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official web site of the IMB which lists the new trustee accountability guidelines, the statement that the Blue Book is superseded by the new policies is at the bottom of the page, even though that statement was not on the actual page that contained the amended proposal that passed with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,



Nick said...


I noticed the apparent difference in interpreting the role of the Blue Book and emailed BP and Chairman Hatley.

BP said that their comment (that it added to but didn't replace) came "on a direct question about that point", but that they would check into it.

Michael Chute (author of the article on the IMB site) then said that the information was correct as posted on his article.

Chairman Hatley stated that the new policy takes precedence but the blue book will be a point of reference, as you said.

BP is supposedly changing/updating their article in light of what has been said.

Anonymous said...

Posted at 12:28 am? Don't you ever sleep?

An interesting observation. Does the material in the fifty pages of the Blue Book not addressed by the four pages passed at Tampa still apply? Or as a reference, is it just a rough guideline of historical note that is not legally binding any longer?

Not being critical either, but as your constituant from the state of Oklahoma, I'd like to know what to expect of our trustees. You have anticipated my question somewhat, but how could I find out? Could you find out for me? That is, as my local trustee just reacting to a request from a concerned and curious SB pastor? Some form of clarification statement should be forthcoming. Feel free to use my name as requestor if you need to.

God bless you (and your wife), Wade, you are a tireless worker.

My greetings to all at Enid,


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the observations..... and they are not interpreted as criticism! I think those observations suggest there is a definite need for clarification.... and I would add, if it appears to to be a incoherent to a Trustee, then it will certainly be tough for us sideline observers and possible messengers to fathom? Hope we see some clarification on the web site..... soon!

Kevin Bussey said...


Bless you! I wouldn't be able to be so diplomatic as you.

Bob Cleveland said...


This is interesting. The only way that the question can be answered is for the authors of the writings to answer, themselves. I'd think they'd want to clear up the matter, provided clarity is the objective.

It's good that you stipulate that your questions are not criticism, but it likewise tragic that you must be so explicit about that. It might seem, to some. that others are pre-judging your motives for asking.

I'm no theologian, but it seems to me that, if the IMB stipulates that the new rules replace the blue book, then a principle change is that trustees are no longer to report back to their people at home. That would really be a change.

On the other hand, if they state the new rules are simply supplements to the blue book, then it would be perfectly ok to continue to report via the blog.

I think it's time for the IMB to clarify the matter. Right now.

Harry Truman coined a term for politicians who are purposely "on the fence" in important matters. He called them "Mugwumps".

There's no place for that in the King's work. The only time Jesus wasn't perfectly clear in His speaking was in parables, where the objective was to hide the truth from those from whom He chose to hide it. There shouldn't be any of that, now.

I hope it's cleared up immediately. It may be more important, and more revealing, than the rule itself.

Anonymous said...

Something I've been curious about as I've followed your blog and others--do trustees of the IMB receive any kind of training or orientation before they begin their service? If so, who plans it and leads it? Is it IMB specific or does it apply to all SBC entities? In other words, can each entity decide for themselves what they want their trustees to know at the starting gate? Is there a specific process for bringing incoming trustees up to speed about pending issues or decisions previously made? Were you (and others)given other things to read and digest besides the blue book?

This may be another post for another day, but it would be interesting to know just what incoming trustees are expected to know/process as they begin serving. I guess the bottom line is, is this type thing handled informally or formally? If informally, are some people more "oriented" or "up to speed" than others? And if they are, is it because of their initiative in asking questions and preparing themselves by reading, etc., or have others attempted to bring them along?

My own experience in various organizations has taught me that some decision-makers just "show up" and others arrive on day one fully prepared and aware, mainly because that it is their nature and personality. From reading your blog, it seems obvious your nature would put you in the second group.

I have wondered if at least one issue in this whole debacle (although maybe a small one) is the amount of background knowledge trustees (new and old) bring to the table and where they get it from. Does everyone start out on the same page and at the same starting gate?

How is it possible that a 50-page document like the blue book can be condensed into 4 pages? Just what was left out?

Blessings on you today--and on the other IMB trustees and staff and missionaries!

wadeburleson.org said...

Mary Ann,

There is a very good trustee orientation.

I really enjoyed it and commend the committee.

I asked numerous questions in the meeting, some of which could not be answered, not because of a lack of preparation by the committee, but they are questions that have no answers at this time.

wadeburleson.org said...

I think you may find the convention will be speaking on the role of trustees at Greensboro.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday several pastors and my self meet with Mike Smith, IMB Trustee from TX, to voice our concerns over recent IMB actions (baptism, tongues, and other issues). After going over the new “guidelines” and explaining that these guidelines were not in response to [Wade Burleson], but were a product of a 2 yr investigation to better equip and inform new trustee members, I asked, “Do these new “guidelines” supersede the Blue Book?” He said "unofficially and off the record" that the new "guidelines" DO supersede those of the Blue Book!


art rogers said...

If the document was ammended between plenary sessions and that ammendment was as a result of Trustee discussion, the final version voted on by the Trustees is the one that is in effect - by law.

If the Trustees, Chairman, etc. want the new policy to supercede the Blue Book and the Blue Book to be a reference material, then they have to vote it into action. This can be done at the next meeting. Until then, neither the Chair, nor any committee nor any Trustee can simply elevate it by their words.

I am sure it is an oversite, but one they have the responsibility to address.

wadeburleson.org said...


I have spoken with Morris Chapman and Bobby Welch but I am unable to give details at this time. Both have been very helpful and very fair. I appreciate both men and their ministries.

wadeburleson.org said...


Sorry, I answered your question as if it were Art's. Art, I agree with your assessment.

Anonymous said...

Dear Wade,

On Feb.15 I wrote and it was published on your blog:

"What I get from the manual text that you quoted is that any trustee is to be a good P.R. person. Trustees are only to report back good P.R. to their church. Your blog contains commentary that is not soley good P.R. for the board. Therefore it follows that it is in violoation."

"When you signed on to be a trustee the assumption was/is that you will say things that keep the wheel turning without a squeak"

Now in late March you write, " I will only give, as the policy states, my feelings of the good things that are going on at the IMB....If I can't say anything good, I will be silent or say "no comment".

Not only are you towing the comapany line officially but I read that you are doing a good job of it. The April 2006 Charisma magazine quotes IMB Board Chairman Tom Hatley directly but no word from you except in old public blogs.

The Epistles are about practicing spiritual gifts not protecting the family business. The board's policies such as banning private prayer will, in the long run, limit Southern Baptist missions work- not help it.

English Baptist, David Pawson , is the work all IMB Trustees should read: 4th Wave

Respected Lawyer and Baptist missionary statesmen,of New Zealand, J.O Saunders' A Spiritual Clinic should be read as well.

warm regards,

Scott Goodson

Bob Cleveland said...

I only THOUGHT this was getting interesting, before. Now, it REALLY is!

I just went to the IMB Website and clicked where the new policies were to be posted, and it came up blank. Ditto for two different links on this site, as well as another link through an article I read.

Did the IMB take down the new guidelines?

This isn't the place to ask what's going on. Not even the place to speculate about it.

But I do know where to ask, and I'll be there in 45 days or so.

Why didn't somebody tell me SBC conventions are fun?

wadeburleson.org said...


I have stated before, and I state again, I abide by policy.

The SBC, new trustees to the IMB, or legal action must change the new policies of the IMB regarding trustee accountability.

I will not do the third, I have eight years for the second, and I would, of course, vote for any recommendation within the first possibility.

Until then, I will abide by the new policies.


P.S. If anyone is thinking through these matters, they would see that my insistence on abiding by policy, whether I agree with it or not, negates any and all arguments that I am "resistant to accountability."

My accountability is policy.

The Board has changed the policy.

Bob Cleveland said...


Somewhat in response to Scott's comments about "toeing the company line": I believe you are evidencing the operation of Romans 13:1 in respecting those in positions of authority in the IMB. Sadly, too many Christians, in my experience, have shown respect for authority only when they agree with it. Well .. even the heathens do that.

I also point out that Daniel and company ASKED permission to refrain from partaking the king's rich food. We envision their simply refusing, citing some "higher law", but when they asked permission, they were obeying authority and trusting in God.

No doubt the hoi polloi could organize something and force some changes. To do that would be to deny the privilige of seeing God step in. You just keep on, and I'm sure He will, in whatever form He chooses.

Thanks for your example. Faint not, friend.

Nick said...


If you are referring to this URL http://www.imb.org/core/story.asp?storyID=3912&LanguageID=1709, it appears the article has been replaced with a PDF document - check out the link at the bottom of that page.

Anonymous said...

"[Note, this policy supersedes the document, Ordered by God, Manual for Trustees, which now becomes a reference document.]" (International Missionary Board, SBC, Trustee Responsibilities)

There we have it. . .in the official document. . .The Blue Book is, literally, history

Moreover, the IMB BoT has determined that "Individual IMB trustees must refrain from public criticism of Board approved actions. Experience has shown that it is not possible to draw fine lines in this area. Freedom of expression must give way to the imperative that the work of the Kingdom not be placed at risk by publicly airing differences within the Board." (emphasis mine) Ibid.

How is it that the IMB BoT has become an authoritarian oligarchy in determining that, without exception, "publicly airing differences within the Board" place "the work of the Kingdom at risk"? Did the Apostle Paul's public airing of his confrontation with the Apostle Peter regarding the latter's hypocrisy place "the work of the Kingdom at risk". It appears to this itinerant Okie that God subsequently blessed the missionary efforts of Paul rather "well", or perhaps the IMB BoT majority has "a better idea". . .

Other than protecting vulnerable Missionaries in dangerous foreign assignments and dealing with delicate personnel issues in the staff of the IMB, the IMB BoT has no business of arbitrarily suppressing any right of a Trustee to exercise free speech in the form of responsible dissent.

If the BoT believes that "freedom of speech" is being abused by a particular Trustee, they already had the right to recommend that the SBC remove the Trustee from the IMB BoT.

It is now the responsibility of the SBC Messengers to Greensboro to hold any and all Trustees to be fully responsible and accountable for how they address issues of the IMB through their fully disclosed words and deeds (exceptions previously noted), including those which the BoT majority seems so passionately intent in concealing.

In His Grace and Peace,

Anonymous said...

I just looked at the Trustee Responsibilities/Guidelines sheet that was handed to me by Mike Smith on Tuesday AM(3-28-06), and it contains the note at the bottom stating... [Note, this policy supersedes the document, Ordered by God, Manual for Trustees, which now becomes a reference document.]

Nick said...

The Baptist Press article has now been updated to read this way, fyi:

Three trustees voted against the new policy, which supersedes the older policy, dubbed the "Blue Book."