Friday, January 20, 2006

Stay On Point --- Don't Get Confused

The trustees of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention have any and every right to implement policies for any purpose. As a Board member, I have repeatedly stated that I will comply with every policy of our Board. For instance, there is no policy against a trustee blogging on the Internet, but if there were, I would not blog. I have said repeatedly to all the trustees that I would stop blogging if the Board would pass a policy to that effect. A trustee should always abide by policy.

That is why it is important for you to remember that the new policies on a private prayer language and baptism are policies that are well within the right of the Board to pass. A Board must have policy. A Board must live by policy. We now have two new policies. I was in the minority who voted against them.

Why did I vote against the new policies? Because the OLD POLICIES WERE EXCELLENT, and I had deep concerns about the reasons the new policies had become an issue after 161 years of no need for them.

But I have repeatedly said that I would now never vote to put a missionary on the field who has a private prayer language or one who was not baptized in a church with Southern Baptist principles (or one that does not teach "eternal security") because it is now policy (voted by a majority of trustees) and I am a trustee who lives by policy. Frankly, staff (Candidate Consultants) will never put us in the position to vote on a missionary candidate who violates the new policies because staff is paid to enforce the policy that is set by the trustees.

The trustees of the IMB can set any policy they choose, for whatever reason they choose, even if the policies reach beyond the Baptist Faith and Message. For instance, the Board can choose to set a policy that no person from Oklahoma will ever be appointed as a missionary. I would argue against the policy, but if the Board voted for it, I would abide by it, just as I will abide by the two new policies implemented on November 15, 2005.

The reason I am being recommended for removal seems to be four-fold:

(1). I have said that I believe there are just a few, I reiterate, just a few trustees of the IMB who meet on a regular basis to subvert the leadership of Jerry Rankin. I was invited to participate in this group before I ever even attended a meeting of the IMB. I believe that is wrong. It is not only a violation of IMB policy, it leads to power politics, back room hidden agendas, and negates the prayerful petitioning of God for guidance in our work as the greatest mission sending agency of the conservative, evangelical world. I have never been able to speak about this issue of back room politics with the Board as a whole, though I have raised my concern on several occasions with trustee leadership. I have wondered incredulously why President Rankin was NOT allowed to fully and freely share with his Board the problems he had with the new policies.

I was hopeful the above issues would be addressed at our last Board meeting, and in fact made known my desires that they be addressed.

(2). I have voiced principled dissent through this blog to the convention at large. The attorney for the IMB has issued an opinion that is available to the public in which he says a trustee's criticism of the majority decision of the trustee body is not a violation of policy unless, (a). it is intended to harm the work of the Board; (b). it intentionally distorts the truth; (c). it violates confidentiality.

I have been fastidious and conscientious since beginning this blog in early December 2005 to make sure what I write meets all three of those requirements. I have sought to be gracious, kind and supportive of our work, while, at the same time, articulating my concerns.

(3). "Lack of trust" and "resistance to accountability," the phrases used in the press release by the chairman of the trustees as the basis for the recommendation for my removal from the Board, seem to be phrases that speak to this blog. I think the thing that has really bothered me was the actual recommendation voted on by the trustees and read into the offical record stated, "We recommend Wade Burleson be removed from the Board of Trustees for gossip and slander and loss of trust." My blog is public, not hidden (gossip). My blog is truthful (not an intentional distortion of facts, ie. "slander" though they probably meant "libel") and my trust as a trustee is primarily to the SBC at large, not solely to my fellow trustees. I have repeatedly asked for evidence as to the basis of this charge, and to this day have received nothing. To publicly accuse a brother in Christ of slander is very serious on several fronts. I stand ready to either repent when shown my sin, or defend any and every statement I have made in an effort to make our convention better.

(4). I have stated that there seems to be an effort by some, not all, to purge anybody from service within the SBC who does not interpret non-essential doctrines
the way some leaders say they must be interpreted. If we continue down this slippery slope of conformity on non-essential doctrines, there will come a day when you very well may be excluded for your eschatalogy (You mean to tell me you are not a pre-millenialist?), soteriology (You mean to tell me you are a "5 point Calvinist?"), ecclesiology (Surely you don't believe in "open communion?"). Where will it end? Our convention is large enough for people who disagree on the minor doctrines. Unity on the essentials, but freedom on the non-essentials. This is not a battle for the text, it is a battle for the freedom of conservative evangelicals to honestly interpret the text and arrive at different conclusions, BUT still cooperate in missions.

There are some very complex issues that need to be addressed.

I am willing to address them within the confines of the IMB in my role as a trustee. In essence, it does boil down to a control issue. I would like our convention to ask several questions and prayerfully seek an answer to them.

(1). Why do we have husband and wife teams on the major boards and agencies of our convention? Are there not enough Southern Baptists to share the appointments?

(2). Why do we reelect the same people to serve as trustees, up to an astounding sixteen years? Maybe more? Also, do we want former employees of the IMB or any agency, who either resigned under duress or were terminated, to be placed back on the Board as a trustee? For that matter, should any former employee of our agencies be able to serve as a trustee for the agency with which they were employeed? I don't know. I am simply asking.

(3). Do we as Southern Baptists really want a subset of trustees meeting in secret to establish agendas, plan strategy and make decisions about staff and leadership, or do we desire ALL of our trustees to discuss ALL the pertinent issues in our regularly scheduled meetings? I realize that some business is confidential, but we have forums and Executive Sessions to deal with sensitive matters, not hotel lobbies or even separate hotels.

(4). Do we really want sitting trustees "vetting" potential new trustees, contacting them prior to even the Nominating Committee contacting them, in order to insure that all new trustees are "like-minded" regarding the head of the agency and staff?

(5). Do we really want to contiue to close the door of the tent of cooperation to the point that every Southern Baptist must interpret the Scripture in non-essential doctrines in order to cooperate on the mission field?

These are questions that I was seeking answers for within the confines of the trustees of the IMB (and many more that are not yet appropriate to make public).

I remain a trustee of the IMB, vested with trust by the convention that I will do my work on behalf of the convention.

If these are inappropriate questions, then the convention needs to remove me, and I will continue to support our work as a convention in missions and evangelism through the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Offering, but only as a pastor, and not a trustee.

Either way, my conscience is bound by principle, not the opinion of man.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

P.S. Just a word of reminder. I really do love, appreciate and respect every trustee, even those who vehemently disagree with me or dislike me. Every one of them loves the Lord Jesus, desires what is best for our convention, and has given sacrificially for the cause of Christ --- every one of them. I am articulating opposition to principles, not people. To the extent I can be shown that my principles are illogical, unscriptural, and detrimental to the cause of Christ, I myself will change.


Rob Armstrong said...


Thank you for your honesty and your candor in the midst of a trying time for many who are involved. I am praying for you and sincerely hope that we will all seek the wisdom of the Lord and the unity that comes from sharing in His Spirit.

Serving Him,

Rob Armstrong

Jennifer said...

Hello. I just found your blog through an ABC News article about it. First, I say peace to you as a sister in the Lord! I do not understand why the SBC insists on fighting and driving a wedge between believers instead of working together to reach souls. The world looks at this and says “If that’s what it means to be a Christian, I don’t want any part of it!” It’s a victory for the devil. I am increasingly concerned about the elitist attitudes of church groups, not just the SBC, including the role they play in partisan politics (which I blogged about the past two days). The exclusionary paradigm I am talking about is summed up in your statement:

“Do we really want to contiue to close the door of the tent of cooperation to the point that every Southern Baptist must interpret the Scripture in non-essential doctrines in order to cooperate on the mission field?”

I say, open the door of the tent to ALL BELIEVERS who have a burden for sharing Jesus.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Burleson,

You are articulate, gracious, Biblical, passionate, theological, logical, Christ-honoring, and missions minded. Are you really a Southern Baptist?

Anonymous said...

When we refuse to allow the open challenge of questions, we produce a tyranny of sorts, do we not? This is why we have freedom of the press in America - a sharp contrast to the tyranical censorship of England and its monarch at the time of our revolution- George. Also let's remember that the Bill of Rights, securing the freedom of the press, freedom of speech and other freedoms dear to us, exists because of the Baptist influence that pressed for these freedoms to be made secure.

It is our heritage to call out things that we believe to be inappropriate. Doing so with a humble spirit lends credibilty to your words. This is a decisive issue, and I think one in which the "party in power" will find they are ultimately in the minority. If not, it will cost us all dearly.

Anonymous said...

You do not know me; I'm a home-based mom in Birmingham, AL, and I just want to let you know that I am in full support of all you have written in your blog. I went back to the beginning and read every word.
My heart aches for you because I know this must be a huge distraction and drain on your time and energy, and it is costly to take an unpopular stand. But thank you for having the courage to stand up for what is right.
My heart aches even more though for the missionaries already on the field and for those who are called by the Father but can't go because of the policies of a few humans. They need our support and prayers and encouragement, not someone putting them under a microscope to find out if they are "one of us" in terms of extra standards I can't find in my Bible.
This week I reread "The Shantung Revival" by C.L. Culpepper, which had a profound effect on me years ago in my spiritual journey. It was originally published in 1971 and republished in 1982 by the Home Mission Board. This is lengthy, but here is the epilogue from this wonderful booklet:

"When reports of the Shantung Revival reached other parts of China, the Orient and the United States, some people began questioning the orthodoxy of our mission. In 1935 Dr. C. E. Maddry, newly-elected secretary of the Foreign Mission Board, was asked to investigate the practics of the North China Mission.
"Dr. Maddry arrived in Chefoo in time for the annual conference.... He said to us, "Reports have come to America that the North China Mission has gone to extremes in this revival. My Board has asked me to investigate. What do you have to say for yourselves?"
"There was a deathlike hush which fell over the group. Then Dr. W. B. Glass, esteemed professor of our North China Seminary, stood and said very gravely, 'Dr. Maddry, I will tell you what I have seen. I know that God has worked in our mission in these past five years.'
Then he told him that thousands had been baptized each year. He cited the growth of the seminary from an enrollment of four to more than one hundred and how the churches had nearly doubled in attendance and membership, many becoming self-supporting. He mentioned prayer meetings and Bible study that had become meaningful home that had become truly Christian, and many other changes brought about by the revival.
"Others testified. We heard Miss Pearl Caldwell, Miss Doris Knight, Misses Jane and Florence Lide, Dr. Frank Connely, Dr. John Abernathy, Mr. J. W. Moore, Miss Martha Franks, Miss Bertha Smith, Miss Bonnie Ray, Dr. Frank Lide, Dr. N.A. Bryan. Then I tried to tell him what I had seen. I hid nothing. I told him that the devil had sought to dominate all China, but we had seen him overcome by the power of the Spirit.
Our meeting lasted nearly all afternoon, and before it was over, Dr. Maddry was in tears. He stood and said, 'Brethren and Sisters, I'm going back home and tell my Board that God has been walking in the midst of the North China Mission, and we had better go slow in criticizing them!'
"Another Southern Baptist leader later re-echoed Dr. Maddry's evaluation when he said, 'I wish that every church in any way connected with the Southern Baptist work could have just such a revival as came to the North China Mission!'
"That is also my prayer for America...
"Unless a gret spiritual awakening overtakes our churches, there is little hope for our nation. Such a renewal need not take the exact form of the Shantung Revival. But all the revivals recorded in Holy Writ followed a general pattern. First there was a degeneration of spiritual power among God's people. Then came the realization of desperate need. Deep conviction of sin and agonizing prayer always followed. A final action required turning away from all wickedness and worldliness.
"That's the way it happened in Shantung when God kept His covenant with His people. He is waiting for us to let Him do it again in America."

Oh, I hope that human agendas and power bases don't get in the way of what God wants to do in every nation and congregation.

I also agree totally with what you said in this blog about trustees. I wanted to send an e-mail to the IMB trustees and found out that their names and contact info seems to be off limits to the average person who doesn't have a copy of the SBC annual on their home bookshelf. Why is this info unavailable?

I became more curious and found out by exploring websites of other SBC agencies that this is not just an IMB problem but is widespread. I urge anyone to find out how long it takes them to find a trustee list of any agency or institution of the agency's website. This is very troubling. Why is this info hidden?

Another thing I've wondered is how much scrutiny do potential trustees undergo by those selecting them? Is a potential trustee asked many or any questions about his/her personal life, beliefs, pre-existing agendas, working relationships, potential conflicts of interest, etc? Are trustees asked to sign the Baptist Faith and Message? Is there any training prior to assuming office?

In the case of the IMB, would it be a good idea if trustees had to have the same qualifications as missionary candidates?

These are just things I've mused about since I read about the policy issues and what has been done to you.

Blessings on you as you walk with Jesus through this experience!

Mary Ann said...

I apologize to everyone for having to enable Comment Moderation.

That simply means I will be reading all comments before they are posted. Since I travel a great deal, it might be several hours or even a day before your comment appears.

This is necessary because of the high volume of traffic on this sight and an attempt by some to divert the discussion to personal attacks against my fellow trustees or to issues within the CBF.

I am a Southern Baptist. This is not a CBF issue. It is a Southern Baptist issue.

Therefore, I will not post any comments that reference CBF or any trustee of the IMB by name.

There may be an appropriate forum for that discussion.

I can guarantee you it is not here.

Thank you

Anonymous said...

Mary Ann,

Contact information on the trustees can be found here

Patrick said...

This brings me to a passage in Proverbs 3:

Do not accuse a man for no reason—
when he has done you no harm.

fedbeggar said...

I like that you are beginning to address the problem. I agree the best way to solve a problem is to focus on a solution, i.e. spreading the name of Christ, but when a problem exists as great as this, it is important that energy is spent addressing the problem. For instance, I have recently been diagnosed a diabetic. My main focus is my health, I must change my eating habits, exercise more, etc. BUT, I also must address my blood sugar… because my pancreas has a problem breaking down the sugars I put in my body.

Wade the SBC has a problem. It is a people problem. The problem seems to be that those in power are more concerned with their power than the SBC or the cause of Christ (a statement in contradiction with your post script).
You are correct in approaching this situation from a principle standpoint, but when those who seek to oust you violate principle, they become a problem.

I know you will deal with “people problems” they way they should be dealt with, i.e. face to face and not in a blog. My concern is that we put our efforts into making the “elephant in the room” spreading the name of Christ, when the “elephant in the room” is men who are too power hungry and deal with conflict like three junior high girls all trying to get the same guy. I am afraid their can only be one elephant in a room, and until we deal with the problem, we could get frustrated cramming an elephant in a room (the gospel/missions) where one already exist (trustees that want Rankin out).
kent mckeaigg

Tommy Alderman said...

Pastor -

While I appreciate your graciousness, I'm not sure I agree that the board can enact whatever policies they deem appropriate.

How far beyond the Scriptures and the Baptist Faith & Message can they go before that right is called into question?

We are praying for you.

Stand strong in the faith. said...


The convention must hold a board accountable for its actions.

If the actions are justified and defensible, there should be no problem.

If not, an answer must be given to the convention at large for the reasoning.

That's the Southern Baptist way.

In His Grace,


Tommy Alderman said...

Thanks Pastor...I'll buy that. But it begs another question from one who doesn't know as much about the process as perhaps he should (me): in the event the board enacts policies that would warrant such an explanation, what process is in place for the convention to request (or demand) such an explanation? said...

I believe some very wise people are seeking to answer your question, and an answer may be forthcoming (possibly from the trustees themselves).

If not, I would expect the convention in Greensboro becomes the forum.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Gordon said...

Bro. Wade,
I have been following this saga as it unfolds. As one who supports the new policy in its elemental form, (though perhaps not in its implemantation), I would like to say that your gracious demeanor in all of this can serve as an example to all involved.

My prayer is that this situation will reach a speedy resolution so that we my once again pour all of our energy into the mission of the Kingdom.

God bless!

Tommy Alderman said...

Thanks again, sir.

I'm sure that many of us will be watching to see what happens next.

Perhaps God can yet be glorified through all of this. He has a way of coming out on top, does He not?

Thanks for your gracious spirit.

Anonymous said...

Wade: your move against CBF on this board is narrow minded. The WMU without which there wouldn't be much Lottie Moon, the administrators in Bham are for the most part CBF friendly. Jim Henry's daughter Kate Campbell has done a fund raiser event for them and she brought the house down.
It is small of you not to let the Spirit lead this teachable moment you have created in SBC life to wherever it goes.
Your exchange with the missionary who has problems with the BFM 2000 is an indicator of trouble in your own heart over the matter it seems to me.

Anonymous said...

in response to Wade and Tommy's conversation...

How can we address it? I have seen many times when certain issues were brought from the floor that were simply ruled "out of order" and dismissed. The IMB - Board of Trustees has brought the piece of business to the convention that concerns your membership within their midst. That must be addressed unless they see fit to remove it themselves.

How will we be able to address their policy without it being pushed aside and kept from us? said...


Sir, I do not wish to be narrow minded, but rather, I am simply trying to keep the issue focused.

The forum for CBF needs to be others places, not here.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I have been keeping up with your blog and the blogs of other concerning the situation with the IMB trustees. It is sad to say that there are identical situations among the trustees on several other boards. There are a few of our SBC leaders with private hidden agendas who contact board members to carry
out "missions of control" for them. These situations (where some of the trustees are being controlled by outside sources) are heartbreaking. Especially for those of us who for years felt that the battle was theological. We are now seeing in the past few years that some of the struggle was to control the SBC for the sake of being in control. I hope that the convention in 2006 will reaffirm to the trustees that they are accountable to the people in the pews and not to the people in power. May God bless you and your family. We have been in your shoes and because we know the hurt we are praying for you.

Anonymous said...

Well... its about time the world sees how we treat each other.

Personally, I've been asked to leave two churches within the last 3 years because I wouldn't play the "good ol' boy" game.

Ya see... I've got a particular gift. It may not be speaking in tongues...but its the other one that Baptists don't believe in.

Gossip Cowgirl said...


I am not a Southern Baptist, though I am a Baptist, but an SBC friend directed me to your blog after I heard about this story in the press. I must say, this is a very convicting post. I appreciate Christians--of whatever denomination--that are loyal to what they believe, and I also appreciate Christians of integrity. I hope and pray that God's justice will be done by you, to you, and on your behalf, and that He will bless you for your faithfulness.

In Christ,
Becca Syme

Anonymous said...

Wade, you are showing your love for Jesus by your words and actions.

Praying for you and all the board members.

Bowden McElroy said...

I would suggest at least one more question: How can we increase the flow of information from the board to the average SBC church member? How can we carefully define "sensitive matters" to reflect the needs of the missionaries on the field and not the sensibilities of board members safe and comfortable at home?

Dr. Tom said...

I, too, am a younger minister and I have served seven years as a trustee on one of our SBC boards. I have yet to see any instance of hidden agendas being foisted upon us by powerful outside interests. Honestly! And I haven't seen it in spite of my natural inclination to be cautious and discerning mixed with a dose of cynicism and suspicion. I am not saying that there is not a problem at the IMB among a few, but I strongly urge all younger SBC ministers to not assume the worst about our SBC trustee boards without all the facts in hand. To make broad accusations and resign in disgust will not win the battle.

Tim Sweatman said...


I may be one of the most outspoken critics of our entities' trustees' establishment of policies regarding doctrine or theology that go beyond the Baptist Faith & Message. (Not just the IMB, but our seminaries' Abstract of Principles, etc.) I acknowledge that they have a right to do so, but I maintain that the convention needs to remove that right. If we as a convention are going to have a statement of faith, then all of our entities should abide by that statement of faith AND NO OTHER. Otherwise, the Baptist Faith & Message is a worthless document. Keep in mind, if trustees did not have the right to impose doctrinal requirements other than the Baptist Faith & Message then we wouldn't be in this particular mess today.

Clarence Martin said...


What you may or may not understand is that this sort of behavior goes back along way in baptist life. Deals made behind closed doors, character condemned by inuendo and out right falsehood this has been going on for years. Now it touches you. Be careful the fellas you are standing against now what they are doing and they do it well. They did not get where they are by being Mr. Nice Guys.

Savage Baptist said...

I apologize to everyone for having to enable Comment Moderation.

I don't blame you a bit. One of the unfortunate things about the blogosphere is that it brings out a lot of people who really have nothing better to do than argue with people in the comments columns.

TransplantedOkie said...

I am reminded of the shortest scripture in the Bible: "Jesus wept."

Anonymous said...

Cline Borders

I admire your stand on principles and the need to allow diversity.

Repeated service of trustees is almost like enbreeding. It is not healthy.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author. said...


I believe it is just a few in number. I know for a fact it is occuring. The numbers are not precise.

I wrote requesting that the issue be brought up before the entire board, expecting it to occur.

It did not.

Thanks for your post.

In His Grace,


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author. said...

A few notes to posters.

Rex, I can't publish personal stories about individual churches.

Mr. Anonomyous from Missouri. Not interested.

Dr. Nettles, I believe you can find a list through by doing a search on Marty's sight.