Thursday, February 01, 2007

The IMB Response to the Greensboro Motion

Last June I explained the reasons for presenting a recommendation to the Southern Baptist Convention that the Executive Committee of the SBC investigate five concerns regarding the International Mission Board. The Convention's Committee on Order of Business decided to refer my motion back to the trustees of the International Mission Board. At this week's IMB trustee meeting in Ontario, California, the board passed an official response to my motion, which will in turn be presented as a reportable to the Southern Baptist Convention this June in San Antonio. I was unable to be at the board meeting (my first one to miss) because of my wife's birthday and my son's basketball games that I did not wish to miss. To save time answering your questions in the form of comments or private emails, I thought it might be best to give an official response to the official response.

Let me be the first to say that a number of good things have occurred since the convention last summer. Many trustees rotated off in June 2006, and several outstanding trustees have come on board since the SBC convention. The spirit of the board meetings has been outstanding since last summer, and the Ad Hoc committees reviewing the new policies are meeting regularly and will be bringing a recommendation regarding the new policies at our next meeting March 19-21, 2007. Many of the problems of last year seem to be a distant memory, but nevertheless, I think it would be good to make a few comments regarding the official response to my motion from the board. The actual recommendation at Greensboro is in a larger font, the board's 'official response' is identified as such and is in blockquotes, and my comments are always in italics.

I move that the Southern Baptist Convention, in session, in Greensboro, authorize the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention to appoint a seven member Ad Hoc Committee to determine the sources of the controversies in our International Mission Board, and make findings and recommendations regarding these controversies, so that trustees of the IMB might effect reconciliation and effectively discharge their responsibilities to God and fellow Southern Baptists by cooperating together to accomplish evangelism and missions to the Glory of God;

That this Committee listen to, view evidence of, and possibly investigate further, five concerns involving the International Mission Board which are not limited to, but include

A Personnel Comment

Since this recommendation passed at the SBC last June, not one person from the 'trustee investigative committee' has called me, emailed me, or asked me to see the documents, affidavits, and records that are the basis for my concerns. This is not a criticism, just an observation. The documents in my possession encompass the time period from the spring 2005 until the summer of 2006. I respect the fact that the Executive Committee of the International Mission Board desires to move on with more important matters, and I am sympathetic with those desires. However, I think it would be inaccurate to say that the evidence I have has been reviewed.

(1). The manipulation of the nominating process of the Southern Baptist Convention during the appointment of trustees for the International Mission Board.

The Trustee Investigative Committee Statement

The International Mission Board has no authority to speak to the work of the nominating committee elected by the Southern Baptist Convention or to investigate the process by which it does its work.

My Response

I agree. This is why I asked for the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention to look into the matter.

(2). Attempts to influence and/or coerce the IMB trustees, staff, and administration to take a particular course of action by one or more Southern Baptist agency heads other than the President of the International Mission Board.

The Trustee Investigative Committee Statement

It is assumed that any and all heads of SBC entities are concerned about the effectiveness of all entities in order for the SBC to fulfill its kingdom task in the world. While the IMB may exercise authority over its own president and elected staff, we are not in a position to question or investigate the actions and motives of heads of other entities.

My Response

Again, I agree. This is why I asked for the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention to look into the matter. The IMB is not in a position to question or investigate the motives of heads of other entities, but somebody sure should be in a position to demand that an agency head stop undermining the work, vision and agenda of a fellow agency head -- and that somebody is the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention or the SBC herself.

(3). The appropriate and/or inappropriate use of Forums and Executive Sessions of the International Mission Board as compared to conducting business in full view of the Southern Baptist Convention and the corresponding propriety and/or impropriety of the Chairman of the International Mission Board excluding any individual trustee, without Southern Baptist Convention approval, from participating in meetings where the full International Mission Board is convened.

The Trustee Investigative Committee Statement

The IMB does not allow formal business to be transacted in its closed Trustee Forums, but uses this time for prayer, personal testimonies and preliminary questions and discussions regarding issues of mutual concern between senior staff and trustees. Official executive sessions are limited to matters dealing with sensitive personnel actions related to staff, missionaries and/or trustees or those in which public exposure would result in detrimental consequences for personnel serving in sensitive and restricted locations around the world.

Any actions that may be taken to exclude any trustee from participating in closed board sessions by the chairman will have been made with support of the board as a last resort and in order to avoid disruption and distractions to the board fulfilling its assigned tasks with unity and appropriate decorum

My Response

First, thank God that forums are now filled with praise reports, testimonials and prayer. This is the way it should be, but my personal experience, as well as that of others, is that this kind of forum has not always been the case. I promise that as long as I serve as an IMB trustee that I will do everything in my power to insure that closed doors will will never provide protection for anyone to unjustly attack another person, either an administrator or a trustee, with impunity.

I have consistently and repeatedly advocated that the business of any agency of the Southern Baptist Convention be done in full view of the entire convention through plenary sessions. But for the safety of missionaries in security three zones or extraordinarily sensitive personnel matters, all the business of the IMB is appropriate for public viewing. I think every trustee now understands this point and is doing everything to insure that closed doors be spent in prayer and testimony and not politics.

Finally, Tammi Reed Lebetter, a reporter for the Southern Baptist Texan, in an online article picked up by the Florida Baptist Witness, has badly misinterpreted the last paragraph of number three. The 'official response' is dealing with when, how, and why a trustee may be barred from forum and closed sessions of the board. Mrs. Ledbetter says that I have been barred from forums and closed door sessions. That is simply not the case, nor will it be. I have never been barred from a pre-business session forum (closed door meeting) or Executive Sessions of the International Mission Board. I have never missed attending one during my nearly two years of board meetings. Her reporting is evidence that people often misunderstand what is happening, even those who should be in the know.
(UPDATE: Editor Jerry Pierce of the Southern Baptist Texan has commented saying Tammy Ledbetter's article has been revised to reflect the needed corrections.)

(4). The legislation of new doctrinal requisites for eligibility to serve as employees or missionaries of the IMB beyond the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

The Trustee Investigative Committee Statement

While the Baptist Faith and Message represents a general confession of Southern Baptist beliefs related to Biblical teachings on primary doctrinal and social issues, the IMB retains the prerogative and responsibility of further defining the parameters of doctrinal beliefs and practices of its missionaries who serve Southern Baptists with accountability to this board.

My Response

Of all five statements in the 'official response,' this one causes me the most concern. I will reserve any specific comments on this statement until after the March IMB meeting when the two Ad Hoc committees of the IMB, assigned to review the baptism and private prayer language policies, issue their reports and possible recommendations to the full board. I am hopeful some changes will be forthcoming.

Dr. Bowden McElroy is a friend, a licensed professional counselor, and a Southern Baptist from Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is always calm and reasonable in his responses. Without any comment from me, I simply offer Dr. McElroy's assessment of this statement from the investigative committee:

"No matter what angle I approach this from, I keep hearing the underlying tone of superiority: ‘We know what’s best for the SBC. We know what the Convention really meant when it adopted the BF&M.’ Or, as we say in Oklahoma, ‘I thought I told you to wait in the back of the truck.’

The Mission statement of the IMB calls for the board to “Enlist, appoint, equip, and provide support for God-called Southern Baptist missionaries… who give evidence of piety, zeal for their Master’s kingdom, (and) conviction of truth as held by Southern Baptists” The statement (#4 above) reveals the BoT’s belief that “conviction of truth” can only be divined by them and the Convention is not to be trusted to articulate for itself what Southern Baptists believe."

I am hopeful some good things will be coming out of the Memphis IMB meeting.

(5). The suppression of dissent by trustees in the minority through various means by those in the majority, and the propriety of any agency forbidding a trustee, by policy, from publicly criticizing a Board approved action; and

The Trustee Investigative Committee Statement

All board approved actions result from a process of committee, and sometimes multiple committees, consideration before they are brought to a plenary session for adoption. All trustees have opportunity in the committee process and plenary session to express and advocate minority opinions. As in any democratic body, once the majority has determined the action to be taken, the board feels that the action should receive the unified public support of all trustees for the sake of effectively moving forward to fulfill our mission task.

My Response

I would agree with one caveat -- if the policy violates Scripture, then no matter how strong anyone's desire for unity is, it cannot become a stumblingblock to seeking correction. Further, even if some refuse to see that their views are based on tradition and not Scripture, and if their interpretations are regarding doctrines that are beyond the BFM 2000, then though it may be the trustees perogative to demand doctrinal conformity on these tertiary doctrines, the more appropriate question may be, 'should they?' The best way to handle dissent is to accept it as something healthy for our convention, and if the dissenter has no biblical basis for his dissent then the convention will ignore him, or . . . not.

That to accomplish the Committee's work all the trustees, officers, employees, and administrators of the International Mission Board, shall fully cooperate with the Committee to accomplish the purposes outlined in this motion; and

This Committee shall report on the progress of its work to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention and the International Mission Board; and

That the Ad Hoc Committee make its final report and recommendation to the June 2007 Southern Baptist Convention and request that it be discharged.

My Response

I will always submit to the desires of the Southern Baptist Convention, I also look forward to continued service on behalf of SBC people as we seek to continue to fulfill the Great Commission throgh the IMB by not becoming distracted by tertiary and non-essential doctrinal issues that only divide and ultimately separate.

In His Grace,



Marty Duren said...

Just a minor correction: Tammi writes for the SBTexan. The story was picked up by the Witness.

Mike said...

As an IMB trustee, what restriction are you currently under? My impression is that you are not assigned to a committee and you are the only trustee not assigned to a committee. Is that true? Do you have face other restrictions? Why? When did the restriction start? Is there a set ending date? In your understanding, what do you or someone else have to accomplish or do in order for the restriction to be lifted? What can be done to assist you as a trustee in being allowed to serve as other trustees are doing--without any restrictions?

Marty Duren said...

You can find the answers to theses questions, and many more, if you'll check Wade's archives (beginning in Jan '06) or my archives beginning at the same time.

Bob Cleveland said...

Candidly, the response from the committee, so far, seems a lot like the description I've heard applied to Texas rancher wannabe's:

"All hat & no cattle".

Wes Kenney said...


My memory may be faulty here (which is why I make this comment, that it may be corrected if necessary), but isn't it possible that Mrs. Ledbetter's confusion stems from the fact that, in the May 2006 meeting, the outgoing chairman announced that he would recommend to the new chairman that you be barred from forums and executive sessions?

As I understand it, Dr. Floyd chose not to attempt to implement that recommendation, but it was made (or at least announced), was it not?

Anonymous said...


Even fairminded people who disagree with you would have to admit your motion at the SBC convention has not been taken seriously. But remember, it is not just you who are being "sluffed off." In reality, the average person in the pew is being "sluffed off." How dare any common man (remember women are not allowed to speak) question a majority vote of the IMB trustees! They do not stand under the authority of the Scripture given by God, or the BF&M 2000 endorsed by the people of the convention. They now stand under their own authority. Wow! said...


Thanks for information. I have changed the post to reflect your license as a professional counselor! Blessings!

wade said...


Oops. I should have known.

:) said...


That's the point. The former chairman can announce whatever he wants. It doesn't make it so.

You can't implement something that can't happen.


Anonymous said...

Wade — We've posted a new version of this story with revisions, based on further conversation with John Floyd. Question: Did Hatley or anyone else ever communicate that you were unwelcome at the pre-session forums at any time? Thanks.

Jerry Pierce
Managing Editor
SB Texan said...

Mr. Pierce,

Thanks for the revisions.

There are many things the former chairman communicated with me that would be inappropriate to comment on in a public manner.

The board has never requested my absence from forums or Executive Sessions and will not.

I have attended every forum and Executive Session and will continue -- honoring every policy and procedure of the IMB, and reminding others of them as well.

Including reporters from the Southern Baptist Texan



Anonymous said...

Aren't you nice. :)

Mike said...

First, I want to express my sympathy regarding one of your long-time church members passing away, Laverne McIntosh. She was a Godly saint who loved the Lord.

Second, the revised article states what has been assumed regarding your ban by the trustees from serving on a committee.

Why do you think that prohibition continues to this day?

What have you been told needs to be done by you to be restored to full function as a trustee of the Board? said...


I am indifferent whether or not I serve on a committee.

Frankly, I get more done not doing so. No committee can take any action without, except in rare circumstances, without full board approval.

I meet with missionaries, pastors and others during committee times, and have enjoyed the relationships I have built.

I would not care if the chairman did not appoint me to a regional committee for the remainder of my term. I'm definitely not asking him to do so.

In His Grace,

wade said...

Having now expressed my desires to not be on a committee, I very well may be appointed at the next meeting.



P.S. John Floyd told me three meetings ago that he wished to appoint me, but 'there were a handful of trustees opposing it.' He did not name them, but I know who they are. said...

Mr. Ledbetter,

Thank you.

Also, I thank your chief editor, your reporter wife and all those at the Southern Baptist Texan for your corrections.

Wade said...


Also, you are correct about our faithful member.

Laverne died at 5:00 a.m. this morning. A huge loss for our church, community and the SBC.

Anonymous said...

I had typed a long response, and my computer had a hiccup. So I took that as a sign that I should probably not post it.

So, the short version will follow.

The IMB official response which states (in part)

"the IMB retains the prerogative and responsibility of further defining the parameters of doctrinal beliefs and practices of its missionaries who serve Southern Baptists with accountability to this board."

is EXACTLY why many of us have chosen to establish work that is not under the oversight of the SBC IMB.

It's all Kingdom Work. I affirm that, and celebrate those missionaries called to fulfill their calling through the IMB, but it is simply not for me and many many others.

Thanks Wade for your stance and for shining light on issues.

David R.
The Aquila Project

Writer said...


Hmmmm...The statement that the BoT can override, dismiss, ignore, or add requirements to BFM2000, for missionaries, is troubling.

Question: What do you do now?

Les said...


If anyone would take the time to reread my posts beginning in Dec. of 2005, they would see that this very point is what started the fireworks.

I am waiting until the March IMB. Depending upon actions there and the first week of April 2007 and the SWBTS trustee meeting, which is facing the exact same issue as the IMB (overriding, dismissing, ignoring, or adding requirements to BFM2000), I will make a decision regarding the future.

Robert Hutchinson said...


so basically messengers will have to wait another year or better for the items outside the purview of the imb to be addressed.

a motion willl have to be brought to the floor of the convention again, right? and then the executive committee will have to form an investigative committeee and so on and so on and so on, right?

or can the imb trustees refer those items to the executvie committee without another motion at the sbc? said...


The fact that I am willing to call people on this has ceased the activity.

In other words, Ledbetter's report entitled 'IMB rejects allegations of impropriety' is entirely misleading when it comes to the specific points of my recommendation.

They didn't investigate allegations of impropriety.

But the impropriety has been put out because somebody finally called the fire truck.

The only thing to do now is to try to rebuild the house by taking aways the rubble (the new policies) and insuring nobody sets the house on fire again.


Anonymous said...

I do not always agree with you on certain issues. (That is o.k., we probably are not suppose to agree on every single issue.)
However, I do appreciate your efforts to hold the leaders in our convention more accountable. Some of our leaders get unglued when people ask honest questions. A good leader is not afraid when people ask questions - even though sometimes honest questions may cause uncomfortableness.
Wade, keep holding our leaders accountable.

Kevin Bussey said...


Why do we have the BF&M if we don't use it in every aspect of Baptist life? said...

Well, good question.

Anonymous said...

This is why I am considering joining the growing group of pastors who are non-cooperating SB. They are SB in name, but you won't see them at any state or national convention.

I thought we fought a war over the BFM, changed it to give a little sharper edge in the fight against "liberals" used it to run missionaries off the field, but the trustees themselves and the institution itself can ignore it? What hypocricy of the highest order!

Timothy Cowin

Anonymous said...

One of the most troubling aspects of this IMB BoT "report" is that the BoT hypocritically requires its missionaries to affirm the BF&M2K, while the BoT, all of whose members are elected by the SBC to oversee a missionary agency of the SBC, unilaterally declares that it is neither bound to follow or affirm the document. . .sounds fair to me. . .NOT!

In His Grace and Peace,
T. D. Webb