient. New officers are elected in May of 2008. I will blog as long as I am a member of the board and any trips I make overseas I will happily pay for myself.
Overseas Commitee Report
This report was given by the chairman of the Overseas Committee. Two significant reportables came from this report.
First, contrary to some who criticize the IMB for not doing anything about world hunger, the IMB designated $940,847.58 to 50 projects from the World Hunger Fund the last few months. Second, a new regional leader was appointed to the East Asia region. This young man and his wife will remain unidentified for security reasons.
Administrative Committee Report
The administration committee recommended the adoption of the new salary structure for employees of the IMB. I am grateful for the example that Dr. Rankin and our missionaries set in the matter of compensation. Nobody works for the IMB to become rich, and Dr. Rankin models the attitude needed in all our SBC executives when it comes to salary and compensation. He is open and transparent, just as Jeff Ginn said in his prayer. We currently have 502 staff positions who work to support our over 5,000 missionaries worldwide. Their work involves monumental tasks. We are hoping to reach the goal of 8,000 appointed missionaries in the very near future.
Vice-President Gordon Fort's Report
I always enjoy hearing from Gordon. He is in charge of overseas work for the IMB, and he gave another very informative report.
Gordon said that in 2007 we face three unique opportunities when it comes to fulfilling our mission as the IMB. First, for the only time in the history of the world, the urban population numbers more than the rural population - and urbanization is only increasing. The IMB is investigating opening an urban training center, particularly since most Southern Baptists who are called to the mission field come from rural areas and need to understand the big city.
Second, gospel orality, or the sharing of the gospel to those who cannot read or write is an ever growing challenge. We must continue to be creative in taking the story of the gospel to people who can't understand the written word. I was reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote as Gordon spoke, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Finally, Gordon told us that ministry to the deaf is a unique opportunity to Southern Baptists simply because the language of the deaf person through signs is universal. Gordon ended by challenging all of us to increase our giving and efforts to see 8,000 missionaries on the fields of the world.
Last Sunday while Rachelle, the kids and I were eating lunch at El Chico, I received an email on my blackberry from Southern Baptist missionaries overseas who minister to the deaf. Their entire family watched our worship service live and told us what a blessing the worship and the preaching were to all of them. I thought to myself as I holstered my blackberry - what a day to be alive in the world. At what other time in history could a Southern Baptist pastor exhort his people from the word of God in rural Oklahoma, have a missionary family in San Salvador, El Salvador listen to the message live over the Internet, and then immediately send a note of encouragement via electronic blackberry to the pastor while he's eating lunch with his family at El Chico.
It's a great day to be alive. It's a great day to be Southern Baptist.
In His Grace,