I have read a handful of comments by people who appreciate the spirit and tone of my 'letter of apology' but can't understand why I would not seek forgiveness for violating the 'new' trustee standard of conduct (2006) that states an IMB trustee must publicly affirm a board action even if he cannot privately support it. Allow me to explain why I cannot apologize for violating that standard in 2006 and early 2007, and why I believe it to be a 'standard of conduct' that may well go down as one of the worst policies ever adopted by any Southern Baptist agency in the history of our Convention.
When an agency of the Southern Baptist Convention allows her trustees to ask any and all questions related to a proposed board action, when agency business and all corresponding debate by trustees is held in plenary sessions under the open view of Southern Baptists rather than behind closed door in Executive Sessions, when every agency trustee is allowed to follow through with due diligence when attempting to examine proposed policies, and when trustees experience a free and open debate on important issues before the board, then it is absolutely unnecessary for an agency to pass a 'standard of conduct' that prohibits trustees from public dissent of any board approved action. For 161 years every agency of the Southern Baptist Convention, including the International Mission Board, did not feel it necessary to stifle trustees from expressing public reservations over board approved actions. But in March 2006, IMB trustee leadership led the board to adopt a four page document called 'Trustee Standards of Conduct' that forbad public dissent of board approved actions by IMB trustees and it superseded the fifty page policy manual (called the 'Blue Book') that formerly governed IMB trustees in terms of their responsibilities and accountability. It was at that same March 2006 trustee meeting in Tampa, Florida where IMB trustee leadership also led the board to rescind the recommendation for my removal from the board, a motion that they had just passed the meeting before.
I was recommended for removal from the IMB board in January 2006 after months of attempting to work behind the scenes as a duly elected trustee to wrestle through some serious issues before our board, but being stymied at every turn by trustee leadership as I sought to find answers to some very important questions that I had as a new trustee. It was only after I repeatedly experienced an unconscionable and heavy handed attempt to stifle debate over the proposed doctrinal policies, and received no anecdotal evidence for their need - though I REPEATEDLY asked for it - that I wrote in December 2005 that certain trustees (without naming them) were pushing some horribly written doctrinal policies for political purposes, including the end of Dr. Rankin's era as President of the IMB. You can rest assured I can support what I have written on this blog, and I will soon do so with the names of those involved. Further, I wrote that these two policies would exclude from Southern Baptist missionary service otherwise qualified Southern Baptists. I also pointed out that both doctrinal policies in question (baptism and private prayer language) exceed the clear statements of the BFM 2000. I said it was time to stop 'the narrowing of doctrinal parameters' of cooperation within the Southern Baptist Convention. The post was entitled "Crusading Conservatives vs. Cooperating Conservatives: The War for the Future of the Southern Baptist Convention."
I felt the need to go public with my opposition to the new 'doctrinal' policies at the IMB because the Southern Baptist Convention needs to see clearly the danger of excluding her own from cooperative mission work, and the importance of a Convention based on cooperaton expanding her cooperative mission efforts, not reducing them. Trustee leadership absolutely refused to allow me to ask IMB staff and Candidate Consultants their opinions of the trustee 'proposed doctrinal policies,' and NOBODY in trustee leadership would or could give me ANY evidence that problems on the mission field necessitated such policy changes. In the end, I was told by John Floyd that there was NO anecdotal evidence from the field that these policies were needed. To him this was a 'doctrinal' issue and the IMB needed to be 'doctrinally' pure and those who disagreed with him and others on the Board on these 'doctrinal' issues were not 'worthy' of appointment. That, my friend, spells trouble with a capital T.
The IMB Trustees Exceed Their Convention Authority
So, you have the very bizarre scenario of trustee leaders of the International Mission Board exceeding their convention mandated responsiblities and taking the action of implementing doctrinal policies that exceed the BFM 2000. Ironically, if those new policies were to be made retroactive, then Dr. and Mrs. Jerry Rankin would be terminated. Of course, it was stated at the time that the new 'doctrinal' policies would not be made retroactive. Yet, the same thing was said in 2001 when missionaries on the field were told that they would NOT have to sign the new BFM 2000 and could serve under the old 63 Faith and Message. Later, the trustees broke their promise and terminated more missionaries in one day than any other day in the history of the IMB. Who's to say those kind of broken promises would not occur again?
At the IMB in 2005 you had the absurd circumstance of a former employee of the International Mission Board, John Floyd, who himself left the IMB as a regional supervisor for reasons that will be articulated at a later date, now serving as the Chairman of the Personnel Committee of his former employer and pushing policies that would disqualify the very President under whom he had previously served if those policies were to be made retroactive. Trustee leadership was furious that I publicly questioned the rationale for their actions. When, in then end, the trustee board voted to adopt the new policies (by a controversial vote total), I took my objection to the SBC through my blog.
Trustee leadership then recommended my removal for 'gossip' and 'slander' but immediately changed the wording (when challenged to prove it) to 'loss of trust' and 'resistance to accountability.' When they realized I would be able to defend my objections to the IMB policies before the entire convention (as I did for over one hour to a select group of Convention leaders in February of 2006 in St. Louis), trustee leadership led the IMB board to unanimously rescind the recommendation for my removal at the very next IMB meeting in Tampa, Florida, in March 2006. In that same meeting trustee leadership asked that a NEW Trustee Standard of Conduct be adopted which states that "trustees must publicly affirm a board action even if they cannot privately support it." I voted against the 'new' trustee standard of conduct, arguing that (1). it was the worst possible policy any Baptist agency could ever pass because it violates every sacred and historic Baptist principle associated with religious liberty and freedom of conscience, and (2). it was a cowardly way to deal with my public dissent because it removed the issue of my objections to the doctrinal policies that exceed the BFM 2000 from being dealt with by the SBC at large. Trustee leadership felt it was better to seek to control me and contain me within the board than to allow the full and free public debate that would occur over these very important issues before the entire SBC if the recommendation for my removal were to move forward.
The Reasons The 'New' Standard That Forbids Dissent Was Violated
After March 2006, several important motions began the process of appearing before the Southern Baptist Convention. One of these motions was offered by me and necessitated that I intentionally violate the 'new' standard of conduct in order to explain the need for the motion. Some of the motions before the Convention included the request to establish an investigative committee to determine whether or not prospective trustees of the International Mission Board were being called, vetted, and approved by sitting IMB trustees to the Board in violation of the bylaws of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the infamous 2007 'Garner Motion' where the Convention was asked to adopt the statement that requested SBC agencies to view the BFM 2000 as the only convention-wide approved doctrinal statement, and as such, a sufficient guide for cooperation. I intentionally violated the "new" trustee standard of conduct that prohibits dissent and wrote about the two poor doctrinal policies of the IMB and how they were damaging to the future of the SBC in order to 'garner' support for those motions. By the way, the Convention passed both motions.
I do not regret violating the 'new' standard of conduct that forbids dissent in 2006 and early 2007 and therefore I cannot apologize for it. The Convention needed to address the issues at the IMB, and they did for the good of our cooperative mission work. I can and do apologize for the fact that my dissent has distracted board leadership from focusing on missions, but I make no apology for following my conscience. Even though I have not written anything about trustees in the last several months, every IMB meeting since the summer of 2007 has been filled with attempts by trustee leadership to 'deal' with Wade Burleson, and I absolutely regret that. However, I have no regrets that I joined dozens of other Southern Baptist leaders in 2006 and early 2007 throughout the Convention to speak to the very important issues within our Convention. The SBC eventually adopted the 2007 Garner Motion and now everyone knows that the narrowing of doctrinal parameters of cooperation at individual SBC agencies is unacceptable in the SBC.
An Olive Branch Rejected
My heartfelt statement last night was an attempt to extend the olive branch to my fellow trustees and put the focus on missions at the IMB and off of me. However, my statement was not accepted. Trustee leadership desired for me to state I was wrong in violating the new trustee standard of conduct that forbids dissent. I cannot apologize for that which I believe is right. My public dissent expressed over the IMB trustees adopting 'doctrinal' policies that exceed the BFM 2000 only BECAME a violation of 'Trustee Conduct' in March of 2006; I had been publicly dissenting for three months. This blatant attempt to stifle me placed me in a position of either continuing and being censured or resigning. I chose the former. I chose to follow the path that I deemed would bring about the higher moral good for our Convention. Others may disagree with my view that I was doing the higher good, but I was willing to put my name, my reputation, and my future on the line. That is how deeply I believed in resisting the narrowing of the 'doctrinal' parameters of cooperation (regardless of the motivation of those pushing it), and how strongly I felt about the attempts to stifle dissent
I have seen the good that has come to our Convention through the Garner Motion and the election of Frank Page. There are a great number of new IMB trustees who do not have any historical context, but certain other trustees have been around for a long time, and they are the ones who are now in leadership. These trustees now understand they are under a great deal of scrutiny in any action they take - as it should be. Nevertheless, current trustee leadership led by John Floyd, Chuck McAlister, Jerry Corbaley and others would not accept anything from me last night but a statement that said, "I was wrong for violating the 'new' trustee standard of conduct that forbids dissent."
Again, I cannot apologize for those things that I did that I do not believe are wrong. History will be my the judge. It did become crystal clear to me last night that for me to continue in my service as a trustee of the IMB, I would be a distraction. Questions would continually be asked, "Has Wade apologized yet?" or "Is Wade on a committee yet?" or "Has the censure been lifted?" These questions are a distraction for the board when they meet. The board needs to focus on missions, listen to the vision of the President and staff, and help them implement that vision.
A Needed Reprimand
The Executive Committee of the SBC strongly reprimanded the Executive Committee of the IMB this past Monday for seeking to bar me from trustee meetings, stating that the IMB Executive Committee had opened up the IMB to a lawsuit from the SBC or myself for violating the bylaws of the convention. The inability for trustee leadership to understand they were violating Convention bylaws when they sought to bar me from meetings is ridiculous, particularly when I told Chairman Floyd this very thing prior to their action. I would have informed the entire board before they voted, but I was not given the opportunity to speak, and after the vote, when I went to the microphone to ask a question, I was told I would not be recognized.
Last night in my final plenary session with the IMB I went absolutely as far as I could go in seeking to bring about a resolution through drafting the statement I read to the full board. I even offered to shut down my blog immediately if the statement were accepted. The Executive Committee said that my statement was not acceptable. The impasse is clear and no resolution can be seen; and the impasse is is distracting to our mission work. The idea that the board 'removed' the restrictions this Monday to my participation in board meetings and was reaching out to me is absolutely absurd. Several trustees told me that both I and the SBC Executive Commitee were excoriated behind closed doors Monday by trustees who were furious that they would have to remove the 'restrictions' from me serving on the Board. One trustee went so far as to say something needed to be done to bar me from trustee meetings, just as if I were a 'pedophile' or a 'murderer.' Two trustees told me they almost resigned on the spot when they heard that, but others 'amened' the suggestion. Such speech would be tempered in open meetings. Nevertheless, any trustee who is tempted to be giddy that I am no longer serving as a trustee might consider waiting until June before they allow themselves to rejoice.
For the sake of the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole, I will continue to stay involved in seeking to keep the basis of our cooperation intact and resisting the temptation in the hearts of some to narrow the doctrinal parameters of SBC missionary and ministry cooperation. The Convention will change - or we will die a thousand Convention deaths (Dwight McKissic, Sheri Klouda, Jason Epps, etc . . . ). Jerry Rankin will not now be a victim as others before him. By God's grace, the SBC fold will stop decreasing and start increasing because we are NOT interested in disqualifying everybody who disagrees with us over tertiary issues.
I'm sure not going anywhere.
In His Grace,