Monday, July 10, 2006

The Fine Line

Rachelle and I will be leaving next Monday for the International Mission Board Meeting in Richmond, Virginia. A new group of trustees will be receiving their training beginning Monday morning, July 17th, and ending next Thursday, July 20th. The Trustee Orientation Committee did a great job last year at my orientation, and I'm sure they will do so again this year.

I enter my second year of service with the International Mission Board attempting to walk a very fine line.

First, I have a responsibility to the Southern Baptist Convention. The issue that began the conflict last year was the adoption of missionary personnel policies by the Board that I felt disregarded the clear teachings of Scripture and went beyond the Baptist Faith and Message. I believe those policies should be reversed.

Those policies form one of the concerns in my motion presented to the Southern Baptist Convention, and since I am the author of that motion, I can speak to it in a public manner. The forum of debate on the whether or not an agency is within her boundaries to establish doctrinal parameters that exceed the Baptist Faith and Message has moved to a very public forum because of the actions of the Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro.

Second, I have a responsibility to my fellow trustees. I want them to be able to accomplish their work, but at the same time I want to remind us all that we are accountable to the Convention as a whole, even though we are a separate and autonomous agency. We are accountable in the sense the Convention has invested "trust" in us that we will accomplish our mission according to the Word of God, and in the best interest of the Southern Baptist Convention at large.

The fine line I walk is between principled dissent and my participation in the ongoing work of the IMB. I do not want these policy issues to dominate the discussions of the full Board. I am hopeful that a panel of independent trustees (and there are many) will be able to do that which the convention asked, investigate the sources and origins of these policies, and issue a report and recommendation to the San Antonio Convention in such a fashion that the work of the IMB is not impeded.

Blogging Rules (or Rules for Blogging).

I will continue to blog, but I think it is wise to inform everyone, again, of the rules I maintain for blogging.

(1). First, I will not post a conversation, email or letter unless I have specific permission. I will always ask, and you are always free to say no.

Early on I posted an email from a trustee without asking. I removed the trustee's name, so that nobody could identify the trustee, and used it as an example of what some thought about blogging. Even though that trustee's email had been "blind" copied to multiple people, and even though I was very respectful in my response and tried to show that blogging is nothing but a different form of communication, similar to email, I made a decision after that incident never to post any information unless I have been been specifically granted permission.

Since that time I have received thousands of emails and phone calls and people have asked me not to post our communication. My standard response is, "Unless I ask your permission to post, and unless you give it, anything you say to me is considered confidential." In all those occasions of personal communication there has been only one instance where I was given permission to blog about the conversation, blogged it, and the next day the person seemed to have a change of heart.

Any conversation I have in the hallway in Richmond will not be posted unless I ask and receive permission. Any communication with me via phone will not be posted unless I ask and permission is granted. Any written communication to me will not be posted unless I ask and it is agreed upon.

On the other hand, anything I say to my fellow trustees that is not of a missionary security matter and covered by rules of confidentiality can be blogged by them from here to kingdom come. I believe we trustees should learn to talk, fellowship, pray and communicate in openness and transparency. But that may be my personal utopia, so I will continue to follow this rule for the sake of others.

(2). I will always be respectful to those trustees that disagree with me and pushed for the adoption of the new policies. If you look back and read what I have said about those trustees you will see that I have said only nice things about them as people.

I really believe they wish to do the right thing as they see it.

But when I have questioned how we can exceed the Baptist Faith and Message, disqualify our own President to serve as a field missionary over the very organization over which he presides, and pass policies that seem to contradict the very Bible which we profess to believe, it seems that some trustees (not all) took this as a personal attack.

It is not personal. It is about the policies.

If the policies are beneficial and biblical they should stand. If they are not, they should be reversed. But I can disagree with my fellow trustees and still work with them. If an agency makes decisions that are detrimental to their ongoing work, then only the trustees can change it.

The investigation should go into the origin of these new policies. Where did the process begin? Who called for them? Who pushed them? Where is the statistical basis and anectodal evidence to show the need for them? Do they exceed the BF&M? Did our President ask that they be shelved? Was that request denied? Who denied it? Why?

My blog is not the forum for the answers to those questions. The Convention has asked for a report, and it is only proper for the Board to be given an entire year to issue their report.

I would suggest the Southern Baptist Convention needs to learn again how to love and cooperate in missions with people who don't walk lock-step in all doctrinal matters.

(3). I will never intentionally violate confidentialy --- ever.

If I am ever shown where confidentiality is breached, regardless of where it occurs, I will seek to correct it immediately.

Let me give you two examples:

During the West Africa events of last year I received a letter from a missionary couple in another denomination pleading that our IMB missionaries not be terminated. They were partners with our IMB missionaries. I did not publish the letter, but a friend of mine did. I immediately called him and told him he needed to change some things to protect the confidentiality of the couple. He did. It was only later that the mainstream media identified the couple (BP, APB, etc . . . )

At our Board meeting in Albuquerque the Vice-President of the IMB announced that a "blog" had published the "minutes" of the January Board meeting on the internet. These were the "public" minutes that were distributed to anyone who asked. Unfortunately there were some names of some missionaries in sensitive areas in the minutes. The Board was irate with the "blogger" for blogging "confidential" information. I'm not sure how many wondered why in the world "senstive" information was ever placed in the PUBLIC minutes in the first place.

I did some quick searches on the net, found the blog and called the young man. He removed the minutes but asked what I was thinking; "If this information is so sensitive why is it in the public minutes?"

Since that meeting the way minutes are handled has changed. There are now "Executive Minutes" that contain sensitive information and will not be made available to the public.

I think that everyone is now very aware that I will not be intimidated by false allegations of breaches of confidentiality. I will only post what the Southern Baptist Convention and public have a right to know.

My Attendance at Trustee Meetings

I have been informed that two opinions have been given by the legal counsel for the Convention that no trustee can be barred from attending meetings where all the trustees of the International Mission Board are convened.

I have also been told that Dr. John Floyd is not intending to try to prevent me from attending the meetings although he has not spoken to me about this matter and all I knew was what he was quoted as saying by Associated Baptist Press.

It is within the right of the Chairman not to appoint me to any committee, and I will respectfully accept his decision.

However, since I have been assured that my presence at Forums and Executive Sessions cannot be challenged, I intend on going to all Forums, Executive Sessions, and any other meetings where the full Board convenes.

May the next year be profitable for the International Mission Board.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson


Sarah said...

Wade, I appreciate your integrity in these matters. I have and will continue to pray for you as you continue to support and defend biblical truth!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for bringing back to the forefront the IMB policies on prayer language and baptism. Art Rogers also speaks to this being on the agenda at the trustee meeting. Praise God.

Hopefully, there will be a revision of these policies. I pray that we can get back to the work of spreading the gospel around the world and not engage in this type of behavior. May we keep our missions boards consistent with the BF&M, and may they not go beyond it for pet causes.

Wayne Smith said...

JOHNNY CASH was one of the better witnesses for the LORD. His niece who sang for the LORD was a member of the Baptist Church in Escondido, Ca. where we lived for 28 years before retiring here in TX. I WALK THE LINE, and THE FINE LINE, I love it.
Your witness by displaying GOD'S GRACE and TRUTH in all your posts and allowing people to post on your BLOG has also been a witness of YOUR HEART.
I saw your HEART here on Your Blog and told you I see your HEART. I have never met you and know someday I will meet you and PRAISE THE LORD WITH YOU. We had the good pleasure to have Doug and Kiki worship and share their ministry with us Sunday. WOW!, What a witness for the LORD their ministry is!
A Brother in CHRIST

LivingDust said...

Brother Wade,

I pray that the Richmond meeting will be fruitful for all those involved.

Perhaps you and Dr. John Floyd could meet privately, over dinner, and discuss the issues of your service at the IMB BoT and more importantly, the policies that exceed the scope of the BF&M 2000.

I would venture to guess that you and he probably have a great deal of common ground, not only as brothers in Christ, but as Southern Baptists who desire to see the IMB be effective for the Lord.

Kevin said...

Continue in the work God has given you. The IMB needs people like you.

Anonymous said...

Dear Wade,

Wow! I really am glad you are one of our trustees! You bring a sense of professionalism and integrity (if not eloquence) to the Board.

As one of the 5000, I look back on this whole situation with a sense of "what was that again?" We understand the problem, but we don't necessarily understand why it exists in the first place, that is the new policies and the almost infantile response to your dissent.

Know that we are praying for you and that we are proud of you. Not in a patronizing sort of way, but the way in which one soldier observes another soldier being a really, really good soldier.

Be strong and courageous, brother.

Anonymous said...


Surely you are SPIRIT led. Have fun in Richmond. Do be on the lookout for "et brute". Confrontation for the truth is GOD inspired. Paul was imprisoned, Peter was hung on a cross. John was exiled to an isle. But truth continued because JESUS is the way and the truth. With JESUS,
know that you are in good company His hand is on you for such a time as this.

Charlie of Gainesville

Anonymous said...

Wade, today's post gives this Okie renewed hope that wiser and (pardon the expression) more moderate minds will prevail during the Richmond meeting. I continue to pray for you, confident that our gracious and merciful Lord will work in you all that He wills. My very best to you and yours!

In His Grace and Peace,

pastorob said...

Thanks for being so willing to blaze a trail. I don't always know how best to proceed with Internet communications.

Today's entry is not quite 'Mission-Blogging for Dummies'--but it is still helpful.

Bob Cleveland said...


Well said, and pertinent. You have all the grass-roots support this man can muster.

Anonymous said...


this is not your fault and I hope this doesn't come across as discouraging to you or your blog.


reading your blog frustrates me to no end. You are either the biggest liar in SBC history or your not.

Something tells me that you are shooting totally straight which blows this "young" (28, haha) planters mind. The only word I can think of to discribe 1. their inital actions and 2. the way they have dealt with you is "fiasco"

Man am I hoping against hope that I can and our church can continue to "believe in" and support the IMB in the future. If only the big wigs new the impact of what they are doing and how it is totally effecting the opinions of young guys like me.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear that legal counsel has supported your attendance at these meetings..... We appreciate your gracious spirit, but also your willingness to address issues which are relative to your elected role! Blessings.....

Christopher Redman said...

This is my first post on this particular blog but I am beginning to follow this issue very closely.

I am amazed and thankful that truth is prevailing and many within the SBC are able to learn more about what is happening in our convention entities.

God Bless,

Anonymous said...


You forgot to say that you refuse to post comments from people who disagree with you like Brad Reynolds and North Georgia Pastor

Anonymous said...

I am grateful to hear your heart and understand the leadership you will back to the BOT, saying this is "...not personal. It is about the policies."

I could not agree more that if these policies are first of all biblical, then let them stand. However if they are not, I hope and pray that the good people on our BOT will see that they are reversed.

Since these policies were put in place, the argument in favor of them that I kept hearing was about abuse and improper actions on the field. That's what our regional leaders are for. They are capable. They can handle those situations. Let's trust them to deal with those matters rather than creating controlling blanket policies that not only exceed the BF&M but may very well be unbiblical.

This whole matter is larger than our personnel on the field, our president, our board and our convention; for me, it's about God's blessing and hand of favor upon us as His people seeking to fulfill the Great Commission for His glory. We MUST have it.

Chris Walls said...


Well said as always. I am praying that God will keep you as humble as you have always displayed yourself, both here on your blog, other blogs and as I saw at the SBC. This young leader is watching with interest as well as many others as to how the IMB and the SBC is moving forward.

Tim Dahl said...

Will the public be informed of the makeup of the committee looking into things? Or, will they be kept in the Executive Minutes?


Anonymous said...

Way to go Wade. Good rules for everyone to follow. I pray the IMB BoT can work together and not hamper Kingdom work overseas.

Anonymous said...

Wade; interesting blog.
I got an email today from a friend who sees in your makeup a pilgrimage toward moderation, toward something of a Cary nemwan or David Gushee stance. I pray that is the case. Though I don't think you are as smart as mark Noll( neither am I) I hope you are honest enough to Pilgrim that way if the spirit leads you.
I had a strong letter published today in the Gadsden Alabama Times, home base of Judge Roy Moore. To Judge Moore and to you and the folks at IMB and those who follow your blog here, I heartily recommend for the rest of your summer's reading
James Ault's Spirit and Flesh
Goldberg's Kingdom coming
Kevin Phillips excellent intothe SBC in his American Theocracy
Noah Feldman's book on church state.
And Carl Kell's Exiled.

In particular I hope some of you will get word to David Rogers and Joyce to Read Exiled.

SigPres said...

I appreciate your service as a trustee on behalf of ALL Southern Baptists. Your integrity speaks for itself, so as far as I am concerned, you shouldn't have to post such an extensive list of self-imposed rules to explain yourself. I am praying for you. I have several close friends on the mission field, and they are praying for you as well.

Tim Sweatman said...


I am glad to see that you plan to attend any forums and executive sessions. After all, you are a trustee. If you were not to attend, that would set a bad precedent.

It is my prayer that these various issues would be resolved so that they do not continue to distract the board and the SBC. I sent an email to Dr. Floyd with some suggestions that I believe would help to settle these matters and restore our confidence in the board.

I pray that you and Rachelle have a safe trip to Richmond, and that you, Dr. Floyd, and all of the trustees would speak and act with wisdom, courage, grace, and humility.

Christopher Redman said...

Paige Patterson stated, "I see no biblical evidence for Irresistable Grace." Hugh?

See my blog for post.

God Bless,


Anonymous said...

As the "blogger" who posted those minutes, I want to thank you for letting me know of that security breach. As I shared with you, I am very disappointed with the IMB's failure to properly screen this information.

After posting the minutes someone did email me and ask if any of the information was sensitive. I then contacted the person who sent the minutes to me and asked that individual to verify that all of the information in the minutes was in fact public...I never received a response.

It is a little upsetting that no one on the BOT contacted me personally in regards to publishing these minutes, especially since I've personally spoken with the trustee from my own State Convention.

Wade, Thank you for contacting me, as I told you then I pulled the minutes to protect the Missionaries on the field...I have no interest in protecting the individuals who allowed this sensitive information to get out and I hope that they have been properly addressed.

scott bridwell

miriam plowman said...

Epicenter: spiritual formation for Kingdom impact put on by the BGCT this past Spring:

“It is possible to participate in church expansion and unintentionally be an agent for shrinking the kingdom of God,” Jeff Christopherson, pastor of The Sanctuary in Oakville, Ontario

Being from FBCA and having been a volunteer on the West Africa mission field for 7 years I've seen these events unfolding. And I have prayed God would continue to give men, like you, strength, endurance and wisdom to continue standing strong. Wade - Thank you for following God like you do. And to all the other men and women who take a stand, do what God calls them to do - praise God.

When I went to the Epicenter this spring, I was convicted about the outline we were shown about what happens to a group when they cross the line from the Kingdom of God to the dominion of darkness... (the outline is in my last blog) group isolation is the new focus of community, the energy to do work comes from competition (who has the most numbers), the mode of change is conformity and the authority is based on a corporate identity and not from the King.
Keep pressing for our authority in Jesus, for interdependence of believers. Continue to shine the light as we work together to Build the Kingdom of God (not shrink it).

Bob Cleveland said...


It seems to me that, having been elected by the messengers to the SBC, as a Trustee of the IMB, it is now incumbent upon you to attend all the meetings you can. To fail to attend and take part would be to shirk your duty.

If the powers who be prevent you from attending, by whatever means, so be it. I am not at all sure that a statement that the past "edict" will be continued is preventing, though.

You are correct in every way I can think, including scripturally, to attend all the meetings to which you are entitled by virtue of your elected office and appointed duties. said...


The public will be informed as to who will serve on the committee.

Tim Sweatman said...


That's good news. Will you be allowed to have any say in who is chosen, or at least any veto power?