Thursday, April 27, 2006

The "Good Ol' Boy System" of Control, Exposed and Condemned by Judge Paul Pressler

I first met Judge Paul Pressler in the mid 80's. I was his driver as he toured Oklahoma and spoke to several pastor groups in preparation for the Southern Baptist Convention. I was a young pastor, concerned with what I was hearing about the liberal drift of the SBC, and I was committed to do my part, however small, to right the ship.

I distinctly remember part of the standard talk given by Pressler to groups of pastors around the state centered on the tight control the liberals had over SBC agencies. I did not know at the time the intimate details of how boards and agencies were being controlled, but I took the word of this man, and frankly, to this day I believe the Judge was telling the truth. Listen to his description of how things were operating in the early 80's at SBC agencies . . .

"To me, the issue was . . . whether the system was closed to conservative leadership. Would membership on our boards be open to all so that discussions of policy could take place as individuals from different perspectives and with different concerns sat down together and worked out their differences? I realized how closed the liberal, "good ol' boy" system had been." (Page 128, "A Hill on Which To Die," Judge Paul Pressler)

Pressler goes on to say . . .

"The boards were tightly controlled and were not places of free exchange. The tight control of the system showed me that the liberals had a basic fear of the democratic process of Southern Baptists. I came to see each board as a unified force to direct policy and not, as I had hoped, a forum for the presentation and compromise of diverse viewpoints. The nature of the liberal control showed me that they were unwilling to be open" (Ibid, page 128).

There are some who will not like what I'm about to say. I am going to say it anyway.

I like Paul Pressler. He has always been very gracious and kind to me personally. I have admired him on several fronts, not the least of which is the love he expresses both verbally and in his actions for both his wife and children. I also admire his courage and his stand for the sake of principles.

Unfortunately, what Judge Pressler so eloquently expressed as the problems with "the good ol' boy system' of the liberals, may now be the problems of the "good ol' boy system" of another group.

We are all conservatives in the SBC (both the cessationists and the continualists). We are all evangelical(both Calvinists and non-Calvinists). We are all believers in the authority of the Scriptures (those who like the BFM 2000 and those who prefer more historical Baptist Confessions). We are all Great Commission Christians.

We are brothers and sisters who love Christ.

I have heard from a very reliable source that there will be another recommendation forthcoming in the next IMB trustee meeting to censure me --- again. Since nobody in trustee leadership has spoken to me after the recommendation for my removal was rescinded unanimously at the last meeting, I can only assume that some are upset with my blog --- again.

My wife will be with me in New Mexcio for the next trustee meeting. She is a little nervous and anxious about everything, but I have assured her that everything will be fine. I reiterate, I take seriously my charge by the SBC to fulfill my responsibilities as a trustee, working for the good of our convention and the IMB. I will serve the Lord and my fellow Southern Baptists with all my heart and soul. I like all my fellow trustees and enjoy their fellowship. I am hoping what I heard is just a rumor and without substance.

However, if it is true, and I am censured in May for expressing my concerns with the direction we are headed as a Convention, then my prayer is that the words of Judge Pressler will ring loud and clear in Greensboro . . .

"The nature of the liberal (fundamentalist?) control showed me that they were unwilling to be open."

May God help us to be kind and gracious to all our SBC brothers, but to be willing to pay the price to insure we have not substitute one form of control for another.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson


Tim Sweatman said...

At the Younger Leaders regional dialogue just outside of Nashville in March 2005 several comments were made about the "Good Ol' Boy" network that tightly controls our SBC entities. Much of the frustration expressed by these younger leaders related to the fact that in order to be accepted by denominational leaders one has to follow the party line. Several younger leaders declared that this is why they were only marginally affiliated with the SBC, and many implied or even said that if this "Good Ol' Boy System" remains in place much longer that they would probably end up leaving the SBC. Unless our leaders wake up to this fact, the last one left will be turning the lights out on the SBC. Judge Pressler's observations were right 25 years ago, and they are still right today.

Kelly Reed said...

This is another example of Church History repeating itself--the Persecuted quickly becoming the Persecutors. What made a generation earnestly contend for the faith can easily change into a generation bent on controlling the faith.

Judge Pressler was right in his assessment during the 80's; the danger is that today, many will argue they are the exception. The naive version sounds like this: "That was them. We aren't capable of doing that like they did." Or the more dangerous version, "But we know what we're doing. At least our positions are the correct ones."

Wade, I do hope and pray that the Board doesn't take up another vote concerning you or the nature of this blog. It would only show how much they are out of touch with the people they are supposed to be representing. I, for one, am greatly appreciative of what I am reading from you and the tone in which it is conveyed. I pray for your strength & courage to continue fulfilling your duties as an IMB Trustee. Earnestly contend for what you believe and continue to reminding everyone the dangers of repeating past mistakes.

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,

Kelly Reed

Anonymous said...

we have been praying and will continue to do so for you, your family, and the others who are wanting to cooperate and keep getting slammed down.
we had and have hope that things are going to change, but just the possibility that you might be censured for speaking the truth about the convention (not the bot) puts a little hiccup in that hope.
we place our trust in the One who can do everything. if we truly believe He is who He says He is, then we've no need to fear the future.
some of us m's were talking last week and for years it seems we've been able to work without worrying about the "politics" in the States, because it was so far removed. those days are fast going away.
we pray that the Lord will have His way with the SBC. we have to wonder when the God we know and love, the God we serve, the God we've learned to know in a whole new way outside our own cultural identity and traditions will finally say, "enough is enough".
the way things have been going and continue to go, there may be a day when many imb M's will have to choose to follow Him or stay within the traditions/dictates of the imb bot...farther and farther from the task of world evangelism with other non-baptist believers...or maybe we should say non Southern Baptist believers, because we have many non SBC baptists in our place of work...

Anonymous said...

I was all set to do battle with the first part of your post, but the last part restored my faith in you. I have read Pressler’s book, “A Hill on Which To Die” which I thought would be more fitting if the title was ‘A Hill on Which to Live” because the book explained how to take over the SBC, and that is what they did.
Criswell said if we had known what was in the book, we could have taken over a long time ago.
As a Christian, Pressler was great and his wisdom of how the SBC works is A+. On the other hand, his book can be used over and over again. The bottom line is: Whoever is elected president of the SBC has the power to select men for most of the important positions which in turn control the SBC.
In politics, it would be like the elected president could choose a new congress and senate. That is why I personally would like to see you fired as a trustee, so you would be more incline to run for president of the SBC.
Rex Ray

Jamie Wootten said...

I hope the prospect of censure at the New Mexico meeting turns out to be nothing more than someone's vain imagination. I don't think I have ever seen a person model "grace and truth" the way that you have during this entire situation. Our convention definitely needs more people such as yourself in positions of leadership. Hang in there, and trust in the Lord as I know you will.

Kevin Bussey said...


May this all be a lesson to those of us who are to follow our present leadership. My prayers are with you and your wife.

Anonymous said...

I mus confess that I am a "Survivor" fan. Though it is "manipulated reality" the fact is that the very first winner on the show, Richard Hatch, was able to discern a strategy to win that was brilliant!

From that first season to the present, every player must use some variation of that original strategy if they are to win. This is true even though the creators of the show must put in new twists to keep the game interesting and fresh.

The point of my little metaphor

If you want to win you must have a strategy to manipulate the outcome of the game.If you don't... you will get voted out!

Maybe some in the SBC need to be reminded that Kingdom work is not a game.They do not need to outlast, outwit, and outplay.

I hope you do not get sent to "exile island" over the fact that some percieve you as a threat the the game.

I will petition the "Creator of the Show" on your behalf.

Take care,


Paul Fries said...

Wade, I am in the process of reading James Hefley's series "The Truth in Crisis, The Controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention" for the second time.

This is a 5 volume set covering the activities of our convention from 1979 forward and I am currently reading volume 3. What is so interesting to me is how eerily similiar the comments, of both the entrenched leadership and those who were trying to bring change, are to the current situation. Let me give you one example from the book.

Volume 3, p 93, "Intimidation is often used to keep conservative trustee from voicing their feelings. For instance, you will often be called upon to transact business in plenary sessions of your board with the press ever present...[So]some conservative people have voted their boards into executive session to care for certain sensitive matters...Never hesitate to do this when it is needed...Your...accountability is back to the Convention, not to a handful of journalists who often distort and misrepresent what is taking place-either deliberately or through ignorance..."

It is interesting to me the speaker said they were accountable to the SBC but then said "never hesitate to go into executive session." If I am correct, what is discussed in ES cannot be discussed later in the press? Reminded me of our IMB Trustee meetings recently.

I plan on posting some more of the comments on my own blog in the very near future. I do encourage the readers to find this series and read it.

Wade, we will be praying for you and your wife concerning the upcoming meeting.


art rogers said...

I see several interesting items of note here.

First, the meeting is in New Mexico, removed from the South where many Southern Baptists can easily attend. Perhaps they feel that the discerning eyes that were in Tampa will not be in NM.

Secondly, it comes on the heels of a public calling of you to be nominated as President of the SBC. Prehaps they think they can further besmirch your character a month prior to the voters' arrival in NC.

I say, in response to this idea, that they will need evidence this time, though they never produced any last time. If they thought the reaction was bad from january's meeting, let them do it again, and do it so poorly. There is little evidence they could use, since you have been so scrupulous in following the policies in place.

Moreover, if they level this accusation against you, it will be a double motivation to get to Greensboro. Some who think that the issue is resolved because of the rescintion, will see this as the call to move.

I also want to flesh out Tim Sweatman's comment. He mention Younger Leaders leaving the convention. I think some of the "Good Ole Boy" network see this as a positive thing. Get rid of the dissentors and move on with a controlled convention.

Again, they are short sighted who believe this. If the Younger Leaders leave, they will take their churches and Cooperative Program giving with them. Right now there are several discussions among Younger Leaders in how to move past the CP and network together, excluding the politics of the convention from controlling their money.

This is from people who want to stay in the convention. If they all decide to leave, the SBC is done. They will be left in control - of a declining, ineffective denomination who has alienated it's legacy and has nowhere to go.

Is it more important to be in charge or to be effective in spreading the Gospel?

Baptist Bro said...


I regret that you are having to put up with all this. My prayers are with you. Thank you for staying in the battle.

Anonymous said...


Please hear me when I say I think you are seeking the Kingdom in a gracious manner. As a lifelong SB and an IMB M, I desire to see us get past these issues that are such a distraction and rob emotional energy from the MAIN TASK of our force worldwide.

However, consider the implications of what you are saying. If this sort of political manuevering that alienates Kingdom workers is not appropriate today, was it appropriate during the "conservative takeover/resurgence"?

If it was, then you are implying the end justified the means. So by the same ethical standard, those currently in power cannot be blamed for trying to maintain what they perceive as a righteous cause. Expect to reap what was sowed.

If the methodologies employed to take and maintain control were not appropriate from the late 70s to the the present, then a whole lot of repenting needs to take place and apologies made to a lot of faithful missionaries, pastors, denominational workers, etc. and their affected families. Then a new foundation needs to be laid, if that is possible.

I just don't see how we can approve of the ways things were done (or if not approve, accept as necessary) and then expect everyone to suddenly change their posture because all the "important" issues have been "fixed." It won't happen because somebody will always have another "important" issue that needs "fixing." And if the appropriate way to "fix" it in the past was by "takeover" or "control" then that will still be their modus operandi.

At the SBC seminary I attended, some of what was taught about the Bible concerned me as not portraying the Bible as fully God-inspired and trustworthy. Yet I believe it is worldy, and not Godly, wisdom that would suggest a "takeover" mentality to fix things. No one is redeemed when there is a crusade against them. Instead, redemption can occur when individuals are encouraged and influenced one by one.

Yes, it takes a lot longer to turn a ship around by dealing with crew members one by one than making all "walk the plank" and then getting a new crew. But in God's economy of people and His purposes, I believe there will be more passengers safely transported to the destined shore.

My prayers are with you, our IMB leadership and the BoT.


Anonymous said...

For more on dissidents, see the Strip of the Day (4-28-06) at


John Moeller said...

The garbage continues and Satan continues to win. Do we not understand that every moment we waste on this sort of junk is a win for Satan? The IMB is so wrapped up in making rules and regulations just like the Pharisees were doing at the very moment that the Messiah was teaching, healing, and delivering Israel from the LAW!! Let’s be simple here. What did Jesus say about the very issues the IMB is wrestling over?

Mark 1:9; At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Mark 16:16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Jesus was Baptized and said to be baptized. Easy! (did it say that you must be baptized in a chlorinated pool in the back of a Southern Baptist church? NO)

John 14:12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. ( tell me, what miracles signs and wonders did Jesus perform? You can do greater, and if you don’t, do you have the right to force others not to either? Jesus said to perform them.)

So, again today, IMB missionaries are on the front lines attempting to share Jesus’ LOVE to a lost world, and some “stiff necked Pharisee” is sitting at an air-conditioned desk trying to stifle God ordained missionaries from doing the very thing God told them to do.

Maybe it’s time for Southern Baptist churches to pull the IMB funding and bypass the bureaucrats and politics and directly fund the missionaries and let the IMB “Suits” die on the vine. I am reminded of one more verse; Mark 7:13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. IMB, you are nullifying God! You reject someone called by GOD to the mission field because of your non-Biblical, non-BFM rules? Go ahead, reject someone called by God…….thousands will remain lost, but you will self righteously pat yourself on the back with lost blood on your hands.

Wade, my brother, Psalm 112; Praise the LORD. Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands. His children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man. Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely, who conducts his affairs with justice. Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever. He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes. He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor, his righteousness endures forever; his horn will be lifted high in honor. The wicked man will see and be vexed, he will gnash his teeth and waste away; the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.

Arkansas Razorbaptist said...

We support you and Rachelle 200 %.

Anonymous said...


Correct me if I'm wrong, since I don't own a copy of Pressler's 'A Hill on which to Die.' But, I have heard from several sources that, at the beginning of the Resurgence, the Judge made a promise to continuationist conservative SBCers that they would not be harrassed for their Charismatic views, and that it is in his book. I have also heard that Paige Patterson has since been told that and has replied by saying that he never made such a promise, as if Pressler's assurances were meaningless.

Can you enlighten me on this?