Saturday, March 04, 2006

A Move Toward Transparency Is Needed

Our Enid High Basketball team overcame the largest second half deficit in the history of 100 years of Enid High School, and led by Kade Burleson's 12 straight points in the third quarter qualifed for the 6A Oklahoma State Basketball Championship by beating Tulsa Memorial 53-49! With no game today in Tulsa, I thought I would post a response to an interesting flurry of blogs on Friday.

I welcome fellow trustee Jerry Corbaley to the blogging world, and wish him the best. I think Jerry may find that the SBC blogging world is composed of some really sharp individuals, who love Christ, and who also have a propensity and penchant for holding fellow bloggers accountable.

Jerry seems to have a couple of concerns as evidenced in his first couple of posts:

(1). The minutes to the January meeting are not publicly released until they are officially approved in the next board meeting, which won't be until later in the month. Thus, how could Marty Duren know what is in minutes that have yet to be approved?

I asked Marty Duren the same question. I have received a copy of the minutes and they are in my file ready to go to Florida. Nobody has seen a copy of my minutes, nor have I shared verbally with anyone what is in the minutes. It seems Marty has some incredible resources, a veritable modern Woodward and Berstein.

However, I think people need to realize that the minutes in question are not details of EXECUTIVE SESSION matters. The minutes are details of "public actions of the IMB," including the reading into the official record of motions that come from Executive Sessions. Once approved, these minutes will be PROVIDED TO THE PUBLIC as an accounting of what took place in the public sessions of the IMB, also called "Plenary Sessions." Executive Sessions (secret, closed door meetings are tape recorded, but there are no "official minutes" of those meetings). The minutes in question that Jerry seems so concerned about are the minutes of a PUBLIC IMB meeting! Why would anyone be concerned that nobody see minutes of things done at IMB Plenary Sessions?

There is only one possibility. The Board can seek to change, amend or alter minutes, so that the proposed minutes are different than the minutes eventually released to the public. When I say the minutes can be changed, amended, or altered I mean "expunged" (there is a rule in Robert's Rules of Orders that allow for this for very specific reasons), "corrected" (meaning what is actually printed in the proposed minutes is not a true reflection of what occurred and a necessary change is made), or "amended" (things that did happen were not properly recorded in the proposed minutes). In a church business meeting proposed minutes are ALWAYS presented to the church so that these necessary corrections can be made before they are approved. Any Board has the legal right to take change proposed minutes. The better question might be, "Why are proposed minutes of public IMB meetings supposed to be secret?" It could be that there is some confusion about the appropriateness of what is in the minutes.

I frankly am not in favor of expunging, amending or correcting the proposed minutes, unless there are very, very good reasons for doing so. One reason might be the protection of the International Mission Board from legal action if those minutes were somehow a danger to the integrity of the organization or placed the organization outside the boundaries of state or federal law. Those circumstances are, indeed, very rare, but a trustee who takes his obligation seriously will do what he can to correct any errors that harm the organization.

I think everyone probably needs to be a little patient on this matter and let the Board deal with the issue of minutes at the next Board Meeting and not jump to swift conclusions.

However, it is wise to reiterate that these are the minutes of the "Public Meetings" of the IMB, and not Executive Session minutes that are in question.

(2). Jerry's second concern seems to be the statement, made by Marty Duren, that Jerry was the person who made the recommendation for my removal. How could Marty know this, because if it did occur, it happened in Executive Session.

I do not know Marty's sources. All I know is that until I received the copy of the minutes a few days ago, I had never seen the actual motion for my removal in print. I heard it read into the "offical record" at the last Plenary Session (again, a PUBLIC MEETING) of the International Mission Board, and immediately blogged about what I heard (see To My Friends, Family and Church).

First, for people to have information from Executive Session Meetings of the IMB is a serious breach of confidentiality. I am not saying if Jerry is the person who made the motion or not, but it should not be revealed if he is. However, I think people need to be really careful about also making hasty judgments about people "breaching" confidentiality.

The religion editor for the Arkansas Gazette was doing a story two weeks ago on the motion for my removal and in her interview with me she asked me if I had any correspondence with _________, who made the recommendation for my removal. I was silent for just a moment and then asked, "How do you know who made the recommendation? That is a detail from Executive Session?"

She told me Chairman Tom Hatley told her. I do not, in any form or fashion, believe that Tom intentionally breached Executive Session confidentiality rules. I think we need to give a little room for grace in this matter. I frankly don't think we ever should have put Tom, or any other trustee, in a position of possibily breaching confidentiality in this matter. Everything should have been public from the beginning, particularly since nobody ever came to me privately about the recommendation for my removal BEFORE it was presented to the Board. Let me repeat that again, NOBODY EVER CAME TO ME PRIVATELY ABOUT THE RECOMMENDATION TO REMOVE ME UNTIL IT WAS MADE A MOTION BEFORE THE ENTIRE BOARD. I would have much preferred that the debate for my removal be in a public forum under those circumstances. To debate the matter behind close doors allows for innuendo. I have nothing to hide, and want everything public.

Here's my point. Baptists operate best in openness and transparency. I do not believe we would be in the dilemma we are in now if we had taken the position as a Board that our business needs to be done in public, under the light and scrutiny of the entire convention.

Executive Sessions are necessary "ONLY FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE BOARD" for legal reasons, and the security of our missionaries overseas. Too many of our Boards are using "Forums," "Executive Sessions," and other closed door meetings in ways I don't think they were ever intended to be used. We are Christians. We should never be ashamed for the light of scrutiny on our actions.

Again, everything we do as Southern Baptists needs to be done in the light of day if at all possible. I have asked, from the beginning, that everything regarding the recommendation for my removal be made public. I stand by my request. I am fully prepared to bring this publicly before the convention.

Frankly, I think our convention might be better off dealing with it publicly.

However, if the Executive Committee of the IMB now feels the Convention and Board is better off with me remaining on the Board, then I would simply ask that we deal with this matter as graciously and as publicly as possible. I am ready to move on. There is work to be done. The removal issue needs to be put to rest so we can focus on the other issues before us.

I continue to look forward to working with my fellow trustees, abiding by every policy and procedure that forms the framework of the duties and responsibilities of the trustees of the Internatationl Mission Board.

In His Grace and Have a Great Lord's Day!

Wade Burleson


Kevin Bussey said...

Congrats on the win!

All I have to say is what a tangled web!

Evangelical Orthodoxy said...

Maybe I am naive, but I think that there should few reasons in Christian community to conduct proceedings in secret. Granted, if a pastor and deacons are discussing a situation that might embarass a member, that is one thing; but "business" groups like the IMB should always be in secret. I think the acid test is this: secrecy should occurr only when it benefits or protects the victim; it should not be used to protect the establishment or the powerful. This is a case where we've baptized corporate and government practices ... the whole notion of "executive session" I could argue is contradictory to the church model ... but I digress. While this comment belongs more to a few posts ago about Nazi Germany, I will add it here because this is where folks read today. This whole Germany comparison reminds me of the SBC's decision to pull out of the Baptist World Alliance. One excuse was it was "anti-American." I find it interesting that the SBC sided with America against the greater body of Baptist believers.

Bowden McElroy said...


You do realize there will be some, perhaps many, who will never believe your denial of being the one who leaked the minutes?

If Marty got the minutes directly from another trustee, that trustee should make it clear to the rest of the BoT that he or she was the leak.

I'm with you: I think it's silly that anyone would be concerned about the minutes of an open and public session circulating.

My fear is that the rest of the trustees will then focus on what person or persons violated board protocol, instead of questioning the very need for such a rule.

I suppose an argument could be made that once posted to a blog, everything stays in the digital realm for a very long time and it would not do to have multiple versions of minutes floating around. Frankly, I think that is a weak argument that could be easily addressed BY PUTTING ALL OF THIS ON THE IMB's WEB SITE to begin with.

One click and we will know where to find the latest, most approved version of anything.

I feel for Jerry: he is the only one who is attempting to present the "majority view" of the BoT. And, by adhering to his understanding of the current rules, he is handicapped by having BOTH arms tied behind his back.

You have always been gracious in your statements about other trustees. Not everyone blogging about/for you has been as gracious; this causes harm to you that you had no control over.

The main thing is the new guidelines that narrow the limits of cooperation.

The chief secondary issue is the very culture of the board. Organizational cultures can change... but they change slowly. Graciousness from bloggers - as I believe you have demonstrated - will help with that process.

Anyway, thanks for letting me ramble.

Anonymous said...

First, congratulations to your son and his team. There was probably one reason you may have enjoyed the game more than your trustee meetings: at the game you could tell who your opponents were. Sorry, that wasn’t nice, but I couldn’t resist.

In an earlier post I mentioned meetings of a public library system and local board meetings. Over many years I remember one executive session on the system board - dealing with an employee matter - but all other meetings I have attended have been open to the public (though hardly anyone else bothers to come). It seems to me that a Christian organization should be at least as open as a secular one. Are IMB trustee meetings routinely closed to the public? Are members of the media allowed to be present? Certainly there is need for closed meetings when dealing with confidential matters, such as individual employee issues and missionaries in sensitive areas, but there should be openness in dealing with regular business.

I also think lists of trustees should be easily available so they could be contacted by interested people, which, unless this has changed within the past week, is not true for the IMB. (The public library system and local library board members are listed on the system website, accessed by only a few clicks.) I have a pretty good idea where to find a list for the IMB (haven’t tested, so I say it that way), but how many others reading this blog could? Not that I think this is a matter for Wade to work on; you have your own matter to deal with. Just thought I would raise the issue for anyone who wants to take it on.

Some other denominations (and even some Baptist churches, apparently) are run by one or a few individuals. Every Baptist church I have ever been a member of has had business meetings where church business is conducted in the open with all attending allowed a voice in decisions. This is a very good tradition, and while other Baptist organizations are not churches, they should follow this Baptist tradition of openness when at all possible.

Susie said...


Frankly, it does not concern me what other trustees think. When I make a statement it is truthful.

Further, the pastor who gave Marty the information posted on Marty's blog (which as you say, should have been public information in the first place) called me at my home this morning (Saturday, March 4th).

He is not a trustee of the IMB. But he did tell me where he got the information that he gave to Marty.

I laughed when he told me.

Anonymous said...

No fair Wade! We want to laught too! said...


Maybe one day we all can share the laugh. :)

Anonymous said...

I am really looking forward to the day when this is all out in the open and we can all laugh, too.

But I don't see meaningful change happening quickly. That is, once this is resolved, the culture of closed meetings, intolerance of dissent, and the belief that it is morally acceptable to move beyond the BF&M are likely to persist and resurface.

Am I correct in thinking the most powerful thing we can do in Greensboro is not pass resolutions but elect a president who will place people on the nominating committee that are committed to openness and transparency?

If so, care to go public with your ideas on who that person might be? I'm not concerned with whether he is young or old, endorsed by the old guard or not, just as long as he is committed to putting people on the nominating committee (always the most powerful committee of any organization) who hold the values you blogged about today.

It will be my first time at a national convention (I assume my church will send me; I'll find out tomorrow night) and I realized I know very few people outside of Oklahoma. And, I'm not quite sure how to go about determining whether of not someone would be willing to do this. Any advice, from anyone, would be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

To Evangelical Orthodoxy,
You said, “I think that there should [be] few reasons in Christian community to conduct proceedings in secret. Granted, if a pastor and deacons are discussing a situation that might embarrass a member, that is one thing; but "business" groups like the IMB should always be in SECRET.”
I believe you meant to say ‘in PUBLIC.’ Please correct me if I’m
wrong. In the hospital a week gave me ‘Burleson blog withdrawal’
problems. HA
Rex Ray said...


There will be both motions, resolutions and other important matters at the SBC. The Presidential election is, of course, very important.

I think you will enjoy the process and I'm excited you are going for the first time!

I enjoyed meeting you in Tulsa. You are doing a great job for the pastors of Oklahoma (both counseling and program coordinator for Tulsa Metro). said...

Rex Ray,

Hope you are recovering well.

Anonymous said...

You said, “The Board can seek to change, amend or alter
minutes, so that the proposed minutes are different than the
minutes eventually released to the public”
This happened at the First Church Counsel.
1. Counsel minutes: (Acts (5:19) “In MY JUDGMENT...we
should write to them to abstain from things...”
2. Public minutes: (Acts 15:28): “For it was the HOLY SPIRIT’S DECISION and put no greater burden on you than these NECESSARY things:”
When a meeting is over, all that is left is what is in writing. Man’s judgment was replaced by the Holy Spirit’s decision and “things”
were made “necessary.”
Peter’s salvation by a gift went in one ear and out the other just
like today when the BFM states: “Confessions are only guides of interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.” The IMB cannot understand English when it doesn’t want to.
Rex Ray

Anonymous said...

Congrats to your son and the team! Here's a picture link..

Wes Kenney said...

As a preacher of the gospel, I cannot deny the value of word pictures. However, I feel compelled to point out that equating trustees of the International Mission Board with a teenager caught with evidence of "bad behavior" (not much doubt what is being pictured) is not helpful. I think we should follow Wade's excellent example in the tone as well as the content of our debate, and follow the example of Christ: when reviled, He did not revile in return; when suffering, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to the One who judges justly.
- 1 Peter 2:23 (HCSB)

Anonymous said...

Way to go Kade; we are so proud of you!
Just wish we could see the next tournament; hope we don't have to wait until you get to college before we see you play again.

Lots of love,
Nana and Papa

Anonymous said...

Great post, Elizabeth!

Savage Baptist said...

...once this is resolved, the culture of closed meetings, intolerance of dissent, and the belief that it is morally acceptable to move beyond the BF&M are likely to persist and resurface.

Absolutely! That is a never-ending battle. That is why we must constantly educate and persuade, even when we think that all about us think the same as we.

art rogers said...

The insinuation that someone is leaking secrets and that someone is Wade lacks any sense of integrity. I have been reading Jerry's blog, but I must say I am dissappointed. I don't perceive him to be interested at all in the blogging world - which is a conversation.

It seems to me, in my opinion, that he is trying to bait supporters of Wade into saying something that reflect poorly on Wade. I was personally invited by him to join the conversation there, but I have thus far declined.

I much prefer the atmosphere where disagreement and tough questions are allowed, only vicious tones are edited.

Thanks, Wade, for providing such a

Evangelical Orthodoxy said...


I embarassingly noted my dingaling post this morning. I meant "never" not "always" ... so yes, I favor complete - as much as possible - transparency. I never support the political machinations that often require secrecy. If we cannot be open with one another, we cannot be the type of church we should be.

Anonymous said...

Christians ought to be like combat soldiers in the mist of a terrible battle. Under intense fire they huddle together in a small fox hole trying to stay alive and yet carry out their mission. Moving under fire they carry only their weapon so essential to their mission. They quickly learn to shed their packs, shovels, canteens, back packs and anything else that would hinder them in carrying out their mission.

Should they run into another soldier sharing their mission they would quickly welcome him and his fire power in carrying out the mission.

Like combat soldiers Christians need to remember their mission and have an overwhelming desire to carry it out. Anything and everything that would hinder or hurt their ability to carry out that mission should be cast aside.