To My Fellow Southern Baptists:
For over three years now I have sought to live by principle in the face of intense personal pressure placed upon me by some of my fellow trustees at the IMB. My wife Rachelle, my Emmanuel church family in Enid, my fellow Southern Baptists in Oklahoma, and a host of new friends from all over the world have been extremely supportive during these difficult times. From a 2006 recommendation for my removal from the International Mission Board of Trustees and its reversal, to the 2007 attempt to bar me from IMB trustee meetings and its reversal, and through the ongoing public statements about my character by Southern Baptists with whom I do not have the pleasure of friendship, there has been an incredible amount of negative publicity for both the Wade Burleson family and the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole.
Through it all I have sought to be gracious, to always see the best in people, and to be extraordinarily forgiving of those who have either intentionally or unintentionally sought to hurt me or my ministry. There have been times when I have lost my patience, and apologized for my shortness. There were occasions when I was blind to my own faults, and listened to people who wisely counseled me and helped me see my shortcomings. Through it all, I can honestly say I have never sought to intentionally denigrate any single person, whether those who deem themselves my friends or those who see themselves as my foes.
I realize it is my natural tendency to come to the defense of those broken or defenseless Christians who I perceive to be weak or powerless to either protect themselves or find a place of healing and rest. My desire to defend the defenseless, speak for the voiceless, and protect the vulnerable leads me to come across very strong to those I perceive to be bullies. I have sometimes justified my firmness by pointing out that Jesus was soft to the broken adulteress, but He took a whip to the religious Parisees. But . . .
I am not Jesus. I don't have His judgment or His wisdom. Sometimes the human judge of the Pharisees can become the Pharisee. It was my privilege to spend the past four days at the International Mission Board with my friend, John Parton, who travelled with me to Gainseville, Florida for the meeting. John is gruff. He'll tell you what he thinks. His family has abandoned him for his treatment of them. He cursed often during the week, and I cringed every time a fellow trustee was near, lest they hear. John was a Navy Seal for four terms in Vietnam and twelve years total. He became a mafia enforcer in California after the war, and he has broken every commandment and many U.S. laws multiple times. But God is doing a work in John. To see this man weep as I talked with him of Christ in a restaurant booth, to hear his voice break as he shared with me the fear of dying alone, and to spend four 24/7 days with John helped me know that I am not at heart a Parisee. That's not what I'm saying about myself - that's what John said to me.
Yet, today, I felt like a Pharisee. I do not expect anyone to understand, nor do I ask for your sympathy. I posted a blog that detailed the reasons why I have stood by principle in the face of extraordinary pressure over the past three years. Yet, in giving my explanation, I identified people and their actions, rather than speak to principles and issues. For over three years I have sought to address issues and stay away from anecdotes and narritives with names. After landing in Oklahoma City and driving through a snowstorm back to Enid, I read what I posted last night, again, and I was struck with the fact that it is not my responsibility to create brokenness in another human being. Only God can do that kind of work.
'Discipline' in the Bible is a beautiful, medical word. It represents the actions of one who will take precautions to set a 'broken' bone. It is to always be done with grace, humility, tenderness and kindness, and when set properly, the bone is stronger than it was before it was ever broken. It is a majestic experience to help bring healing to a broken person through Christ and His grace. Unfortunately, it is beyond our power to create spiritual brokenness. God has called us all to be men and women of peace; people of the gospel, not a people of the Law.
But to be a person of peace does not mean that you or I cannot have deeply held principles that we live in the face of fierce opposition. I believe deeply that Southern Baptists should have the freedom to debate issues and enjoy one another in spite of our differences. I feel strongly that brothers and sisters in Christ who possess a different skin color, or pray in another tongue, or worship in a freer manner, or view the world through a varied lense, or whose interpretations of tertiary doctrines are different than mine should all be accepted as worthy participants in the missions and ministry efforts of the Southern Baptist Convention. Jesus Christ is our bond. He is the Living Word, and if we miss Him, we will never truly either rightly interpret or apply the Written Word.
Therefore, I wish you to know that I stand by my decision to not seek forgiveness for violating the new trustee standard of conduct that states a trustee shall publicly affirm that which he cannot privately support. It was right for me to break that policy in following my conscience and deeply held principles, and it was right for me to resign from the IMB. However, before I write the narrative of my experiences at the IMB over the past three years, I need to give a great deal of thought and prayer to whether or not this is God's desire for my life. I am not saying it is or it isn't. I am saying that I do not know. I do know my post from last night was not appropriate at this time and I have taken it down.
I appreciate your prayers on my behalf. I will not blog about the IMB through the month of February and I will seek the Lord's direction for the future of my involvement in the Southern Baptist Convention. I would much rather spend my time building something. I am afraid my story might only tear down. I trust the Lord will give me clear direction. Contrary to what some might say, I love my fellow trustees, I love those who are ideologically, philosophically and theologically different from me, and I love the Southern Baptist Convention. I will let you know my decision by March 1, 2008.
In His Grace,