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

The Theater of the Absurd: Southern Baptists Desiring Leaders With No Integrity

When I served as a trustee of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board (2005-2008), the board passed a new regulation prohibiting the appointment of any Southern Baptist to the mission field who had ever prayed in tongues in private during their personal prayer times. The missionary application form was changed, and the question "Have you ever prayed using a private prayer language (tongues)?" was placed at the top of the application form. If the candidate marked "Yes," the appointment process for that person ended immediately. At the time I was ignorant of the political overtones and motivations for the regulation, so--stupid is as stupid does--I asked several questions about the new private prayer language prohibition.

Wade's Question: "Since the IMB already prohibits missionaries by policy from publicly speaking in tongues, and if that policy is violated, the missionary is fired, why is there any need to enter into a person's private prayer closet to determine if the missionary candidate has prayed using a private prayer language?"

Answer: "Because what someone does in private will eventually cause problems publicly."

Wade's Question: "But have you considered that when you ask a missionary about their private prayer practices, you are dependent upon their integrity for honest answers?"

Answer: "Yes. So?"

Wade's Question: "We have two missionary candidates. Both have used an unkown prayer language in their private communion with God. They are asked about their private prayer practicise. One candidate honestly answers the question "Yes, I have used a private prayer language" while the other missionary candidate dishonestly answers the question "No,  I have never prayed using a private prayer language." Have you considered that our interview process regarding this issue only allows us to appoint the dishonest person with no integrity instead of the honest person with integrity to the mission field?"

First Answer: Crickets

Later Answer: "We would rather have a dishonest person on the mission field than risk sending person who uses a private prayer language to the mission field."

Now fast forward to 2010. We have Professor James White of Golden Gate Seminary who is teaching various subjects for our Southern Baptist seminary located in San Francisco. James White, an apologist who has legitimately and officially debated Muslims, has been raising questions about the lack of integrity in Ergun Caner's biographical, professional and ministerial claims regarding his apologetics ministry. Dr. Caner, the President of Liberty Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia has been heard in an abundance of internet video and audio material making either contradictory or outright false claims about his past (birthplace, native language, professional ministry, etc...). Whether or not Liberty attempts to clear the President of their seminary from any wrongdoing will be a matter of public record on June 30, 2010. Whether or not Ergun Caner has lied about his past is already a matter of public record, thanks to the Internet. We all can forgive a man who says he has lied and repents. What we can't do is act like integrity doesn't matter among evangelical Christians.

What is astonishing to me is how a few Southern Baptists, people like Mr. Peter Lumpkins, propose that James White should no longer teach at Golden Gate Seminary, but Ergun Caner should keep his job. The professor who actually debates Muslims and speaks of himself with integrity should be fired, but the one who lies to others about his background and his "debates" with Muslims should stay.

It reminds me of 2005. "Fire the people with integrity, and keep the people who lack integrity. We should care more about one's ideology than one's integrity. It's not character that counts, it's loyalty to a cause that matters." We definitely live in a confused world. It just baffles me how some Southern Baptists seem more confused about morality and integrity than the world is.


In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

20 comments:

Ergun Caner Conman said...

Wade,

It is so sad and discouraging to learn of such a bureucratic politics in SBC.

Peter Lumpkins must already are or will become a SBC official since it is NOT integrity and honesty that is needed--it is loyalty to the big guns at SBC.

Honestly Wade, you don't have a chance in the system, except for a miracle.

By the 30th NOTHING will change in respect to Ergun Caner, he will be canonized and become LU and/or SBC new saint Ergun. Whereas, you and people like James White are being seen as evil men.

As long as Paige Patterson and his companies are around, no reformation is possible for SBC.

It is sad, very sad to learn of such a dirty politics in SBC--some guys are using God's name for religious political purposes.

The Squirrel said...

Truth only matters if you care about the truth. If what really matters to you is something other than the truth you end up with what we have all been witness to; i.e. the Ergun Caner defense squad.

"Shoot the messengers!" seems to be the marching orders that they are following.

As has been said before, if Ergun Caner falls in the mud, a lot of "Big Names" in the SBC will be sullied by the splashes.

Squirrel

Rex Ray said...

Wade,
I love the first answer: “Crickets”.

That was more honest than the first answer to asking the reason why Russell Dilday was fired: “We don’t have to have a reason; we got the vote.”

Wade, you said…Later Answer: "We would rather have a dishonest person on the mission field than risk sending a person who uses a private prayer language to the mission field."

Their answer paraphrased would be: ‘We want people that will bend their knee and rely on us rather than one relying on God.’ In other words, they don’t want any Daniels.

Bob Cleveland said...

Sounds to me as if being an ex-IMB missionary is NOT something you'd want to put on your resume'. No use raising suspicion needlessly, I always say.

Anonymous said...

After many years on the mission field and a life-long SB I have been amazed at the loss of biblical values among those who are in leadership across our convention. That is not to paint everyone with broad paint brushes but what you have described for months and years makes me wonder if ICHABOD has become our new name.

When controlling the message and protecting the institution is more important than maintaining biblical values you can only think the sunset years are upon us. Only a true spiritual revival that breaks all hearts and spirits will rescue us from becoming another institution that was more concerned with itself than God's Kingdom.

Strong Tower said...

This doesn't really fit, but I'll wedge it in here: The SBC is made up of autonomous churches. By nature they have no accountability to the convention (part of a criticism White makes and blames the laxity of integrity upon not having mechanisms of accountablity, and adds that a plurality of elders would at least help control loonies like Caner).

One of the purposes of the cooperative programs are to assist local churches to send their own missionaries. The local chuch, then, and not the convention should set the standards for its missionaries. The convention, not being a denomination, has no say over who represents the local churches in the mission's field. The SBC is not a church, nor even a denomination, it cannot have missionaries and has no constitutional means of regulating them. Each agency has autonomy to set their own operational standards, however, they do not send, the churches do. So they should adhere to the standards of the local, and not their own, when determining the qualifications for a missionary.

The wedge is this: the fact is that the SBC acts consistently without integrity. It does not even adhere to the spirit of its own organizing principles. It is no wonder that its icons would not, either.

daburck said...

This tirade against White opens another possibility: Golden Gate [my alma mater] has stayed above the political fray. It's likely that there are some in our convention who would like to see it "aligned" with their thinking. Professor White, Dr. Iorg and other fine professors now may be thinking the target has been painted.

debbiekaufman said...

Strong Tower: It is amazing me to how that very argument is used against things like this yet we will not hesitate to separate from a church who has a woman as a preacher. Would not the same thing that you say here apply to say the Caner scandal? Politics. It's why it has no place in our denomination. It's just too convenient an excuse.

Lydia said...

Wade said: “Have you considered that our interview process regarding this issue only allows us to appoint the dishonest person with no integrity instead of the honest person with integrity to the mission field?"

Wade, The logical question you asked concerning the “not- well- thought -out -policy” of PPL was an embarrassment for them. You had to pay for that, you know.

We tend to wrongly assume that those with titles and position have the brains and reasoning skills to go with such accoutrements .

In the case of Caner, many have wrongly assumed that character and integrity, likewise, accompany titles and position in Christendom.

Even with the vast store of evidence out of Caner’s own mouth many do not, as Mr. Squirrel suggests, care about truth.

Gene S said...

Thanks for pointing out the absurdity of current IMB practices.

In the days when AUTONOMY was our banner, no one would dare tell another individual or church exactly what to do. We were brothers in Christ who majored on missions and minored on theology.

It was more important to share the Gospel than to worry about what color of underwear the person was wearing!

This whole thing is yet another explaination as to why we are failing miserably some 40 years after CR started calling the shots.

My question is: Why did it take so long???

Richard said...

SBC is a big machine.

Let us see SBC as decision makers' clique.

Can some of you give an exposition of some influential men behind and in SBC?

Anonymous said...

Who employs ol' Pete? Do those folks understand how mistakenly he reasons, and that he may do the same in his employment for them and cost them a bundle? Maybe the people giving him a paycheck want to reconsider seriously whether or not they keep HIM on staff?

With that,

I'm Suggesting It ;-}

Lucas DeFalco said...

Peter Lumpkins is definitely pushing this hot button issue very hard. Some have suggested a personal, and maybe private, conflict between he and James White. I don't know if that is true. Another possible motive may be personal gain in pursuit of some denominational office. To the best of my memory (I could be wrong), Peter has not served in any national-level office before. I could be misinformed on that and if I am please correct me. But if that is true then it would be a stretch to think he is being looked at for any key appointments in the denomination. Plus knowing Peter he likes to speak his mind and remain on the fringe. Putting him in office would force him to clean up his tone quite a bit. Something I don't seem him willing to do.

Of course one can only speculate about Peter's personal motives for what he is doing. My brief interactions on his blog before he censored me gave me some insight into his defense mechanisms and diversionary tactics. Perhaps now Peter has run out of ad hominum attacks against White, Kaufman, Burleson, et al (his last 5 blog posts have been 3 reposts and 2 videos)?

Five of the six posts prior to that were direct ad hominum attacks against James White. Only one of those posts even mentioned the mountain of evidence of Ergun Caner's exaggerations, embellishments, and linguistic mistakes. And that reference was an attempt to argue that writing a thesis on the Crusades makes one an expert on Islam!

Prior to that there are 2 other ad hominum attacks by Peter against White as well as a copy/paste of Hussein Wario's ad hominum attack against White. Again, none of these posts interact with any of the evidence against Caner.

In fairness to Peter, there was a copy/paste of an email allegadely sent by Norman Geisler directly to Peter which defended Caner (but also did not address any of the evidence).

Other than a post about Jimmy Jackson and one about "neocalvinism" in the SBC, that's all that Peter has written about in the past month: 2 posts on the SBC, 1 post from Geisler, 2 videos, 3 reblogs and 9 posts about James White.

A search of aomin.org during that same timeframe shows only two references to Peter and only one was a complete blog post. That's two out 60 total blog posts.

Those are the facts. Only God and Peter Lumpkins who what his motives have been.

Gene S said...

Richard asks the appropriate question: Who is behind the moves taking place???

Us in NC have have heard there is a strong move to shove Frank Page from his nomination to the EC Presidency. They appear to be from the midwest. Their motive is that "he said too much in the GCRTF deliberations and asked too many questions."

WHO ARE THESE MOVERS AND SHAKERS leading up to decisions being made this week???

Bennett Willis said...

Do you think that PL is obsessed with James White? :)

PL can say less with more tacky words than anyone I have ever read. (I suppose that this shows my lack of literacy—and Peter probably enjoyed the comment.) His technique is generally to ignore the bulk of the discussion or topic that he is attacking and pick one arguable point and then grind on it for paragraph after (almost) single sentence paragraph. Short, declarative sentences are a foreign concept. His ability to ignore facts is rare—but not unique--in the comment threads and posts I read.

Then to save many of us from embarrassing ourselves he culls the comment thread. I do appreciate this because the temptation to say something inappropriate would likely get the better of many of us if we thought it might see the light of day. Bothering to disagree with PL is a waste of good time. Often, he will post your disagreement only when he has an “effective” rebuttal that he can post at the same time.

On those rare occasions when he writes a coherent post or comment, it is so startling that I usually have to check the address to be sure the computer has not jumped to another site. Humorously, this only adds to my personal frustration because it shows that he can produce positive text. I am convinced that he does "his usual" just to be annoying.

Michael said...

Great post Wade. I can't help but snicker a little, knowing that Bill Wagner, Southern Baptist missionary to Austria, Belgium, and professor at Golden Gate, a very godly man, has prayed in tongues privately for years. If his ministry is one that has been affirmed, which it has, by Southern Baptists, because of its good fruit, maybe they need to get more like him who do pray in tongues, according to Paul's biblical admonition. Maybe what he practiced privately did, in fact, produce good public results.

Pastor Bob Farmer said...

I have a question. I was at the Convention in San Antonio when we passed the statement saying that SBC entities would not go beyond the Baptist Faith and Message in their requirements. What happened to that? This policy obviously goes way beyond the BCF&M.

Lydia said...

PL can say less with more tacky words than anyone I have ever read. (I suppose that this shows my lack of literacy—and Peter probably enjoyed the comment.) His technique is generally to ignore the bulk of the discussion or topic that he is attacking and pick one arguable point and then grind on it for paragraph after (almost) single sentence paragraph. Short, declarative sentences are a foreign concept. His ability to ignore facts is rare—but not unique--in the comment threads and posts I read.

Then to save many of us from embarrassing ourselves he culls the comment thread. I do appreciate this because the temptation to say something inappropriate would likely get the better of many of us if we thought it might see the light of day. Bothering to disagree with PL is a waste of good time. Often, he will post your disagreement only when he has an “effective” rebuttal that he can post at the same time.

On those rare occasions when he writes a coherent post or comment, it is so startling that I usually have to check the address to be sure the computer has not jumped to another site. Humorously, this only adds to my personal frustration because it shows that he can produce positive text. I am convinced that he does "his usual" just to be annoying.

Mon Jun 14, 01:18:00 PM 2010

Bennet, Now picture communicating in PERSON with such tactics when they are leaders who control the venue.

Tricia in Orlando said...

This is frustrating beyond belief. Cessationists cannot, by definition, believe in either inerrancy or infallibility (as they so adamantly claim) if they ignore Paul's admonition toward tounges.

Can I submit a resolution? We should repent that we have quenched the Spirit by denying his work and actions in our current bodies and recind all national SBC policy positions that oppose the practices evidenced by the Spirit in the early church and in Christ's personal ministry. If they claim that the miracles (including tounges) that happened were only for the pagan environment seen by the early church, they only need to open their eyes to see that we're right back there because we failed to depend on Him and rely on the Comforter He sent.

This has gone on too long.

Thy Peace said...

Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog [James White] > Caner Scandal Hits Tehran Times.

When you combine myth-making, exaggeration, and simple falsehood, with truth, this is the result. Not only are true converts maligned inappropriately, but when Caner says true things about Islam, for example, the truth of those statements is automatically tainted and diminished by its consistent conjunction with falsehoods. There is a strong element of truth in the observation that conservative evangelicalism/fundamentalism is rife with a desire to hear the "worst" about Islam. And surely there is much to report about the evil perpetrated by the Taliban, for example. But it has long been my theme that the Christian's first concern should be an accurate knowledge of the fundamentals of Islam so that a clear, compelling gospel witness can be made. Islam is not a monolith, and just as we are offended when people tar and feather us for the sins of, say, Rome, we have to be consistent and allow Muslims to define their own faith without broad-brushing them in a way that would offend us (and obscure the truth).