Wednesday, June 21, 2006

An Observation on the Mysterious Ways of God

Last year I was heartbroken over the passage of two new policies at the IMB, policies that I felt were extra-Biblical and went beyond the basis of our confessional fellowship --- the Baptist Faith and Message. What broke my heart was that people in the Southern Baptist Convention, faithful members of Southern Baptist churches --- commmitted, conservative and evangelical in every sense of those respective words --- were now being prohibited from Kingdom service in the Southern Baptist Convention because of these new policies.

Therefore I began a blog. I knew nothing about blogging, and in fact, I initially began the blog to communicate with some people for another reason, but the blog became the venue where I voiced my concern over the direction we were moving as a convention. I never violated any confidentiality policy of the IMB, never crossed any line of trustee guidelines as I blogged, and I always maintained a written respect and love for my fellow trustees. The one post that caused a stir "Crusading Conservatives vs. Cooperating Conservatives" -- being praised by many, but condemned by some -- was the post where I was accused of using too militant of language (words like crusadors, war, etc . . .).

When I was made aware of the offense of some with the language of that December 10th post, I immediately expressed regret and rewrote it using softer words, but changed none of the content. I stand by everything I have said. I simply felt that grassroots Southern Baptists needed to be aware of the narrowing of parameters of cooperation for missions among Southern Baptists and the narrowing of the definition of what it meant to be a "true" Southern Baptist.

The motion to remove me from the Board in January came as a complete shock. I could not believe it was happening, and if you read the blog posts from those days, you will discover that those were some very emotional times for me. I never dreamed I would be accused of "gossip" and "slander" and other choice things, and of course I adamantly denied all this and asked for proof --- which never came before the vote to remove me. It was mindboggling to me that some would take this action, particularly without ever coming to me personally as a Christian brother should do, and especially since I was never given the opportunity to defend anything I had written, but am fully prepared to do so.

There have been a very small number of trustees who have tried to say that the problem was not my blog, but my relationship with my fellow trustees. That is ridiculous. The only ones who say that are those who are the problem on the Board, because frankly, those who know me and have been with me know that I am only gracious, even to those who disagree with me. I buy their meals, I enjoy their company, and I truly enjoy them as people. However, I live by my convictions and principles and I will not change my mind simply because people want me to change. In addition, I never demand that people live by my convictions. There is room enough in the SBC for us to disagree over the non-essentials of the faith. In fact, that is why I am refusing to capitulate. The IMB should not be able to demand conformity on doctrinal matters that are not covered by the Baptist Faith and Message.

I must be shown from Scripture , or the entire Convention must vote to change the BFM before I will change my view and call something an "essential" of the faith. I can't "repent" of what I have because the previous sentence is the essence of what I am writing on my blog and I stand by it. This is where some have failed to understand my convictions. They are unable to prove from Scripture the very thing they are demanding me and others to believe. Sure, they may have a personal conviction about the issues, or sure, they may interpret Scripture a peculiar way, but we don't agree, and my argument is that we should fellowship with each other, and we should cooperate with each other, though we disagree on some of these "non-essentials" of the faith.

What is fascinating to me is how in six months things have come complete circle. I'm not sure anyone would have ever read my blog were it not for the effort to silence me. I'm not sure the concerns I have expressed would have ever been addressed had not some tried very hard to remove me. I'm not even sure Frank Page would have been elected President without the controversy.

Now, the five concerns I have for the IMB must be addressed and reported back to the SBC. If these issues of concern are dealt with internally, with proper checks and balances implemented to prevent future problems of a similar nature, then frankly the SBC will never need to know the details. This is a matter that should be dealt with internally by the trustees, but last year's leadership prevented that from happening by making some very poor decisions that drug my name, my family and my church through some extraordinarily difficult times.

It is now a new year. There are sixteen new trustees. There is a new Executive Committee of the IMB. Things will be different beginning at the IMB meeting this July in Richmond. I look forward to a trustee meetings where missions is the only thing discussed. An investigative committee should be appointed, one that contains people on it that have not been part of the problem, and the matter can be dealt with outside regular IMB business meetings. I trust this will happen.

Though this past year has not been easy, an incredible amount of needed change has occurred.

God works in mysterious ways.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson


dave woodbury said...

I will continue to pray for you, for our IMB trustees, for the yet-to-be-appointed panel, and the cause of Christ throughout the world.


Anonymous said...

Wade, you and I have never met. I have long since forgotten how I even became aware of the situation at the IMB; perhaps--probably--through another blog like Marty Duren's or Joe Thorn's or Steve McCoy's. But I have followed the situation closely since then.

I was struck by the humility and graciousness you exhibited on the floor of the convention. I must admit that at the time I was likewise struck by the decision to refer your resolution to the very body into which the resolution sought an investigation. In fact, I was dumbfounded that that idea would even have been suggested. Nonetheless, I will be praying for wisdom, humility, and a true Kingdom focus for the IMB Board this year.

I can't imagine the difficulty you have faced in recent months, and placing myself in your shoes, I feel for your family, as well. What an anquishing time your wife must have gone through and what a gift a godly wife is to her husband. Having said that, I pray your pain will be the cause for a reformation--both spiritual (first and foremost) and political--within the convention. Thank you for your steadfast leaning on scripture. Thank you for fighting the good fight.

Bob Cleveland said...


And that doesn't even scratch the surface of what all has happened in and through the lives of others who became involved because of the controversy.

Like I teach my SS class members: The question is NEVER what we can do in His service; it is ALWAYS what GOD can do WITH what we do in His service.

Nothing ever happens, anyway, unless He steps in and acts.

Anonymous said...

I will keep you and the IMB in my prayers. I pray that they will take seriously their accountability to God and to the SBC. God bless you.


Anonymous said...

Wade, I am very grateful for the information you have shared over the few months. And, most grateful that Southern Baptists read and responded. You were called a few things or names not because of the blog, but that you opened the press for an understanding for what was and is going on. The blogs up to this point have re-opened the idea of a free press. It has alarmed me over the last years how Baptists have made sure the press was controlled....From State Baptist papers to Baptist Press, etc....I hope that Greensboro means more of an openness to service and ministry but also to open meetings and free press. Blessings on your efforts....Wayne, from Alabama

Anonymous said...

I will continue to pray for you!

Scotte Hodel said...

"I must be shown from Scripture , or the entire Convention must vote to change the BFM before I will change my view and call something an "essential" of the faith."

In my mind I immediately saw a scene from a black-and-white movie about Martin Luther, when he was ordered to recant his teachings about salvation by grace alone.

Reforms change, reform stays the same. "Sola scriptura." said...


I don't yet have the names and addresses of my fellow trustees. I'm also not sure that I can post them -- you might need to get them from the IMB headquarters.

Anonymous said...


I do and will always agree with most of what you write. However with this post are you crossing the line of policy about criticizing board approved actions?

I agree that the 2 policies are extra-bibilical, but by you referring to them as that, is that a criticism that would be a violation? said...

Mr. Anonymous,

I was waiting for someone to ask that. I am not violating the new guidelines for IMB trustees which forbid public criticism of Board approved actions because . . .

(1). This post is dealing with my motion that the CONVENTION APPROVED for referral back to the IMB.

(2). The motion is public, and the Board has yet to take any action on it. Therefore, according to the guidelines I can give my position regarding my motion ad infinitum UNTIL the Board votes on how to dispose of it.

(3). Within my motion I list five concerns, one of which being the appropriateness of doctrinal requisites for missionaries and IMB employees that exceed the BFM

(4). This post deals with the basis for my SBC motion.

(5). By the way, the motion also deals with four other items. It is appropriate for me to comment on them as well.

wade said...


I don't post ridiculous comments. Drug use is illegal. People who use illegal drugs need Christ's help.


I never knew about BLOGS until Brother Jeff shared the story about the IMB to be lifted up in PRAY. I started reading BLOGS and while reading I could see the HEART'S of the people who post on the different BLOGS. When I see their HEARTS, I know they belong to the BODY of CHRIST. Some times I see cold HEARTS and I GRIEVE and PRAY for GOD to change their HEARTS, which only GOD can DO. GOD uses all CHRISTIANS to farther HIS KINGDOM. I know BAPTIST are included in this group of CHRISTIANS as I attend and I’m a member of a BAPTIST CHURCH. BUT first and foremost I belong to THE BODY OF CHRIST. NONE OTHER DIED FOR ME or FORGAVE ME OF MY SINS. I was not worthy of anything, but by GOD'S GRACE, I am a child of GOD.

The body of Christ has been given many gifts (Romans 12:3-6)
There are many parts, but one body (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)
Christians make up the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27)
Christians of different nationalities form one body (Ephesians 3:6)
There must be unity in the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:3)
Different members of the body help each other grow (Ephesians 4:11-12)
Jesus is the head of the body (Colossians 1:18)


Thank you for taking a Stand for GOD'S TRUTH. I will stand with anyone who stands for the TRUTH and shows GOOD'S GRACE.
Your Brother in CHRIST

Anonymous said...


It was a joy to get to meet you and chat ever so briefly in the arena corridor in Greensboro! As many others have said, thank you for handling yourself with such grace and humility, especially in your public statements.

It was because of pretty much the same exact points you made in your blog today (your relevant wording is cited below), as well as what appears to be an appalling lack of any direct organizational accountability of the IMB and NAMB trustees' decisions to the very denominational churches which support them financially, that our church made the motion we did at the Convention (i.e., that any wording or practical policy going beyond BFM 2000 since it was passed must be voted on by the Convention as an amendment [to BFM 2000] at the next annual meeting).

- "The IMB should not be able to demand conformity on doctrinal matters that are not covered by the Baptist Faith and Message."

- "I must be shown from Scripture, or the entire Convention must vote to change the BFM before I will change my view and call something an 'essential' of the faith."

When the dust is allowed to settle, it becomes evident that this is not: 1) just a localized issue having to do with narrowing parameters for IMB and NAMB missionary candidates (though we are saddened by our personal knowledge of a number of godly men and women who have been turned away after extensive preparation for service during a period in which they had no clue they would be blind-sided by the new policies); and 2) it is certainly not really a Charismatic vs. Non-charismatic/Cessationist vs. Continuationist intramural squabble at all.

When you back away and carefully consider the big picture, it hits you in the face like a 2X4 that the crucial underlying issue here is, if the IMB and NAMB trustees can just "do their thing" doctrinally, is BFM 2000 even worth the paper on which it is written? In other words, if BFM 2000 doesn't apply equally across the board, why even bother to have a common statement of faith? At best, we now have a "double standard" and one on which 99.9+% of the brethren in our churches have had absolutely no say (and probably 95 to 98% would never have even known about if you had not started your blog).

In monitoring our church's motion as we look toward the Convention meeting in San Antonio next year, the issue of accountability is very properly center stage. Particularly, two key questions loom up here: 1) Does the SBC Executive Committee really, truly recognize their accountability to the grass roots in regard to just standing by and allowing the effective unauthorized "amending" of BFM 2000 by the trustees of the mission agencies? and 2) Relatedly, since, as far as we can tell, the SBC Exec Committee currently has no mechanism to hold the IMB and NAMB trustees accountable for "doing what is right in their own eyes" doctrinally, are they even willing to put in place the very kind of accountability measure (Example: our motion) by which such high-handed doctrinal unadmitted and unvoted on "amendments" to BFM 2000 can be corrected (or, in some cases, OKd) by the Convention at large within a year of trustee action?

Again, thanks very much for being willing to be the dartboard and the catalyst for bringing the information that your brothers and sisters in Christ had every right to know out of the darkness of secrecy into the light! The pain and unfair criticism is worth it when the Lord says, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"

Boyd Luter
First Baptist Church
Fairfield, TX

Anonymous said...

The Lord willing, and there is an assembly of the SBC in San Antonio and some of us are allowed to attend; either the IMB will report a resolution of the issues that have been referred to them, and a restoration of your role as an elected Trustee by the Messengers of the SBC, or, it is my conviction that there will be a call for resolution from the floor. If what appears to be a ground swell of concern for appropriate accountability to the Messengers and the Churches is accurate, I believe there will be the two thirds majority necessary to address this from the SBC floor! I know some of the new Trustees and also believe there is solid conviction to deal with these issues with more transparency. We have some great representation on both the EC and the IMB boards, my prayer is that they deal with this openly and fairly. I hope I'm mistaken, but even comments I read from you seems to imply a fraternal commaraderie among the Board Members that can deal with this internally and the larger body (SBC Messengers) will not have to be informed? With the exception of Personnel issues and Sensitive areas where the health and welfare of IMB employees are vulnerable or endangered, I believe it's important for our agencies to be openly transparent! I detect some ambivalence with you, in wanting transparency but also wanting to be in agreement with your fellow IMB BoT members. In what I've observed, I believe generally you have been right concerning areas of dissent that have been raised! But, I admit that as a personal opinion.... I believe we need to hear from the larger body. I also believe our agency boards can work together even when they don't agree.... That's one of the beauties of a democratic process. I've not always agreed with you, but I approve of the consistency of your arguments and applaud your gracious demeanor! Keep at it!

Anonymous said...


I just want to say thank you. Thank you for sharing with those of us who have really no way of knowing what is going on, on that side of the world. Even the papers written are skewed with slants and it is just good to come to a place were we can dialog and flesh out some real concerns over real issues.

I have just found your site but I know of M's overseas who have talked about how good it has been to be able to read and be informed. Of course there are always 2 sides to every issue but finally we get more than one side....

thank you -
one question~
Is there a site we can go to, to get more information on the function of the Trustees for the IMB and are minutes available for public viewing? For instance, at the next Trustee meeting - is there any way for those of us serving overseas to get a copy of the minutes?