Sunday, April 02, 2006

Yes! Finally, the Dialogue that Is Needed in the SBC

The following is a comment posted on a Dr. Jerry Corbaley's bog. Jerry is a trustee with the IMB, and though he and I have had our disagreements over policies and other issues in the past, I do believe he has done more for opening the lines of communication than most.

The comment is written by a missionary named Ron West. I, too, want to commend Ron for his openness and transparency. Both men are dealing with issues that have been made very public by others, and this discussion is very appropriate in a public forum. It is important for you to understand that when Ron asks Jerry Corbaly about "gossip" and "slander" he is doing so in the context of Jerry giving definitions of those two words on his blog site. Jerry defines gossip as "any communication that unjustly damages the reputation of another." He defines slander as "any accusation that unjustly damages the reputation of another with inaccurate information."

I am waiting for Jerry's response to several of Ron's questions. Below is the public comment from Ron West to trustee Jerry Corbaley. This kind of good, open, frank communication is healthy for our convention.

We should welcome and embrace it rather than squelch it.


Jerry Rankin made the following statement as reported in BP, “It is disrespectful to missionaries –- those giving their lives and sacrifices and taking their families and laying their lives on the line -– that anyone, without identifying and verifying facts, would spread rumors and innuendoes about doctrinal issues on the field.”

This is your reply in BP, “Your statement there is no doctrinal problems on the field -– (that) if there were they would be recognized by staff –- seems to be in direct conflict with the fact we are dealing with several such instances now, Corbaley said. “Perhaps some clarification can help everyone.”

I would classify your statement by your definition as at least gossip and probably slander. You need to give some clarification. Jerry stated and any one knows that with 5,000 missionaries on the field there will be occasional doctrinal questions in regard to some. Are you willing to identify facts as Jerry asks? It would not be betraying a confidence as a trustee for you to answer the following questions to put things in perspective.

1. What are some of the doctrinal problems you refer to. Are their missionaries denying the diety of Christ, the virgin birth, saying the Bible is false? What level of problems do we have? Are these accusations or have they been proven. You also seem to imply that the staff is ignoring or hiding these problems. Give us some facts to back that up.

2. How many problems or missionaries are we talking about? Less than 5? Less than 10? Hundreds???

Your statement puts us all under suspicion unless you provide more details, therefore I believe it unjustly damages the reputation of all of us. Gossip?

I have been on the field for 27 years and heard on very few occasions of someone with a serious doctrinal conflict. They have always been handled by staff quickly with or with out board interference. I have personally never served along side a missionary with a serious doctrinal problem or one that would put him in conflict with the fundamental beliefs of Southern Baptist. I think you may be giving inaccurate information. Slander?

Ron West


Anonymous said...

I appreciate Dr. Rankin's humility. I REALLY appreciate it. However, I found myself asking how far will we go with human authority. What about Peter in Acts 4:19? "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God." These men who are attempting to coerce their view of non-essential doctrines on the missionaries are wrong. They don't represent Southern Baptist tradition. Who will be obeyed? BTW, I tried several usernames on your blog site to register and none of them worked. You may have a problem with people being able to register.

David Rogers said...

It seems like to me that a big part of the "communication gap" has to do with different understandings of the term "doctrinal problems". While a tempting solution to this might be to define it as anything outside of the BFM 2000 statement, that, in my opinion, fails to deal with the reality that the BFM 2000 statement covers both primary and secondary issues (i.e. issues as central as, for example, justification by faith, and as secondary as, for example, "the Lord's Day"). Also, there are probably areas of potential "doctrinal problems" not considered in the BFM 2000 statement, as it is impossible in such a brief statement to express agreement regarding the entire gamut of possible interpretations of biblical teaching. For some, for example, the Charismatic movement, in general, embraces a number of "doctrinal problems". Yet, at the same time, Baptists have never officially defined their views in regards to most of these issues.

Kevin Bussey said...

That's an interesting question.

It is like saying to a man, "When did you stop beating your wife?" Most men never have but in that question it is implied at one time the man had.

It makes me think about my own statements too. That is a very good question. said...


Hobbs took the classical Arminian position regarding salvation. I presented the historic Baptist view of soteriology which is definitely not Arminian.

However, my point is simply this. I would rather fellowship with, serve with and cooperate with an Arminian who loves Jesus than a reformed Christian who loves his theology. :)

So . . .

This debate with Hobbs is another example how the SBC is big enough for folks who disagree on the non-essentials.

Bob Cleveland said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again. When we debate, or defend, our beliefs, we are affirming what we DO believe. That's a good thing.

Among the Baptists I know, I've noted that the big fear of witnessing seems to stem from not knowing much about what we believe. So, affirming what we do believe, discussing it, defending it, seems more to be needed than to be avoided.

IF we can disagree without being disagreeable.

One wonders why anyone would decry that.

Anonymous said...

Wade, Ron West (who will henceforth be referred to as "UM,short for Unnamed Missionary") is to be congratulated for displaying the courage to challenge to a UT (short for Unnamed Trustee) in the "Post a Comment" section of "The Most Excellent Way" to produce evidence of UT's assertions against UP (short for Unnamed IMB President).

In making his reply to UM, the UT addressed the subject of "gossip and slander". Curiously, further up in the same "Post a Comment" section, UT responded to "Steve" regarding the same subject, excepting that it pertained to the motion UT made at the January meeting of the IMB BoT recommending that another Trustee (hereafter referred to a UT2) of the BoT be removed for "gossip and slander". UT asserts that some dishonest individual (Shall we make a wild guess as to who that might be?) publicly revealed UT's charge and the BoT's subsequent passage of the motion that UT2 had engaged in "gossip and slander".

Seemingly oblivious to the minor detail that the charge and passed motion were made in a public "plenary session" of the BoT, UT apparently feels that the assertion should have never been made "public" (that is, blogged by UT2) since the "The Board never released the assertion of gossip and slander."

In other words, the assertion of "gossip and slander" was made by UT. He just doesn't want to be held accountable for the fact that he accused UT2 of "gossip and slander" without presenting a centilla of empirical evidence as to what specifically constituted the spreading of a false rumor (gossip) or a deliberately false statement (slander)in UT2's blog.

Nevertheless, UT has not apologized and neither has anyone in leadership at the BoT for the unsubstantiated accusations which were publicized when the BoT passed UT's motion in the "plenary session" of their January meeting. . .go figure.

In His Grace and Peace,

Anonymous said...

Am I wrong, or does the comment that we have doctrinal problems on the field violate the new guidelines not to make disparaging comments about missionaries or IMB staff in public? I think Wade's assertion that anonymous and unsupported allegations will not be accepted, because at least SBC bloggers and the many more who read the blogs will (or should) contact trustees and others and demand specific examples (with names and countries removed, if necessary, to protect the confidentiality of personnel matters). A feeling of unease based on a few cases that were handled adequately by the old policies is not a solid basis for new exclusionary policies. The exchange of messages between a trustee and a missionary is a hopeful sign, but the failure of the trustee to see as a problem a broad brush characterization of doctrinal problems in the field as an insult to missionaries tempers that hope. said...


You make me laugh.

I have never met you, but I am quite sure after that comment you will be accused of being a relative, my best man at my wedding, or actually "me" using a pseudonym.

Once again, T.D. thanks for your impeccable logic, obvious humor, and love for truth.

I look forward to meeting you one day.

For the record, I have not, nor will I ever publically reveal the person who made the motion, though you are absolutely correct the motion was read into the public record at the closing plenary session and the motion included the words gossip and slander.

The minutes were approved in Executive Session in Tampa Bay and I'm not sure the minutes have yet been released to the public. I'm interested to see them myself. said...

Don't know that it does Stephen. Frankly I think the discussion is healthy.

Anonymous said...

Wade, I love the discussion, and I think it is healthy also. However, in the absence of specific examples and some indication of widespread they are, the trustee's comments will be taken by most people to mean that there are widespread doctrinal problems on the mission field. If they were isolated, why would new policies be necessary? It seems to me that giving people the impression that many of our missionaries are not doctrinally sound and that the IMB staff is not dealing with this appropriately is very disparaging. Would a missionary or would you be free under the new policy to state that there is a problem with doctrinal soundness among the IMB trustees? I admire your determination not to dwell on the past, but similar statements regarding liberalism on the mission field were used to justify reqiuring missionaries to sign the B F & M 2000, even though they came into the IMB under a previous version. Evidence of liberalism was never given then either, as far as I know. We do not need to dwell on the past, but we do need to learn from it. We should not accept blanket accusations without documented evidence ever again. I have not read the new guidelines carefully, but on the basis of excerpts, it seems to me that generalized accusations of wrongdoing are not permissible because they are by definition disparaging. If this is true, I think it is one positive aspect of the new policy. However, if the application of these guidelines will let trustees make accusations about missionaries but will not allow missionaries, staff, or other trustees to make accusations about trustees, then we have a problem.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous
I'll never understand why so many find so many non-essential doctrines in the Bible? Rendering the doctrines of the Bible to essential and non-essential leads directly to ecumenicalism or is that a forbidden term. Paul instructed Timothy it would be difficult in the perilous times to come but he charged him to preach the Word, be instant in season;out of season; reprove,rebuke,exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.Paul knows nothing of non-essential doctrine. I cannot find him one time in his perilous journeys telling any Christian of any doctrine that was non-essential. How far will it go?
the foot has been in the door too long already. Tis correct, Baptists are not the only ones' going to heaven. My concern is what I have to answer for of how I recieved and what I did with the doctrine that was bought with so great a price by so many from the Lord Jesus Christ down through the ages. Come off this non-essential stuff all doctrine is essential if one is to reach the position of maturity.What's wrong with me? Am I dense? Evil on every hand and we bicker among ourselves! said...


I am trying to get everyone to STOP making accusations of "liberalism."

I agree wholeheartedly that there are NOT doctrinal problems on the field.

I do not believe there are doctrinal problems among the trustees.

Trustees can be Landmark and cessationists all they want, and I would not consider them liberal or heretical, just let's not force others to be of the same stripe.

That's my point and has been from the beginning.

You make your point very well too. said...


Hobbs believed the gospel as do I.

Arminians have the gospel as do Calvinists.

My point is simply this: A dying world in need of a Savior does not care if you are an Arminian or a Calvinist, and frankly, neither should we.

The SBC is big enough for both. We can live together, serve together, and win the world to Christ having different soteriological views.

As to whether or not Hobbs was a classical Arminian I would probably so "no."

He was an inconsistent Arminian because he believed in eternal security --- or as you put it "modified Calvinism."

Frankly, I don't like the labels. I believe doctrinal discussions are good for on variety of issues, but when we start SEPARATING over our differences as Baptists, we are in BIG trouble.

Bob Cleveland said...

Does anyone REALLY think we baptists are the "best" at this stuff? Are we so egotistical that we think ours is the only correct distilling of bible doctrine?

I once heard that baptists were a gathering of people who thought that the appropriate response for a new believer, following his salvation, was to be baptized by immersion in the names prescribed. That made sense to me when I heard that, 40 years ago, and always made me wonder why someone would want to be a baptist but not submit to scriptural baptism. I concluded it was just man's nature, wanting to assert his own will, wanting his own way, wanting respect for himself without further submission.

Beyond the essentials of salvation, a big percentage of other doctrine (teaching) seems to be which scriptures we emphasize, and which we ignore. We pound the pulpit on the stuff we agree with, and rationalize away what we don't.

One can make a pretty good case for Hebrews 6:1-6 stating it's possible to be lost after being saved. Not that I think you can, but you can sure build a case for it, and I'm not so egotistical in my interpretations as to think I have the only right view.

And that's one thing that's so troubing about all this.

I've often said that denominations are a tool God let us build, because in the appeal to lost humanity, we need to appeal to them in ways that will interest them, not interest us. Once they are saved, God can direct them via His word, as they can then spiritually comprehend it.

When the IMB establishes a church in another country, are they to fit into our American mold? I can tell you the Red Hill Baptist Church near Kingston, Jamaica, is never EVER going to do THAT.

I am afraid we are teaching people to nail down doctrine, and settle for that, when God wants to get to know us and wrap His arms around us and make us feel so loved that we'd never be able to stop talking about Him.

When we focus on "doctrinal purity", we may be teaching them to settle for much, much less than God has in mind for them.

I hate to say this, but the fire that burns in my bones came from several encounters with the Living God, and with the Living Jesus. None were in conventional Southern Baptist Church services.


Sorry for the rant ... but that's why I have such problems with denominational egoism.

Anonymous said...

Jerry Corbaley expresssed concern about what Southern Baptists will think or believe about IMB missionaries.
We missionaries were told that we had to sign the BF&M because "Mom and Pop Baptist were wondering if their missionaries believe the same things that they do."
And all the time we thought they were praying for us. When we returned to the U.S. for SSA we discovered that most of them were praying for us and had not given a lot of thought to what we believe.
As it turned out it was only some of the IMB trustees and a few seminary presidents who were wondering.
Could it be that Rev. Corbaley just wants Mom and Pop Baptist to become suspicious?