Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A One Year Anniversary

As over one hundred Southern Baptist pastors and leaders meet today at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas to model the ability to cooperate in ministry, I thought it appropriate to repost what I wrote exactly one year ago tomorrow regarding the struggle for the future of our beloved convention.

I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, but the words I wrote last December seem to me to have been profoundly prescient. Some who disagree with my views have sought to label me 'moderate' or 'liberal,' which causes those who know me personally and have worked with me in ministry to laugh out loud at such sophomoric attempts to avoid the issue by attacking the messenger.

It won't work.

The Southern Baptist Convention is turning --- for the better. We will continue to maintain our strong stand on the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, but we will no longer allow the political ploys of character assassination and personal marginalization to quiet those who stand for gospel cooperation and kingdom building.

The handwriting is on the wall. A great deal has been accomplished in the last year. There is an irenic conservative serving as President of the Southern Baptist Convention. The International Mission Board is quietly reevaluating the policies that began this controversy, and new people who are conservative but not angry will soon be appointed to boards and committees of our convention.

Great things are happening in the SBC. I recently returned from the mission field where I had opportunity to visit with missionaries in South Asia and the Pacific Rim. The work of Southern Baptist missionaries is fantastic. There is vision, passion and dedication among Southern Baptist field personnel that makes me proud to be a Southern Baptist, and encourages me to give more to both the Lottie Moon and the Cooperative Program.

A new course is being set in the SBC. A bright future is on the horizon. The struggle for our future is by no means over, but significant steps have been taken to insure our continued broad cooperation, freedom of conscience, and a continued emphasis on the essentials --- particularly the spreading of the good news of Jesus Christ.

It seems to me to be appropriate as I break my forty day blogging fast and celebrate this one year anniversary to look back at the post that seemed to resound in the hearts of many Southern Baptists when they first read it.

With a positive spirit and bright hope for the future . . .

I look forward to continue blogging in 2007.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

The following was originally posted on December 6, 2005

Twenty years ago marked a turning point within the Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas, Texas, as 45,000 messengers set the course of our beloved SBC for the next millenium. We are all grateful to the leaders of the conservative resurgence including my friend Paul Pressler, current Southwestern Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson, and the late Adrian Rogers for their foresight, courage and wisdom in charting our course as a convention for the decades to come. The Southern Baptist Convention and her agencies now have an unapologetic adherance to the inerrancy of God's word, a firm belief in the sufficiency of Christ's work, and an evangelical missionary zeal which reaches every continent of the world.

I have stood side by side with my fellow conservatives in our convention over the years. When the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship organized in Oklahoma I nailed on the door of their organizational meeting "95 Theses Against the Formation of the CBF," an act which marked me forever as an opponent of the CBF. I consider everyone involved in the CBF a brother or sister in Christ, but I nailed the theses on the door because I believed if someone is truly an evangelical conservative, then he or she should cooperate with the Southern Baptist Convention and not separate. Otherwise, separation from the SBC because of a denial of the inerrancy of God's word is both appropriate and needed.

My forefather, Dr. Rufus Burleson, was President of Baylor University and twice served as President of the Baptist General Convention of Texas in the late 1800's. I myself recently completed a second term as President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. I am a Southern Baptist to the core.

I am glad and I rejoice over the conservative resurgance because of the needed doctrinal course correction. Some might consider me naive regarding the tactics used in the resurgence, and that may be, but I can honestly say I rejoice that our convention is considered conservative (Bible believing) and evangelical. I love the Southern Baptist Convention.

But sadly, a new struggle is occuring within the SBC. It is a struggle initiated by some of my fellow conservatives; conservatives who somehow have forgotten that a strong belief in the Word of God should unite us in cooperation for the purpose of missions and evangelism. This struggle technically may not have just begun, but it simply may be the residue of the conservative resurgence. Some conservatives may not know when to stop being a "doctrinal watchdog."

A few conservatives who sought to remove the denominational political powers of the past, have now themselves become the polical powers, and have fallen victim to the belief that nothing can happen within the convention unless they give their approval. This control and political posturing is the antithesis of ministering and working in the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

A clear understanding of how this struggle is proceeding may be seen in the recent actions of the International Mission Board, an agency that I now serve as trustee. New policies were recently approved by the Board of Trustees of the IMB regarding the appointment of missionaries. The new policies forbid the appointment of any missionary who uses a private prayer language or one who has not been baptized by a "qualified administrator" of baptism.

I personally and publicly opposed the proposed new policies of the IMB not because I do not believe we need standards for our missionaries -- we do! I opposed the new policies because we already had excellent policies on the books regarding tongues and biblical baptism. My objections to the new policy on baptism are well documented, so I will not go into them here, but I will use the new policy on "glossolalia" to show how some policital conservatives are damaging fellow evangelical conservatives.

The former policy of the IMB regarding tongues stated that if you practiced tongues publicly on the mission field you would be fired. But the new policy narrows the restriction to preclude a private prayer language. Our own Bertha Smith of South Carolina, one of the finest missionaries we have ever had as Southern Baptists, professed to be gifted with a private prayer language. Dr. Jerry Rankin, before being hired to be President of our International Mission Board, made known he had experienced a private prayer language, but agreed contractually to abide by the policy of the IMB as President and to never publicly practice "glossolalia." Some of the greatest men and women of God throughout the centuries have disagreed over the issue of a private prayer language, but have cooperated in the work of spreading the gospel.

Why have some conservative now insisted on new policies at the IMB regarding tongues? Again, it seems clear to me that some of the trustees, not by any means all, have used the new policies as a "shield" to protect the SBC from doctrinal heresy. Some of these trustees seem to have placed an emphasis "doctrinal purity" rather than expanding our efforts to take the gospel of Christ to a world in need of a Savior. Instead they have focused on rooting out "charasmatic heresy."

I have been told by an authority in this political effort to cleanse our convention of doctrinal impurity that there are some trustees who will settle for nothing less than Dr. Rankin's "head on a platter." Allow me to be clear; many trustees who voted for the new policies did not even consider how it looks for the President of the IMB to now be disqualified from "representing the Southern Baptist Convention" as a missionary on the field, as the new policy states, but a few clearly understood that the new policy places our President in a very awkward position.

Some conservatives seem intent on pointing out the doctrinal heresy of fellow conservatives. What a shame. These "heresies" have are in reality just different interpretations of minor doctrines, and Southern Baptists have cooperated with each other for the past 161 years even though there has been a wide range of interpretations of non-essential doctrines. We are united on the essentials, but Southern Baptists must be carefully of making judgments that other conservative Southern Baptists are now "disqualifed" to represent the Southern Baptist Convention because they don't conform to a specific doctrinal interpretation of the designated "doctrinal watchdogs."

It is not my intention to defend Dr. Rankin. The issue is much larger than one man. This is not about Dr. Rankin, Dr. Draper, Dr. Chapman, or anybody else in leadership of the SBC.

The issue is much more. The future of our convention is at stake.


If we are not careful we are going to lose a younger generation of pastors that are disillusioned with the SBC because all they see is the continuing narrowing of the parameters of fellowship within our convention. These young pastors don't see eye to eye with the politics of our convention, but they themselves are conservative, seeking to reach their generation with the gospel. Where, they are asking, do we fit within the SBC?

Again, I think if people are not careful they will see arguments against the new IMB policies on tongues and baptism and believe the problem is simply a theological one. If that's the case, the real issue at hand, the issue that is so disturbing to many of us, will never be grasped by SBC laypeople at large. The Southern Baptist Convention, through trustees of boards and agencies, is narrowing the parameters of fellowship and cooperation to the point that real, genuine conservatives are being excluded as unfit for service in the SBC.

Our convention stemmed the tide of liberalism twenty years ago, but at this hour we better guard against creeping legalism and Fundamentalism as much as we did the former liberalism or we will find ourselves so fractured and fragmented that we no longer have the ability to cooperate about anything, including missions. We all agree on the inerrancy of Scripture and the nature and work of Jesus Christ our Lord, but we must not be Fundamentalists when it comes to our convention. Fundamentalism with a capital F is known for her independence, separation, schism-making, and her "I'll do it my way without your help because you don't qualify to work with me" attitude.

I believe if God does not intervene in the Southern Baptist Convention by raising up men and women in the SBC who are more concerned about conservative cooperation than we are conservative conformity, we are headed down this road of religious Fundamentalism.

In closing, allow me to explain what is happening in our convention in crystal clear terms.

The struggle that is now taking place with among fellow conservatives is following the same plan conservatives used to defeat liberalism.

Trustees of agencies are being "vetted" or cleared by men and women who are of the opinion that no conservative is worthy of leadership that does not toe the party line. That line is no longer the nature of Christ and Scripture, but has moved rapidly toward a specific interpretation of Scripture related to eschatology, ecclesiology, soteriology, missiology, etc . . .

Political conservatives are using private meetings at trustee meetings, an unethical violation of all agencies' guidelines, to strategise their agendas through the Boards on which they serve, even if it violates the vision and direction of the President of the agency. Political conservatives are influencing nominating committee members of various states to place on the different boards and agencies of the SBC those who are in lock step with their goals. Agency heads who are not the appointed leaders of the doctrinal watchdogs of the convention are being forced to resign or simply removed.

Politcal conservatives gather to elect chairmen of the boards and appoint committee chairmen. They have an agenda and if anyone steps in their way they can become very difficult. Ask someone who has spoken out against power politics within the convention.

Conservatives throughout the centuries have had differing interpretations regarding what Scripture teaches, but have been, and are today, united regarding the nature of Scripture. Our cooperation historically has been built upon our belief in the inerrant word of God and the person and work of Jesus Christ, and we have joined hands in cooperation to advance the kingdom. But sadly, the Southern Baptist Convention is now moving toward a time when everyone must look the same, talk the same, act the same, believe the same on the non-essentials of the faith, or else you will be removed as "not one of us."

God forbid.

I am a Southern Baptist. I will be a Southern Baptist until the day I die.

I am a conservative. I will cooperate with other conservative evangelicals until the day the Lord calls me home.

As concerned I was twenty years ago about liberalism within our convention, I am possibly even more concerned today with what seems to be the spreading legalism without the Southern Baptist Convention.

I, and others like me, are now being isolated by political conservatives who want to rid our convention of fellow conservatives who don't interpret Scripture like they do, or express dissent with the power politics of the SBC. These political conservatives refuse cooperation in favor of conformity, and I really think it is because they have forgotten how to minister in the power of the Spirit through prayer, humility and cooperation.

I do not want to fight with my fellow conservatives. I want to cooperate with every conservative to win the world to Christ. I don't want to even argue, I just want all of us who call ourselves Southern Baptists to realize our convention is big enough for different interpretations of the non-essential doctrines of Scripture. Let's accept the Baptist Faith and Message, but let's not demand conformity on doctrines that are not even addressed in our 2000 confession of faith before agree to cooperate with each other.

I promise you I will ask the Lord for grace and mercy for us all. But I cannot stand by and watch our convention continue to decline. Today it is "glossalia" vs. cessationists and the "proper administrator" of baptism vs. biblical baptism. Tomorrow it might be Calvinism vs Arminianism or Dispensationalism vs. Amillenialism. Where will it end?

Why can't it end NOW. We need cooperating Baptists instead of political Baptists.

I believe, as did Spurgeon, there is a time to draw a line in the sand for the cause of Christ.

That time has come for the Southern Baptist Convention.

My line has been drawn. How about yours?

Wade Burleson


Bryan Riley said...

Wade, I am with you in Spirit and in prayer. I posted just now my prayer for the gathering. I praise God that you are my brother. Keep dying and thereby living for Him. And may we forsake selfish desires and live to see the Body of Christ united in Jesus forever.

Will said...

You have well defined what I have been calling a 'refugee Baptist' for several years. I, too, am more than ready to see cooperation rule the day.

Bart Barber said...

Bro. Wade,

Welcome back. An interesting post. I missed it a year ago. I wonder how I might have received it if I had not already read posts like this one? Or before campaigning among BGCT churches allegedly was going on prior to San Antonio?

I regret that I will not be there today. But for illness, I almost was. I know several others who were. I caution you against speculating as to what the attendees think or what each is trying to accomplish. Several do not regard this meeting as a model for anything—they are attending out of curiosity or for other reasons. The invitation was not extended to come and be counted as part of a number wanting to exhibit some model for change or broadened "cooperation." Rather, people were invited to come even if they did not necessarily agree with the stated goals of the meeting. The four organizers may be trying to model something, but unless you intend to invite participants to make individual affirmation of something, we have no way to know that over 100 people are modeling or affirming anything.

Good to have you back. Things were getting boring.

Jeff Rogers said...

God bless you in your efforts to hold the line in the convention. I see in the struggles that you have encountered and the criticism that you have endured many similarities to the battle that Spurgeon did in the "Downgrade" at the end of the last century. I know that God will always have a remnant. And it is a blessing to watch as God raises up men such as yourself to stand for the faith once delivered. Not all of us have the platform nor the eloquence to speak in defence of the things that need defended. I for one stand with you. Pege and I often pray for you and would like to do anything we can to help.

P.S. How was the trip to India? Tim says it was a good trip and that the SBC is looking to adopt the ministry over there. God bless you and all of the folks at my HOME church Emmanuel.

Jeff Rogers.

Dave said...

Once again, well said...

- David

volfan007 said...

1 peter 3:8-11

finally, be all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous, not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing, but on the contrary, blessing, knowing that you are called to this, that you should inherit a blessing.
for he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile; let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and pursue it.


John Jax said...

Wade - thanks for re-posting this. I found your blog just a couple of months ago and read regularly while trying to discern your true motives and ambitions. I had never read your original post. After your blog on asking for the wine as a dinner guest, and the subsequent applause from those who agreed with you, I was about to write you off as another liberal wacko. However, after reading your post today, I can say that I do agree with your position and support that 100%. As such, I want to encourage you to stay focused on that, and not allow yourself to be used by anyone else to promote their liberal agendas. I also would humbly suggest that you can be most effective in this leadership role by not seeking positions of power yourself. As soon as that happens, your credibility is weakened, in my view. I "get it"...finally...and am thankful for what you are trying to do in our convention.

Michael F. Bird said...

Wade, great to have you back! I pray that this comes off. SDG!

Winning Truth w/Tim Guthrie said...

Welcome back. Hope your blog fast was both restful and profitable.

Kevin Bussey said...

Glad to have you back! I look forward to more insight. I wish I could have come to Arlington.

Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Wade! This moderate Baptist looks forward to your continued observations and comments.

Mark R.

Rex Ray said...

Long time no see. I hope you are rested and not as ‘battle weary’ as I feel. This blogging can get you down.

Just for the record, the correct date for this original post was Dec. 10, 2005. Also the original post has been revised a lot—not much in meaning but different words.

Maybe you set up a ‘checker trap’ just to see if it was noticed—Naw, that’s not like you.

I believe Robert Prince hit the nail on the head except for his predictions on what would happen to you. I make no predictions—but keep singing, “We’ll Work Till Jesus Comes.”
Rex Ray

Anonymous said...

A belated welcome back and a hearty "AMEN" to your remarks and the reposting of your first blog last year. Hopefully, wiser and cooler heads of leadership in the SBC and IMB will steer the SBC from a course of dogmatic legalism and political power play religion to the real priorities of a Christian denomination consumed by a love for Christ and an unconditional willingness to cooperate with others who love Him and His Word to spread His gospel to the uttermost parts of the world.

In His Grace and Peace,

T. D. Webb

Rex Ray said...

You said, “I consider everyone involved in the CBF a brother or sister in Christ, but…I believe if someone is truly an evangelical conservative, then he or she should cooperate with the SBC and not separate. Otherwise, separation from the SBC because of a denial of the inerrancy of God’s word is both appropriate and needed.”

The question arises, did they separate from the SBC or were they ‘removed.’?

Your “separation from the SBC…is both appropriate and needed” agrees with Tom Eliff telling Page Patterson: “…all barnacles and parasites have been removed from the ship of Zion.” (Baptist Standard July 1998)

Your “denial of the inerrancy of God’s word” gives the reason they were removed.

The question arises, how does a Christian ‘deny the inerrancy of God’s word?

First of all, ‘inerrancy’ must be defined. That’s what 300 scholars did in Chicago in 1987, except they could not agree on just one definition but gave seven definitions.

So technical speaking, anyone that chooses one of the definitions but denies the other six could claim they believe in the inerrancy of God’s word according to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.

Wade, would you agree with that statement? I believe you would because that’s exactly what ‘evangelical conservatives’ have done. They chose the ‘strict’ definition and rejected the other six definitions. To ‘enlighten’ the strict definition, the Chicago people added 12 qualifications—the first one being it only applied to the original manuscripts which none exist.

I have written on other blogs that if you look at all seven definitions with the 12 qualifications, it’s about like arguing where an egg should be broken.

Today, I read in James Hefley’s book “The Truth in Crisis” where Russell Dilday said in 1987, “The dispute is on the kind of denomination we are. The choices are between being ‘cooperative people’ who want to work together reaching the world for Christ, or ‘independent people’ who do not work together in such a structure way…that our views on biblical authority in our denomination are not that far apart. When one considers all the qualifications and definitions of classical inerrancy, it is almost identical to the position Southern Baptist have proposed through the years using different terminology.”
Rex Ray

Rex Ray said...

Thanks for posting my comment. Since I’m sure no one is going to reply, I’ll just keep talking to myself.

The seven definitions of inerrancy were put into an article by a past professor of SWBTS. I fell in love with his writing because one of the definitions fitted me to a ‘T’, and I didn’t feel so much like an oddball. I passed his article out years after he wrote it at SWBTS before an official stopped me.

I told him I thought in the ‘land of the free’ rules would have more freedom than the ones in Israel where my son was an IMB missionary.
He said, “That’s interesting. I’ll ask our trustees about that. We have a brand new board and we can do whatever we want. We’ll let you know.” (Haven’t heard a word in 20 plus years.)

The official called the professor and told what I was doing. The professor had his secretary call saying that he appreciated me liking his article, but please not to pass it out.

The definition that I liked states: “All speeches are reported without error, but some speeches may contain error.”

An example of this is in Acts 15. Baptists believe the speech of Peter is true when he silenced the Jews by warning, “Why are you going to correct God by burdening the Gentiles…” (Acts 15:10), but SOME Baptists believe all the contents of James’ speech are not true that led to the conclusion, “For it was the Holy Spirit’s decision—and—ours to put no greater burden on you that these necessary things.” (Acts 15:28)

Hmmm…the Council was to decide how Gentiles were saved. The Council decided God didn’t know how to save Gentiles as Peter reported unless they obeyed some “necessary things.”

The discussion (argument) covered what Peter said and what James said. Peter quoted what God told him; while James quoted tradition. (“For since ancient times, Moses…is read aloud in the synagogues every Sabbath day.” Acts 15:21)

When a meeting is over, all you can count on is what is in writing. The letter to the Gentiles omitted what Peter said, but added “necessary” to the “things” that James said.

Paul spent the rest of his life fighting “necessary things” as shown by, “You are certainly free to eat food offered to idols…it is not against God’s laws to eat such meat.” (1 Cor. 10:23)
He wrote almost 100 verses saying, man was saved by believing, trusting, or having faith in Jesus. He preached faith plus nothing, and not faith plus works as was the conclusion of the Council.

I believe their conclusion became the roots of Catholics, while Paul's writings of the teachings of Christ were the roots of Baptists.
Rex Ray

Rex Ray said...

To Tim Rogers,
I notice you are a man that stands his ground on convictions.

My father was my biggest hero while growing up and even at the age of 25, I made the statement, “My father has never done anything wrong!”

Doing something wrong, admitting a mistake, and saying you’re sorry go hand in hand.

I was in my late 50’s when my father hit the brakes so hard I slammed into the windshield. He said, “I’m sorry.” I was shocked because I had never heard him say “I’m sorry” my whole life.
He lived by a catchy statement that is completely wrong: “Never say you’re sorry—your friends don’t need it and you’re enemies won’t believe it.”

With all that said, did you make a mistake on Art Roger’s blog? You wrote, “While Paul was writing Scripture he maintained consistency to the Jerusalem Council findings.”

I asked you to explain but you never answered—maybe you will on Wade’s blog.
Rex Ray

Rex Ray said...

I meant to say, “admitting to doing something wrong, admitting to a mistake, or saying I’m sorry; go hand in hand.

Rex Ray said...

You stated: “Separation from the SBC because of denial of the inerrancy of God’s word is both appropriate and needed.”

Would you agree those words mean: “Anyone who denies the inerrancy of God’s word, as defined by the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, should be removed from the SBC”?

If so, this makes the Chicago Statement a ‘creed’, and making it a creed is disagreeing with its Preface that states: “We…do not propose that this Statement be given creedal weight.”

Do we agree what a creed is? Webster: “Creed—A brief, authoritative formula of religious belief.”
I suppose being kicked out of the SBC would be considered “authoritative.”

Wade, on May 8, 2006, you wrote the definition of a liberal:
1. “One who denies the deity of Christ or
2. Denies salvation by grace through faith or
3. Denies the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures.”

Does #3 mean the same as “denies the inerrancy of God’s word”, and the same as ‘denies the inerrancy of God’s word as defined by the Chicago Statement’?

In your opinion is #3 just as bad as #1 or #2?

Since the old conventions of Virginia and Texas use the words ‘perfect’ and ‘infallible’ in describing their love and acceptance of the Bible, are you calling them liberals because they do not use the word ‘inerrancy’?
Rex Ray

Rex Ray said...

Ohooooo—the noise of silence is hurting my ears.

I don’t know why my comments have not been deleted. I mean normally, people don’t want to hear what they don’t like. They put their hands over their ears like they did to Stephen’s words. SHUT HIM UP! They ripped their cloths at the words of Jesus.

I’ve got it now—it’s all a dream. But better yet, it’s like the Exposition of the Chicago Statement that explains illusions by saying:

“The truthfulness of Scripture is not negated by…reports of false statements…where for the present no convincing solution is at hand we shall...honor God by trusting…that one day they will be seen to have been illusions.”

So what you think you see are not real words but illusions—just like some words by good men in the Bible are not false but someday those words will be true.

The sad part, those “illusions” that were said then, led Christians to be Catholics, and today, those “illusions” keep them Catholic. (I’m talking about some of the words said by James in Acts 15.)
Rex Ray