Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Blindness That Leaves A Person Very Weary

"And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great: so that they wearied themselves to find the door" (Genesis 19:11).

Two angels had been sent from God to warn the people of Sodom that impending judgment was at hand. On arriving at Lot's house they soon find the streets filled with angry men desiring to take the two angels, whom they thought to be desirable men, for themselves. When Lot attempted to talk them out of their degenerate plan, the Sodomites pounced on Lot to physically harm him. The angels ended up pulling Lot inside his own house to rescue him from the angry Sodomites. The angels then struck the Sodomites with blindness. However, the blindness that came upon the Sodomites was unique.

The Hebrew word translated 'blindness' is used only here and in II Kings 6:18 when God 'blinded' the Syrian soldiers so they could not see Elisha, even though he conversed with them and eventually led the Syrians all the way into another country. The soldiers did not recognize the very man they were looking for even though he was standing in front of them, conversing with them, and ultimately leading them on a march.

So it was in the case of the Sodomites --

'They wearied themselves to find the door.

They sought the door to enter Lot's home to take him and the angels captive, but they couldn't find it. The could see everything else - but not the door. Their blindness and inability to find what they were looking for led them to weariness. They eventually gave up.

There is a lesson here.

This blindness that comes from God is a form of judgment. There comes a time when a person, having ignored the repeated warnings and messages that come from God, will come face to face with the inability to find the very thing for which one is looking. When stricken with this Divine blindness, God turns a sinner over to his 'own lusts,' and the very door he seeks to open (the door of personal pleasure, satisfaction, happiness, etc . . ) will not be found. The sinner will eventually grow weary of searching for those things that promise pleasure. Satisfaction shall not be sensed. Peace will never be personal. Fulfillment will not be found.

In short, the high that sin brings will never fully or perpetually satisfy. The sensual pleasures of this world may be initially sweet to the taste, but they become a bitter tonic to the soul - for everyone. Sinners, tyically pictured by the Sodomites and the Syrians, will find themselves growing very, very weary. My prayer for those who feel this weariness of sin is that they will, by God's grace, find the Door that leads to genuine soul satisfaction.

In His Grace,


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Fundamental Qualification for Pastoral Ministry Is A Godly Character

At this year's Together for the Gospel Conference, C.J. Mahaney's plenary session message was entitled Watch Your Life and Doctrine. He took as his text 1 Timothy 4:16 which reads: "Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers."

Mahaney challenged the pastors in audience with these words (emphasis mine):

Sound doctrine is not enough, because according to Scripture, the fundamental qualification for pastoral ministry is godly character. Neither skill, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, nor reputation, nor personality, nor apparent fruitfulness of public ministry will suffice. Scan 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, and you will encounter a profile of personal piety.

Yes, the pastor must be able to teach. Certainly, he must handle the Word of truth accurately and skillfully. But the foundational assumption of Scripture--both for appointment to or continuation in ministry--is that the pastor provide a godly example. Not a perfect example, but an authentic example. As Spurgeon exhorted his students in "The Minister's Self-Watch," "Our characters must be more persuasive than our speech."

If we neglect the command of 1 Timothy 4:16--if we fail to watch our life closely, carefully, and uncompromisingly--negative consequences are inevitable, for ourselves, our family, our pastoral team, and our church. A marked or prolonged inattention to personal holiness in a pastor is a grave matter that must be addressed.

In Sovereign Grace Ministries, here is how we have sought to apply this passage in relation to the pastors of our local churches.

We believe that the biblical requirement for a pastor is not flawless character but mature character. We are all progressively growing in godliness. A pastor who recognizes an area of immaturity, and takes specific action towards change, demonstrates close attention to his life and doctrine. Likewise, if a particular instance of non-disqualifying sin occurs in a pastor's life, but he genuinely repents before God and the appropriate individuals, this also honors the passage we are examining.

There are, of course, some sins that are particularly serious, both in the effect they have upon others and what they reveal about the condition of the heart. Even a single instance of such sins--sexual immorality, financial impropriety, violent behavior, etc.--would automatically disqualify a man from pastoral ministry. Beyond such grave instances of sin, however, a serious ongoing pattern of disobedient deviation from biblical requirements in the life of a pastor can also be disqualifying.

For example, a single lustful look, quickly confessed and repented of is part of growing maturity. However, a pattern of pornography could be disqualifying. Similarly, an isolated instance of lying speech, promptly brought into the light, is evidence of ongoing sanctification. Repeated examples of deceptive behavior, on the other hand, call into question a pastor's trustworthiness. Likewise, an outburst of irritation, immediately regretted and repented of is proof the Holy Spirit is at work. But a reputation for anger is not consistent with the biblical requirements for a pastor.

Where such patterns of sin exist, we believe that genuine care for a pastor and church involves a corrective process. Of course, this must be administered with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Occasions requiring the loving confrontation of a pastor in sin have been among the most difficult and painful of my ministry experience. But in the end, the corrective process has normally produced God-glorifying and fruitful outcomes in a pastor's life, family, and church.

These are powerful words for those of us who pastor to not just ponder, but to apply.

In His Grace,


Monday, March 26, 2007

A Revealing Message on Anointing by Rick Ousley

Having been gone for a week I have been out of touch with SBC news. Kevin Bussey and Bob Cleveland have written about the moral failure of evangelist Rick Ousley.

I have met Rick once. This past January at the Oklahoma Evangelism Conference Rick preached and I had the occasion to visit with him afterwards for a couple of minutes. I thoroughly enjoyed his message at the Evangelism Conference and continue to believe, without hesitation, that God can speak, and does speak, through faulty messengers.

My heart is grieved over Rick's sin, but I wish to learn from it without condemning him. I have already prayed this morning for him, his wife, and his family, as well as the woman with whom he has been involved. The Associated Press has made public the details of Rick's sexual sins, including this unusual statement:

"Donna Jones, 43, of Katy, Texas, said she began a sexual relationship with Ousley when she was 18 after he and his first wife divorced and that it continued after he married his current wife.

She said she met him twice in recent years on his trips with Samford's football team and that her last trysts with Ousley were Dec. 10-17 when he preached two consecutive Sundays at Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, the News reported."

I decided to listen to the two messages that Rick preached at Champion Forest the very two weekends the woman alleges she renewed her involvement with Rick. I have heard from a close pastor friend of Rick's, a man I highly respect, who said he is walking Rick and his wife through this ordeal. This pastor assures me that this alleged tryst in Houston with this woman is not true. However, he also told me that the truth, even without Houston, is bad enough.

In Rick Ousley's second message at Champion Forest entitled "Christmas Presence: Part II" Rick gives us a peek into his inner struggles and the demons within his own life. His words will send a chill down your spine as you listen to him, particularly the first ten minutes of the message. The effect his words had on me were two-fold:

(1). God's truth is always precious, though the messenger be a clay jar.
(2). Salvation is by grace, and not by works, and for that we are all grateful.

The message can be watched in video here or in audio here.

In His Grace,


Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Few Lessons On Change from Breckenridge, CO.

Wade and Rachelle at Breckenridge, Colorado, Saturday, March 24, 2007.

This past week Rachelle and I enjoyed a few days in Breckenridge, Colorado with some friends of ours from Emmanuel. They have a beautiful condominium at the base of Peak 9 in downtown picturesque Breckenrdge. When we arrived in Colorado on the second official day of spring, the temperature was near seventy and our son Boe was quite concerned that there would not be enough snow to ski. To our surprise the skiing was very good with many skiers wearing shirtsleeves. On our last day of skiing this past Saturday, the mountain was covered with ten inches of new snow, and the temperature was seventeen with near whiteout conditions on top of the peak. The change from Thursday to Saturday was dramatic . If asked, I would be hard pressed to say which conditions were better for skiing; they were both good -- just different. The picture above was taken Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. on the balcony of the condominium. The sudden change from sunshine and heat to snow and cold brought to mind a few lessons about change.

(1). One should learn to appreciate whatever cicumstances he finds himself in.

(2). Sometimes the most beautiful changes occur not slowly, but quite suddenly.

(3). Some of the best changes are totally outside of anyone's control but God's.

(4). Ultimately, the company you keep and friends you have make any day beautiful.

(5). It's wise to never get too disappointed or too excited about current events, since change is certain.

(6). "Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself" Tolstoy.

(7). "I am the Lord, I change not" (Malachi 3:6).

I close with this thought. A reporter interviewing A.J. Muste, who during the Vietnam War stood in front of the White House night after night with a candle, one rainy night asked,"Mr. Muste, do you really think you are going to change the policies of this country by standing out here alone at night with a candle?" Muste replied, "Oh, I don't do it to change the country, I do it so the country won't change me."

Just a few reflections on the sudden change from sunny seventy to snowy seventeen.

In His Grace,


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Skiing, Spring Break, and Your Sincere Opinion

While I am skiing with my wife and two youngest kids in Breckenridge, Colorado through the weekend, I thought I might use the occasion to run a contest. The prize is not worth much (a personalized and autographed copy of my book "Happiness Doesn't Just Happen"), but the better prize will probably be reading the various and sundry excellent thoughts of your fellow Southern Baptists. Two questions.

(1). A Southern Baptist once told me that 'blogs' were like internet pornography. To be fair, this person did not know what a blog was at the time. In your opinion how have blogs run by Southern Baptists helped or hurt the Southern Baptist Convention?

(2). Some believe that the new policies at the IMB are great, some believe they are no big deal, and others believe they are horrible. What do you believe will be the long-term effect on the SBC if the policies are not reversed and why?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Time For Personal Reflection and Thankfulness

Today marks my 10th International Mission Board trustee meeting since my election to the board in June of 2005. The IMB has six full board meetings a year and at the July meeting in Richmond this summer I will complete two years of service. The plenary session tonight was filled with typical, yet important business of the IMB. The staff and administration work in the day to day operations of the world-wide work of the missionaries of the Southern Baptist Convention, and we trustees provide oversight, accountability, and ultimately authority to appoint the missionaries who eventually go to the field. The reports were very good tonight, including excellent committee reports, outstanding remarks from our President, and various other matters that required full board attention, but nothing earth shattering. The Mission Personnel Committee, chaired by Paul Chitwood, announced that they would present the report of the Ad Hoc Committees reexamining the new policies on private prayer language and baptism at the next IMB trustee meeting this May in Kansas City.

I thought I might use this post to reflect just a little on the past ten IMB meetings and some of the things I have learned about the SBC and the way we do missions and cooperate with each other.

(1). First, I am amazed at the level of interest and knowledge of the inner workings of the Southern Baptist Convention by the average Southern Baptist pastor and layman. I think that blogs operated by Southern Baptists should be given a great deal of credit for the rising awareness of what is taking place within our convention. I myself have learned a great deal from reading what others have said, and are saying, about the SBC. And, unlike some who may believe oppenness and transparency are not healthy, I am of the opinion that kingdom work is always better when everything possible is done in the light of day.

(2). Second, even though there has been a measure of conflict over the new policies at the International Mission Board, I know without a doubt that everyone on our board, and I am sure this is true of other boards as well, really do have the best interest of the SBC at heart. We may have various opinions of what is best for the SBC, but there is no doubt that the men and women with whom I serve do believe they would only do those things that would help the SBC in the end. Obviously, my view is that we work best as a convention when we let the churches be the ultimate authority, and we choose to cooperate with each other for the sake of missions. Some seem to desire uniform doctrinal interpretation on all tertiary doctrines, while others of us are desiring a focus on the essentials and missions, with freedom of interpretation in those non-essential areas of faith and practice. The future of the SBC will be determined in large measure by which group ultimately convinces the majority of the SBC that their view is more essential for future success in missions and world evangelism.

(3). Third, I believe it would be wise for every agency to examine how we do trustee meetings. In my opinion there is no reason for us to have SIX meetings a year at the IMB. We could get by easily with four, and our President has recommended that we move to four in the future. I for one would support this move. There are a handful of trustees who have gone on the record opposing this recommendation, but I wonder if it's not just because some enjoy the travel, hotels and meals and would hate to give that up. Frankly, I enjoy the travel too, but I personally think staff and administration could lead us to be more cost efficient and time effective moving to quarterly meetings and hope that it will happen in the near future.

(4). Fourth, I can see how easy it would be for someone to obtain a denominational post and seek to orchestrate the trustee system to benefit his or her personal longevity and/or financial gain. I am not by any means saying that this has happened in any particular agency, but when an SBC entity deals with millions and millions of dollars it is essential that those responsible for oversight (i.e. 'the trustees') be completely independent from administrative and executive staff. The IMB is a very large organization, but I believe trustees and administration do a very good job of financial accountability. That's not to say there are not, nor have been problems, but I can honestly say, at least at the IMB, the oversight is conscientious and sincere. Dr. Rankin made mention of the tight controls on expenditures of CP money during the plenary session (every CP dollar expenditure at the IMB is reported).

(5). Finally, even though there have been some tough times and rough days these last few months, I can honestly say there are no regrets. The thousands of people that I have met, the genuinely wonderful missionaries that I have come to know in the Pacific Rim, Africa, Central Asia, East Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central America and other regions of the world make me realize that Southern Baptists truly are on mission.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Monday, March 19, 2007

E-Mail, Missionaries and Mid-America

Today was a very busy day for Rachelle and me in Memphis, Tennessee. During the morning Rachelle continued her studies for her approaching NCLEX, the national nursing boards. I used the time to correspond with a number of people via email, and one particular exchange is pertinent to this blog.

Dr. Hershael York, a man that I respect and mentioned in my post yesterday as having a sympathy for Landmark tenets emailed me and graciously requested that his views not be labeled ‘Landmark.’ I really appreciated Dr. York’s dialogue today and do desire to represent his views accurately, so the following is a sample of the brief email exchange between Dr. York and myself to insure his views are portrayed by me accurately.

Dr. York wrote:

I don't question either your intent or your understanding of my position, but I really do hate that Landmark label because it allows people to fill in the blank and assume things about me that are untrue. I find the whole thing ironic because I was so ostracized by the Landmarkers when I pastored in Lexington. They even voted to not recognize my church's baptism, so you can see why I cringe a little bit when the same label that they wear is applied to me. So I don't mind being identified as completely supportive of the IMB policy, nor a restrictive view of the ordinances (which I defend exegetically more than historically), but I just don't think the label is fair.

I responded to Dr. York:

Thank you very much for your humble email allowing me to see into your heart. Now I realize you understand the depths of my feelings to have my own convention agency, no less than the very mission arm of the SBC -- the IMB -- reject my member’s baptism and his service on the mission field. I will be more careful with the label Landmark in the future and thank you for calling me out on it.

Is there a word that would describe your position? You would be hard pressed to say "Baptist" because Gill represents the traditional Baptist view. Maybe 'American Baptist' view? I'm just asking. Obviously, I would reject calling your position the "Biblical view" of baptism label as well.

Dr. York then emailed back:

I don't mind my view being called a restrictive view of baptism or the authoritative baptism view. I do believe that the authority of the administrator is as important as the intent of the subject. I would not object to anything along those lines.

I will close the review of the email exchange with my edited response to Dr. York:

I do appreciate the dialogue -- I find your spirit refreshing.

When Baptist Elias Keach baptized people in colonial America, and then was later converted while preaching a message he had taken from his father's notes (Benjamin Keach), were the earlier baptisms performed by Elias 'unacceptable' because the administrator was a 'lost man?' If you say, 'no' - the authority for the baptism was found in the commission of Christ to the 'church' not the 'person' doing the baptism -- then I think you will find we are saying the exact same thing.

The 'church' has the privilege and, yes, authority of baptizing converts to faith in Christ. But the definition of the church is the key when it comes to baptism. I would define the church as the universal body of the elect -- those whom the Father has redeemed -- therefore, any professing disciple of Christ has the privilege of baptizing his convert -- this was Dr. Gill's view. We Southern Baptists use pastors to baptize often out of convenience, but it is not necessary. The authority is given to all Christians by Christ. It is an ordinance (command) of Christ, not 'the church.' It is possible that some 'professors' of faith in Christ who baptize others are not actually converted, but that does not negate the validity of the baptism of the person who was baptized at the hands of a lost man, because baptism identifies a person with Christ, not a 'doctrine' or a 'local' church, and the 'authority' of the administrator does not make or break a 'Christian' baptism. The authority for baptism comes from Christ -- it is His ordinance.

The 'local' church is important for discipline reasons, accountability, etc . . . But admittance into my 'local' church is through examination of one's faith and baptism --- faith must be faith in Christ alone and the baptism must be by immersion, after having come to faith in Christ, identifying the believer with 'the universal body' of the Lord Jesus.

These are our differences. I would hold to the old English Baptist (and dare I say 'biblical' view) of baptism. You would hold to a modern, Americanized view that the 'authority' of the baptizer is important, but you believe that authority is NOT given to the baptizer by Christ, but by the ‘local’ church. Therefore, it is hard for you to see how Gill says 'baptism takes place outside the church (i.e. 'local' church) but is a prerequisite to membership. I believe, though, we both would agree baptism is not a prerequisite to becoming part of the 'universal body of Christ.' I would just simply say baptism identifies a person with Christ and His universal body --- you would say it should identify him with the ‘local’ church.

Where have I misrepresented your views?

Dr. York graciously responded that ‘I think you represent my view correctly.’


Rachelle and I had the privilege today of visiting with some absolutely wonderful missionary candidates for the International Mission Board. We were standing outside the Hilton, Memphis and ran into Jon and Reagan G______ from Oklahoma. They reside about thirty miles from where Rachelle and I live, and though I had met Jon before, it was the first time for me to meet Reagan and for Rachelle to meet them both. I cannot begin to share with you how much knowing missionaries like Jon and Reagan inspires me to lead our church and others to strengthen Cooperative Program giving. This good looking husband and wife are bright, articulate, and passionate about their call to missions. We enjoyed our brief but delightful fellowship with this wonderful couple.

We also were able to visit with Ryan and Laura W____ another young, very bright Southern Baptist couple who represent the future of Southern Baptist missions. Laura was raised Methodist and was baptized as an infant, but at the age of eighteen came to the conviction that believer’s baptism by immersion was biblical baptism and she was baptized in her church accordingly. However, in order to be appointed a missionary with the IMB, she was told she needed to be ‘rebaptized’ in a ‘Southern Baptist Church’ though her Southern Baptist Church had years earlier received her baptism as ‘biblical’ and she was a leader, mentor and teacher in her local Southern Baptist Church. Frankly, it was embarrassing to do what she was forced to do (be rebaptized) and she really struggled with the demand it be done, but her love for the mission field is too great, and so she consented. We had an interesting discussion over her acquiescing to the demand that she be ‘rebaptized’ in order to be appointed on the mission field, and without going into details, let me just say I am very, very proud of Laura and her husband and their ability to search the Scriptures for themselves and hold to their own convictions in a gracious, but firm manner. I will be praying for them in their IMB assignment which will begin in mid-July 2007.

We met several other missionaries during the day, and had a great time of fellowship with many of them, including Brian and Becky H_____ and Sarah and Bill M_______. It’s best not to use their last names or places of assignment even though not all are in security three zones.

Every time I come to one of these IMB meetings, I am reminded about the purpose of the Southern Baptist Convention – cooperation in missions around the world.

Mid-America Seminary

Tonight our trustee, staff and missionary dinner was hosted by Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Mid-America was founded by Dr. Gray Allison in the early 70’s as an alternative to the traditional six SBC seminaries. It is located across the street from Bellevue Baptist Church and sits on 35 acres donated by Bellevue. The $15.5 million dollar complex is stunning. Dr. Mike Spradlin is the current President and the current trustee chairman of the IMB, Dr. John Floyd, is Vice-President of Mid-America.

Dr. Floyd gave Rachelle and me and Dr. Allen McWhite of North Greenville University a personal tour of the facilities. Dr. Floyd was project manager on the construction of the facility and I must say, he did a superb job. The classrooms, preaching labs, auditorium are not only fitted with the most modern technology, they are all spacious, efficient and pleasing to the eye without being too luxurious. Frankly, Mid-America will draw even more than their current 542 students because of the superb facilities. Rachelle and I thoroughly enjoyed Dr. Floyd’s hospitality and tour. A week before Dr. Adrian Rogers died he drove around the facility with Dr. Spradlin and was asked, “Does it meet your expectations” to which Dr. Rogers responded, “Oh, it far exceeds them.” Mid-America will produce some top quality Southern Baptist scholars and preachers in the years to come.

Rachelle and I ate dinner with Dr. Matt Acres, Professor of New Testament Greek at Mid-America. He is trained in Hebrew and Old Testament, but is teaching Greek, telling me he enjoys Greek as much as he does Hebrew. I was very impressed with Dr. Acres. We discussed the history of Baptists and views regarding ‘The Trail of Blood,’ the Baptist Missionary Association (whose members make up the second largest group of students behind Southern Baptists at Mid-America) and various and sundry other issues. Dr. Acres is dead on theologically and because of faculty like him, I have absolutely no hesitation at all recommending Mid-America to any Southern Baptist interested in serious theological study.

The Forum

Tonight all trustees met behind closed doors for what is called the forum. Again, the meeting was filled with prayer, praise, and encouragement to all.

The very kind of thing that should always happen behind closed doors in the SBC.

In His Grace,


Southern Baptist People Are What Make Our Convention Great

Yesterday was another great day at the finest Southern Baptist Church in Oklahoma, the Emmanuel Baptist Church of Enid. The worship was wonderful, and though it is spring break, the people turned out for Bible study and worship at all three of our morning services. We are looking forward to Easter when we have five morning worship services: 8:00, 9:30 and 11:00 a.m with simultaneous REFUGE worship services at 9:30 and 11:00 a.m. as well. Our goal is to have over three thousand in worship on Easter Sunday, and we believe we may have many more than that actually come. We are continuing our exposition of Genesis on Sunday morning and we are currently studying Genesis 20, a series entitled Divine Intervention: Overcoming Addictions and Strongholds. The response to the series has been phenomenal. Emmanuel is a wonderful church to pastor.

My appreciation for the people of Christ within our convention continues to grow outside the walls of our own church because of friends I have made through the blog world. Last night Rachelle and I had the pleasure of stopping in Conway, Arkansas and sharing a meal with Alyce and Mackey Faulkner of Little Rock, Arkansas. This Southern Baptist couple have been blog friends for several months, but last evening was the first opportunity Rachelle and I had to have the pleasure of meeting the Faulkners.

As we enjoyed wonderful meal, the Faulkners freely shared with us their support for missions through their local church, their mutual desire to make our convention more kingdom oriented, and their love for everything associated with Christ. Both Rachelle and I were reminded of why we love the Southern Baptist Convention as we listened to the Faulkners-- it is the people of our convention.

The Faulkners warm, down home hospitality, engaging personalities, and genuine humility are characteristic of the people we love at Emmanuel, and we are beginning to realize, it is also characterizes the majority of Southern Baptists around the nation. For those of you who enjoy good Christian blogs, Alyce's The Miracle of Mercy is a must read. Macky does not blog himself, but like Rachelle does for me, Mackey gives Alyce behind the scenes wisdom, balance and perspective. Alyce also confirmed to Rachelle and me that you really can tell a great deal about a person by the blog he or she keeps. Alyce's charm, insight, and passion are seen as much in person as they are on her blog. Thanks, Faulkners, for a great evening.

Rachelle and I arrived in Memphis around 12:30 a.m. this morning. I will be meeting with various missionaries throughout the day, enjoy dinner with the trustees at Mid-America Seminary this evening, and participate in the closed door forum meeting of all trustees tonight.

I'll blog about reflections on today late this evening.

In His Grace,


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Commendation for the 2007 Nominating Committee

Today I have been on the road to Memphis, Tennessee and the post I had up this morning was accidentally deleted by a friend who was moderating the comments and discussion. The post and all comments are gone. I saved the original post in as a Word document and am reposting it with simply a new title and a couple of changes. It seems that the Chairman of the Nominating Committee worked diligently with his committee last week to insure that fresh faces were appointed to the respective committees of the Southern Baptist Convention, and I commend Pastor Tommy for his due diligence. The trustee system is how our agencies are governed, and there seem to be some very positive steps being taken to insure trustee indendepence.

My previous post entitled Are We A Denomination Or Are We A Convention contained some excellent comments, three worth pointing out here.

Tim Guthrie stated:

If the SBC were a denomination, then the denomination would run the entities. If the SBC were a Convention, the entities would be governed by the Trustee system as elected by the Convention when it is in session. We as Southern Baptist are a Convention not a Denomination.

Volfann agreed with Tim and wrote:

I agree with Tim Guthrie. What we all need to understand, and I include myself, is that the seminaries and the IMB and NAMB and all the other entities cannot be what we all want them to be. There's just no way that can happen. The leaders and the trustees have to manage them the way they feel led by the Lord, and they are probably gonna do things that a few, or some, or even many, don't think that they ought to do. Some will feel that they can do it better. And, if there are enough of us who believe that the trustees are not doing their job, that things are not being done right, then we can take care of that at the Southern Baptist Convention every year, just like the conservative resurgence did.

Professor X responded to both Tim and Volfann with the following insight:

However, our convention can only function at maximum effieciency if a truly representative Board of Trustees is in place at each entity of our convention. For example, if trustees are all purposefully nominated because they hold a particular scriptural interpretation on certain 'hot topics' then the trustee board does not fully reflect the broad views of the convention. If any board of the convention is manipulated by an outside group, or singular person, in order to reflect one aspect of the broader opinion in the convention as a whole then it does not properly reflect the members of the SBC.

The Nominating Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention met this past week in Nashville, Tennessee. For those uninitiated with the nominating process it might be helpful to read this explanation of how it works. In summary, the Nominating Committee is selected by the Committee on Committees, and approved by messengers of the SBC in June. The following March the Nominating Committee meets in Nashville, Tennessee to recommend men and women from across the SBC to serve as trustees of our SBC agency boards. The Nominating Committee that met last week was selected by the Committee on Committees appointed by Bobby Welch in his last year of service as President of the SBC. Frank Page's first appointed Committee on Committees will present next year's Nominating Committee at the SBC in San Antonio this June.

Again, the full report of this year's Nominating Committee will be made public by Baptist Press on April 19th. I am confident that all the people who served on this year's Nominating Committee are sincere and wonderful people, and I have been assured that the leadership of the committee, including the Chairman, went the extra mile to insure that the appointments were impartial. I would like to point out five examples from this year's Nominating Committee meeting that illustrate why things are changing in the SBC.

(1). The President of one of our agencies sent a letter to the two members of the Nominating Committee from Indiana recommended a list of people to serve on his board. To the credit of the Indiana contingent, they expressed disappoint that this had occurred, and it makes one wonder if the days of Presidents of any SBC agency seeking to influence the Nominating Committee are over.

(2). One of the Nominating Committee members, when making his nomination for a trustee on the board of Southeastern Seminary made this statement: "And President Danny Akin likes him." I'm sure this particular Nominating Committee member has a sincere heart and does not realize the inappropriateness of contacting Dr. Akin to see if the President likes a particular person, but Southern Baptists must realize that Presidents should NOT be catered to when it comes to putting particular people on their board. Also, vice versa, Southern Baptist boards should not be stacked in an effort to remove a President. When sitting trustees 'vet' potential trustees to insure the board is filled with 'like-minded' people, then we have a problem. The Holy Spirit should guide the Nominating Committee and the Presidents of our entities, and sitting trustees, should have no influence on the Nominating Committee. There should be very strict guidelines that are adhered to closely to insure the nominating process is not manipulated. What makes me hopeful, and that for which I commend the members of this year's Nominating Committee, is that innocent statements like this are seen as problematic by some members and steps are being taken to inform others that the process should be INDEPENDENT of any SBC agency administration.

(3). The pastor and layperson who served on the Nominating Committee from Florida initially nominated to serve on the International Mission Board the Florida Committee on Committees member who had nominated them to serve on the Nominating Committee. This is a violation of bylaws, and though it was not initially caught, we should give thanks to the the excellent staff of the Executive Committee for discovering the bylaw violation and the Nominating Committee for correcting it. I'm sure the initial oversight was innocent, as well as what happened next, which may have just slipped by the notice of the entire committee.

Out of the hundreds of thousands of Southern Baptists in Florida who have never served on a board, the two Florida Nominating Committee members, a pastor and a female doctor, nominated Debbie Brunson to replace their initial recommendation which did not meet the guidelines . Debbie is a vivacious, charming lady who loves the Lord and is a wonderful pastor's wife at First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Florida. Yet Debbie has already served over a three year term on the IMB. The bylaws also state that a person must reside within a state for an entire year before they can serve on an SBC board. Debbie and her husband Mac have been at FBC Jacksonville, Florida for a year - sympathetic with Landmark tenets. Again, I am not suggesting that Dr. York be replaced as a nominee at all. I am simply illustrating that the sensitivity to being sure we appoint a broad representation of views for trustees of our agencies is growing, and the very likeable Herschael illustrates this point. I realize that it is a process and we have not fully arrived, but in an ideal world, the trustees would reflect the broad and various views of the Southern Baptist Convention. As has been stated by one of our finer Southern Baptist historians, there is a growing Landmark presence in SBC academia, but it is definitely not the majority view. As Nathan Finn writes:

A second group of inerrantists whose star continues to rise is the Landmark movement, which is both a movement unto itself and a shadow-movement that can be present as a subset of many of the above movements (particularly the revivalist and Calvinist movements). Landmarkism was long out of touch with SBC leadership, but has enjoyed a major revival in the last 30 years or so. Once confined to the mostly rural churches of Kentucky and Arkansas, Landmarkism is once again roaming the halls in some corners of SBC academia.

It would also be a mistake to uncritically embrace Landmarkism. Let me say loud and clear that I am much more concerned about those among us with no discernable Baptist ecclesiology than I am with Landmarkers. At least Landmarkers are attempting to articulate a systematic, biblical ecclesiology, even when (in my opinion) they fall short. Landmarkism itself is not the bad guy. But some versions of Landmarkism are not benign. There is a type of strident Landmarkism that historically has led to the rejection of cooperative missions among Southern Baptists and attempted to equate “Landmark” with “Baptist.” Modern versions of this malignant Landmarkism should be resisted because they will destroy us.

Neither Nathan Finn nor I would say Dr. York is part of strident Landmarkism, but his potential presence on the board strengthens any Landmark tendencies that may be present. Over a year ago a key trustee of the IMB told me, "I am Landmark and proud of it." The SBC is not a Landmark Convention, but as I and others, including David Rogers, have been saying for now well over a year, if we are not careful we will continue a sharp shift toward Landmarkism as a convention.

(5). The Chairman of the Nominating Committee has encouraged all his members to be in San Antonio. I think he understands, as do I, that 'the freedom of being able to interpret the Scriptures differently on tertiary doctrines but work together in cooperation for missions' is the inviolable foundation of the Cooperative Program. Anything less will destroy the fabric of our convention.

Again, I am grateful for the people who have served on this year's Nominating Committee. There seem to be some really wonderful appointments, and even the two specific appointments that I have mentioned in this post will ultimately be good ones for the SBC. I do believe this year's committee and Dr. Frank Page's appointment of the Committee on Commitees have brought a sense of freshness to nominating process and will ultimately insure that we keep our trustee boards as independent, broad and diverse as possible.

Rachelle and I will be leaving for Memphis, Tennessee after church today to attend the International Mission Board. As I have stated on multiple occasions, the SBC works best when our work is done in openness and transparancy. I will give you my opinion and perception of this week's IMB meeting in posts Monday through Thursday.

Blessings to you all.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Are We A Denomination Or Are We A Convention?

Yesterday I was reading another blog when I came across a question my father asked in the comment section. The question, in my opinion, is an important one. How people answer it will reveal some of the basis for the various views Southern Baptists have regarding several current issues in the SBC. My father asked:

Is there a basic difference, or should there be, between what would be called a denomination and what we call a convention? Webster's defines 'denomination' as "A religious organization uniting local congregations into a single body." Webster's defines 'convention' as "An assembly of delegates or messengers convened for some purpose." In light of these definitions, are Southern Baptists part of a denomination or are we part of a convention? Is there a unique and important difference? Does this, or should this, play into any discussion about what the SBC holds to theologically? If, in fact, we have evolved from a convention into a denomination, is this good or bad?

This is a great question that is worthy of discussion. I would propose that those Southern Baptist conservatives who emphasize 'doctrinal accountablity,' 'theological conformity,' and 'hierarchial authority' are denominationally oriented and believe the SBC to be 'a single body.'

Whereas those conservatives who emphasize 'church autonomy,' 'soul liberty,' and 'kingdom unity' are convention oriented and believe the SBC to be conglomeration of independent, autonomous churches who must be given as much freedom as possible in order to maintain the spirit of cooperation for the purpose of missions and evangelism.

Could it be that some of the issues we face in the SBC are difficult to resolve because Southern Baptists have fundamentally different concepts of who we are?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Judge Pressler, What Happened To The Hill?

Dwight McKissic is one of the godliest men I have ever met. He is a prince of a gentleman with a genuine compassion for all believers and possesses a strong inner desire to be at peace with all men. Dwight McKissic also has prayed privately in tongues since his days at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. If you have attended his church for the last two decades you have never heard 'tongues' spoken publicly in any of the worship services, but the wonderful and highly respected pastor feels that the gift of tongues in his private prayer time is part of his spiritual journey with Christ. He didn't ask for it, nor does he demand others have it. Dwight rejects the Pentecostal doctrine that tongues is a 'sign of the indwelling of God's Spirit' and maintains the traditional Baptist (and Biblical belief) that the Spirit of God indwells all who trust in Christ.

Dwight, however, is one of many leaders and laymen in our convention who are beginning to feel disenfranchised and perceived as outcasts because of their view on the gifts. As I have stated on several occasions, I do not have the gift of tongues, nor do I desire it, but I have absolutely no problem cooperating with my fellow Southern Baptists who pray in tongues in private (a private prayer language), nor do I have a problem cooperating with any Southern Baptist who believes all the gifts of the Spirit continue to this day. Like any other third tier doctrinal interpretation held by Southern Baptists, the only time problems with a particular interpretation arises is when there is an overemphasis on the doctrine or a demand that everyone believe the same. The old IMB policies prevented this from happening.

The controversy in our convention began a year and a half ago when missonary candidates began to be rejected for possessing a 'private prayer language' or those who were members of Southern Baptist churches, having their baptism accepted by their respective Southern Baptist church, but rejected from being missionary candidates because their baptism did not take place in 'a church that believed in eternal security.' I have voiced my opposition to the two policies on this blog, and of course, it was that opposition that eventually led to a recommendation for my removal from the board of trustees of the International Mission Board. Though this recommendation was later unanimously rescinded, the policies remain in effect.

Rachelle and I will be attending the International Mission Board meeting this next Monday through Wednesday in Memphis, Tennessee. I have been praying for the two ad hoc committees of the board that were appointed by Chairman John Floyd to review the policies. There may be a report and/or recommendation from this committee to the full board regarding these two new policies. My objections from the beginning have been based upon the belief that the IMB is unwise to narrow doctrinal parameters beyond the BFM 2000, because the churches who cooperate in SBC mission efforts disagree on third tier issues. If there were concrete anecdotal evidence that these policies would make our mission field better, or if these policies were enforcing fundamentals of the faith, I would be for them without hesitation. But when people like Dwight McKissic and members of his church (and mine) begin to feel disenfranchised by the new policies, then the tent of cooperation is being narrowed in the SBC and this will ultimately spell trouble.

The other day Steve Davis, an associate pastor at Parkwood Baptist Church in Concord, North Carolina sent me some quotes from Judge Paul Pressler's book "A Hill On Which To Die" (Copyright 1999). All quotes are from page 158 and describe Pressler's views on the conservative resurgence. These statements also form the reasons why I am concerned about these new policies, which are based upon disputable interpretations of the sacred text, and lead to the exclusion of otherwise well qualified Southern Baptists from missions service or leadership. Pressler's statements lead me to believe our convention has become even more narrower than we were a decade ago. Here is what Pressler said about the resurgence.

"The issue in the convention was neither an interpretation of Scripture nor an effort to create unity of thinking on theological issues ....The liberals had said that after the conservatives finished with those who held different views of the nature of the Bible, they would begin attacking the charismatics (neo-Pentecostals). They also alleged that conservatives would later attack various other groups until they "purified" every aspect of Christian life. They said conservatives wanted to make everybody think just as they do."

"Such a charge was ludicrous, but it did worry some people such as my friends .....Charismatic worship and understanding of spiritual gifts is an interpretation of Scripture. That was not our concern. Our concern was the nature of Scripture."

"The liberals have tried to make much of the fact that some Calvinists exist within the conservative movement. Calvinism also is an interpretation of Scriptures. Although I am not a five-point Calvinist, I am perfectly content with persons who seek to convince others to have Calvinist convictions form the teaching of the Word of God."

"An interpretation of Scripture is a derivative issue and not a primary one. Interpretation is not a hill on which to die. In fact, the presence of such persuasions as Calvinists and charismatics in the conservative ranks merely shows that conservatives never sought to have all Southern Baptists think exactly alike. All we wanted was for people to base what they believe on an intelligent study of what the Bible says."

Judge, what happened?

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Call For Consistency

The issue of whether or not Dr. Sheri Klouda should have filed a cause of action against Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for being removed from a tenure track position because she is a female has produced quite a discussion within the blog world. The reactions have varied from strong support for Klouda's decision to outright opposition. The differences of opinion within our convention over Sheri Klouda's decision to sue illustrates the diversity of views we have as Southern Baptists and the continuing importance of treating each other with respect.

Bart Barber, an adjunct faculty member of Southwestern has strongly criticized Dr. Klouda's decision to sue Southwestern by writing on his blog:

"I submit to you that, for a Christian, the costs of a lawsuit must be calculated using more than a financial ledger. There is the cost to our witness. There is the cost that any of us bear when we directly contradict God's word and disobey it (emphasis mine). Even assuming that the other person is 100% in the wrong...Vengeance is God's, not Judge Wapner's.

I have consistently maintained that Southern Baptists desire to unite around the essentials of the faith, but we are always hesitant to accept the declaration that others know what the 'will of God' is for our lives, particularly in those areas where Scripture is not clear and direct. The narrow interpretation that I Corinthians 6 is always, and for all time, forbidding any Christian from filing any suit against any other Christian or Christian insitution is very problematic.

The Problems With A Universal Prohibition Against Suits

There are several questions that need to be asked of those who seek to prohibit Christians from filing suit by declaring that action would be 'disobedience to the Word and will of God." What about other passages that indicate that secular 'authorities' are ordained by God to correct problems and punish wrongdoing? What about the view that I Corinthians 6 is dealing with specific problems and people within the 'local' church of Corinth only? What about the desire for some to 'hold accountable' those who file a cause of action, but refuse to confront those who violate their vows, break contracts, and refuse to let their 'yes' be 'yes?'

In addition, from the I Corinthians text itself, it seems that the only ones who have the right to castigate Dr. Klouda are those who have sought to help Dr. Klouda through her financial and emotional turmoil that has occurred because of the problems that have arisen with her removal from SWBTS. In any discussion of 1 Corinthians 6, one needs to remember that the Apostle Paul addressed a two-fold problem. One was concerning the church refusing to step in and help the people with the relational problems and the other was to the individuals who actually had the problem. In fact, it could be argued by that the greater weight of verses is upon the unwillingness church to help, [vs. 1-6] rather than the people who were actually experiencing the relationship problem [vs. 7-8] One could also argue that any criticism of Klouda is only valid if the person, or church, has been involved in helping resolve the difficult situation for the Kloudas and SWBTS. Otherwise, it might be that there is an ignoring of the first few verses of I Corinthians 6 in order to get to verses 7-8 which raises the proverbial 'plank in eye' and “casting the first stone” questions.

But the biggest problem I see in the arguments of those who wish to criticize and condemn Dr. Klouda is one of consistency. For a person to believe that no Christian, at any time, and for any reason, should file a lawsuit against another Christian or Christian insitution and castigate Dr. Klouda because of this belief, then to be consistent, that person should also condemn the following decisions of Christians to sue fellow Christians.

Tell Me, Please, What Say Ye About These?

(1). The Tennessee Baptist Convention sued Belmont University for breach of contract. Executive Director James Porch, speaking on behalf of the Executive Committee of the Tennessee Baptist Convention said the following:

"During 2005 Belmont University acted to terminate its affiliated relationship with the Tennessee Baptist Convention through a charter change. The Executive Board and TBC did not want to have to initiate litigation against Belmont and, to that end, tried for many months to persuade Belmont to honor the promise it made to Tennessee Baptists in 1951. By steadfastly refusing to acknowledge, much less honor, its promise to us, Belmont, not the Executive Board or the Belmont Study Committee, forced this matter into the courthouse."

I personally take Dr. Porch at his word. I also personally understand why the Tennessee Baptist Convention filed suit against Belmont, and have no problem with them doing so, believing that the courts have been established as a final authority for disputes over contracts, pledges and other legal matters.

For those who condemn Dr. Klouda for filing a cause of action against SWBTS, do you also condemn Dr. Porch and the Executive Committee of the Tennesse Baptist Convention?

(2). In 1969 a young teenage girl was sexually abused by a Southern Baptist minister. The minister's name was Tommy Gilmore and the young girl was Christa Brown. When Christa Brown broke down and told a staff member what was happening, Mr. Gilmore was confronted by a fellow staff member and told that if he didn't leave the church the matter would be brought to the attention of the entire church. Gilmore moved on to a larger church, with praise from the pulpit about being a man of God.

Mr. Gilmore eventually became associated pastor of First Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia where he was responsible for child care for 50,000 messengers that attended the 1986 SBC annual meeting in Atlanta. Christa Brown says she didn't understand the "soul-murdering impact" the episode had on her life until years later, when her own daughter turned the same age she was when her abuse occurred. What happened next is described in detail by Ethics Daily:

(Christa Brown) set out to discover if Gilmore was still a minister and to warn Baptist leaders about the possibility there was a child molester in their midst. Believing parents in churches where Gilmore had served over the years would want to know the information, she says, she contacted 18 Baptist leaders in churches, state conventions and the SBC. All responded by turning a "blind eye." Only after learning through her own efforts that Gilmore was working at a church in Florida and publicity about a 2005 lawsuit she filed against him in the Orlando Sentinel did Gilmore leave church work.

It seems that only the suit filed by Christa Brown ultimately brought about that which needed to be done - removal from the ministry of Tommy Gilmore - and Christa Brown should be given credit for potentially protecting our SBC children.

For those castigating Dr. Klouda for filing a cause of action against SWBTS do you also condemn the abused Christa Brown for filing a suit against her Christian pastor abuser and bringing about justice through the courts when nobody else responded to her concerns?

(3). The Missouri Baptist Convention filed suit against five Southern Baptist agencies in Missouri, their administrators and their trustees.

The Baptist Standard reported in December 2002:

The Missouri Baptist Convention has been wracked with turmoil over the last two years as fundamentalists led by layman Roger Moran launched a campaign to gain control of the convention, its executive board and the boards of its agencies. As that effort neared success, the state convention's executive director resigned and the five agencies amended their charters to avoid a hostile takeover of their boards. Those now in control of the convention also want control of the agencies and their estimated $200 million in assets.

The Missouri Baptist Convention's lead attorney is Michael Whitehead, former vice president and interim president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., and former legal counsel for the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Whitehead said. "The agencies have told themselves and they have told the world that the law is so clear that they are right, that it is beyond dispute. But today they must admit they were wrong. Their legal theory was not convincing enough to win these motions."

Here you have two groups of Christians, yes, even Baptists, that are in disagreement. The Missouri courts decided who was right and who was wrong in the preliminary motions linked to above.

For those who condemn Dr. Klouda for filing a cause of action against SWBTS do you also condemn the Missouri Baptist Convention, Michael Whitehead, Roger Moran, and others in Missouri for filing a cause of action against the Missouri Baptist Convention agencies?

(4). A Southern Baptist family lost their marine son in the war in Iraq. The members of Westboro Baptist Church picketed the funeral of the young marine, calling his death the judgment of God for America protecting 'fags.' The family of the marine filed a suit to protect other families from undergoing the emotional trauma of having their loved one's funeral picketed by the members of Westboro Baptist Church.

For those casitgating Dr. Klouda for filing a cause of action filed against SWBTS do you also condemn this Christian families lawsuit against Westboro Baptist Church?

(5). A Southern Baptist pastor and his wife filed suit against the Arizona Baptist Foundation in an attempt to regain the $100,000 they felt the ABF stole from them. Richard A. Kimsey, pastor of Desert Valley Baptist Church in the Phoenix area, filed a suit against the BFA after he and his wife, Ann, lost $100,000 they had invested with BFA from the sale of a home in Georgia following their move to Phoenix in March. In their suit, they contend BFA current and former officers took investment sales “pyramided into a Ponzi scheme in which the mountain of debt could be sustained only by selling new notes and persuading investors to roll old notes into new investment.”

This suit is one of only several dozen filed over the Ponzi scheme that eventually found executives of the BFA sent to prison.

For those castigating Dr. Klouda for filing a cause of action against SWBTS do you also condemn the suit of Pastor Richard Kimsey?

(6). The Arizona Baptist Convention participated in lawsuit filed by Southern Baptists against the now defunct Arthur Anderson accounting firm

The ABP reported on the class action lawsuit:

In a civil trial underway alleging that Andersen aided and abetted fraud by ignoring red flags and continuing to issue clean audits, a national accountant said Andersen failed to investigate signs the Foundation was in trouble between 1997 and 1998.

Dan Guy, a director of the American Society of Certified Accountants, accused Andersen of an "unpardonable" breach of accounting standards. A 1997 audit report of Foundation accounts "falls below the minimum accounting standards" and "should never have been released," he testified.

Guy, who studied Andersen case files in the audit, said an auditing team failed to investigate charges of financial misconduct, issuing a clean bill of health. At the least, he said, auditors should have tested the Foundation's ability to operate as a going concern, which likely would have disclosed its shaky finances.

He said Andersen missed red flags, including warnings by one of its own accountants, an anonymous call to its Chicago office and a series of investigative newspaper articles quoting former BFA employees.

About 40 spectators, mostly BFA investors, were turned away from the small courtroom April 30, the first full day of proceedings after jury selection, because there was no room to sit. Court officials set up a waiting area on Wednesday to admit spectators on a first-come basis.

Media covering the trial, which has drawn increased interest in light of similarities with allegations being made against Andersen in the Enron collapse, included the New York Times, Washington Post, Dow Jones and Bloomberg.

For those criticizing Dr. Klouda's cause of action against Southwestern Theological Seminary, do you also condemn this suit against Arthur Anderson? By the way, Arthur Anderson was founded by an evangelical Christian.

7). Dred Scott, a Christian African slave who lived in the United States filed a lawsuit in 1857 against other Christians who upheld the concept of slavery. Dred Scott filed suit twelve years after the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately handed down the landmark Dred Scott decision, ruling that the drafters of the Constitution had viewed all blacks as “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

The Dred Scott decision, which helped spur the Civil War, was eventually overturned by the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution as blacks won the right to be counted as citizens and to benefit from the American judicial system. Was Dred Scott wrong in filing suit?

For those who condemn Dr. Klouda for filing a cause of action, do you also condemn Dred Scott's decision to file a lawsuit in an attempt to gain citizenship, a lawsuit which eventually led to the end of slavery in the United States?


I do not feel comfortable criticising those Christians cited above who decided to file lawsuits against fellow Christians. In most of the seven illustrations you have Southern Baptists filing suits against fellow Southern Baptists. My inclination is to believe that the suits were a the last resort in attempts to get people to keep their word, and to not break binding contracts, and I am in no position to say that any of the above Southern Baptists violated the 'will of God' or 'the Word of God.'

I call for those who wish to condemn Dr. Klouda to at least be consistent in their writings and posts and condemn the others I've mentioned as well. As for me, I will trust my brothers and sisters in Christ who feel led to involve the courts to hold others accountable to their word, and I shall refrain from issuing any condemnation.

In the end, justice will be served. That's why God ordains authority - to protect the righteous and punish the wrongdoer.

He has a way of insuring that happens.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Saturday, March 10, 2007

I'm Both Sad and Glad Over Klouda vs. SWBTS

Most everyone has heard by now that Dr. Sheri Klouda has filed a cause of action against Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, President Paige Patterson and Chairman of the Trustees Van McClain. There are few Southern Baptists, in defense of Dr. Patterson and SWBTS, that are making the claim that no Christian should ever file a lawsuit for any reason. I find it ironic that some who argue this position only decry a cause of action with which they disagree, but remain strangely silent on those suits with which they agree in principle.

A well known and highly respected Southern Baptist pastor has done a fine job articulating a very balanced Scriptural position on going to court. One of his conclusions from his textual and interpretative work on I Corinthians 6 is that "Christians are free, maybe even responsible for the use of those courts in matters that clarify legalities and criminal matters that are beyond the reach of congregations.It speaks of a high submission to the powers ordained of God."

Ultimately, it matters not what you or I think about what Dr. Klouda has done in filing the cause of action. There will be a determination of a twelve member jury on whether or not seminary policy, and/or federal law, and/or contracts have been broken. If a wrong has occurred that has led to harm, it would be immoral for those able to bring about correction to not seek to rectify that wrong and make restitution. Repentance and restoration is at the heart of the Christian ethic.

Why I'm Sad About Klouda vs. Southwestern

(1). I'm sad that after numerous and repeated attempts to personally contact the parties involved weeks ago, not one person at SWBTS responded to my hand written notes, personal phone messages, or correspondence when this matter could have been resolved early on -- and now, it is impossible for those same parties to speak with either Dr. Klouda or myself without attorneys present.

(2). I'm sad that there are those in leadership at SWBTS who still don't understand that the Klouda issue began as nothing more, nothing less, than a pastor fulfilling a vow he made over a year ago that he would no longer sit by, uninterested and unengaged, as 'the little guys' in the SBC, who have often been used and abused, are run over by a political machine that seems to pay little attention to Christian principles and grace.

(3). I'm sad that some will fall into the trap of choosing sides based upon who they believe are 'hurt' the most by this cause of action. Some will believe those hurt the most by this suit are Dr. Klouda and her husband Pinky and their daughter with their mounting medical and home bills. Others believe it to be Dr. Patterson because of his concerns over the fallout at his institution and his seeming detoriating health. While a few will side with Dr.Van McClain because of his painful and mounting worries that his public statements after the Klouda issue broke, spoken with a genuine desire to protect the institution, might be proven false and ultimately harmful to the very institution he so desires to protect.

(4). I'm sad that the SBC will be distracted from our mission to share the gospel with the world while we seek to resolve a conflict over a controversial 'lapse of parameters' regarding the non-essential issue of a woman teaching Hebrew to men. This controversy began when a woman was denied the right to tenure defense and review solely because of her gender. I'm sad that we seem to be more concerned right now in the SBC with a person's gender than we are a person's lostness.

(5). I'm sad if the courts find SWBTS guilty of those charges enumerated within the cause of action, SWBTS might possibly face continuing consequences with the EEOC, the national accrediting agency for seminaries and universities, and possibly the SBC herself. The ramifications of the outcome of this cause of action are potentially enormous. I'm sad that, if that happens, then those that will be blamed are the ones who brought the Klouda problem to the light, rather than those who caused the Klouda problem in the first place.

Why I'm Glad About Klouda vs. Southwestern

(1). I'm glad Dr. Klouda will possibly find a satisfactory resolution to her wrongful and harmful removal -- a resolution that was not coming via the preferred means of private dialogue.
(2). I'm glad SBC educators will think twice before removing a woman for gender and that might be an encouragement to the young ladies now in seminary.
(3). I'm glad Southern Baptist people might begin to realize that you can stand up to the system.
(4). I'm glad Southern Baptists might discover the necessity of talking through disagreements rather than 'choosing sides' and ignoring those who aren't on yours.
(5). I'm glad elected leaders in the SBC will stop narrowing - by personal fiat - the doctrinal parameters of cooperation among SBC churches.

I am praying for all the participants in this issue.

I believe God can ultimately bring good come from it all.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Not Every Difficult Problem Has An Easy Solution

Ruth A.M. Ross B.A. LL.B. is a lawyer and the Executive Director of Christian Legal Fellowship (CLF), a national not-for-profit association of legal professionals in Canada. CLF, among other functions, explores the complex interrelationships between the practice and theory of law and Christian faith. The Fellowship has some 475 active members from several dozen Christian denominations working together to integrate Christian faith with law.

In a paper entitled When Christians Should/Could Sue Executive Director Ross makes the following statement:

Christians often disagree over how to apply 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. We cannot state categorically that this passage rules out all lawsuits between Chistians today. Reality dictates that there will be times when Christians will be involved in law suits, either at their institution or because they have been sued. While no one enjoys the conflict of court proceedings, in some cases it may be necessary. However, before commencing legal action, it is recommended that a number of conditions be met.

Ross identifies and elaborates on the following conditions that should be met before a cause of action is filed:

(1). Listen to the counsel of your church leaders and other wise spiritual overseers.
(2). Make sure your actions in pursuing the lawsuit are consistent with Scripture.
(3). Remember not all “rights” are Biblically based.
(4). Count the cost.
(5). Weigh the importance of this matter in the light of eternity.
(6). Consider how you prefer to spend or invest your time.
(7). Explore alternate methods to settle the matter quickly.
(8). Examine the attitude of your heart.
(9). Consider your ways.

It would seem that before we make a negative judgment, or speak a critical word, against a brother or sister in Christ who feels led to file a cause of action, we should at least know the answers to the above questions from the perspective of the one involved in legal recourse.

Until then, it seems the best course of action for those of us not involved would be to remember that God 'holds the heart of the judge in the palm of His hand, and he turns it whether so ever he will' and thank Him that He will ultimately make all things right.

In His Grace,


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

What the World Needs Now Is Christ

One of the best special guests we have ever hosted at Emmanuel Baptist Church is columnist Cal Thomas. Rachelle and I found Cal to be humble, very direct in his speech, and quite vocal about his love for Christ and his desire for his friends - and the world in general - to know the life transforming power of Christ. I have always enjoyed reading Cal's columns in the newspapers, but I now appreciate even more his written thoughts after observing first hand the character of the man behind the words.

Recently I came across a four year old column where Cal enunciated what I have felt for long time has been a common misunderstanding the west has regarding the religion of Islam. In this column, Cal was commenting on a speech given by Colin Powell.

In his address to a group of Arab and Israeli students gathered in Maine at a "Seeds of Peace" camp, Colin Powell lapsed into a familiar view of humankind: "It is important that you get to know more about each other ... (to) get a better understanding of the concerns, the anxieties, the anguish, the fears, the hopes, the dreams that other young people such as you have regardless of what language you speak or what country you come from or (what) religion you hold."

This one sentence exposes the central flaw in Western thinking that our enemies skillfully exploit. It isn't "regardless" of religion. It is because of religion that the battle continues with only occasional letup to allow the killers to rearm. Three weeks at summer camp will not deter a people whose faith is in a god many of their religious leaders believe wants a shotgun marriage between mosque and state. Many of them are taught that the heavenly kingdom and the earthly one are linked and that it is their job to eliminate "infidels" who don't see as they do. No one who understands the substance behind this battle and the unchanging objectives of those who fight it could possibly believe that such a religious vision will be modified by "infidel" diplomats.

While American leaders mouth platitudes, Palestinian TV broadcast a music video (two days prior to the latest homicide bombings) that reinforced the doctrine that heavenly rewards await all who die for Allah. The video begins with scenes depicting a romance cut short when Israeli soldiers shoot the woman in the back. She immediately goes to heaven, where she joins other young women dressed in identical long white gowns --- the "Maidens of Paradise." The maidens are dancing in water, a clear depiction of the afterlife in Islamic tradition. Later in the video, the man attempts to visit the woman's grave and soldiers also shoot him in the back. He is transported to heaven where he is reunited with the woman.

That's why the war on terror continues, not because of land, but because of the promise of paradise. What political doctrine can compete with that?

Known murders committed by Islamic extremists and terrorists for the past three months are listed here. An eye opening website detailing 'the religion of peace' is located here.

There is no political doctrine that can compete with the above. Our only hope for a world where people love one another, accept each other, and work to bring about a common good is for there to be a Great Awakening like that of the 1800's -- with only one difference: it needs to encompass the entire world, and not just colonial America. Our world needs Christ. Real peace only comes when the love that Christ gives to his people indwells an overwhelming majority of the people who are living. God has the power to change the hearts of those committed to terror and religion by force and to bring reformation to this world through the preaching of the gospel.

I pray He will.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Are You Kidding? Please, Tell Me You Are.

Dr. Van McClain is reported to have told The Southern Baptist TEXAN today that:

"If the board officers (of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) cannot come to an agreement with trustee Dwight McKissic, they may recommend to the SBC meeting in San Antonio this June that he be removed from the board.

Dr. McClain said this action might be taken because there are

" . . . concerns about the manner in which McKissic has expressed his disagreement regarding board actions and seminary policies. The board chairman also claims McKissic has inappropriately used confidential material sent to him as a trustee in advance of the board’s Oct. 16-17 meeting."

When asked to be specific about the charges of breach of confidentiality Dr. McClain

" . . . declined to describe the specific nature of the confidential material but said that McKissic would be made aware of the specifics if he attends the private meeting with board officers April 2."

You must be kidding me. Dr. McClain has gone public with 'breach of confidentiality' charges against Dwight McKissic, but has not even told Dwight McKissic himself what the specifics of the charges are? I find this reprehensible conduct by any board chairman. Does anybody else see the absurdity of this action?

Of course, I have little confidence in Dr. McClain at this time. Dr. McClain publicly ridiculed my post on Dr. Sheri Klouda, claiming it was 'filled with inaccuracies.' When I challenged Dr. McClain to show me the 'inaccuracies' he responded with a one sentence email four days later - "The vote for Dr. Klouda was not unanimous." I then asked to see the minutes of the board meeting in which Dr. Klouda was hired, and after being stonewalled for several weeks, I have now received verification from the minutes where it is actually recorded that in the plenary session of the full board a unanimous vote occurred in the hiring of Dr. Klouda onto the faculty of SWBTS.

Dr. McClain must not have been paying very close attention to events this past year in the SBC. Had he been, he would not have even contemplated making ridiculous, unsubstantiated charges without being able to back them up. That kind of action will always eventually backfire, and the very man you seek to discredit will become the man who will ultimately bring about the change that is necessary.

The article says Dr. McClain is not hopeful for a 'resolution' with Dwight McKissic because

“We tried to set up a private meeting with him in accordance with our constitution and bylaws,” McClain said. “He refused to come to this confidential meeting unless certain conditions were met, and basically the conditions he wanted would be such that it would no longer be a private meeting between the trustees.”

Dr. McClain, were the conditions requested by Dwight McKissic for this private meeting with the Executive Committee of SWBTS the following?

(1). A request that two trustees of the Southwestern Baptist Theologicial Seminary Board who are not on the Executive Committee -- trustees of Dwight's choice -- be present, and one non-trustee by the name of Dr. Jimmy Draper be asked to attend the meeting?
(2). A request that the specific charges against Dwight, in detail, be given to him in writing prior to the 'private' meeting so that Dwight would not be blindsided with charges while in the meeting?
(3). A request that a tape recording of the private, closed door meeting be made as a precaution against any officer of the Board, or Dwight himself, making any future public statements to the press about what happened in the meeting that would be in contradiction to the actual events that transpired behind closed doors?

Again, were these the requests Dwight made to you Dr. McClain? If so, please be aware that he had asked me when you 'invited' him to a 'closed door' meeting to discuss 'inappropriate' trustee behavior that this is exactly what I told him I would do if I were in his shoes. If these are the reasons you are now refusing to meet with him privately, you ought to be ashamed. The above conditions are a protection for both the board and Dr. McKissic, and no Christian should ever shy away from them.

The TEXAN article closes with this paragraph:

"If Southwestern’s board officers recommend McKissic’s removal, and if the convention does vote to remove him during their June annual meeting in San Antonio, it would be the first time a board member has been involuntarily removed from an SBC agency board."

Dwight, that will not happen. The process you are about to go through is difficult, but there is no way under the sun a convention filled with autonomous churches, independent people, and thousands of friends that you possess in Texas will ever remove you. We have trustees who have embezzled, some have been immoral, and a few have even been sent to prison -- all having done horrific, ungodly things -- and yet never in the 161 year history has the convention forced the removal of a trustee. What have you done, Dwight, besides doing your best to bring accountability to the agency you serve?

By the way, only two SBC trustees have ever been offically threatened with removal. Allow me to give you some friendly, personal advice. Don't give in to bullying. Stand true to your convictions. Continue to be gracious and kind to those who would seek to ridicule you and disparage you. Recognize that you will be accused of everything short of assassinating President Kennedy, but never forget, once those who are in charge realize that you will be able to defend yourself before the entire Southern Baptist Convention, the 'charges' against you will be dropped faster a judge's gavel at the close of sentencing. It is unfortunate that you, Dwight -- a wonderful pastor, family man, Southern Baptist missions and theological education supporter -- are now being maligned. I know you do not like conflict. I know your desire is to live at peace with every man. But you must recognize that change always involves pain for someone. It is your desire for all actions of Southwestern and the SBC to hold up under the scrutiny of every Cooperative Program giving church and individual in the SBC. That is a noble cause, and for this reason, your message will eventually be heard.

In His Grace,


Saturday, March 03, 2007

A Fifteen Year Honeymoon for this Pastor's Family

Emmanuel Baptist Church, Enid, Oklahoma
Sunday, March 2, 1992 - Sunday, March 4, 2007

Fifteen years ago today, the first Sunday of March, Rachelle and I began our ministry at the greatest Southern Baptist Church in Oklahoma. When we came our oldest child was in kindergarden and our youngest child had not yet been born. Now, fifteen years later our oldest is at Baylor in Waco and our youngest is in junior high. Our children will forever call Enid home.

I am reminded that in the old days pastors would often stay with their congregations for life. Spurgeon was at the Metropolitan Tabernacle for nearly four decades. John Gill was at Horsleydown for over fifty years. Benjamin Keach pastored his church for over fifty years as well. These 18th and 19th century English Baptist pastors are excellent models for those of us who are surrounded by modern examples of two year average pastorates in the United States.

The advantage of staying with a congregation for a long period of time is that you get to know families. You marry their children, you bury their parents. You are with God's people in both their good times and their bad times. You see people saved and you stay around long enough to see them lead others to Christ. You develop deep relationships that go beyond the surface. In fact, I am hard pressed to come up with any negatives for a long tenure of a pastor.

Of course, for a fifteen year ministry to feel like it is a continuing honeymoon, the people of the church have to be like those at Emmanuel The kindness, support and generosity of Emmanuelites to the Burleson family will never be forgotten nor able to be repaid. We carry our debt with gratitude, for as the Apostle Paul states, 'Owe no man anything save love.' The Burlesons make no bones about the fact we are in the deep debt of love to the people of Emmanuel.

I pray you have a wonderful Lord's day today. I know we will as we thank God for Emmanuel.

In His Grace,


Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Conference on the Spirit You'll Never Forget

On April 27-29, 2007, a Friday through Sunday, the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Arlington, Texas will host A Baptist Conference on The Holy Spirit. The purpose of this conference is to explore and examine the unity and diversity in Baptist life as it relates to the Holy Spirit and His gifts and to become more intimately acquainted with Him through worship and the study of God’s Word. This unique conference is designed to gather Baptist and evangelicals to learn more about the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and to experience the person and power of the Holy Spirit, as we worship and study God’s Word together in “spirit and in truth.”

There will be several keynote speakers including one of my favorite Southern Baptists teachers and theologians of all time, Dr. Sam Storms. Complete information about the conference can be found here. I would encourage you to make plans to attend. Rachelle and I are looking forward to staying through Sunday, and I anticipate that, unlike some conferences on the Holy Spirit I have attended, we will not just hear about Him, we will experience His presence.

Let me show you what I mean.

One of the lead worship leaders for this conference is a man by the name of Daniel Brymer. We have had the pleasure of Daniel leading in worship at Emmanuel during a Bible Conference with Sam Storms. For the first time that I can recall, our church experienced what others would term 'prophetic singing.' This occurs during a time the worship time when a leader of the worship is inspired to begin singing a song of worship that is neither written or prepared ahead of time. The song "My Word Is Sure" is a prophetic song sung during a worship time led by Daniel Brymer. Click on the link and listen to it. It is quite moving, and remember, it is sung during the worship service with no preparation. Nobody had even heard the song before, including the singer and the musicians.

This next song, "Let Your Healing Flow," is written by Daniel Brymer and is being used by God around the world to minister to people the grace and love of Jesus Christ. I like Daniel Brymer because he is Baptist in his beliefs and adheres to sovereign grace, but more important he is a very humble man. One of our Southern Baptist churches asked him recently to be their senior pastor, but Daniel feels called to an intinerate worship ministry. He will be leading us in worship at Arlington.

These are the kinds of people who will be at A Baptist Conference on the Holy Spirit in Arlingon, Texas this April 27-29. We will be joined by hundreds from Dwight McKissic's church as well, and I would anticipate that it will be a weekend you will never forget.

I hope to see you there.