"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Trustees Not Susceptible to Political Agendas

Chuck Andrews is a pastor friend of mine in Oklahoma and one of the wisest men I've ever met. Chuck sent me this email yesterday and gave me permission to copy it here. Through his and others influence and encouragement, people whom I respect, I will be continuing to work in the direction which they request. I am recording the narrative but not publishing it (in fact, most of it has already been recorded) I am by no means giving up on the SBC. I will continue to seek to bring about change for the reasons Chuck articulates below:

Dear Wade

"I respect you and your decision to follow prudence. I don’t know whether I agree with it or not. Still, you are correct, in the post you deleted, when you said ‘until people get fed up with being bullied and stand on principle to stop the bullying nothing will change’ (paraphrased by my interpretation). Spiritual abusers thrive off of the timidity and tentativeness that they can create. Regardless of why someone does not want his/her name made public, you are absolutely correct, nothing will change. Spiritual abusers depend on it.

I don’t agree with the ones who say it is belittling to point out the obvious. Obviously, there are many, besides the woman mentioned, that didn’t mind their names being identified when placed in their positions but, now, do not want their names to be made public. Am I the only one who wonders where the ones who rose to leadership through the CR are and why they don’t let their voice be identified? How long would the narrowing of cooperative parameters survive if respected leaders risked their identity by speaking out against the bullying tactics that are going on? Where are the past presidents of the SBC, Executives of SBC entities, state Executive Directors, editors of Baptist press and state newspapers, and pastors of extremely public pulpits? Have we created such a political and professional Convention/Church that leaders have too much to risk for them to be straightforward and forthright in championing a corrective course? Or, are all those in leadership in agreement with this political/interpretive narrowing? Is it squeamishness or shrewdness that keeps them quiet? Is it timidity or timeliness that motivates them? Is their silence golden or galling? Does asking these questions belittle? I don’t think so. Asking questions may point out the obvious but leaders need to be challenged to be people of valor, integrity, and courage. There may be creditable reasons why some don’t want to be identified. Others, it may be cowardice. Still, we all need to be challenged to be people of gracious civil courage. IMO, if leaders don’t want to be public then they shouldn’t be leaders.

It was June 15, 2004 that Morris Chapman danced around the problems in his message to the Annual Convention when he said,

“In a practiced democracy, politics, the art of influence, is always an ingredient. But the passion of a trustee should be born from deep within in an encounter with the Living Christ, and then he is free to enthusiastically persuade others of the burden God has laid upon his heart. This is how it should be in the church, the association, the state convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention. This Convention deserves to be led by trustees who listen to God’s Spirit on the way to making decisions, not trustees who are susceptible to political agendas. Politics for the sake of control by a few is not how our forefathers envisioned the operations of our Convention. But I must warn you. Politics do not die easily.”

Later in that same message he said,

“Contemporary shibboleths are employed to exclude people. It is the sin of Pharisaism when good people, whose theology and ministry are above reproach, are slandered, discredited, or ostracized simply because they refuse to blindly follow particular political posturing. Innuendos, unfounded rumors, sly winks and nods are as deadly as an assassin’s bullet and usually as ungodly. . . . I am concerned…now that we have affirmed by vigorous endeavor that Southern Baptists are people of the Book, that we will develop a censorious, exclusivistic, intolerant spirit. If this occurs, we will be the poorer for it. It will not only result in narrower participation in denominational life, a shallower pool of wisdom and giftedness in our enterprises, and a shrinking impact upon the world, but we will be in the unenviable position of being right on doctrine but wrong with God.”


Here we are four years later. Just as history records the necessity of the CR, it also records the names of those who opposed it. Liberals, moderates, and some conservatives, who didn’t agree with the methodology, honored their names by taking a stand. They may have gone down but at least they didn’t go down in anonymity. If the CR had failed, those who are in leadership today would not be where they are, because, they too, honored their names by taking a stand. There were not many Joseph’s of Arimathea during the late ‘70s through the ‘80s. And you, Wade, have honored your name by publicly calling for a course correction. Many on your blog, who have identified themselves by name, have honored their names, as well.

I believe that history will call for the narrative of your experience to be recorded. In Morris Chapman’s metaphor, it will either be recorded as part of the tune-up, paint, and polish of this old ship Zion or it will be seen as another rejected maintenance on a sinking ship. Names are an important part of that record. You may choose not to publish it at this time but to not record it, IMO, would be like robbing history of Grace and Truth.


With My Friendship,


Chuck

20 comments:

Bob Cleveland said...

Some of the questions he posed are answered by the simple fact that your struggle has been outstanding. That such an effort to bring openness and cooperation, to acknowledge diversity, to focus on the fundamentals of the faith, is in itself unusual and noteworthy.

Good letter, and good post. I'm positive that history will record it as one of God's efforts to correct the course of a wayward ship, or to buoy up a sinking one.

Gary said...

Wade,

I wrote a long comment about Chuck's email which you posted, but deleted it. Just got tired of hearing myself talk.

Chuck pointed out that Dr. Chapman essentially dodged the question too. You've been there and seen what goes on behind the curtain.

Let me ask you, again, the question:

If not you, then who?

Gary Skaggs, Norman

Anonymous said...

This post and the comments from the last remind me the crowd in a scene from Forrest Gump. You'll remember that Forrest just began running one day and ended up going coast to coast a couple of times. After developing quite a co-hort of runners/followers, Gump stopped running in the middle of the desert, "I don't feel like running anymore." His followers didn't take it very well, even though none of them knew why he was running in the first place. They were just excited about have a leader to take them somewhere.

Only By His Grace said...

Wade,

I have not read anything but the first paragraph of this article, not the rest of the article nor the comments.

I do not know if they are your words or Brother Andrew's paraphrase, but I could not agree more with the words. The introduction is an apt description of one of the three or four hallmarks of Fundamentalism which I have fought since my sophomore year at OBU in 1962.

Granted that back then there were few of them around, but their "tribe" has increased in the FBC. Most people who think they are Fundamentalist are not Fundamentalist, they are just very conservative in Baptist theology who believe in the fundamentals of our faith.

I agree with these fundamentals of our faith with all my heart. I love the Living Word, I love the Written Word, I love my church and I love the lost kids running up and down our streets in front of our church at all hours of the days and nights living in Hell holes I cannot describe, and I love them with all my heart. Here are the first words in your article lest we forget them:

Dear Wade

"I respect you and your decision to follow prudence. I don’t know whether I agree with it or not. Still, you are correct, in the post you deleted, when you said ‘until people get fed up with being bullied and stand on principle to stop the bullying nothing will change’ (paraphrased by my interpretation). Spiritual abusers thrive off of the timidity and tentativeness that they can create. Regardless of why someone does not want his/her name made public, you are absolutely correct, nothing will change. Spiritual abusers depend on it."

This so on target.

Phil in Norman.

Only By His Grace said...

Gary,

Sorry, I did not know you had posted.

Phil.

Rex Ray said...

Wade,
Good advice by Chuck.
Here’s a story that may relate. In winter time, my brother instigated buying a large World War II aircraft hanger for a dollar, took it apart and moved it 150 miles with volunteers to Fairbanks, Alaska. It was to be used for a recreation building for kids. No one knew the material was stored on a frozen swamp. Summer came and the volunteers went to their jobs. The material began to sink.

“I give up! I’ve…etc. etc. I quit!”

The ‘air’ beneath his wings said, “You’re not making us the laughing stock of Fairbanks! You figure a way!”

Many years later, the city literally, rolled out a red carpet, presented him with a four foot key, installed a $5,000 plaque with his picture and history, and named the twenty million dollar building, ‘Hez Ray Recreation Complex’.

The morale of the story: Use the air beneath your wings to arise above the cloud over your head.

Mark Richardson said...

Anonymous,

Atleast Forrest's dumb followers knew his name. Cowards are not worthy of following, nor listening to.

Mark

Chuck Andrews said...

Mark

I agree.

“Run Anonymous Run.”

Just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Chuck

Doug said...

Thank you Chuck for your well chosen words, and Wade for wisely publishing them. Couldn't have said it better myself. And Wade (Forrest) - don't stop running. You are not alone! The future of the SBC is of no real consequence to me, because I serve and work in the "kingdom of God" and know that it will continue until the Lord returns. But I must be opposed to the destructive force of "Fundamentalism" in the Christian church. It truly is "wolves in sheeps clothing" as Jesus warned us. How can we deny that the actions of some of the IMB trustees (and many other examples) are any less than "woflish". Jesus would not recognize such an attitude toward brothers and sisters in Christ.

Anonymous said...

Having seen close up situations where people who called themselves Christian mistreated people, I can tell you one reason the oppressors get away with it. The people they oppress have been taught "turn the other cheek". There is the expectation that they will quietly submit rather than causing a fuss with such results as:
-Causing trouble for other people who might be needed to tell their side.
-By raising a fuss, causing bad publicity for the Christian institution/organization, and also making Christians in general look bad.

Since these things result from any effort to fight against mistreatment by those who call themselves Christians, it makes a hard choice for the mistreated person, or even for their advocates.

And, while we are told not to guess another's motive, isn't it possible that those abusing power arrogantly take these things into consideration when they mistreat others or otherwise abuse their power and then calculate what actions they can get away with?

Susie

Anonymous said...

Susie, You are sharp! You have figured it out. Or perhaps you have experience.

When I went to my elders about what I saw on the senior staff (I was also a sr staffer) of a mega of documented abuse, embezzelement, lies, etc. They thanked me nicely...said they would look into it and promptly went about trying to ruin ME. I all of a sudden became a trouble maker, divisive and a gossip. The senior pastor told me to 'turn the other cheek' with this treatment even if it were not true! (Which he knew it was NOT true as he had known me for 20 years)

It was like being in a surreal world where evil is good and good is evil. They never did anything about the abuse, embezzlement and lies. The problem was.. but I did not realize it then... They never wanted to know any of it in the first place.

So, the real question is: How many people would care? We have dumbed down sin to the point that no one knows what it is anymore and excuses are made for all kinds of behavior for certain leaders.

Mills

Anonymous said...

Wade,

As a pastor from another denomination, I can assure that the intolerance is not limited to those within the SBC. I have several pastor friends who are SBC who are open and willing to discuss theology and are willing to accept that for non-essentials we can (and often do) have reasonable, differing opinions.

However, I know other SBC pastors who Bible thump so hard it feels more like a brick than a testament to God's love. They publicly insinuate and privately bash interpretations that differ from their own. I've even had some of the youth in my church become very confused and disillusioned because they were told much of what they believed was wrong.

Jesus said that they would know we were His followers by the way we loved each other. He said to love each other as He loved us. As I've pointed out to people, that is a higher standard than loving others as we love ourselves (because I see myself with very jaded eyes!).

I applaud you for standing up for God's love. I applaud you for your commitment to His Word (both the Word made Flesh and the written Word). But most of all, I applaud you for standing against intolerance and legalism in one of the largest Christian groups in the world.

In Christ,

a friend in SW Oklahoma

Becca said...

While I agree that some want you to publish a book b/c they don't want you to "stop running" b/c if you do, then they have no leader... I don't agree that they don't know why they are running in the first place.
As a "follower," I believe it is imortant for truth to be released, but I also know that timing is important. And now may NOT be the time. Maybe it is, I have no idea. I don't think those of us back in the mass of people running with you can even begin to know what it is like to be the one out front all alone.
We can form our opinions, and our judgements, but it is your decision to make. I will support you regardless.

Wade Burleson said...

Thanks Becca,

That means a great deal to me.

G. Alford said...

Wade,

Fundamentalism is indeed having a negative impact on Cooperation in the SBC and those who say otherwise have their heads stuck in the denominational sand. I just posted on this impact in Florida over on my blog… 25% of Florida Baptist Churches give $0 to the Cooperative Program in 2007 and Florida Baptist $1.5 Million CP Budget Shortfall.

If my memory serves me correctly (I will have to look up the source from a year or so ago) there now are more “Baptist” Churches in the State of Florida that choose NOT to affiliate with the Florida Baptist Convention and the SBC than those who do… what does that tell you about the direction we are headed in?

Grace Always,

Anonymous said...

Wade,
Your friend Chuck says it well. Whether the issues you have raised for the SBC ever get resolved rests squarely upon the shoulders of those with real influence, not you. If they decide to risk their own equity by supporting an open and gracious discussion, the cause you support may have a chance. Spiritual abuse can only exist and continue when spiritual authority declines to promote an atmosphere that channels gracious and courteous dissent in a positive way.

I believe it becomes a measure of faith question. If there is not a sufficient faith present in the convention that our issues can be dealt with in a gracious, open manner, then what is the faith that guides us? What measure of faith do we bear witness to when we are asked to have unquestioning faith in our leadership, that asks us to trust decisions made by a few seemingly unaccountable leaders, behind closed doors even? What measure of faith do we bear witness to by submitting to this leadership?

Historically, our convention (do not read denomination) has kept the forces that wish to narrow and exclude at bay by publicly facing those agendas that seek to narrow and exclude. Has this particular cycle of narrowing reached a tipping point that can not be reversed? I see little evidence of a desire on the part of convention leadership that would encourage any effort to stem the tide of narrowing the parameters of cooperation. The excuse seems to be for the sake of preservation of "Baptist Identity". At what point do we completely lose our identity as a convention of Baptistic churches cooperating for the sake of advancing the kingdom?

This burden of trying to bring this cause into the public discourse, in a graceful manner, is no longer for you to bear alone. Either you will be joined by those in leadership or you will not. Either way, know there are countless others surrounding you this very day, willing to join you in whatever God leads you to do. I just smile when I think that you are in a win-win situation.
Greg Giezentanner

Anonymous said...

Wade,
You will hear much from many people. What are you hearing from God? You are already a man of integrity, gentle in spirit and caring in your attitude...God has built those qualities into your life. Again, what is God saying to you. That's the voice to follow.
Ken Colson
Montana

Benji Ramsaur said...

Wade,

1 Cor. 13:2

You've got the latter.

May it spread by God's grace.

Benji

David said...

Wade:

Think I basically said this in an email to you and a posting here--encouraging you to write what you know and have experienced as an IMB trustee. The Spirit must be your guide, obviously; He doesn't lead to vengeful activity, but He does stand in truth--and tells the truth. My opinion: write what you know as truth, let the guilty deal with it.


David

othoniel a valdes sr said...

keep your narrative private is my private prayer language desire