John Parton and I left Enid at 8:30 this morning and drove to Oklahoma City where we caught a plane to Atlanta and then one to Gainesville, Florida. We had the pleasure of sitting directly in front of Bobbye Rankin on the flight into Gainesville. Bobbye was her usual gracious and kind self. She has a great ability to make everyone feel at home in her presence and represents the Southern Baptist Convention and our worldwide work in missions quite well.
We arrived at the Hilton Hotel on the beautiful campus of the University of Florida at 5:00 p.m. eastern time. Our plane schedule did not allow me to attend the 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. trustee forum (closed door meeting), but several trustees shared with me the details of the discussion. As usual, I will honor the confidentiality of the closed door meetings, while expressing my belief - again - that any business of the International Mission Board that does not compromise missionary security should occur in full view of the Southern Baptist Convention.
After dinner trustee Chairman John Floyd left a message on my hotel phone telling me that the trustee board had been informed (he did not say be whom) that they did not have the authority to bar me from trustee board meetings. Further, trustee leadership did not have the authority to refuse to pay my expenses to come to the trustee board meetings, nor did they have the authority to keep me from participating and voting in any session where the full complement of the IMB trustees convene. This was not a surprise to me since I am familiar with both the bylaws of the Southern Baptist Convention and the International Mission Board and predicted this very outcome.
Frankly, however, I must refuse to accept reimbursement for my travel to and from IMB Trustee Meetings. I am requesting that Chairman John Floyd and trustee leadership (a new Chairman will be elected in May) take the budget funds spent on my (and once a year, my wife's) plane fare, hotel, meals, car rental or shuttle tickets, and various other expenses associated with fulfilling my trustee responsibilities and contribute those funds (estimated between $1,000 and $1,500 per meeting for six to seven meetings annually) to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for foreign missions. Emmanuel Baptist Church and her pastor consider it an honor to contribute these funds to the work taking place among Southern Baptists on the mission fields of the world.
The hour is late, and we look forward to an early start tomorrow as we visit with several missionaries and pastors who are in the area and attend the Plenary Session tomorrow evening at 6:30 p.m.
In His Grace,