My fellow trustees,
I want to briefly share with you what a great privilege it is to serve with you as a trustee. It is my belief that God has uniquely gifted and called each one of us to this role so that we can work together to advance the IMB’s mission. My earnest desire is to be a working member of our team so that we can accomplish that mission together. While I understand that some of you may harbor doubts about my ability to actually be a “team player”, I want you to know that I am committed to being a team player and that perhaps you have not yet seen or understood a full picture of me. Accordingly, as we move forward into a new year of serving the IMB together, I would like to say a few words to clear the air of past events, express my commitment to working with you within our internal standards, and then once I’ve spoken, let the proof of my verbal commitment be seen in my future actions.
To begin with, I do admit that I have in the past intentionally violated our newly revised (Spring 2006) internal standards of conduct. In particular, I publicly disagreed with certain actions taken by this board, rather than speaking in supportive terms or staying silent on matters about which I disagreed. The new standards of trustee conduct, adopted in the Spring of 2006, state that a trustee must publicly affirm a board approved action even if he cannot privately support it. I want you to know that I never expressed my dissent out of a desire to harm the work of the IMB or any of you, my fellow trustees and brothers and sisters in Christ. Instead, I did so out of an exercise of my conscience. Simply put, I believed in my conscience that it was the right thing to do to further our mutual goal of supporting the IMB’s purpose of cooperatively taking the gospel to all peoples of the world. I recognize that many of you may have been upset by my decision to express my disagreement and feel that it has hurt the work of the IMB. Scripture teaches us that sometimes we can exercise our conscience in a way that offends others. I am sorry that this seems to be the case here.
Therefore, it is my goal going forward, to the extent it rests in my power to do so, to live at peace with all of you and not cause you offense. It is also my goal to have a greater focus on the work of the IMB than on me. Accordingly, I commit to you this day that I will no longer violate, intentionally or otherwise, our new trustee standards of conduct. If I find myself in disagreement with a policy or proposed policy of the Board, I will express my disagreement using the channels that are available—for example, plenary forum sessions, trustee forum sessions, and private communication with fellow trustees—but will not take my disagreement outside of those confines to the blogosphere or world at large. In fact, if this statement is accepted, I intend to shut my blog down immediately after this board meeting. I should add that it is possible, however unlikely, that an occasion might arise where I believed that we had enacted a policy that violates Scripture or conscience. If that were to happen, I would resign and express my disagreement outside the structure of the IMB or understand I will be censured. I do, however, consider such a future occasion to be unlikely. It is my belief that God has blessed the work of the IMB because it is carrying out a mission close to his heart and that so long as we collectively continue to seek him in prayer, he will guard us from error and bless our work.
I do look forward to working with you as a fellow servant this year and in the years to come.
In His Grace,
The above statement was not deemed an acceptable apology by the Executive Committee of the International Mission Board. I was informed by Chairman John Floyd of its unacceptablity last December when I initially sent it to them. I had also been told at the time, however, that the Executive Committee would present my letter to the board at this January 2008 trustee meeting for the board's discussion and possible approval. However, that promise was not fulfilled. The Executive Committee chose not to bring my statement before the full board at this trustee meeting for their consideration. When I realized today that my letter would not be discussed as I was told, I requested that I be allowed to read it to the full board during tonight's plenary session. I was recognized and read the statement in full. Chairman Floyd then informed the trustees that the Executive Committee had not deemed my statement to be an acceptable apology. Nothing else was said.
Then, Chairman Floyd dismissed all guests, reporters, and staff and called the trustees into Executive Session. Chairman Floyd related to the board that the Executive Committee rejected the apology because I needed to specifically apologize for violating the new trustee standards of conduct that prohibit any public dissent of board approved actions. Since the new trustee guidelines that prohibited dissent were adopted in 2006, I have intentionally violated that policy by writing my objections to doctrinal board policies that exceed the 2000 BFM. I have written that my fellow IMB trustees have passed new doctrinal policies - without any field evidence that there was a need for such policies - and as a result of these doctrinal policies that exceed the BFM 2000, and in the minds of some, violate the clear teaching of Scripture, the IMB is now NOT appointing otherwise qualified Southern Baptist missionary applicants to the field. The narrowing of these doctrinal parameters of cooperative mission work is dangerous to our convention and threatens our belief in the historic Baptist principles of the sufficiency of Scripture, cooperative missions, and religious liberty. Worse, the 2006 revised trustee standard of conduct that prohibits public dissent is unconscionable, unbaptistic, and will one day be viewed by Baptist historians as a tragic mistake. I have stated, repeatedly, that I cannot apologize for expressing my public dissent on these issues since the IMB trustees should have never taken the actions in the first place. It is a matter of conscience to me.
However, in an attempt to put these issues behind us and to move forward as a board, I offered the above statement tonight as a genuine expression of what I was willing to do to take the focus off me and place it back on missions. But in that specially called closed door meeting after the plenary session I was, again, pressed to apologize to my fellow trustees for violating the new trustee policy that prohibits public dissent. I reiterated my desire to apologize for any unintentional offense among my trustees that my dissent may have caused, but I could not apologize for my choice to publicly dissent. I had voted against the policy that forbids dissent, and in my mind, to publicly affirm the policies I have questioned, when I cannot privately support them, would make me a liar. I told my fellow trustees that I stand by the statement I read into the record and could go no further. My desire was that we could put this issue behind us as a board and focus on that for which we are responsible - missions. Let me reiterate the preceding sentence, it is the heart of tonight's action.
Though I do not believe it is within the purview of the International Missions Board of Trustees to establish doctrinal policies that exceed the BFM 2000, and though I believe at least one of those policies was initially pushed to embarrass the IMB President, and though I believe the convention's Garner Motion has affirmed the inappropriateness of such policies that exceed the BFM 2000, and though I have expressed my courteous dissent on the basis of principle, my statement tonight was simply an attempt to get our board refocused on missions and off of tangential issues and to let my fellow trustees know I was desirous to move forward with them in the work of cooperative missions.
Again, my statement of apology was deemed unacceptable by the Executive Committee of the IMB. The board seemed to accept the Executive Committee's recommendation that my apology was unacceptable because no board member made a motion to reverse the Executive Committee's decision not to accept my statement.
It became crystal clear to me tonight that it would be impossible for me to continue as a trustee of the International Mission Board. The appropriate forum for my continued service to the Southern Baptist Convention is now outside the IMB Board of Trustees. I deem it better to be censured by man than to be condemned by conscience. It is my decision to resign, effective immediately, from service as a trustee of the International Mission Board. I will continue to work to effect change within the Southern Baptist Convention and will post later this week my plans for the immediate future.
I will also be leading our church to increase her involvement in our cooperative missions work. I hope you do so at your church as well.
In His Grace,