Thursday, March 30, 2006

The SBC of Our Fathers

This week my mother sent me the following editorial from the December 1980 issue of Baptist Program. It was the last editorial written by Albert McClellan, a 31-year employee of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee. Dr. McClellan retired from SBC life on December 31, 1980, as Associate Executive Secretary and Director of Program Planning. I remember meeting him at a Southern Baptist Convention years ago. On January 9, 2004 Dr. Mclellan died at the age of 91. His death went remarkably unnoticed, but in this, the final editorial he ever wrote, Dr. McClellan connects us with our past, while at the same time prophetically addresses very pertinent issues of our present SBC. Any bold type in the editorial is my emphasis, not Dr. McClellans. The principles articulated by Dr. McClellan are based on his Executive Committee work, but are appropriate for any SBC agency. Read on . . .

"The first day I worked for the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention I touched hands with the beginning. Austin Crouch came to see me to wish me success in my new work. That was early in August 31 years ago, in 1949 when the reorganized Executive Committee was only 22 years old. Dr. Crouch, whose great spiritual character and financial acumen were legendary among Baptist leaders, had been one of the designers of the reorganization in 1927. He was also its first Executive Secretary. The two of us formed a friendship that lasted until that sad day when he was struck by a car on the street in front of the church where he was a member. When he died, something great in Baptist life died, but as God wills, greatness itself did not die.

Spiritual insight did not die. Moral responsibility did not die. Financial acumen did not die. These are still alive in Baptist life and nowhere more abundantly than in the Executive Committee. I have seen them over and over again in more than a hundred meetings of this sensitive, vital group, and in at least a thousand subcommittee, workgroup and staff conferences. The enormous integrity that Austin Crouch brought to the office prevails into the day of Harold C. Bennett. The dimensions of that integrity have been—and are—boundless, reaching into every facet of Baptist life.

(1). The elected members of the Executive Committee have been solid, middle-road Baptists, outstanding men and women—responsible, thoughtful, restrained, balanced and fair. They have not been impulsive, overreacted to issues or ridden hobby horses.

(2). The quality of the executive staff has been exceptional. The names of Austin Crouch, Duke K. McCall, Porter Routh and Harold C. Bennett will always be synonyms for good judgment and transparent honesty. The names of Frank E. Burkhalter, Walter M. Gilmore, C. E. Bryant, J.E. Dillard, Merrill D. Moore, John H. Williams, W.C. Fields and Timothy A. Hedquist will always be synonyms for skill, effectiveness and dedication.

(3). The Executive Committee has held power judiciously. It has not abused its authority to study and recommend.

(4). The Executive Committee has assumed that it is not a ruler of the agencies, and has held steadfastly that the agencies themselves are the leaders in the areas the Convention has assigned to them.

(5). The Executive Committee has shown almost total neutrality with respect to Southern Baptist Convention agencies, not competing with them and not judging unfairly among them.

(6). The Executive Committee has never hesitated to take strong stands and to recommend changes when they were needed. It has not won on all of its points, but it has never faltered in its own area of leadership.

(7). The Executive Committee has met each critical problem with restraint, balanced judgment and appropriate leadership. One significant national problem that might have swept weaker persons off their feet was the Urban Crisis of 1968. The Executive Committee met it with courage in recommending its statement on “Crisis in the Cities” to the Convention.

(8). The Executive Committee has walked humbly among the brethren. Neither the Committee or its staff has required pomp and circumstance to bolster self-images or as alibis for loss of credibility. The members of the Committee have not been a council of bishops or its staff a hierarchy.

(9). The Executive Committee has provided good working conditions for its staff and substantial materials for the work of the staff. As conditions improved, the materials have also improved. I have seen the Executive Committee go on to higher and higher plateaus of service for three decades.

(10). The Executive Committee has been generous with its employees and fair to the churches and the Convention, staying abreast of the job market but not ahead of it.

(11). The Executive Committee and its staff have been especially fair with me from the beginning until now. I have been honored to be its employee. Once I had an opportunity to move, but how does one leave the top of the mountain or where the fire burns brightest?

(12). The Executive Committee has been an open meeting from its organization in 1927. In 43 years there have been fewer than six executive sessions and most of them related to sensitive personnel problems. The Executive Committee has an open ear for anyone who wants to speak to it. For almost 25 years the gallery has been two to three times bigger than the size of the Committee, and the gallery has been permitted to ask any question, to give any information, to make any point and to offer any objection. The Executive Committee has dealt quickly and honestly with all appropriate petitions.

(13). The hallmark emblems of the Executive Committee since 1927 to this day have been financial sagacity, fiscal responsibility and total accountability.

(14). There have been no closed doors and no hidden agendas.

(15). The people who have made the decisions have represented the churches that have paid the bills through the Cooperative Program.

This does not mean the Executive Committee is without fault. The members are human, as is the staff. They do make mistakes. Only God is above error and he has marvelous tolerance for ambiguities, else he would not be forgiving. From him I have learned also to tolerate ambiguities. My faith does not require perfection except from God in Christ. I can accept my own mistakes, knowing that ambiguities need not destroy, and knowing also that Jesus accepted “smoking flax” and “broken reeds.” With smoking flax he can make whole cloth and with broken reeds weave whole baskets. Such is the mercy of God, and such also should be recognized in the assemblies of men.

There’s wideness in God’s mercy
Like the wideness of the sea.
There’s a kindness in his justice
Which is more than liberty.

Everyone knows the first verse of that old song, but do some know this other verse?

But we make his love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we magnify his strictness
With a zeal he will not own.

Sometimes I wonder.

At least Dr. Crouch knew that verse, because he always had a twinkle in his blind eyes."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I Have a Dream for the SBC

My dream for the Southern Baptist Convention is a threefold vision or desire:

(1). Liberty for the People within the SBC. . .

One of the basic tenets of Baptists throughout the ages is liberty. Baptists in America, including the brilliant Isaac Backus, were very influential in establishing the constitutional freedoms we enjoy as United States citizens.

I have a dream where we have a convention that is characterized by liberty; liberty of conscience, liberty of dissent, liberty of the soul.

The privilege of dissent is especially vital for the health of our convention. It is possible for the majority to make decisions that are not healthy for the convention in the long run, but through patient, loving dissent, there is the very real possibility that unhealthy decisions may be reversed.

Many are aware of the majority decision of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where the elders voted to accept into membership those who had been baptized as infants. Not as many are aware that only one elder of the church opposed the new membership policy in the beginning, and that through the liberty granted that lone elder to dissent, even after approval of the policy, Bethlehem Baptist Church elders have since reversed the previous action and remained committed to the Biblical view of baptism.

It is liberty of dissent that sharpens us. It is the liberty of dissent that strengthens us. I have a dream that we have a convention that is not fearful of dissent, but embraces it as part of our heritage, welcomes it as a vital member of our Baptist family, and sees it as a blessing and benefit in the longrun.

Frankly, that is why I love being a Baptist. I can disagree with my brother on the interpetation of non-essential texts (non-essential as it regards the salvation of the soul), and still fellowship and cooperate with my brother with whom I disagree on the mission field and through the Cooperative Program as we seek to reach our world for Christ.

Yes, we need our confessions. However, let's be slow to tamper with our confessions. And we must absolutely not allow anyone to narrow the parameters of fellowship and cooperation beyond our confessions. And let's hold sacred the principles of liberty so that we do not become a creedal people, a denominational sect, and in the end, a people more concerned about jots and tittles than God and people.

(2). Love for the World outside the SBC . . .

The Kingdom of God is bigger than the Southern Baptist Convention. God's kingdom includes all the elect from every nation, tribe, kindred and tongue, and it transcends any one denominational boundary.

I have a dream that Southern Baptists see the hand of God at work in other evangelical venues, and where possible, join in the efforts of those of like faith to win the world for Christ. In many cases we will be the forerunners of the gospel, reaching into nations, peoples and lands where the gospel has little presence. Where we lead the charge, I pray that we will welcome the support of other evangelical witnesses who follow. The world is too big, the time is to short, and the lost are too many to believe that we Southern Baptists can do it alone.

I look forward to the day when a missionary for the Southern Baptist Convention can minister to his people group without concern of what others say of his partners, without fear of some looking over his shoulder for heresy, and with the singular aim, seared into his heart, of reaching his people group for Jesus Christ.

Great Commission Churches and like minded missions organizations are those with whom we can, and should, have great partnerships. When our missionaries are on the fields of the Far East, Middle East, Near East and all lands in between, we must empower those missionaries to find like minded evangelicals and work together to reach their people group for Christ.

There is a generation of Southern Baptists who are being raised up in an evangelical culture different from their father's generation of Southern Baptists. These young, evanglical men and women not only want to support missions, they want to do missions. And frankly, they are more concerned about a mission partner's love for Christ than they are their denominational affiliation. To the extent we capture and mobilize the hearts of these young Southern Baptists is the extent to which we further expand our reach into a lost and dark world.

I have a dream that when we speak of evangelizing the lost and winning the world for Christ, it is not simply the slogan of a new program, but it is the passion of the hearts of thousands of Southern Baptists being heard and felt as we join our hands together in cooperation to acccomplish our task.

When we as Southern Baptists are more concerned for the lost than we are that we get the credit for the new church plants, then we will truly be Kingdom minded. When we are more concerned for the lost than we are that we separate from any other evangelical who is not called a Southern Batpist, then we will be truly Kingdom minded. God has called all his disciples to be Great Commission disciples and to the extent that we participate with other Great Commission discipoles all over this world to fulfill our Lord's command is the extent to which we will be fulfilling that Commission given to us.

(3). Loyalty from the churches in the SBC . . .

I have a dream that every Southern Baptist Church will be loyal and faithful to contribute to the Cooperative Program, and all our agency offerings, particularly the Lottie Moon offering.

I am of the opinion, however, that to demand loyalty without allowing freedom to dissent or exhibiting a love for others outside the SBC will be like putting the cart before the horse.

Loyalty to the SBC from the younger generation must be earned. It doesn't happen automatically.

I believe we have been given the opportunity to attract thousands of young leaders and new church starts in the United States. I am praying we do not squander that opportunity.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

What Is the Status of the Blue Book?

This Baptist Press article, in referencing the trustee vote regarding the new IMB trustee accountability guidelines states:

"Three trustees voted against the new policy, which adds to, but doesn't replace, the older policy, dubbed the "Blue Book."

This Baptist Press sentence needs some clarification.

The initial four page proposed document on trustee accountability, hand delivered to all trustees Tuesday night of last week's Board meeting, had the following statement at the very end of it:

{Note, this policy supersedes the document, Ordered by God, Manual for Trustees, which now becomes a reference document}.

The statement was large and was in bold letters just like above.

However, that statement was taken out by the joint committees working between plenary sessions on the proposed accountability document so that by Wednesday's plenary session, when a revised four page trustee policy manual was passed out, the statement had been completely removed.

That is why the Baptist Press can say the trustee accountability policy "adds to, but doesn't replace, the older policy, dubbed the "Blue Book." I do not recall hearing that said in business session, and I would be interested where the reporter received this information. I don't necessarily disagree with the reporter, I am just wondering where he heard this interpretation.

However, on the official web site of the IMB which lists the new trustee accountability guidelines, the statement that the Blue Book is superseded by the new policies is at the bottom of the page, even though that statement was not on the actual page that contained the amended proposal that passed with only three negative votes. I'm not sure even trustees are sure of the status of the Blue Book.

If the new policy manual "adds to" the Blue Book, it adds to it in a restrictive manner. Let me illustrate in just one area (the following is just an observation, no editorial comments, so it is not a criticism).

The Blue Book states "A trustee is to bring (his/her) voice to the meetings when serving, but is to also take (his/her) interpretations back to the people after adjournment" (page 33). We are called to put in a good word for the organization (the IMB).

The new trustee accountability policies document states:

"Individual IMB trustees must refrain from public criticism of Board approved actions."

Any public interpretation of the Board approved actions may now not include criticism from individual trustees.

So, if the new policies add to the Blue Book, it adds restrictions (again, only observation, not a criticism).

However, if the Blue Book is superseded, then the Blue Book has no authority, but becomes simply a reference document. A reference document meeans you point back to something (refer to it) as in "Back in 1987 we adopted a fifty page policy manual that governed our trustee responsibilities and accountability, but in 2006 we adopted a four page document that supersedes the Blue Book."

I believe there is a great deal of difference between the new policies simply clarifying and "adding to" the Blue Book and the Blue Book being "superseded" by the new policies. This issue needs to be clarified.

Again, this is only an observation, not a criticism.

In His Grace,


Monday, March 27, 2006

Missions Exists Because Worship Does Not

The title of this post is the opening line of a book written by John Piper on the subject of missions. Dr. Piper points out that worship of the one true God is the ultimate end of all our church ministries, including missions, evangelism and preaching.

The 17th century Presbyterians put it like this: "The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."

A few years ago there was an article posted on the official IMB web site that gave the rationale for supporting the Lottie Moon offering and the work of missions within the SBC. Too often we do not give enough credit to our administration and staff for thinking through the means, methodologies and ends of all we do in the area of missions.

The article is excellent. Below are excerpts:

The ultimate purpose of missions is worship — all peoples glorifying God —and this is our reason for declaring the greatness of God to the nations.

“All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will worship before You” (Psalm 22:27, NASB).

Inspired by the Spirit of God, King David of Israel grasped the true motivation for missions better 3,000 years ago than many of us do today. It’s no coincidence that he also was history’s greatest singer of praise, for the ultimate purpose of missions is worship — all peoples worshiping the Lord!

Through this psalm, God revealed to David — and to us — His great redeeming purpose for fallen humanity: that “all the families of the nations” will remember Him, return to Him and worship Him. It is a restatement of God’s promise to Abraham that “all the peoples on earth will be blessed” through his descendants (Gen. 12:3). God reminds David and forgetful Israel that the promise still stands — and will stand for ages to come.

This, then, is our reason for declaring the greatness of God to the nations. Not only because He has blessed us, though He surely has. Not only because He wants to bless others through us, though He surely does. Not only because He commands it, though His Great Commission stands unchanged as the church’s main task. Not only because thousands of ethnic people groups and billions of lost souls still dwell in darkness, though they do.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Sunday, March 26, 2006

My Thoughts Toward My Fellow Trustees

Sometimes the public airing of differences causes some people to assume interpersonal relationships will suffer. I am of the opinion it is possible to have differences, express disagreement and struggle with the understanding of a brother's position, but all the while maintain a respect and love for that brother.

Obviously there have been in the past few months some disagreements between me and other trustees of the IMB. It is not my purpose in this post to do anything other than offer a positive word toward my fellow trustees, trustee officers, and Chairman Tom Hatley.

I have repeatedly stated that I believe all my fellow trustees deep down desire what is best for our convention, are working hard to make our International Mission Board better, and are praying toward that end. We may disagree with each other on how to get that done, but I wish no animosity toward, or from, my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I look forward to continue working with each of them and offer this pray on their behalf.

"I thank you Lord for my fellow trustees. I ask you to mend any relationships that may be broken. I pray you might bless each of my fellow trustees in special ways this week, and I request you pour out your grace on them without measure."

With sincerity, and in His grace,

Wade Burleson

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Great Quotes Given Me By Southern Baptists

I have received hundreds of letters from Southern Baptists who live around the world. In some of these letters I have been given some great quotes for encouragement. On this Lord's day I thought I would share with you a few of my favorites.

"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." Elie Wiesel

"Truth often suffers more by the heat of its defenders than the arguments of its opposers." William Penn

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!" Benjamin Franklin

"May we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion." Franklin Roosevelt

"The dread of censure is the death of a genius." William Gilmore Sims

"Policies are many, principles are few. Policies may change, principles never do." John C. Maxell

"Laws are like sausages. You sleep far better the less you know about how they are made." Otto Von Bismark

Which is your favorite?


Why Does It Not End?

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette ran an article yesterday where the reporter quotes Chairman Hatley talking about the unanimous action of the Board to rescind the recommendation for my removal. The reporter writes:

"Burleson is in a 'status pending' and cannot serve on any International Mission Board committees until issues between him and other board members are reconciled, Hatley said. "We're going to deal with some of those problems we've had in relationships with him under these new guidelines." Burleson disagreed with two policies passed by the board in 2005. One prevents people who speak in tongues or have a "private prayer language" from becoming missionaries, and the other requires that missionary candidates be baptized again in a Southern Baptist church if their baptism doesn't meet certain criteria.

Burleson began a blog - a sort of Internet journal - in December and wrote about the (baptism and tongues) policies online. Hatley said the blog itself was not a problem, but some content on it was. Hatley said Burleson aired "information and criticism that is not proper for a trustee to engage in a public forum" and (Hatley) acknowledged that the blog is one such forum."

I have four observations and corresponding questions about Chairman Hatley's statement given to the Gazette. I offer these as genuine, heartfelt questions, and would like either answers or correction to my thinking.

(1). I am quite certain that there has been no public distribution of the basis for the charge that my blog contains information and criticism that is not proper. I am certain of this because nothing has even been given to me in private to substantiate that claim. In fact, even though I have asked anyone and everyone who is offended at the content of my blog to show me the offending content, I have yet to receive anything hand written, via electronic mail, or via post that shows the offending material.

Giving to me the offending material is easily done. Someone could email me the text. Someone could write me a letter. Someone could simply print my blog and highlight with a yellow marker the offensive material (this is what I have suggested). I have repeatedly, consistently, and doggedly stated I am ready to defend what I have written, or if it can be proven to be false, to repent. But I must first SEE what I must defend.

The new policy on trustee accountability states under the section General Responsibilities "Trustees are to refrain from speaking in disparaging terms about IMB personnel and fellow trustees."

Definition of disparage: 1. To speak of in a slighting or disrespectful way; belittle. 2.To reduce in esteem or rank.

Question 1: "Is Chairman Hatley's statement disparaging of a fellow trustee?"

My judgement may be clouded on this issue, so it is very possible that his remark is not disparaging of a fellow trustee. Since he made it publicly I think it is appropriate to ask the above question publicly. The new policy on trustee accountability forbids disparaging statements of fellow trustees. I am sure Dr. Hatley does not intend to violate the policy and I give him the benefit of a doubt, but I guess I am wondering why Dr. Tom felt that statement needed to be made in public.

(2). The Board voted unanimously to rescind the recommendation for my removal. This is a Board approved action. To rescind means to make void, to repeal or annul.

I would love to quote the official recommendation for my removal that was rescinded, but I am unsure what will be released to the public regarding the minutes of the January meeting. The approval of January minutes, which contained the actual text of the motion, was on the agenda of the public meeting in Tampa, but we went into Executive Session (closed door meeting) to approve the minutes, and I do not recall the (amended) minutes ever being released publicly.

I do think it is fair to say that the words "gossip and slander" were a part of the motion. I can say this because I heard these words read into the official public record in January. Since the "content" of the blog is the issue, I'm quite sure the trustee who made the original motion meant "gossip and libel" (since the blog is written, not spoken), but I would agree with Dr. Tom --- the content of the blog was the issue, but rather than give specific examples, the charge was always the very nebulous "gossip" and "slander" because as Dr. Hatley told the Gazette in January, "We are not going to mudsling publicly. It's not Biblical."

It sure feels like mudslinging when "gossip and slander" are charged publicly with no written substantiation privately. Matthew 18 demands a private encounter where the offense is clearly revealed. I am very comfortable with those words that offend people being made public, because as anyone who thinks through this should know --- THE BLOG IS ALREADY PUBLIC! Show me the improper content and I will vigorously defend it according to policy and documentation or I will "repent" if I can be shown I am wrong.

Question 2: If the content of my blog was the basis for the original recommendation for my removal for "gossip and slander," but that motion has been now rescinded unanimously, is it not a criticism of the Board approved action to continue saying that the content of my blog was the problem?

If any trustee ever publicly criticizes the unanimous Board action to rescind the motion to remove, then he is in violation of the new policies on trustee accountability. In the section entitled Trustee Standards of Conduct the policy states: Individual IMB trustees must refrain from public criticism of Board approved actions

(3). I followed the old trustee manual, called "The Blue Book," very meticulously as I blogged beginning in December and through the middle of March. I followed all policies that were in effect at that time. Therefore, any criticism and information on my blog about Board approved actions or Board approved policies was perfectly legitimate and proper. Of course the new policies that forbid criticism of Board approved actions make my old posts improper, but the new policies are not retroactive. So it is difficult for me to understand how Chairman Hatley could say that on my blog there was "information and criticism that is not proper for a trustee to engage in a public forum."

Question 3: If I am bound by policies in my IMB service, and the content of my blog falls within the adopted trustee manual (i.e "The Blue Book), then what makes the content of my blog "not proper?"

I think this is the heart of the issue. I believed I was fulfilling my duty according to policy. Even more, I felt COMPELLED to write my blog because of what the Blue Book demanded of IMB trustees. Trustee leadership wanted me to stop. I said no. This is what became "resistance to accountability" and "loss of trust."

Trustee leadership said, "Wade won't do what we say." Wade said, "I will do what the policy demands." Impasse.

New policies solve the impasse. But how can it continue to be said the content of my blog was "improper" if I was abiding by the old policies that were in effect while I blogged?

(4). I have repeatedly asked that every issue that involves me be dealt with in public. I have blogged this request. I have emailed every trustee this request. I have told trustee leadership on several occasions.

I am willing to let this issue go away, but when I read statements like I read today in a PUBLIC newspaper, then I go back to saying, "Please, please, please, let's make this public. If we are going to continue making disparaging allegations publicly, let's resolve this publicly."

Question 4: Why is there a resistance by trustee leadership to make the specific charges (the actual content of my blog that is offensive) public?

Please understand I am simply asking questions. I respect the fact that Chairman Hatley may be under a great deal of pressure. I frankly compliment him, very sincerely, on his demeanor and spirit toward me this past Board meeting. I enjoyed our conversations.

If there are no answers, so be it. I at least thought the questions were worth asking.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

My Conversation with Chairman Hatley

I spent about forty minutes talking with Dr. Hatley about his statements to a reporter published in yesterday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette paper. Dr. Hatley gave me permission to blog about the conversation.

The end result of the conversation, which was very good, was that Tom said he regrets making the statement "Burleson aired information and criticism that is not proper for a trustee to engage in a public forum." Tom regretted the public nature of the comment.

My point with Tom is that he is entitled to his opinion, but to make public statements like that without me ever being given an opportunity to defend the content of my blog is not just.

Again, Tom regretted the public nature of his statement, and did not deny his belief in the statement. He said he did not intend to disparage me. He also said he will not make public statements about Wade Burleson again.

I choose to believe him. I told him I will not discuss the issue of his public statements to the Gazette any further. However, since they are part of the public record, I will be leaving up my post from this morning so that people may see my response. {Update: I have changed my mind and decided to remove my previous post as a show of good faith for Dr. Hatley's expression of regret}.

Further, Dr. Hatley explained that he intends to form a three member committee that will sit down with me and hear my concerns. To his credit, he gave me some input regarding the members of that committee. It is not my intention for that which concerns me to be made public at this time. I believe it is an internal matter that can be, and should be, handled by the Board. My desire, from the beginning, was to have this hearing, and I appreciate the opportunity it affords.

Dr. Hatley has committed to refrain from making public statements about me in the future, and I have committed to write no further about the Gazette article. In fact, if the reporter from the Gazette calls me back for a response to Chairman Hatley's statements I will tell her I have "no comment."

I will no longer be answering any comments on my today's blog entitled "Why Does It Not End?"

From my viewpoint, this matter with the Gazette has ended.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Friday, March 24, 2006

Just Exactly What Is the Status of the Blue Book?

This Baptist Press article, in referencing the trustee vote regarding the new IMB trustee accountability guidelines states:

"Three trustees voted against the new policy, which adds to, but doesn't replace, the older policy, dubbed the "Blue Book."

This Baptist Press sentence needs some clarification.

The initial four page proposed document on trustee accountability, hand delivered to all trustees Tuesday night of last week's Board meeting, had the following statement at the very end of it:

{Note, this policy supersedes the document, Ordered by God, Manual for Trustees, which now becomes a reference document}.

The statement was large and was in bold letters just like above.

However, that statement was taken out by the joint committees working between plenary sessions on the proposed accountability document so that by Wednesday's plenary session, when a revised four page trustee policy manual was passed out, the statement had been completely removed.

That is why the Baptist Press can say the trustee accountability policy "adds to, but doesn't replace, the older policy, dubbed the "Blue Book." I do not recall hearing that said in business session, and I would be interested where the reporter received this information. I don't necessarily disagree with the reporter, I am just wondering where he heard this interpretation.

However, on the official web site of the IMB which lists the new trustee accountability guidelines, the statement that the Blue Book is superseded by the new policies is at the bottom of the page, even though that statement was not on the actual page that contained the amended proposal that passed with only three negative votes. I'm not sure even trustees are sure of the status of the Blue Book.

If the new policy manual "adds to" the Blue Book, it adds to it in a restrictive manner. Let me illustrate in just one area (the following is just an observation, no editorial comments, so it is not a criticism).

The Blue Book states "A trustee is to bring (his/her) voice to the meetings when serving, but is to also take (his/her) interpretations back to the people after adjournment" (page 33). We are called to put in a good word for the organization (the IMB).

The new trustee accountability policies document states:

"Individual IMB trustees must refrain from public criticism of Board approved actions."

Any public interpretation of the Board approved actions may now not include criticism from individual trustees.

So, if the new policies on add to the Blue Book, it adds restrictions (again, only observation, not a criticism).

However, if the Blue Book is superseded, then the Blue Book has no authority, but becomes simply a reference document. A reference document meeans you point back to something (refer to it) as in "Back in 1987 we adopted a fify page policy manual that governed our trustee responsibilities and accountability, but in 2006 we adopted a four page document that supersedes the Blue Book."

I believe there is a great deal of difference between the new policies simply clarifying and "adding to" the Blue Book and the Blue Book being "superseded" by the new policies. This issue needs to be clarified.

Again, this is only an observation, not a criticism.

In His Grace,


I Will Continue To Blog With Comments

I have arrived home from Florida and the International Mission Board meeting in Tampa. I have reflected the last couple of days on this blog, and will start it up again. I will be very careful to remind people that comments on my blog do not necessarily represent my position or feelings, but to maintain an open and serious dialogue, I will post comments unless they are personally critical of individuals by name.

There are a few who seem to feel that my blog has been a detriment to the work of the International Mission Board. I want my blog to be a help to our mission work, not a hindrence. I have made the decision that if I were to shut down my blog at this time, and the comments section, it would be detrimental to the SBC, especially among young pastors, missionaries and leaders. I have received hundreds of emails and comments from around the world. One, written by Alan Cross, gives me a clear understanding about the importance of my decision to continue blogging.

"I just want you to know, that we are all looking to you right now, and whether you asked for this or not, there is a whole generation of young SBC pastors who are trying to figure out our role in a convention that confuses us and is causing pain. I fear that if you fade away and become another cog in the machine, we will all do the same thing - just fade away, I mean. I/we do not have the denominational loyalty that our parents and grandparents had. While I love the SBC, our church gives faithfully to missions and the CP, and we have participated greatly, I personally will not continue to waste time and effort on a denomination that has gone astray unless there are strong voices like yours that are speaking the truth. I feel that you have been muzzled and that grieves my heart."

After further reflection on the new policy guidelines, here are some observations about the new direction of this blog, which I will carefully insure follows the new policies on trustee accountability. . .

(1). I will blog anything I feel necessary for the good of our Southern Baptist Convention and the mission work of the IMB regarding proposed policies and pre-approved actions of the Board, and I reserve the right to criticize Board approved policies if they violate the Word of God. This is one of the reasons the Board should be very deliberate in major decisions, and make sure all policies can be supported and defended with ease.

The pre-approval debate of motions before the International Mission Board becomes that much more important.

This is where communication between trustees and the Convention becomes critical. We trustees have been given a sacred trust by the Convention. I think the new trustee accountability guidelines make it absolutely essential that every single matter of business be done in the public eye. There cannot be even a hint of business discussed in forum. There must not be any Executive Sessions except for the fear of safety of missionaries. We must, because of these new policies do everything single thing in the light of day so Southern Baptists know what is being done BEFORE IT IS APPROVED.

Let me go even further. Because I have studied these new guidelines and will abide by them to the nth degree, I will continue to remind those of you who appointed me that you must demand openness in ALL business sessions of the IMB. You can not settle for less.

In fact, any policy change that requires Board approval should be debated publicly, presented by committees before all the trustees for suggestions, proposed in one meeting for serious reflection and open, free dialogue before all trustees, and then trustees should be able to reflect on the proposed policy changes for a few weeks before the actual vote. I promise you, if that is done, and it seems the new policies demand this, then we are take some very real, positive steps forward in our work.

It is in the public record that I voted against the new trustee accountability policies, but I want to be clear. My "no" vote was solely on the basis of just one statement in the four page policy. It is the statement forbidding trustees to publicly criticize "board approved actions."

That means, on this blog, I will try to keep you up to date on what is being proposed at the IMB. I want the convention to be informed. I want you to have your say. I want our business to be open. Our consitution demands openness.

(2). I will continue to speak positively of my fellow trustees. My blog has never been a personal attack on any person. This is a non-issue for me. You may be interested to know I have called two people who voted to remove me to be my accountability partners under these new policies. I believed I followed the old policies to the tea, but I want to be able to say the same under the new policies as well.

(3). I want to be clear. If I feel the trustees are about to vote on a very important matter, I will be insisting that we discuss it publicly and give due process to all sides of the debate before the actual vote. The new policies demand this.

(4). There are several Board approved policies in effect besides the tongues and baptism policies. These Board approved policies would include New Directions, Church planting policies, etc . . . For any trustee to publicly criticize these Board approved policies would be a violation of the new trustee guidelines. I will be reminding my fellow trustees of this, and I am sure they intend to follow the new policies, as do I. The office of President is Board approved. Public criticism, outside of Board meetings, of the IMB President by sitting trustees is unacceptable.

(5). You may comment freely. The only thing I will not publish are posts that criticize Board approved policies, or negative, personal criticisms. This is a very difficult task to monitor, but I give my pledge if it is pointed out to me that a comment has been unintentionally posted that criticizes a Board approved action I will remove it as soon as possible. I do not think the new policy demands this but I want to be above reproach. Some were attributing your comments as coming from me.

So, I will continue blogging.

I don't want to resign.

But I want to fulfill my duty to the Convention. I also want to build trust with my fellow trustees.

I believe both can be done.

IN HIS Grace,


Thursday, March 23, 2006

Ten Terrific Things Tied To Tampa

I just hung up the phone with the greatest woman God has given to any man, my wife Rachelle, and frankly, she confessed to a little discouragement. I felt I could cheer her up. This is how the conversation went.

Rachelle: "Wade, people are going to think you have compromised your principles by staying on the Board?"

Wade: "Honey, there are two things that became my priorities when I was elected last summer to be a trustee of the IMB. First, I pledged to faithfully support our missionaries and their work to the best of my ability, and second, I pledged to follow all policies that guide the IMB trustees. I remain faithful to those pledges."

Rachelle: "I know you haven't violated your principles yet, but what happens if the Board passes an action in the future that happens to violate your conscience as a Board member? You now can't speak out and criticize publicly a majority action of the IMB, can you?."

Wade: "Oh, yes I can. I can if I resign. The moment I resign, I can speak out on everything associated with my involvment on the IMB Board, without hindrences, except of course, those things protected by confidentiality laws."

Rachelle: "But why does it feel to some like you have been muzzled?"

Wade: I am choosing to work within the Board to further missions. I must abide by the policies. If at any time I choose to resign, I can assure you that it will be because the greater good is to make public my concerns to the SBC at large. Right now, my concern is furthering our mission work."

Rachelle: "But we won't know when you are giving us the "company line," or if you are truly giving us your feelings.

Wade: "Yes you will. I will never give the company line. I will only give, as the policy states, my feelings of the good things that are going on at the IMB. The administrative staff and IMB communications department will speak officially for the Board. If I can't say anything good, I will be silent or say, "no comment." I think you know me well enough that in the same way I have been resolute these last four months against incredible pressure, I will continue that same resolve within the Board.

Rachelle: "So, did anything good happen in Tampa?"

Wade: Absolutely!

Ten Terrific Truths Tied To Tampa!

(1). A motion to remove Wade Burleson for gossip and slander, passed by a two thirds majority a scant two months ago was rescinded by a UNANIMOUS vote of the trustee Board.

(2). A very strict policy was adopted that stated trustees must not publicly disparage staff or fellow trustees.

(3). Bloggers other than trustees are now going to do all they can to be at the important meetings of the IMB.

(4). I met 20 young people for the first time who attended the IMB meeting simply to ATTEND. Not to be appointed, not to see family, but to simply ATTEND. When is the last time that many young adults attended the IMB meeting for no official reason but to participate in missions at the grass roots level.

(5). This participation of young adults in the Southern Baptist Convention is exciting. The SBC has long needed involvement from the generation of evanglical, missional minded young peole from our convention.

(6). I have received 175 emails today from SBC missionaries around the world who desire that I stay on and serve as a trustee representing their interests.

(7). People are communicating with the IMB Board of Trustees via email, letter, and phone in numbers that exceed any other time period in SBC history. This is reminding all of us as trustees that people are listening to us and responding.

(8). The appointment service of 45 brand new missionaries was absolutely inspiring in an absolutely beautiful Idlewild Baptist Church, Tampa.

(9). Dr. Jerry Rankin exhibited strong, passionate and deliberate leadership.

(10). I personally believe we are in a position to focus our attention completely and solely on missions. There will be very close scrutiny to insure that we trustees do not get sidetracked into periphery issues.

Finally, my wife asked me the million dollar question.

"But what will people think of you if you don't resign? Will they think you are compromising?

Answer: "I live by my convictions and not the opinion of others. My father sent me an interesting note earlier which should help clarify the difference between character and reputation."

Wade, a word of encouragement. I know you know, so I will only remind you that reputation is by definition what people think and say a person is in their opinion.

A reputation can be good, bad, troublemaker, saviour or any other number of opinions. Reputation is promoted or maintained by perception. So to try to get other people to perceive you a certain way, good or bad, is manipulative and controlling at worst and selfserving at best.

Character however, by definition is all qualities actually possessed. Honesty, truthfulness, courage of convictions, transparancy are things you actually possess. Your character is secure. Your reputation floats on the winds of the perceptions of people and theirs opinions but those of us who KNOW you know your character and are eternally grateful for what is real in you. Stay true to your character not reputation as God is honored in such men. I love you..

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


I have just left the last plenary session of the IMB where a motion was read into the record to rescind the motion for my removal as a trustee of the International Misson Board.

The vote was unanimous.

I will not be allowed to serve on any committees of the International Mission Board until the Chairman, or the Board, rules otherwise.

The new trustee guidelines passed this morning, and there were some very significant and good changes to the policy presented by the Orientation Committee this morning. They informed us that they were up early and I can tell they worked hard.

I want to inform everyone who reads by blog that I have disabled the comments section until further notice. My last blog was entered prior to the vote on the new policies. The new trustee guidelines are not retroactive, and all previous posts were under the policies of the Blue Book. I will abide by the new policies to the nth degree, and I will not be a party to criticism of any Board actions unless I am no longer a trustee of the IMB.

My concern from day one has been the mission work of the IMB. It is the greatest, evangelical missionary force in the world. I may choose to stay on the Board simply to be a voice speaking on behalf of a wide, broad range of people in the SBC. I promise my fellow trustees, however, that I faithfully pledge to abide by all the new policies.

I reiterate my unqualified support for the President of the IMB and the direction he takes us. I also, once again, express my appreciation to my fellow board members for the privilege of serving with them.

If you would like to contact me, I would suggest you email me. Please be patient. Any response will be delayed since I will be traveling for the next couple of days.

May God bless the Southern Baptist Convention.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

My Last Post as an International Mission Board Trustee?

I enjoyed visiting with several missionaries, trustees and friends who have come to Tampa for the International Mission Board meeting. The day passsed quickly but the evening plenary session seemed to last an eternity.

Dr. Jerry Rankin's Report

The plenary (public) session of the International Mission Board was held at 7:00 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel in Tampa, Florida. The session began with a report from President Jerry Rankin. Dr. Rankin showed a video of a message he gave to his staff during "President's Chapel" at the Missionary Learning Center a few weeeks ago. The message was one of the most humble, challenging and inspiring messages I have ever heard.

Dr. Rankin spoke candidly to his staff of the recent trustee approved policies on tongues and baptism and the administration's opposition, as well as his own personal opposition, to those same policies. However, he beautifully articulated his belief that God's grace is given to those Christians who submit to the authority that is placed over them by God. God is on His throne, and even if the authority He places over us acts unreasonable, submission to that authority brings grace. Dr. Rankin stated that though he opposed the implementation of the new policies, and saw no empirical evidence that they were needed, he still would follow Scripture and graciously submit to the authority of the board.

It seems that one trustee had requested a copy of the tape of Dr. Rankin's message but he felt he had been prohibited from obtaining it, and so, Dr. Rankin decided to show the video of his message to the entire board and guests in order to avoid any suspicion he was hiding things from the trustees.

Kudo's to Dr. Rankin. I appreciate his transparency and his candor.

Other trustees did not. For the next thirty minutes Dr. Rankin was mercilessly, and publicly accused of undermining the trustees, intentionally keeping information from trustees, not telling the truth about doctrinal errors on the field (the exact quote after Dr. Rankin said he had never been shown any evidence of charismatic problems on the field that the administration and staff had not dealt with under the old policies was "That's not true!"), and a host of other things.

I was absolutely embarrassed at how our President was treated publicly by some of my fellow trustees. One trustee spoke up and said how much they appreciated Dr. Rankin's humility and transparency, but other trustees spoke at length of their opposition to our President's remarks.

I do admire Dr. Rankins demeanor under fire, his grace to those who alleged he was not telling the truth, and his overall deportment while under verbal assault. We would all do well to model his spirit.

The Proposed New Trustee Policy Manual

After a report from all of our missionary regions through the Overseas Committee, the Orientation Committee of the Board of Trustees presented a four page paper entitled International Mission Board, SBC, Trustee Responsibilities.

The chairman of the Orientation Committee stated that this document had been in the works "two years" (I heard yesterday there was not certainty the document would be ready in time, so it seems the two years ended in a rush). He also stated that this document was to replace the fifty page trustee manual entitled "Ordered of God; Manual for Trustees" which is commonly called "The Blue Book." He also implied no trustee pays any attention to the "Blue Book" because it is too voluminous.

Unfortunately, he mispoke. I have read the Blue Book at least five times from cover to cover. I have posted about The Blue Book and some of the excellent policies it contains. The Blue Book was adopted by the IMB trustees in 1987 and for the last two decades has been the manual for trustee accountablity at the International Mission Board. The evening session ended with a motion made to table the vote on the new four page policy manual until first thing tomorrow morning.

I am praying that this proposed four page policy manual will not be adopted.

I am a trustee who abides by policy. I have repeatedly stated in my blog that I will abide by every single policy adopted by the Board of Trustees. In fact, when some trustees tried to get me to stop blogging last January, I simply said I would only stop if the Board approved a policy that forbad a trustee from blogging. The current Blue Book does not address blogging, nor does it forbid a trustee from expressing criticism toward majority decisions of the trustees. I believe the Blue Book wisely gives room for public criticism of majority decisions. Frankly, if criticism of boards was not allowed by minority dissenters in the 1970's and 1980's the conservative resurgence would have never occurred. Criticism can be healthy and drive an organization to excellence. In essence, appropriate criticism is good. And of course, appropriateness is in the eye of the beholder.

I have on several occasions criticized the reasoning and logic that led to the adoption of the two new policies approved by the majority of trustees last November. But again, I have intentionally complied with every single policy of the Blue Book, and in fact, the attorney for the IMB has stated clearly that a trustee who expresses minority dissent is well within proper protocol of trusteeship. But some trustees don't like me speaking out in dissent. Let me illustate.

Infamous Gossip and Slander

A trustee told me that it is not my blogging that is the problem, but the content of my blog that is the problem. I have chosen, for conscience sake, to disagree with trustee leadership and the majority of trustees on the two new policies. I am disagreeing with the need for the new policies and have stated my interpretations on how, and why, these new policies are being introduced at the IMB without Presidential or staff support. Some trustees think, since I lost the vote, that I should be quiet. I am saying that I am following all proper policies of the IMB Blue Book by expressing my dissent and my interpretation of events to the SBC at large. EVERY trustee has the responsibility to speak out to the people who elected him, always supporting the work of the IMB, but making clear one's interpretation of decisions to those who have "entrusted" him to care for the institution. I just happen to be one who actually does it.

Again some trustees have not liked what I have said. In fact, at last January's meeting, just one month after I began blogging, I was recommended for removal from the board for "gossip and slander." For heaven's sake, it is one thing to not like disagreement, but do you call it "gossip and slander?" My removal must be approved by the Southern Baptist Convention in the June meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, and I stand ready to provide a vigorous and documented defense. The only problem is, I have never officially been given the evidence.

I have repeatedly asked the trustees who are accusing me of gossip and slander to "show me the gossip," and to "show me the slander." Usually when someone makes such a public accusation they will provide supporting documentation. To this day, even though I have repeatedly asked for the evidence of gossip and slander, I have not received one piece of written material highlighting the alleged gossip or the alleged slander. Neither has any of the trustees received supportive, written evidence that substantiates the charges. I have one absolutely hilarious story of a trustee who verbally accused me of lying and slander, only to be embarrassed when he sought to make me "repent." You see, I proved him wrong. One day I'll tell the story, if necessary. I repeat, again, and for the final time to my fellow trustees who are accusing me of gossip and slander, please make public the basis for the charges --- I am ready to vigorously defend any and every statement on my blog.

It now seems that rather than produce substantiation for the charges, which means a vigorous defense, the tactic is to attack my character. One of these days I may list the names I have been called by some of my fellow trustees. Some trustees are now saying, in a failed attempt to produce any evidence of gossip and slander, that it is my "deportment and conduct" as a trustee.

I am being called a liar because three trustees say they practiced "Matthew 18" to me. I have a six part series on church discipline that expounds Matthew 18, and I can assure you, Matthew 18 has never occured in this situation. Period. I think some trustees use Matthew 18 as code for "We went to him repeatedly and he absolutely refused to change his mind!"

I have argued passionately about the policies with my fellow trustees. Some trustees have sought, even more passionately, to change my mind, but not ONE TIME DID A TRUSTEE EVER COME TO ME AND SAY, "Wade, if you don't change this sentence, or this post, or this word, or this paragraph, then I am going to recommend you be removed as a trustee of the IMB." The first time I ever heard about the recommendation for my removal for gossip and slander was when it was presented to the full board. I was shocked.

I stand ready to produce every single blog I have written, a fifteen page sworn affidavit, two notebooks of materials that document the entire issue with me and the board. My defense is ready. Where are the charges? It has been two months. Will someone please officially present to me the charges?

Hmmmm. My dad used to tell me if people can't win the argument then they begin to attack the messenger. I have attempted to be gentle while unbending, gracious while resolute, cheerful while principled, and always ready to share a good laugh with my brothers and sisters in Christ who serve with me. I am passionate about my arguments, but anybody will tell you who knows me, that if you can logical, Biblically, graciously defend your position over mine, I will change my mind. However, I can live with anyone, and everyone, who disagrees with me. I don't need you to agree with me, but don't even try to get me to agree with you if you can't support your position.

The new policies are illogical, unnecessary, and some would even say completely unbiblical. Why are you demanding I agree with you? Why are you demanding others agree with you? Can't you love, serve and fellowship with others who don't agree (Remember it is only the ADMINISTRATOR of baptism, and only a PRIVATE prayer language with which we disagree). The Baptist Faith and Message is silent on these two issues. You want me to sign the Baptist Faith and Message? Fine, I will. But wait! I can't be a missionary? What in the world is happening to the Southern Baptist Convention?

My patience is running thin.

As anyone who has read my blog will tell you, I have expressed my opposition to the new policies, while attempting to not make things personal. I have never mentioned any names, I have focused on the principles. I have publicy criticized the majority actions of our board in these two new policies. A vast group of trustees, what some call the "middle," are very naive about the issues at play. They will have a tendency to follow the leadership of trustees who chair major committees and have years of service, surely not a new trustee who doesn't have enough time to understand the dynamics of the work of the International Mission Board.

Some will ask, "But why did you go public with your dissent?" I only went public after I went through every appropriate internal policy and procedure of the IMB in order to attempt to stop the adoption of the new policies that exceeded the authority of the Board, undermined staff and leadership, and seemed to be a culmination of an attempt by outside forces to force a narrow agenda upon the IMB. And yes, I have documentation. I stand ready to defend my every statement. I am abiding by the Blue Book and fulfilling my role as a trustee of the IMB, appointed by the Southern Baptist Convention at large to guard the institution. It is a sacred trust that I do not take lightly.

The Old Policies Within the Blue Book

The Blue Book states that "The International Mission Board's power can never exceed that of the convention itself." We have adopted doctrine that goes beyond the convention approved Baptist Faith and Message. We have exceeded our authority. I am abiding by the Blue Book.

The Blue Book states that "Trustees are expected to support the president in the effort to build a quality institution known for its excellence . . . (page 10)." As is evidenced by tonight's actions, and a host of materials in my possession that I have chosen to not yet make public, some trustees seem to have a hard time supporting our president. I am abiding by the Blue Book and am holding others accountable to do the same in this area.

The Blue Book states that "The board never does its work in secrecy, but through openness. Baptists abhor hidden corners in its denominational operations. They expect a constant flow of communications and interpretations. The only times executive sessions of the board should be held are when human life is at stake, or tedious personnel problems must be handled. Instead of a secret approach, Baptists demand a program of information and want it to be kept up to date." (Page 22). I am abiding by the Blue Book.

The Blue Book states that (Trustees) must feel and act on their own best judgment (page 26). Yet my experience has been that when I act in what I believe to be my best judgement, I am told that I am being resistant to accountability. I am abiding by the Blue Book.

The Blue Book states "A trustee is to bring (his/her) voice to the meetings when serving, but is to also take (his/her) interpretations back to the people after adjournment" (page 33). Yet, I have endured a both a withering private and then very public attack because I have dared to bring my interpretations of events to the people of the SBC. Any fair reading of my blog will tell you I have been supportive of my fellow trustees, have spoken graciously of everyone involved, but I have held to my convictions and have not bowed to pressure. I am abiding by the Blue Book.

Tomorrow the Blue Book May Be History

If the trustees adopt the new policy manual proposed by the Orientation Committee, the Blue Book will be history. On the back sheet of the proposed policies this statement is in brackets and in bold letters {Note, this policy supersedes the document, Ordered by God, Manual for Trustees, which now becomes a reference document}.

I could give many illustrations as to what this means, but let me give you just one . . .

The new proposed manual states on page three . . .

"Individual IMB trustees must refrain from public criticism of Board approved policies."

Hmmm. Interesting to you? Is there a reason for this? Could not Baptists learn from dissent, and if dissent is without merit, aren't Southern Baptists smart enough to ignore it? Hmmmm. Interesting.

A proposed motion to add the word "Individual IMB trustees must refrain from public criticism of Board approved policies, and staff, and fellow trustees" was being debated quite vigorously when the motion to table until tomorrow was approved.

Implications for Me

I have sought in all of my posts to be positive about the work of the IMB, even when I have criticized Board approved policies. Tomorrow the Board will address two motions in relationship to me. One is regarding the approval of the minutes of the last Board meeting. That was on the agenda last night, but it was skipped.

There is also the expressed desire by the Executive Committee that the recommendation for my removal for "gossip and slander" be removed from the Southern Baptist Convention's agenda, and the IMB trustees handle it "internally." It could be a possibility that the IMB trustees will censure me and then reprimand me, while at the same time, possibly taking away committee assignments, not allowing me to attend forums or Executive Sessions, and at the discretion of the Chair, not allowing me to speak.


I don't know what recommendation is forthcoming, because I have not been officially told, but all I can say now, whatever it may be, if the proposed manual for trustees is passed tomorrow, I cannot by new policy, and I will not, publicly criticize the action of the Board regarding me.

I want to be very clear for one final time. This is my final opportunity to speak firmly and critically to the SBC at large about some majority actions of my fellow trustees. For those of you who have read my blog regularly, I have waited patiently, holding back from such firm talk.

You will not hear one word of criticism from me tomorrow regarding the majority decisions of the Board if the new trustee manual is approved tomorrow morning.

I pray to God it is not.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

P.S. On a humorous note, I intend to ask if the new trustee manual is "retroactive." If it is, I'm toast. :)

Wise Heads and Warm Hearts

Yesterday was the first day of the International Mission Board meeting in Tampa, Florida. There are a number of meetings taking place in the Doubletree Hotel including a conference for the North Africa IMB missionaries, and an even larger meeting at our host church involving the West Africa missionaries of the IMB. It was a joy today to personally meet missionaries with whom I have conversed via email and phone, and I am again reminded that we have the finest missionary force in the world.

All of our Regional Leaders for the IMB are at hotel as well. I was able to speak with four or five of them, and one RL couple recently became a part of our church at Emmanuel, Enid, Oklahoma while our church hosts them for a temporary furlough. These RL's have an incredible task of coordinating our IMB mission work in eleven regions of the world and I really enjoyed the fellowship with them.

I also had several good conversations with trustees. Many brought their families with them because of spring break and are taking a couple of extra days for vacation. I can assure you that while the Board of Trustees meeting is taking place there is very little time for trustees to have leisure. It is work from sun up to sun down.

I had initially said that I would not participate in closed door sessions of the IMB at this meeting, but after receiving advice from a very godly man whom I admire deeply, I changed my mind. He said for me not to be in the forum might communicate to other trustees an unwillingness to work with them through the processes established by the IMB to resolve conflict. I have stated my desire from the beginning to work with my fellow trustees in all matters, and did not want to communicate anything differently, so I followed counsel's advice and attended the forum. Obviously, I cannot share with you what was said, but I am glad I took this godly man's advice.

I should be able to post comments directly related those things concerning my removal tomorrow evening after the Plenary Session that begins at 7:00 p.m.

Let me close by expressing my appreciation for Dr. Jerry Rankin and his work as President of the International Mission Board. This man is called by God to a great and wonderful work. He handles himself with grace and dignity. Our world is a better place because of him and his staff. Sure, there may be some bumps in the road regarding communication between staff and missionaries on the field, as there may be some communication gaps between trustees and missionaries and the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole, but I do believe Dr. Rankin will go down in history as the finest President the International Mission Board has ever seen.

More tomorrow.

In His Grace,


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Jamestown to Tampa Bay, Sunday, March 19, 2006

This morning I had the privilege of leading worship services in the exact spot that the first English speaking Christian service was conducted in America. On May 14, 1607, the men, women and children who had just spent four and a half months crossing the Atlantic in the ships Susan Constant, Discovery and Godspeed, hung an old sail between three tree trunks and held a worship service in on what is now known as Jamestown, Virginia, the first permanent English settlement in America. Sixth graders from Emmanuel Christian School, Enid, Oklahoma, were concluding their ten day trip to Philadelphia, New York, Washington D.C. and Williamsburg, Virginia, and it was my delight to spend the last week touring the east coast with my sixth grade son, his fellow classmates and their parents, and to speak to them this morning from Psalm 84, giving them a sense of our heritage of faith.

After the worship service I drove back to Reagan International Airport in Washington, D.C. and caught the 3:10 flight to Tampa Bay, Florida for the International Mission Board meeting which begins tomorrow. As the plane quickly banked on take-off to avoid the Traffic Restriction Zone over the White House and Capital, I looked out the window and reflected how far this country has come in four hundred years. The sprawling metropolis beneath me gave evidence of the achievements of Americans, but I wonder if the people of our day would have had the character and fortitude to endure the harsh elements and monumental obstacles of the 17th century, as our forefathers did, when they began establishing this new country. I also wonder if the Jamestown settlement learned more about their God through the sparce and primitive environment of the James River, as compared to us modern Americans who may have had our spiritual senses dulled by modern conveniences and comfort?

Upon arriving in Tampa Bay I checked into the Doubletree Hotel near the International Airport and went down to work out for about an hour. At 9:00 p.m. I met fellow trustee Ken Kuwahara for dinner in the hotel cafe. Several of you have asked that I tell you some good things about the work of the IMB in this blog, so tonight I would like to tell you one of the reasons I am excited about the future of the IMB -- it is because of trustees like Ken Kuwahara.

Trustee Ken Kuwahara from Oahu, Hawaii

I first met Ken last summer during IMB trustee orientation. Ken is an insurance salesman and a member of Mililani Baptist Church in Oahu, Hawaii. His church gives 20.5% to the Cooperative Program and Ken is sold out to mission work through the Southern Baptist Convention.

Ken is a Japanese American, one of ten children born to a Japanese shoemaker in Hawaii. Ken's family was devoutly Buddhist, but when Ken was in the ninth grade some local Southern Baptists invited Ken to join a basketball league and soon the gospel was shared with Ken and he came to faith in Christ, the first Christian in his entire family.

Ken eventually graduated from high school, attended college, and then went into the insurance business. At the age of 30 he married Yon, a Korean who lived in Hawaii, and they began their family which now includes a daughter at the University of Hawaii, an attorney son in Los Angeles working as a Hollywood screenwriter, and another son working toward taking over Ken's insurance business upon Ken's retirement. Ken's children all know the Lord and Ken and his wife, Yon, have had the privilege of leading all of Yon's Korean family to faith in Christ as well. It is because of Ken's gentle spirit, passion for missions, and evangelistic heart that I am excited about the future leadership of the IMB.

Ken is just one of a great group of trustees that began their service on the IMB last July. I am looking forward to working with these men and women in the years to come to continue to build our SBC missions program! I can assure you, with people like Ken Kuwahara, the International Mission Board will never be guilty of getting sidetracked and neglecting to put the emphasis on reaching the peoples of the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I hope you have a chance sometime to get to know Ken. I can assure you that if you find yourself in Hawaii on vacation it would be well worth your time to look Ken up.


I received an email from Micah Fries, a pastor from Missouri who is putting together a bulletin board about missions. Micah is a Southern Baptist pastor who really believes the best way to make missions work is to stay in constant communication. He is someone who has taken the initiative to see that there is a strong rope between the field and support at home.

His web site is MISSIONSCONNEXION. It is beautifully set up and I would love to see Southern Baptist missionaries and people get together on this bulletin board. Give it a visit and see about participating yourself.

Tomorrow's IMB Meeting

I will be having several meetings with individuals tomorrow and will be posting information tomorrow night, giving a report of the day's events.

God's blessings to you all.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Schedule for the IMB Meeting and a Request for Prayer

The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention will convene this Monday through Wednesday, March 20-23, 2006 at the Doubletree Hotel Westshore Airport, 4500 West Cypress Street, Tampa Bay, Florida.

The schedule is as follows:

Monday, March 20, 2006

The prayer room opens at the hotel at 10:00 a.m. and is open until 6:00 p.m. I plan on being in the prayer room from 4:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. Monday.

12:00 noon to 2:00 p.m. --- Four different leadership committees of the IMB convene.

2:00 p.m. --- The trustees officers of the IMB meet.

4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. --- The Chairmen's Council of the IMB convenes.

5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. --- There is a trustee and staff dinner at the hotel.

7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. --- The Trustee Forum.

The Trustee Forum is closed to the public and is considered a confidential meeting. I have said in the past, and I reiterate again, I do not like these closed door meetings. Some may argue they are absolutely essential, and in fairness, I think there may be some very rare, exceptional reasons for meetings like this, but the Trustee Forum occurs at every Board meeting and lasts for a minimum of two hours, and sometimes longer.

Unfortunately, closed door meetings, if we are not careful, may be a forum where people may say things with impunity. I have found that when people know they have to give an account for their words, they are usually more reticent to speak. The public eye brings a razor sharp accountability and I am of the firm opinion that every single matter dealt with by IMB trustees should be done within view of the public, if at all possible. Of course, if the life of a missionary is in danger, by all means we should keep things private, but otherwise, Southern Baptists need to know what we are discussing. Anyway, I think you can tell that I really feel we operate at our best when we operate in openness and transparancy.

I have been told by the Chairman of the International Mission Board that they will be recommending to withdraw the recommendation for my removal as a trustee. I am appreciative. I look forward to working with my fellow trustees, for the next seven and one half years. Many trustees will be rotating off this June, and this will be their last Board Meeting. I hope that this meeting can be about missions and not get consumed with controversy as was the last one.

I do not plan to attend the Trustee Forum, unless I am specifically asked, and I will then only attend with the understanding that any discussion that involves the recommendation for my removal, or possible censure, be made public.

It is too difficult for me to review all that has occurred during my eight months as trustee for the IMB, so please allow me to briefly summarize so that you may know why I think it would be wrong for me to attend the Trustee Forum.

(1). I felt from my first contact to serve as a trustee (the initial contact was made by a sitting trustee and not the Nominating Committee of the SBC) through my first full meeting in July of 2005 that I was being recruited to be part of a caucus of trustees that were not pleased with the IMB under the leadership of Dr. Jerry Rankin. I gently and repeatedly turned down each request to participate in these "informal" meetings. Please remember, those who participate in these meetings believe they are doing the Lord's work. I am just reminding them that the Lord's work is performed by, and involves, all the trustees, not just a few who lead the others.

(2). At my first IMB meeting last July, 2005, I learned of the new policies on tongues and baptism that were going to go into effect in the September 2005 BOT meeting. I asked several questions about these new policies in July (Who initiated them? Why do we need them? Why are the old policies not sufficient? How does staff feel about them?) To be candid, I felt as if I was not getting straight answers to my questions. Some may have felt that new trustees should be silent and observe, but as I have stated repeatedly, these new policies really concerned me.

(3). In the September 2005 Board of Directors Meeting I continued to ask questions, including how the Personnel Committee (of which I was a member) had the authority to establish policy without full board approval. The IMB attorney eventually informed our entire board that, indeed, the Personnel Committee did not have the authority to establish policy. The full board had to vote on the policies in November 2005. Everytime I spoke I affirmed my love and respect for my fellow trustees, and as can be confirmed by listening to the audio tapes, I always spoke gently and graciously, but I did ask some very tough questions.

(4). During the November 2005 meeting in Huntsville, Alabama, the entire Board of Trustees voted on the new policies. I was on the losing, minority side. I distinctly remember leaving that meeting with several trustees on the majority side coming up to me and shaking my hand and telling me they loved me, and I told them the same thing. A few gave me a hug, and I gave them one as well, and I left the meeting excited about the future of the IMB, believing that even though I felt these new policies exceeded the BF&M, not to mention the Scripture, we could still focus on missions together.

(5). In December I began a blog. I frankly wanted to fulfill my responsibility to the Convention, as mandated by the IMB trustee manual, and give my interpretations regarding the new policies. I think anyone who has read my blog has seen my desire to be gracious to everyone involved, while at the same time expressing my views. I am trying to simply help us as Southern Baptists see that dissent and disagreement is not unhealthy; only the silencing of dissent is not good. Further, I think there are a great many who see things in our convention similar to the way I do. I am attempting to speak for them.

(6). The January meeting was very, very difficult. It seems that while not many trustees had read my blog, selected excerpts of comments from other people about my blog, and some on my blog, were sent to trustees. My blog was THE debate at the January meeting.

(7). Let me repeat. The blog was the debate. Anybody who reads my posts from that January meeting will know that the blog was the debate. I have only treated my fellow trustees with grace, respect and love. There was one occasion in January when I got angry. I cannot give you the details. I would absolutely love to do so, but since it occurred in forum, I can't. Let me just say, I was dumbfounded at what had just occurred and I was thinking about my family, my children, my church, my reputation, my future. I want to think it was a righteous anger, and I have asked my friends who were with me in the forum, and they have said they would have been angry if they were in my shoes as well. Nevertheless, Jesus was silent before his accusers and I should have been too.

(8). In the final public session of the January's IMB meeting a motion was read into the offical record that I be removed from the board. The entire discussion revolved around my blog and the "gossip and slander" in it. I asked for proof. To this day I remain dumbfounded that I have never received anything as the basis for the charges.

(9). It seems that there is now an attempt to say that the real problem was "not my blog," or "not my opposition to the policies," but my general attitude and treatment of my fellow trustees. All I can say to those who are concerned about the way I treat my fellow trustees is read what trustee Rick Thompson has said about the way I treat trustees at Just Because We Disagree Doesn't Mean We Don't Like You. Also, go back and read my January posts and see what I think of my fellow trustees. I like them. I may not agree with the majority at this time, but I like them. I may not bend or be silent, but I like them. I may not do what they want me to do, but I really like them. Anyway, don't let anybody try to tell you it's about anything other than my blog.

(10). Once the trustees remove the recommendation for my removal I will look forward to working within all the policies and guidelines of the BOT. I do believe some policies need to be changed, but if I intended to operate outside of current policy I would resign. I will attempt to change policy as a trustee, but will abide by all current policies whether I agree with them or not.

Since the recommendation to remove for gossip and slander was made public by the trustees, then we need to either address both issues publicly (as I have asked from day one), or the recommendation needs to be taken off the table. I have been told that is what is going to happen, and when it does, I will then attend the Trustee Forum, but not until then.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A very important day. I love it!

8:00 to 12:30 noon --- We will be interviewing potential missionaries all morning! This is my favorite time of the meeting. I have met some wonderful people in the region I serve (Central Asia). I look forward to working with Western Europe, West Africa, the Pacific Rim, and South America as we combine committees during the morning to deal with a heavy volume of missionary candidates!

12:30 to 2:00 p.m. --- Lunch (this is a great time of fellowship, and any Southern Baptist in Tampa Bay, come join us for lunch. We'll meet in the lobby at 12:30.

2:30 - 5:30 p.m. --- The Major Committees of the IMB will be meeting. I will be meeting with the Mission Personnel Committee.

5:30 to 7:00 p.m. --- Dinner.

7:00 -9:00 --- The Plenary Business Session of the IMB (Open to the Public).

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

8:00 - 12:00 noon --- The Plenary Business Session of the IMB (Open to the Public).

6:30 p.m. Appointment Service -- Idlewild Baptist Church, 18371 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Lutz, FL

The Appointment Service is the one thing you must not MISS!

It's late at night, I'm in D.C. with my son. Thanks for your interest in missions!

I am very, very excited about the future of the IMB and the SBC. Great things are happening and even greater things are around the corner.

Please pray for the IMB meeting. I am hopeful that we can come out of it with a clear vision, a unified spirit, and a love for missions that can't be sidetracked by any side issues!

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

P.S. I just received an email that confirms what I have sought to convey to you. I am removing the name of the person who sent it, but I think it might be helpful to those of you who were not present at the January meeting. Read on:


First, thanks to you both for your blogs. Also thanks and PTL for you Wade, in the way you have conducted yourself the last few months. I was at the Jan BOT and saw how you spoke to Tom and the other members. I was very impressed with your spirit...His Spirit in you.

I do have a concern about blogging at the board meetings and was wondering if the bloggers would consider passing their text by the IMB news writer before publishing.

Sometimes in the overseas reports shared with the board, the presenter will forget he is in a public meeting and say things that should not be reported. I am talking about how God is working stories or what the IMB is doing. My concern is that a blogger doesn't have that background and something will get out. I know no blogger wants to put IMB personnel or nationals in danger.

Thanks for all you are doing and how.

Praying for all the trustees....


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Blogging and the IMB Meeting in Tampa Bay

Next Monday through Wednesday, March 20-23, 2006, the International Mission Board of Trustees will be holding a trustee meeting in Tampa Bay, Florida. I will be posting the schedule for the trustee meeting tomorrow. The culmination of the three day meeting will be a wonderful appointment service for a very large group of missionary candidates on Wednesday night, March 23rd. I hope that anyone within traveling distance of Tampa Bay will make it a point to be present at the service. It will be extraordinarily moving and all in attendance will leave the appointment service having been reminded again of the common bond that unites a very diverse group of churches that form the Southern Baptist Convention --- global missions.

For those of you that read this blog and cannot attend the meeting in Tampa Bay, I would like to know what it is you are interested in me blogging about. Please remember that I will not be able to report on any events within Monday night's forum or any Executive Sessions of the Board, if there are any. Hopefully, all business will take place within plenary sessions unless there are concerns about missionary safety. It is my desire to inform everyone who has an interest in SBC missions what is taking place.

It goes without saying that I can only give you my "interpretations" of events, as the manual for trustees states, and will not be speaking offically for anyone, or any organization, including the IMB. I speak only for myself. It also goes without saying that I will be positive about all events that occur, since I believe God works everything out for an ultimate good. Finally, if you have read my blog from the last IMB meeting, I gave some personal anecdotes, but am not sure that is of any interest to you, so I am now asking.

What is it that you would like to know?

I will post the meeting schedule tomorrow night.

In His Grace,


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Thoughtful Email from a Southern Baptist Friend

One of the reasons I think we Southern Baptists should continue to keep the parameters of cooperation on the mission field as broad as possible is because of the difficulty of getting sixteen million Southern Baptists to agree on the non-essentials of faith, including the authority of the baptizer. I recently received this very interesting and thoughtful email from a friend who asked me to consider several questions. They are worthy of your thoughtful consideration as well.

"In the New Testament, responsibility for performing the ordinances is not specifically assigned to the church. However, it is logical and natural to assume that this is the church's responsibility. The authority for baptism, by precept (Matt. 28:19) and by example (Matt. 3:13), rests with Christ himself. As Christ is viewed as the Head of the Church (Eph. 1:22), the authority for the administration of the ordinances rests with the local church. Baptists generally, and Southern Baptists in particular, have consistently held that baptism and the Lord's Supper are church ordinances, that is, they are to be viewed as congregational rather than as individual acts. Both Baptism and the Lord's Supper are a part of the church's public witness and testimony.

The authority to baptize has to lie somewhere. Someone has to receive or reject the candidate. Southern Baptists believe the local church is the logical biblical authority. Administering the ordinances apart from the local church results in confusion. . . [but] the Scriptures are silent about the authority for the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8). Did the church at Jerusalem authorize Philip to baptize? We do not know.

Baptist churches today are faced with the problem of what to do about alien immersion -- receiving those who have been immersed in other faiths. The reason Southern Baptists have rejected baptism by sprinkling is obvious -- it is not New Testament baptism. But why do most Southern Baptist churches reject the baptism of those who practice immersion for salvation? The same principle applies. Even though a group may use the proper mode, if the meaning is sacramental rather than symbolic, it is not New Testament baptism. Neither the mode nor the meaning can be changed. Biblical baptism requires the proper meaning as well as the correct mode."

W.A Criswell, The Doctrine of the Church (Nashville, TN: Convention Press, 1980), 90-91.

A few questions:

1. If Dr. Criswell was so careful to note that the Scriptures are unspecific about the location of baptismal authority, why has the IMB BOT sought to be so specific?

2. If the doctrine of eternal security is such an essential component for baptismal legitimacy, then why does Dr. Criswell mention nothing of the doctrine in his discussion of the ordinances or in the entire book on the doctrine of the church?

3. When Dr. Criswell discusses "alien immersion," why does he only mention those groups that baptism by improper modes, i.e., sprinkling or infant baptism. and those who baptize by improper meaning, i.e., baptismal regeneration? Nowhere does he suggest that other Baptist groups who practice baptism by immersion and by symbol, such as Free Will Baptists, or other groups who are not Baptist but practice baptism the same way that Southern Baptist do, i.e., some of the charismatic churches, are practices "alien immersion" or that their baptism is illegitimate.

4. It may be logical and natural, as Dr. Criswell suggests, for baptismal authority to be located within the context of a local church, but is it necessarily scriptural? Must Southern Baptist churches adopt a "logical and natural" doctrine of the ordinances, or are they free to adopt another way, so long as it does not conflict with Scripture?

5. Has the IMB BOT forgotten that it is the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention that send missionaries, and not the denomination or its mission board? What will they say to a candidate who passes the scrutiny of the new policies but whose church now authorizes them to baptize converts in rivers, lakes, ponds, bathtubs, or wherever as a part of that church's fulfilling the Great Commission? Does the IMB BOT wish now to tell churches that they cannot authorize their missionaries to baptize or administer the Lord's Supper to converts on the field, or to their own family members? Would such a candidate be rejected or sent home if they did administer the ordinance in a manner consistent with the authorization of their Southern Baptist church back home? And if so, does that not imply that the IMB BOT has usurped the "logical and natural" authority for baptism?

Monday, March 13, 2006

A Tip of the Hat to IMB Trustees and Some Help Requested from Grassroots Southern Baptists

I have attempted to keep the focus of this blog on the International Mission Board and the exciting future direction of the Southern Baptist Convention. I have desired to be very positive about the work of the IMB in every area, including that of our trustees, and any impartial reading of my posts will give evidence of that positive outlook. Yes, I have disagreed with the two new policies at the IMB, but I have attempted to show that disagreement in a spirit of respect toward my fellow trustees. I have a deeply held belief that Baptists can disagree but continue to cooperate, and that has been at the forefront of my efforts to express my opinion but remain kind to everyone involved. This is the Southern Baptist way!

There are some very gifted men and women who have been chosen to represent the Southern Baptist Convention as International Mission Board trustees. Evidence of their wisdom can be seen in the Manual of Trustees, a self-imposed policy trustee manual, proposed and adopted by the trustees themselves. It was this book that was given to me last June, and the one I studied diligently before I ever attended my first meeting in July of 2005 as a new trustee. I believe that all trustees really do desire to perform a work that is honoring to Christ, regulated by policy that is based upon Scripture, and of course, one that is primarily concerned with the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ by appointing God-ordained, Spirit-filled believers called to the mission fields of the world.

Some of the good common sense of my fellow trustees is seen in several statements within the blue book that include:

(1). The International Mission Board's power can never exceed that of the convention itself. (page 1)

(2). Each trustee is to fill a servant role and represent the total constituency, not any particular segment within the geographical United States. (page 8)

(3). Ideally, the total constituency is to be informed on matters related to the work of the International Mission Board. (page 10)

(4). Trustees are expected to support the president in the effort to build a quality institution known for its excellence . . . (page 10)

(5). We will not enter lands with attitudes of haughtiness or superiority, but with humility and love. (page 22)

(6). The board never does its work in secrecy, but through openness. Baptists abhor hidden corners in its denominational operations. They expect a constant flow of communications and interpretations. The only times executive sessions of the board should be held are when human life is at stake, or tedious personnel problems must be handled. Instead of a secret approach, Baptists demand a program of information and want it to be kept up to date. (Page 22)

(7). (Trustees) must feel and act on their own best judgment. (page 26).

(8). Trustees are to decide and implement what is best for the institution and the churches served by it. (page 26).

(9). Careful and complete records are (to be) studiously kept of all actions and decisions of the board and its administration. (page 29).

(10). A trustee is to bring (his/her) voice to the meetings when serving, but is to also take (his/her) interpretations back to the people after adjournment. (page 33).

As you can tell, these are some excellent, wise policy statements, and there are many more!

How can so many wise people misunderstand my motives with this blog? I honestly think some of the trustees were initially just simply confused about the nature of a blog. Some made the mistake of attributing comments in a blog to the author of the blog. Rather than viewing blogs as a very positive way to get input from the grassroots level of the Southern Baptist Convention, some misunderstand a blog as a way to gossip. I think trustees are now beginning to see the value and benefit of blogging, and it does not include gossip.

However, to be fair, there does need to be some rules regarding blogging for trustees. I am asking you, my friends in the blogging world, to read the the excellent policy statements above regarding the protocol of trustees, and come up with similar statements regarding blogging. I will be in New York City tomorrow and Wednesday with my son and his sixth grade class, so I will be unable to post comments on a regular basis. However, please type your comment, and as soon as I have an opportunity, I will post it.

I would like to take your suggestions and formulate a "blue book for blogging." Maybe in the future this tool can be used in a powerful way to get all our Southern Baptists involved in the plannign and direction of the ministries of our convention.

Again, I express my faith in my fellow trustees at the International Mission Board and you, my blogging friends in the Southern Baptist Convention. Our best days are ahead.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson