In the comment section to yesterday's post regarding the resignation of IMB Regional Leader Rodney Hammer, IMB trustee Hershael York wrote the following comment:
Hershael York said,
"When are you going to publish Dr. Rankin's letter to you?"
Tue May 06, 11:58:00 PM 2008
I was completely oblivious to the letter to which Dr. York was referring, but assured him that I would be happy for any correspondence between Dr. Rankin and myself to be made public. When I arrived at my office on Wednesday morning, May 07, 2008 after a three day staff retreat, behold, there was a letter from Dr. Rankin on my desk. I read it and immediately called IMB trustee Hershael York at Southern Seminary and asked a question:
"Hershael, how did you know about Dr. Rankin's letter to me when Dr. John Floyd was the only person listed as cc'd on the letter?"
It does not upset me that Hershael York is privy to private correspondence to me, particularly since I believe all ministry of the SBC, including correspondence of trustees should always be available to the SBC public. However, it is ironic to me that some complain there are 'breaches' of confidentiality on SBC blogs, when in reality, blogs simply make available the information that has been held tight and secure by a select few who have been privy to it for decades. I am of the firm conviction that unless safety of missionaries is in question, all information regarding debates, motions, business, and other matters involving SBC ministry should be made public. The free flow of information, transparency and Christian openness should be the norm for Southern Baptists.
Dr. Rankin's letter to me, dated April 25, 2008, was written to call my attention to two comments on my blog, made by someone I do not know, that misrepresented the truth about Dr. Floyd's tenure at the IMB. I had not even read the comments until John Floyd himself called me on April 14th, 2008 and informed me that they were inaccurate representations of the facts. Again, I was unaware of the comments in question until Dr. Floyd called me to ask me about the author who made them. You can read the details of how I handled the matter with Dr. Floyd in my response to Dr. Rankin's letter to me below. What is odd to me is how and why Dr. Rankin would write to me about those comments nearly two weeks after they were deleted? Obviously, someone had to print them, keep them, and show them to Dr. Rankin, and others - well after they were gone. It seems that the motivation for showing them is not the restoration of a reputation, but the denigration of a medium through which the comments were made.
When I called Hershael York yesterday and asked him how he knew about Dr. Rankin's letter to me, I informed him that I would happily comply with his request that I publish Rankin's letter, and I also told him I would also publish my response. I then called Dr. Rankin's office and left a message informing him of Dr. York's request that his letter be made public. To that end, below is Dr. Rankin's letter to me, made known to me by Dr. York before I even received it, and my response.
April 25, 2008
Dr. Wade Burleson
2505 W. Owen K Garriott Road
Enid, OK 73703-5224
I haven't been following your blog closely since your resignation from the board in January, but it was called to my attention recently when you released the position paper I had written on the personnel policies that was subsequently distributed to the board. I am not writing to comment on that subject and your commentary, as I choose not to engage in this channel of public communication.
Although you are not responsible for the comments others post on your blog, I feel that you should be responsible for correcting inaccurate and slanderous comments that enter the public domain through your site. Therefore, I am writing to correct two erroneous facts.
(1). Dr. John Floyd was not fired as regional leader for Central and Eastern Europe nor was he asked to retire or resign. This was a personal choice of Dr. Floyd when he became eligible for retirement and chose to return to teaching. In fact, I personally tried to persuade Dr. Floyd to continue in his leaderhsip role on the field with the IMB at the time.
(2). It was also mentioned that Dr. Floyd was known to abuse or harass a woman during his tenure on the field. One may not agree with Dr. Floyd's personal position on various issues, but no one could accuse him of anything other than being a person of impeccable character and integrity. There is absolutely no record or awarenes of anyone who knew Dr. Floyd during his tenure on the field of inappropriate actions toward women on the field.
I don't know if you will choose to correct these inaccurate perceptions generated on your blog, but I did feel obligated to write and express my disappointment at these mischaracterizations of someone who served our board faithfully over the years.
cc: Dr. John Floyd
Dr. Jerry Rankin
The International Mission Board
3806 Monument Avenue
P.O. Box 6767
Richmond, Virginia 23230-0767
May 7, 2008
As you affirm in your letter to me of April 25, 2008, I keep an open, un-moderated blog where people can comment without my knowledge or my approval. I, too, grieve over any comment that misrepresents the truth. The only thing worse would be official statements to Baptist Press or other news agencies that intentional distort the truth. I was unaware of the two comments you reference in your April 25, 2008 letter that misrepresented the truth about former Trustee Chairman John Floyd's career at the International Mission Board. I was unaware of them until John called me on April 14, 2008. I have hundreds of people who comment on my blog and I have neither the time nor the will to read or respond to every comment. John called desiring information about the author of the two comments. I informed him that not only did not I know the author, I was unaware of the comments. He directed me to where they were located on my blog, and I told him that I would immediately remove them.
He stopped me. He told me not to remove them because his attorney was looking into the comments and when they found out who wrote them they would then address how to correct the matter appropriately. I asked him to clarify what he just said by asking, “Dr. Floyd, are you telling me that the two comments that offend you, that misrepresent the truth, and that are located deep within an un-moderated comment section of this blog should remain so that you can sue the person who wrote them?” I assured him that I was not unfamiliar with public statements about me that were distortions of the truth or outright lies, and because of my own experience, I was sympathetic to his dilemma and would be happy to correct the matter for him immediately. But, I said, I would do as he suggested. After a momentary pause, John said I should delete the comments.
I tell you this because your letter is dated nearly two weeks after my conversation with John and the deletion of those comments. Further, the author of the comments, a Southern Baptist layman, had phone conversations with Dr. Floyd the very day I deleted those comments, and called me to apologize for making them. I told him my concern is that he resolve the matter appropriately with Dr. Floyd. He assured me the matter had been resolved satisfactorily. Again, I am unsure of the reason why you chose to write your letter to me dated April 25, 2008, or why trustee Hershael York requested me on May 6, 2008 that I publish your letter to me, a letter that I did not even know existed until my arrival back in Enid on May 7, 2008 after a three day staff retreat. I can assure you that I believe the desire to protect the reputation of John Floyd is admirable. I am pleased to publish both your letter and my response at Dr. York’s request.
While I find it admirable to protect the reputation of the former trustee chairman, so too, I find it just as admirable when all of us seek to protect the reputation of our missionaries. So, too, it is praiseworthy to come to the defense of people like Regional Leader Rodney Hammer. So, too, it is admirable to fight for those God called young men and women in the Southern Baptist Convention who are disqualified for missionary service because of two doctrinal IMB policies that exceed the BFM 2000 and even, in some minds, the Word of God. So, too, it is worthy to correct any trustee who publicly makes the absurd claim that using the Arabic word for God (Allah) is a sin, and Jehovah or Yahweh should be the Arabic substitute word for God used by our missionaries in Arab lands. So, too, it is praiseworthy to refuse to allow trustees who have never set foot on a foreign land to correct our professional missiologists and their methodologies in reaching unreached people groups with the gospel of Jesus Christ through books they write. So, too, it is an honorable action to ensure that the International Mission Board abide by the wishes of the Southern Baptist Convention and implement the Garner Motion. So, too, it is wise to stand up to trustees who are turning the International Mission Board into an agency that silences dissent, demands conformity, and threatens the termination of anyone who dares question trustee or Richmond directives.
I respect you, Dr. Rankin, and appreciate your service to the Southern Baptist Convention. I, like you, desire to do everything I can to protect the reputation of the former Chairman of Trustees, Dr. John Floyd. I am ashamed that someone would misrepresent the truth about this man. Likewise, I am ashamed that our missionaries are subjected to the heavy handed, obstructive policies of a small, but powerful Landmark, cessationist, and very political group of trustee leaders who are harming the work of the International Mission Board. We need a Gospel Resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention. We need to restore the freedom of God’s people to dissent over tertiary matters, but to love each other enough in order to cooperate to reach the world for Christ. Since 1992 I have been uninvolved in any political processes of the Southern Baptist Convention. My appoint in 2005 as a trustee to the International Mission Board opened my eyes to the some incredible, negative changes that have occurred at the IMB. As you know, I sought to correct the problem for six months behind closed doors. After being treated in a manner that defies Christian logic, I am sympathetic toward anyone who receives similar treatment, particularly those whose employment and careers are on the line.
I do hope that our communication by letter has given Dr. Floyd and other trustee leaders satisfaction that any misrepresentation of the truth concerning Dr. Floyd's tenure at the IMB has been corrected. I enjoy my fellowship with Dr. Floyd and his lovely wife, and I consider them friends. I do not enjoy, however, his and others’ desire to exclude those from the SBC who do not think, act, talk, believe or practice faith the way they do. His admission to me that the new policies were ‘doctrinal’ in nature, and there was no anecdotal evidence from the field that they were needed, nor was any evidence necessary, is enough for me know that a narrow, ideological group is attempting to direct our convention. I cannot be silent about the efforts of those who are changing our convention before our very eyes, and I commend Dr. York’s desire that this communication be made public. I hope the matter with Dr. Floyd is considered resolved satisfactorily, and I trust the other matters mentioned will also be dealt with in as satisfactory of a manner as that which precipitated your letter.
In His Grace,