Friday, June 29, 2007

From Church to Battlefield to Museum: A Parable

Trennis Henderson, Editor of The Western Recorder, the Kentucky Baptist Convention's paper, has done all Southern Baptists a favor in this editorial where he pulls together different comments by various editorial collegues on the San Antonio Southern Baptist Convention. The article is well worth the time it will take you to read it.

One quote caused me to pause and think about the consequences of people taking sides in the SBC and seeing brothers and sisters on the other 'side' as 'opponents.'

'Dr. Daniel Sanchez, a professor of missions at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, is a native of San Antonio. One day the missions professor and I were discussing the Alamo, situated only a few blocks from the Henry B. Gonzales Convention where we were meeting. He said, “You know, the Alamo was once a church, then a battlefield; and now, it is a museum."'
. . . Gerald Harris, Editor, Georgia Christian Index

May we as Southern Baptists see ourselves truly as brothers and sisters of the same family and refuse the temptation to view each other as opponents.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Add A Title to Capture the Essence of the Photo

A Thank You Note from the Sheri Klouda Family

Today our Finance Office will send a check for $11,545 from the Klouda Benevolence Fund which represents gifts from Southern Baptists all over the United States these past ten days. The appeal to assist the Kloudas with over $20,000 in medical and moving debts was made on June 18th and your swift response is testimony to the loving hearts of Sothern Baptists. Sheri Klouda, on behalf of her family, offers the following public 'thank you' to all who have so far contributed.

June 28, 2007

Fellow Believers in Christ:

On behalf of the Klouda family, I cannot begin to express our overwhelming gratitude and amazement at the generosity of so many brothers and sisters. We were actually speechless when we received Pastor Wade's call telling us of the response of so many of you. We want to assure you that these gifts will be well spent as we meet the challenges of coming days.

I would have written sooner, but we received word this morning that it is possible we will not be allowed to rent this faculty house next year, and that we may have to move in the next 30 days or so. Please pray with us even now that this misunderstanding will be worked out. Apparently, somewhere the line of communications broke down within the administration.

In the meantime, we are arranging Pinky's chemical stress test during one of the automobile plant shutdowns. Part of your gift will pay the deductibles for this test, and to pay off previous medical bills that accrued in the last few months. Once the stress test can be evaluated, we will know where Pinky stands and what other procedures will be necessary. (He worries me as he is sleeping any time that he is not working). In addition, your gifts will send Abbey to camp, pay off overdue utility bills, and provide income during the plant shutdowns and compensate for work time lost if Pinky needs to undergo further tests.

We are at a loss for words, however, I want you to know that the blessings you have brought us reinforce my teenage daughter's faith in Christians as generally good people who care deeply about others and seek to express that faith in deeds. I did not realize there were so many folks out there who are troubled by my circumstances, and some of the other developments within Southern Baptist life, and who diligently try to hold up others who have gone through difficulties as the result of fellow Baptists.

May the Lord bless you richly for your generosity and prayers; though we don't know many of you, we feel as if you are an extended family who understands all of the conflicting emotions we are experiencing. We pray that we may be able to show Christ's love for others in tangible ways, both in resources and service, just as you have shown towards us.

To God Be the Glory,

The Klouda Family

I told you I would keep you informed of the money that has been raised. I wish to also express my own deeply felt gratitude for your generosity to the Kloudas. I will continue to keep you posted as needed.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Creative Genius in the Southern Baptist Convention

We who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ for the salvation of our souls affirm the eternal, unchangeable nature of the gospel message. However, the methods by which this unchangeable message is delivered to others should constantly be evaluated and creatively changed for the advancement of the kingdom at large. If local churches, the Southern Baptist Convention and evangelicals in general REFUSE to constantly adapt our methods in proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ, neglect the necessary emphasis on ministry creativity, and deny anyone the freedom to stretch traditional and established models of gospel ministry, we will find ourselves trapped in a crystallized methodology that dooms our effectiveness in reaching a world in need of a Savior.

It is interesting to note that in both the study of mathematics and gospel doctrine one learns precise systems of thought with established, constant truths that never change (at least from my conservative theological viewpoint). In this post I would like to examine the education of the great physicist and mathematician Albert Einstein and ask this question:

'What kind of environment is needed for great thinkers and theologians to arise out of the Southern Baptist Convention who possess the creative genius to lead us into new and even more effective methodologies of gospel ministry?'

Until Albert Einstein was seventeen years old he was educated in the German schools of Munich. Most German schools, including Albert's, were run with a Prussian sense of military style and efficiency. The students were like privates while the teachers acted as authoritarian officers. Learning was regimented and mechanical with an emphasis on rote memorization and repetitive lessons. Rewards were based on conformity and any creative learning was stifled.

Einstein struggled.

Albert found the style of teaching - rote drills, impatience with questioning, and corporate conformity - to be repugnant. His beloved sister, Maja, made this observation of Einstein's feelings:

"The military tone of the school, the systematic training in the worship of authority that was supposed to accustom pupils at an early age to military discipline, was particularly unpleasant."

According to biographer Walter Isaacson, in his recently published book simply entitled Einstein, Albert developed a deep contempt for the authoritarian style and militarist atmosphere of German schools. One day when troops in a parade marched down the street where Einstein lived, and all the children came pouring out of their apartments to watch, Einstein refused to join in. He told his parents . . .

When I grow up, I don't want to be one of those poor people. When a person can take pleasure marching in step to a piece of music it is enough to make me despise him. He has been given his big brain only by mistake.

The Reason Einstein Began to Flourish Academically

In 1895, when Einstein was seventeen, his family moved to Switzerland for reasons associated with his father's business. Einstein enrolled at the cantonal school in the village of Aarau before his entrance into the Zurich Polytechnic School.

Aaru was a perfect school for Einstein. According to Isaacson,

The teaching was based on the philosophy of a Swiss educational reformer of the early nineteenth century, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, who believed in encouraging students to visualize images. He also thought it important to nurture the 'inner dignity' and individuality of each child. Students should be allowed to reach their own conclusions, Pestalozzi preached, by using a series of steps that began with hands-on observations and then proceeded to intuitions, conceptual thinking, and visual imagery. It was even possible to learn - and truly understand - the laws of math and physics that way. Rote drills, memorization, and force-fed facts were avoided.

Einstein loved Aarau. Maja, Einstein's sister, said of the school,

Pupils were treated individually. More emphasis was placed on independent thought than on punditry, and young people saw the teacher not as a figure of authority, but, alongside the student, a man of distinct personality.

It was the exact opposite of the German instruction Einstein hated. His love for Swiss education and the freedom of individuality eventually led Einstein to renounce his German citizenship. Of course, the German system of worshipping human authority eventually led to the rise of one of the world's worst dictators just a four decades later.

Einstein later said of his year at Aarau,

When compared to six years' schooling at a German authoritarian gymnasium, Aarau made me clearly realize how much superior an education based on free action and personal responsibility is to one relying on outward authority.

Application to the Southern Baptist Convention

(1). Young evangelical pastors and leaders need an atmosphere where they are free to think and flourish in their own, individual, and creative way according to the manner in which God has gifted each of them.

(2). Demands to submit to authoritarian control through mental assent to force-fed facts or truths, and demands for blind allegiance to established systems of denominational structure will thwart any sense of creativity and possibly restrict new and more effective means for accomplishing even greater Christian ministry.

(3). The discovery and advancement of more effective methodologies in missions ministry comes from hands-on experience of Southern Baptists who are actually doing missions rather than Southern Baptists who are hearing about missions.

(4). If young evangelical pastors and leaders ever get a taste of the freedom to do ministry as they visualize it needs to be done, but feel attacked or threatened by older mentors, they will eventually renounce their allegiance for, and membership in, the Southern Baptist Convention.

(5). The threat to the Southern Baptist Convention does not come from more freedom given to her members, but rather, the tightening of parameters and the authoritarian control that stifles creativity in missions and ministry.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Monday, June 25, 2007

Letting Go of All Our Affections for This World

Very few people, even those who live in Oklahoma, appreciate the great Baptist heritage of our state. Shortly after the formation of The General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States in 1814, a thirty-year-old missionary, named Isaac McCoy, petitioned the convention for appointment by the Board to be a missionary to the Indians. Fifteen years later Isaac would plant the first Baptist church in Oklahoma.

The General Missionary Convention, later known as the Triennial Convention because it met every three years, appointed Isaac McCoy in 1816 as a missionary to the northern 'wild' Indians of Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky and Illinois. Just a few years later, in 1828, the United States government took notice of the effectiveness Isaac had in both evangelizing and educating the northern Indians and called upon McCoy to survey the uncharted territory 'west' of Arkansas for a permanent home for the 'red man.' With the Board's approval, McCoy moved to the western edge of Missouri and, with the assistance of his son John Calvin, established his base at 'Westport' Missouri for the future relocation of the Indians to 'a permanent Canaan.' While some historians view the relocation of the Indians as a 'tragic' black mark in American history, both McCoy and the Indians felt it was best to relocate to a homeland where the Indians could progress as a people without interference from the white man as was happening in the east. The United States government would later break her promise to the Indians of a 'permanent' homeland in punishment for siding with the Confederates during the Civil War, but the initial relocation of the Indians to Oklahoma has been called by even some Indian historians in Oklahoma as 'the golden age' of Indian civilization.

Isaac McCoy had no formal education, but he gained both the respect and friendship of U.S. President John Quincy Adams, and later U.S. President Andrew Jackson. The manner in which he administered the move of the eastern and northern Indians to the territory of the red man (Oklahoma Territory), is a study in classic Christian leadership and the ability to overcome any obstacle. Oklahoma is the Choctaw Indian word for 'red man' and Oklahoma Territory, as surveyed by this Baptist missionary and pastor Isaac McCoy, became the place where the United States Government would eventually move the 'Five Civilized Tribes' from Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and over sixty 'wild' Indian tribes from other states both north and east of Oklahoma Territory.

Isaac McCoy's Mission to Convert the Indians

Isaac's mission and ministry responsibilities were almost unbearable from a human perspective. Imagine traveling from north to south, east to west, both during the scorching long days of summer and the freezing short days of winter, charting the Oklahoma Territory for the United States Government, all the while ministering to the dozens of tribes with whom he had developed close relationships. McCoy had a special fondness for the 'wild' Indians (like the Ottowas, Sac and Fox, Osage, etc . . . ), but his influence was unsurpassed by any white man in the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole and Chickasaw) as well. McCoy's base of operations at Westport would eventually transform and become what we know today as Kansas City, Missouri. He single-handedly and temporarily stopped the Mormons in their migration westward. McCoy feared the Mormons' warped theology would corrupt the orthodox Christian missionary work being done in Kansas and Oklahoma Territory. The Mormons resented McCoy's authority over the soldiers who blocked their path west and called him a 'terrible sectarian,' but they eventually gave up in their attempt to pass through Western Kansas (Kansas: home of the Kanzaws or 'Kaw' Indians) and they set up shop across the river in Independence, Missouri. Only later did a break off sect of the Mormons make it to Salt Lake City -- after Isaac McCoy's death. In addition to his work at Westport and the Shawnee Mission, Isaac McCoy traveled in the 1820's and 1830's throughout Oklahoma. He made several trips on horseback to Washington D.C. and was often gone from his family for many months at a time. The first Baptist church in Oklahoma was founded just north of the modern town of Muskogee in eastern Oklahoma by Isaac McCoy on September 9, 1832. The charter members of that church, called the 'Muscogee Baptist Church, Ebenezer Station,' included a Creek Indian named John Davis (who himself was ordained the pastor of Muscogee Baptist by McCoy), a school teacher named David Lewis, and three slaves.

Isaac would devote his life to missions for the cause and glory of Christ among the Indians. I am amazed that David Brainard is better known than Isaac McCoy, but I believe, in time, that will change. Baptists, particularly Southern Baptists, shall become more familiar with the incredible missionary work of Isaac McCoy through books that are now taking advantage of the research available by reading the voluminous personal papers of McCoy, which until recently, were under lock and key at the world famous Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

A Biography on McCoy You Must Have

Dr. George Ella, a member of Emmanuel, Enid and a dear personal friend of mine, has now written the definitive biographical work on the life and ministry of Isaac McCoy. His 663 page biography, published by Particular Baptist Press in 2002, reads like a work of fiction, but it has the historical accuracy and scholarship one would expect of the uber meister scholar Dr. Ella is. As I was reading (again) Ella's 'Isaac McCoy: Apostle of the Western Trail' I could not help but draw insight for my own life from this man's example. All of us who are Southern Baptists should be interested in this great missionary because he was one of the men present in Augusta, Georgia at the founding of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845. Luther Rice called McCoy 'the greatest missionary since Carey.'

McCoy died June 21, 1846 and was buried in Western Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Here in Oklahoma, at institutions of higher learning like Bacone College, buildings and halls are named in McCoy's honor. His influence in our state is unparalleled by any Baptist since. I would encourage anyone interested in studying the life and ministry of a great Southern Baptist missionary to order Dr. Ella's book.

In doing research for my trip yesterday to the mission stations of McCoy in eastern Oklahoma, I came across the following letter penned by McCoy after the death of his eldest daughter, fourteen-year-old Mahale. She had died of typhus fever while serving on the field with her parents among the wild Indians. His daughter would be one of eleven children that Isaac and his wife Cristiana would lose to death. Only three of their fourteen children would survive to an old age.

McCoy wrote the following about the death of his daughter (I've updated it to modern English to make it easier to read):

We believe that Mahale's death is sanctified to our benefit. It has induced us with less reluctance to let go of the hold which our affections had upon people and things in the regions of civilized society. We have been enabled to trust all -- our children, ourselves, and all our interests -- to God.

When we thought about taking up residence with the Indians in their country, we felt great anxiety on account of Mahale; our other children were young, but she was old enough to cause us to desire that she enjoy the benefit of a good school and live in a good society. Though we did not want to keep her in the woods, it seemed impossible for us to leave her in a place where she could be comfortable and receive a good education -- we had no financial means to provide this favorable situation for her.

But our Heavenly Father, by one stroke (her death), has taught us not to feel undue anxiety for anything on earth, not even for our children . . . The day she died I wrote in my journal the words of the Psalmist: "I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." Our children may be hurt by living with us among the Indians in their native country, but they might have become worthless had they been brought up in what others call 'good society.' The additional risk to them for living among the Indians will be more than balanced by the mercy of Him who has called us all to labour there. This confidence in God has not been disappointed: and we mention it here, for the encouragement of other missionaries who may realize painful anxieties on account of their children while resident among the heathen people."

To order Dr. Ella's book 'Isaac McCoy: Apostle of the Western Trail' contact:

Particular Baptist Press
2766 W. FR 178
Springfield, Missouri 65810

Here's praying we all are able to let go of our worldly affections like Isaac McCoy.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Friday, June 22, 2007

Baptist Bloggers: Beware of Bloggers' Bitter Bile

Joe Klein offers his commentary in the June 18, 2007 edition of TIME magazine on the subject of the ever increasing bitter attacks against him by liberal bloggers for his attempt to present a moderate view on the war in Iraq. Klein is a writer that is not usually seen as a fan of the Bush administration, but he has defended the need for funding the Iraq war, not because he is in favor of it, but in order to ensure our troops are properly equipped.

Klein has become the target of very fierce rhetoric and ad hominem attacks by liberal bloggers. Again, though Klein himself is considered to be a political liberal, to the liberal fundamentalists who blog, Klein is not liberal enough. Klein says of the attacks by his usually like-minded bloggers . . .

The smart stuff is being drowned out by a fierce bullying, often witless tone of intolerance that has overtaken the left-wing sector of the blogospher.

Klein's words would be appropriate for any end of fundamentalism -- either liberal or conservative. He continues . . .

Anyone who doesn't move in lockstep with the most extreme voices is savaged and ridiculed -- especially people like me who often agree with the liberal position but sometimes disagree and are therefore considered traitorously unreliable.

One of the things that deeply pains me is the attack that comes from my fellow conservatives in the Southern Baptist Convention when there are minor disagreements on methodology or minor doctrines. The very intense rhetoric that breaks out, including charges of leniency on homosexuality, desires for rampant feminism, and a movement downstream toward deadly liberalism against those who disagree with certain SBC leaders is unwarranted. Twenty-seven years ago that kind of tactic worked, but the average Southern Baptist today is much better informed and connected.

I am hopeful that all of us Southern Baptists who blog will ban the bloggers' bile that has infected the secular world. We who name Christ as Lord and Savior should set the example for disagreeing with both grace and civility.

In His Grace,


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The World Is Flat: SBC Participation Via The Net

I am working on a proposal that I hope to present to the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee within the next year that will allow people to participate in the Southern Baptist Convention without having to travel to the city or the arena where the Southern Baptist Convention will actually be held.

Debbie Kaufman, a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church here in Enid, Oklahoma and the blogger extraordinaire of Thoughts of a Christian Woman, was voted by our church to be a messenger to the 2007 San Antonio SBC. However, due to the fact she and her husband felt that it was cost prohibitive for her to attend the convention, Debbie had to regretfully say she could not attend. Debbie determined to watch the live internet broadcast of the Southern Baptist Convention from gavel to gavel from her home to see if she could easily follow the business before the body, understand the recommendations and the debate taking place on the platform and floor, and literally feel as if she could be a part of the convention without physically being there.

She could.

Debbie blogged after every 2007 SBC session, giving a synopsis of what had just happened, and offering an excellent analysis of the significance of each election and vote. She had a total of Ten Posts on the Southern Baptist Convention, with this post serving as an example of her ability to clearly perceive events taking place hundreds of miles away.

316 Networks is the company that broadcasts the Southern Baptist Convention live via the internet. Our church has been very impressed with this Christian broadcasting company and will be launching our own live, archived, and Vidgo ('video on the go' using cellular technology) ministry with 316 Networks this fall. I recall admiring the quality of the San Antonio live broadcast when I had to leave the hall a little early to receive a phone call and watched the proceedings from my hotel room.

I have been told that over 22,000 people logged in to watch the SBC via either the 316 Network or That is nearly three times the number of people who registered for the convention and nearly ten times the number of people who actually voted during the First Vice-Presidential election. That 22,000 number will only be growing in the future, and as 316 Networks also expands, the potential is unlimited for those who wish to either observe or particpate at the SBC.

We already register messengers electronically. We are but two steps away from establishing a secure server where a messenger who watches the convention via the internet could enter his Messenger I.D. number and actually vote on the recommendations brought to the floor of the convention. I realize that the maximum number of messengers per church is ten people, but if you just assumed the average number of messengers per church in the SBC were just five, then it is possible that nearly a quarter of a million messengers could actually be elected and vote at the annual Southern Baptist Convention, representing over 45,000 Southern Baptist Churches.

I truly believe that when that many people are participating in the SBC there will be a true reflection of the desires of the majority of the people in the SBC when the votes are taken. Some of the ideas I am attempting to implement in an official proposal I intend to forward to the Executive Committee are as follows:

(1). A deadline for internet registration of the Sunday night prior to the convention. This would reduce the number of people franticially trying to register just prior to an important vote.

(2). An internet messenger orientation package emailed to all messengers who sign up via the internet to give them the schedule of the convention and helpful tips regarding using the internet voting technology.

(3). Two ideas (which I am not yet prepared to share) for providing incentives for people to actually spend the money and time to travel to the Southern Baptist Convention.

(4). Establishing an offical presence on the platform where internet monitors could receive electronic email questions during debate from those who are watching via internet broadcast. However, internet participants would not be able to participate in the parliamentary procedures of the people in the arena. There could be no motions, debate, or calling for question or 'point of orders' by those observing the live broadcast from home. However, every registered messenger watching would have the ability to vote on every recommendation before the body. Electronic tabulation would be immediate and added to the visual count in the hall.

(5). Before the first convention where electronic participation actually occurs, the SBC would make a beta, or test run, of the process at the Louisville, Kentucky Southern Baptist Convention in 2008.

The technology is available. The interest of Southern Baptists is high. The world is flat - the time is now. I am open to any suggestions on this matter as the proposal is still being formulated. I hope to be able to make the official proposal at the Southern Baptist Executive Committee meeting early next spring.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

In Honor of the Bob Clevelands of the SBC

"Christ appears not to need the Christian of great acquirements. He can glorify Himself with any of the pupils He has taught. He needs not to take one who has become most skilled or best informed, that He may show forth His praise. He does it in every one -- more in one than another -- yet He so does it in all, that all testify of Him, whom not having seen they have believed.

Let the scoffing world account for the universality of such testimony. Were it seen only in the best, it might be thought the result of virtue. Were it seen only in the wisest, it might be attributed to philosophy. Were it only in the bravest, it might be ascribed to courage. Were it only in the strongest, it might be said to be endurance. Were it only in the most faithful, it might be said to be innocence. Were it only in the unlearned, it might be said to be ignorance; but, to go no further into such particulars, which might be greatly increased, when it is seen in those without any of these advantages, but afflicted with their very contraries, to what can it be ascribed but to grace, the grace given by Christ, through whom strengthening the weakest can do all things?"

From the Discourse Delivered by Rev. James P. Boyce, D.D. Professor in the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, at the Funeral Service for Rev. Basil Manley, D.D. in Greenville, South Carolina, December 22, 1868

I first met Bob Cleveland over a year ago at the Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro, North Carolina. Bob is a Southern Baptist layman who became actively involved in attempting to make a difference in the SBC. I have a couple of stories in my file that I will one day reveal that illustrate just what an impact Bob made on the SBC in Greensboro.

But this post is dedicated to Bob because of the times he spoke at the SBC this year in San Antonio. Each time he was articulate, logical, and persuasive. I have listened to his speech regarding the BFM 2000 at least five times, and have placed the entire transcript on my blog. Bob has demonstrated to me that God doesn't just need the powerful name 'preachers' to make a difference in the SBC. As Dr. Boyce eloquently observed nearly one hundred and fifty years ago, '(T)o what can it be ascribed but to grace, the grace given by Christ.' I thank God for the great grace he has given to my friend Bob Cleveland and those Bob represents in the SBC -- people who are making a difference without having the 'name' or 'a position of honor.'

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Request to Help Dr. Sheri Klouda and Family

Many of you are aware of the forced removal of Dr. Sheri Klouda as professor of Hebrew from Southwestern Seminary because she is 'a woman in a position reserved for men.' It is my desire in this post to encourage those of you who read my blog to consider making a contribution to help Sheri and her family get through the summer months financially. A few of you were able to help a few months ago and we assisted the Kloudas in getting through the financial crises of having two house payments for six months, but the 2007 summer months have brought a new set of challenges for the Klouda family and this post is an appeal to help our sister in Christ. Our deacons at Emmanuel have officially established a benevolence fund to help the Klouda family, and any contribution to our church to assist the Kluodas will be collected, forwarded to them immediately and will be tax deductible. Details on where to send the support are at the end of this post.

As you know, the Kloudas moved to Dallas when she become Hebrew professor at Southwestern Theological Seminary to be near the hospital where Pinky requires repeated treatment for a severe heart condition. Sheri's job at Southwestern Seminary was her dream job, and her forced removal, and subsequent move to Upland, Indiana and Taylor University has brought a great deal of hardship on the Klouda family that we as Southern Baptists can help alleviate.

The Kloudas have several needs, some which are more urgent than others. While they were able to sell their home in Dallas in April, they were not able not recover any of the money they had put down on the house ($20,000). The Kloudas were forced to sell at a lower price in order to get out of the payment, and though they never intended to make a profit, they were hoping to recover some of the original down payment money to help supplement their income during this summer and to pay off some of the obligations left over from the winter months, including utility bills for January through March of about $900. The Kloudas are renting a home in Upland, Indiana, since buying another home is out of the question. In fact, Sheri borrowed additional money from her retirement during the first six months in Upland to make the house payments in Dallas.

The Kloudas biggest need is to recover financially to help them get by for at least these three summer months (June, July and August), particularly since it is possible Sheri's husband, Pinky, may have to have bypass surgery.

Pinky continues to work when there is work available, despite the need for further tests to determine the extent of his heart problems. His doctor recommended that he get a stress test as soon as possible because the doctor is extremely concerned he will have a heart attack, but this requires he take a day out of work, and possibly, lose his run to Shelbyville each day (Pinky is a truck driver).

In addition, the blood work from January and March alone left the Kloudas with a bill of $600 (after hospitalization), and they need to meet that obligation before incurring further debts to the hospital. The stress test will be covered in part by hospitalization, but the Kluodas will still have to pay a portion of the bill. Though the Kloudas have been grateful for somewhat steady work these last two months, the auto industry typically shuts down for two weeks during the summer and there will be no income during those two weeks, which is rapidly approaching. However, it is during this time that Pinky will be able to have the heart tests he needs if the money is available.

Pinky's current truck load to Shelbyville relies heavily on the schedules of GM, Chrysler, and Honda, which means the work will become sporadic throughout the summer, not including the two weeks stoppage. In addition, some of the auto makers are talking about a strike this coming September. Pinky is exhausted when he is home. He is also losing more feeling in his left hand and arm, and the neuropathy as a result of his diabetes continues to work up his legs. In years past, Dr. Klouda taught in the summer at Southwestern to supplement the Kloudas income, however, secondary hours are rare at Taylor University, where she now teaches. And of course, the salary is significantly lower.

Sheri told me she continues to look for a summer job to help out, but it seems a Hebrew professor is too qualified to work at McDonalds in Upland! In addition, there are many out of work people in Indiana due to factory closures who need those jobs.

Sheri continues to do a little editing and working on a prototype for an exegetical commentary on Isaiah, but that is long range work for which she will see no compensation for a year or so, and Abbey, the Kloudas 15 year old daughter, has been mowing lawns and babysitting so that she can go to summer camp. The Kloudas are involved in their church in Indiana, and Abbey is involved in the youth group at their church and helps Sheri in the church's ministry to unwed mothers in Marion, Indiana. I have spoken with the staff of the Kloudas church and they desire to assist as well, but their benevolence funds are limited.

Sheri has given me permission to share this information with others who have expressed concern, and I am using this blog to reach as many as possible. The Kloudas continue to trust God to provide as He so faithfully does, and they are very grateful for those Southern Baptists who helped them several months ago when they were facing a similar financial crises. Sheri misses communicating with her old colleagues and friends during this time, but she realizes they are being constrained by the institution from communicating with Sheri.

The Kloudas covet the prayers of everyone, asking specifically that we pray that Pinky might be made healthy once again, and second, that they might be able to meet the rest of their financial obligations in a timely way. A prayer for additional work for Sheri (maybe more editing, writing, and teaching?) has also been requested.

Sheri closed our conversation by saying to me, 'We have all heard about "pay it forward" and we hope some day to be in the position to help someone else who faces challenges.' Blessings, Sheri Klouda.

How You Can Help

If you would like to contribute to the Klouda Family Benevolence Fund, please send your gifts, large or small to . . .

The Klouda Benevolence Fund
c/o Emmanuel Baptist Church
2505 W. Garriott
Enid, Oklahoma, 73703

Please include your full address if you would like a tax contribution statement mailed to you at the end of the quarter. For those of you pastors who were taught by Sheri, a benelovence contribution from your church or from you personally would be especially appreciated and meaningful.

I will report to you on a regular basis what we have raised through September of this year. We Southern Baptists have generous, compassionate hearts for the needy around the world.

Now it's time to show we know how to take care of one of our own.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Statement on Southern Baptist Cooperation

It would seem to me that the central issue at the heart of the current debate within the Southern Baptist Convention is that of cooperation. Who is qualified to serve as a missionary? Who is qualified to hold the position of trustee? Who is considered worthy enough of fully cooperating in the missions and evangelism ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention? What are the doctrinal grounds of our cooperation?

It is my desire in the next few months to contribute to the discussion by offering positive, specific recommendations on how we might move forward in our desire for evangelical conservatives of all stripes in the Southern Baptist Convention to cooperate with each other in missions and evangelism ministry. Below is a copy of a possible Statement on Southern Baptist Cooperation that we might be able to use to help us unite around the essentials, give liberty in the non-essentials, and charity in all things.


The gospel is the story about Christ, God’s and David’s Son, who died and was raised and is established as Lord. We as Southern Baptists join together to proclaim the good news that God's Kingdom has come in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord and Messiah, in fulfillment of the Word of God.

The gospel we declare evokes faith, repentance and discipleship --- its accompanying effects include the forgiveness of sins, justification, reconciliation, adoption, wisdom and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Southern Baptists accompany our proclamation of the gospel with cooperative works of compassion and mercy for those in need or distress.

We strive to advance Christ’s kingdom on earth with the confession, proclamation, and application of the good news. The Bible is undoubtedly central to our cooperation, but Jesus Christ is the center of it. Therefore, we resolve to cooperate with one another, affirming the essentials of the gospel and our Baptist identity in these five doctrines:

(1). We affirm the authority, sufficiency and reliability of God’s infallible revelation to man in both His written Word and the Living Word Jesus Christ.
(2) We affirm both the full humanity and deity of Jesus Christ.
(3). We affirm Christ’s substitutionary death for sinners, His resurrection from the dead, and His gift of eternal life to all who are in relationship with Him by grace through faith.
(4). We affirm the Baptist distinctive of believer’s baptism by immersion for those who have come to personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
(5). We affirm that those apart from a relationship with Christ will face God’s judgment.

The sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Baptist Confessions, including the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, are only guides to interpreting the Bible, and have no authority over the conscience. We Baptists have historically differed in interpretation on finer points of doctrine not essential to Christian faith and Baptist identity. Yet, with all our differences on secondary issues, we as Southern Baptists desire to cooperate in ministry because of our love for the gospel.

Therefore, we intentionally put aside our differences on secondary issues for the sake of cooperative gospel ministry. We desire unity in the essentials, liberty in the non-essentials, and charity in all things. This statement of cooperation defines the necessary essentials which must be affirmed in order to participate in the cooperative ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention.

We desire to send to the world and our evangelical brethren through this statement of cooperation a sure and certain message: It is the gospel that unites Southern Baptists, and what unites us is greater than anything that might potentially divide us.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Heart Warming Story of Britain's Paul Potts

My family and I enjoy watching "American Idol." We particularly have fun cheering for people who strike us as humble, ordinary individuals who have been gifted by God with an extraordinary talent.

Great Britain has their own show called "Britain's Got Talent," produced by the same Simon Cowell of "American Idol." A young car phone salesman by the name of Paul Potts recently auditioned for the show. He has now become all the rage of Great Britain. The first video is his initial audition; the second video is his stellar semi-final appearance where he sings one of the most spine tingling performances of "Nessun Dorma" you will ever hear.

“It's amazing what ordinary people can do if they set out without preconceived notions.” Charles F. Kettering

Enjoy both videos.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Transcript of the 2007 SBC Debate Over the Motion to Adopt the Executive Committee's Statement on the Baptist Faith and Message

There are some on the losing side of the Southern Baptist Convention's vote to officially adopt the SBC Executive Committee's statement on the Baptist Faith and Message who are now saying the SBC messengers did not understand what they were voting on when they voted to officially adopt the Executive Committee's statement. Even worse, a few are so bold as to suggest that the adoption of the statement does not mean what those of us who voted for it understood it to mean. The messengers of the San Antonio Southern Baptist Convention voted to adopt the Executive Committee's statement on the BFM 2000 by a 58% majority vote. I personally think it is in poor taste to question the intelligence or wisdom of Southern Baptist messengers just because the majority did something different than the minority would have desired.

Prior to the debate on the motion to adopt the Executive Committe statement on the BFM, Dr. Morris Chapman, the President of the Executive Committee, had already given his address to the entire convention. Though I have not spoken with him about this issue, I can understand and comprehend his words. During his official report to the Convention, Dr. Chapman said:

"(1) Any practice instituted by an entity in the Southern Baptist Convention that has the force of doctrine should be in accord with the Baptist Faith and Message and not exceed its boundaries unless and until it has been approved by the Southern Baptist Convention and secondly,

(2) If an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention adopts a confession of faith separate and distinct from the Baptist Faith and Message and it includes a doctrine unsupported by our confessional statement, the entity should request approval from the Convention prior to including the doctrine in its confession."

It is my desire in this post to show the intent of the messengers when they voted for the motion to officially adopt the Executive Committee statement on the BFM. The messengers intent was to implement exactly what they had already heard the President of the Executive Committee say we needed in the SBC. Of course, an additional way to know what was in the mind of those who voted FOR the adoption of this statement is to hear those who articulated the reasons why this statement SHOULD be adopted. Likewise, to listen to the intelligent and articulate arguments AGAINST the adoption of this motion informs the impartial reader why this motion was not voted for by its opponents.

The following transcipt is taken from the video archives of the SBC Tuesday night's session entitled Previously Scheduled Business.

Again, the purpose of posting this is simply to prove that there can be no doubt in any fair-minded, non-partisian person as to the intent of the SBC messengers in adopting this statement, and further, the debate shows very clearly that SBC messengers present in the hall knew EXACTLY what they were doing when they voted by a 58% majority to adopt the Executive Committee's statement on the BFM 2000.

Rick Garner is the messenger and conservative pastor from Liberty Heights Baptist Church in Liberty Heights, Ohio who had made the motion to adopt the statement earlier that morning. The Committee on Order of Business believed this motion was important enough to be dealt with by the entire convention, and when it came time to debate this motion, President Frank Page encouraged messenger Rick Garner, if he was present, to move to a microphone. While the convention was waiting, President Page read the motion in order that the convention would be clear what it was we were about to debate and ultimately vote upon.

I move that this convention adopts the statement of the Executive Committee issued in February of this year, and included in the Executive 's report found in the 2007 Book of Reports, Page 17, which reads 'The Baptist Faith and Message is neither a creed, nor a complete statement of our faith, nor final and infallible; nevertheless, we further acknowledge that it is the only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the Southern Baptist Convention and such is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention.'

After reading the above motion, President Page then said, "The Committee of Order on Business has decided that this particular motion should be dealt with at this time, and so, we would like to know if Rick Garner is in this hall and, if so, would he like to speak to this motion.

President Frank Page: Bro. Rick, are you at microphone nine?

Pastor Rick Garner: Yes, sir.

President Rick Garner: You moved. (Laughter)

President Frank Page: Would you like to speak to your motion sir?

Pastor Rick Garner: Yes, Mr. President.

President Frank Page: All right.

Messenger Rick Garner speaks FOR the motion:

Mr. President, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 stands as the doctrinal capstone of the conservative resurgence. It is the only consensus, and therefore, the only sufficient basis for doctrinal accountability among Southern Baptists. It is the privilege, it is indeed the sacred responsibility, of this convened body to inform our entities, agencies, and institutions of our continued and firm commitment to this instrument of doctrinal accountability.

The question before us this evening is this: Is the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 sufficient in its current form to guide the Southern Baptist Convention and all its agencies, entities and institutions? An affirmitive vote is for its sufficiency. A negative vote is a vote for its insufficiency and will effectively render the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 anemic to accomplish its purposes. I believe it is sufficient. My church believes it is sufficient. The Executive Committee report affirms it is sufficient, and this Convention believes it is sufficient.

If the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is sufficient for the Southern Baptist Convention at large, then it should be considered sufficient for all Southern Baptist entities, agencies, and institutions.

Amos 3:3 says, "Can two walk together unless they are agreed. We have all agreed that the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is our convention's confession of faith. The only remaining questions is, 'Will we walk together?'

Mr. President, thank you.

President Frank Page: Thank you. I would like at this point (uh) what we are going to do, in case you are knew, normally in these situations we allow persons to speak for, and in fairness to speak against, if there is someone - and we do believe because the button is pushed. And let me say this very quickly -- we have a fancy box up here. It's nice, it's real nice. And it tells us who is pushed what buttons, but it doesn't show us who it is. We don't know who it is, but it does tell us if you are pushing for or against, so I hope it is correct. Number 2 says their against this. Would you like to speak against this?

Messenger: Yes I would

President Frank Page: Name, church, and . . .

Messenger: Mr. President, it's another Robin. Robin Hadaway, Missions Professor, Midwestern Seminary, Kansas City, Missouri, messenger Pleasant Valley Baptist Church, Liberty, Missouri.

Wade Burleson's commentary: (Read very carefully the following arguments professor Hadaway gives on why the motion should be voted down. Notice what he calls 'doctrine' and why the BFM 2000 falls short of being 'sufficient' -- to me he articulates very clearly the problem we Southern Baptistts would face had his view prevailed).

Messenger Robin Hadaway speaks AGAINST the motion.

I served as an IMB missionary for 18 years and as an IMB regional for 6 of those years and I enforced the IMB policies. The IMB has long had a policy that divorced persons cannot be appointed as long-term missionaries. This is a doctrinal interpretation of I Timothy 3, and is also based upon the fact that divorced persons are not normally called to Southern Baptist pulpits in the USA and are especially problematic for our Baptist partners overseas. The Executive statement on page 17 of the Book of Reports says, "The BFM is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the convention." Guide does not mean an exhaustive list. Let me list several doctrinal issues the BFM does not speak to.

Speaking in tongues or private prayer languages are not mentioned in the BFM, but do you want a seminary professor like myself, at your six seminaries, practicing glossalalia? This is not in the Baptist Faith and Message.

Last year's Resolutions Committee of which I was a member, and I am a member of this year's Resolutions Committee, passed a resolution on alcohol consumption. Our committee quoted Scripture making it a doctrinal issue. The IMB does not appoint missionaries that drink alcohol, and neither do the seminaries. Alcohol is not in the Baptist Faith and Message.

The Resolutions Committee a number of years ago passed a resolution on gambling. Scripture was quoted making this a doctrinal issue. Gambling is not mentioned in the BFM either.

Neither is the usage of tobacco.

Let's not make a creed of the BFM, let's keep it as a guide and allow the trustees of your boards, agencies and entities to design policies and procedures to select godly men and women as missionaries, professors, and employees to serve in these agencies.

Otherwise, you may have missionaries and professors like me, with practices not in keeping with the vast majority of Southern Baptists. I urge the defeat of this motion.

Wade Burleson's comment on Dr. Hadaway's speech: (Other than the fact I am amazed that the good professor believes 'quoting' Scripture makes something a doctrine, I would like to point out three problems with what Dr. Hadaway said. (1). To equate the Holy Spirit gift of glossalalia with divorce, tobacco, and alcohol would cause every mainline, conservative systematic theologian to raise his/her eyebrow, and (2). Dr. Hadaway well illustrates the problem the Southern Baptist Convention is now facing -- there are some who are attempting to force upon the entire convention their particular interpretations of holiness -- and worse, they are attempting to make EVERYTHING a 'doctrinal' issue and dismiss from service anyone who disagrees, and (3). A few of my fellow IMB trustees ought to be glad I am uninterested in enforcing the good professor's 'doctrine' of tobacco (wink). Of course, the passage of the motion rules null and void Dr. Hadaway's attempt to make everyone look like him.)

President Frank Page: Thank you Robin. Now do we have at microphone number nine again someone to speak for this particular motion?

Messenger Dwight McKissic speaks FOR the motion.

Yes, Mr. President, my name is Dwight McKissic, I pastor the Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas.

It's really a simple matter. Are we going to let the parents make rules for the house, or our we going to let the children rule the house? The agencies and entities should be subordinate to the Southern Baptist Convention.

When I gave my church a doctrinal statement, all of our leaders are asked to read it and believe it, the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. We buy into the convention based on that document. Then, when agencies circumvent that document it leaves a church like the one I pastor in a quandry. "Pastor, you sold us on the Southern Baptist Convention based on the contents of this document. Now decisions are being made that are not consistent or compatabile with this document that affects the identity and image of our church."

I don't let my four children decide what the McKissic household believe. Dwight and Vera McKissic decide what we believe and what we stand for. Joshua said, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." We need the convention itself to speak to this issue and not the children.

(Loud Applause)

President Frank Page: Thank you Bro. Dwight. One more. Microphone number five do you speak against this motion.

Messenger: No sir, I'm here to speak for this motion.

Wade Burleson's comment: (It was here that the messengers could see Art Roger's at the microphone, the messenger ready to speak for the motion. Behind him one can see on the video screens Dr. Hershael York and Dr. Richard Land prepared to speak AGAINST the motion. You could see Dr. York adamantly attempting to get the microphone monitor to allow him to speak, but Art was at the microphone first and by rule, Art did not have to give up his spot until he had the opportunity to speak).

President Frank Page: To be fair, we've got to go with someone against. All right, we'll try number eight. Microphone number eight over yonder.

Messenger: Yes, sir. My name is Barbara Turner and I am a messenger from the Mountain View Baptist Church in California. And uh, I did not grow up in a Christian home, however, I had people who took me to church and so forth, and I accepted Christ after a Baptist camp, not a Southern Baptist. However, when I moved I had a neighbor who took me to the closest church, which was a Southern Baptist Church. And, as I started learning about that church I picked up a little paper, really a little card, that was called the Baptist Faith and Message. And as a young teenager, really preteen, I read that and thought about it quite a bit. And, you know I believed the things that were in that document. I felt like, yes, this is what I believe - this is what I want to subscribe to - and this is a body of believers that I want to join with. And I put a lot of thought in that, even as a young person, just as I did my salvation, knowing that God would want to call me to things. That document was written in 1963. It was put together thoughtfully with many great leaders, including Herschel Hobbs, who many people still read his commentaries. I have nothing against the 2000 as far as submission or whatever. However, I have a problem with saying you must subscibe to this particular Baptist Faith and Message or you can't serve. I guess I cannot serve because I believe in both of them. And I think there's a problem, and so I believe it should be Baptist Faith and Message - period, and not Baptist Faith and Message of a certain year. And I also believe, as it is stated, that it is a statement of faith - this is what we believe - but we are autonomous. I believe when we are saying we must set this as a guide - we are not using this as a guide - we are using it as a creed, and that goes up against who we are as Baptists. Thank you.

Wade Burleson's Commentary on Barbara's Speech: (Barbara is a very bright individual. She knew exactly what she was saying. However, what she may not have been aware of was that those who were AGAINST this recommendation desire to tighten the BFM even further, 'de facto,' by tightening the doctrinal parameters and narrow the definition of what it means to be a Southern Baptist by using trustees of Southern Baptist agencies changing the doctrinal parameters 'out of the view of the entire Southern Baptist Convention.' I promise you, if Barbara listened carefully to the two speeches by Bob Cleveland and Jeremy Green that followed hers , she saw it).

President Frank Page: Thank you Barbara. Let me ask at this time microphone number one you have pushed a button saying you have a motion, would you please give me your name and your church and clarify what you are asking please?

Messenger: Leroy Cole, West Tyler Baptist Church, Alabama, I call for the question.

Wade Burleson's comment on the call for question: (I do not know Leroy Cole, but his motion to cease debate and vote on the recommendation passed by a two/thirds majority raising their ballots in favor to end debate -- at least according to the ruling of the chair. It was at this moment that one of the lower points of the convention occurred. Several who were AGAINST the motion (and possibly a few who were for it) booed and hissed and shouted at the chair because they didn't feel the motion to end debate had actually passed. Dr. Page graciously ruled that debate would continue for five minutes because it was a close vote, but then he said, "Do not holler at me (applause). Do not holler at me. I have a litte bit of redneck in. Don't holler at me." (Good for the President).

The Continuation of Debate for Five Minutes

President Frank Page: Five more minutes. Microphone number three speaking for.

Messenger Bob Cleveland speaks FOR the motion

I'm Bob Cleveland, lay messenger from First Baptist Church, Pellham, Alabama. I came to the Southern Baptist Convention, to a Southern Baptist Church, from the United Methodist and the Presbyterian churches. In each case I was given, in those denominations, a book and they said "Here's what we believe." And I actually read it. And when I came to our church, I asked Bro. Mike before I ever joined, if we had such a book and he said, "Well, no. We have no creed but Christ." But here's the Baptist Faith and Message which is a consensus statement of our faith. And I read it. And I went back to him and said, "You know, there's a lot of things this doesn't cover."

And he gave me Hershel Hobbs book on the Baptist Faith and Message, and I read that, and I read about what Hershel Hobbs said the fundamental Baptist distinctive is and that's soul competency in religious matters. And I said, 'Woe' this is the most responsible doctrine I've ever seen because it says it's me and God and I'm responsible for what I believe. I cannot blame it on somebody else.

Now if I wanted to change what Southern Baptists believe confessionally I would never attack the Baptist Faith and Message, I would go to missionary sending organizations, both US and foreign, and change what they can be to be missionaries. And then I would just wait until the Southern Baptist Convention changed what they believed.

And if I wanted to accelerate the process I would go to some of the seminaries and change what you had to believe so that they would believe just like me to be a professor. And that would send out pastors into churches here that would believe just what I wanted them to believe. I would never have to touch the Baptist Faith and Message.

We are like the frog in a pot of hot water. You can put him in cool water and turn the heat up and the frog will literally boil to death before he knows he is in trouble. We will change the Baptist Faith and Message because we will change what Baptists believe if we don't vote for this recommendation. Now I know we can't tell the entities what they have to do, but we can tell the entities of the SBC what we believe being a Southern Baptist means, and this is it, and I urge you to vote for it


Wade Burleson's Comment on Mr. Cleveland's speech: (Bob, who is a layman, understands better than anyone I've ever heard that Southern Baptists better be very, very careful in handing over the ability to define what a Southern Baptist IS to either a seminary or an agency)

President Frank Page: Thank you Bob. Now, we will call on microphone number twelve and ask if you are speaking AGAINST this particular issue.

Messenger Jeremy Green Speaks AGAINST the motion

I'm Jeremy Green, pastor of First Baptist Church of Joshua, Texas. According to the Preamble of the Baptist Faith and Message our confessional statement includes only those doctrines that we hold precious and as essential to the faith. If Southern Baptists believe that these doctrines are essentials, then why are certain trustees and employees now not even affirming the bare minimum doctrinal standards of our convention as adopted by each entitity. Baptist polity and our trustee system both necessitate that each individual trustee boards maintain the right and responsibility to employ other doctrinal paramaters as needed.

The Baptist Faith and Message is a sufficient guide, but it is not the ONLY guide. I believe that voting FOR this motion is the first step in the wrong direction. I encourage the messengers to vote against this motion. Thank you Mr. President.

(No applause)

Wade Burleson's Commentary on Jeremy Green's comments: (I thank Jeremy for making very, very clear - right before the vote - what a vote FOR the motion means, and what a vote AGAINST the motion means. He couldn't have said it any better. He's dead on. The convention heard it, and they voted. Contrary to his desire, and others, to move our convention way beyond the BFM to reflect their narrow doctrinal views on matters that are NOT essential to the Christian faith and Southern Baptist identity, the convention said let's keep our parameters of cooperation as broad as possible).

President Frank Page: Thank you Jeremy. Now, here is where we are. Our time is up. If you would like to extend the time, it will require a motion and two thirds majority to extend the time for discussion.

The vote to extend time to debate the motion to adopt the Executive Committee statement on the BFM failed.

Then, the vote occurred on the original motion.

It passed by a 58% majority.

I have a very hard time understanding how anyone can listen to the debate, or read the words of this transcript, and say anyone was confused on what we voted upon.

The convention told the International Mission Board that any doctrinal guideline or policy, based on the IMB trustee board's 'doctrinal interpretation' that has not been APPROVED by the SBC, is not appropriate. Especially when that guideline excludes otherwise qualified Southern Baptists from missionary participation.

The Southern Baptist Convention has spoken. Boards are more than welcome to establish policies and guidelines on practical, ethical or moral considerations, but to move DOCTRINALLY beyond the BFM 2000, and exlude otherwise qualified Southern Baptists from missionary service unless who disagree with their demands for conformity to their additional doctrinal guidelines that exceed the BFM 2000, is not within their purview.

Only the entire convention sets the parameters for cooperation and true Southern Baptist identity. No seminary, no whitepaper, no trustee board, no President -- no one has the authority to narrow the doctrinal parameters of Southern Baptist cooperation but the convention as a whole.

Now, let's see if the boards are listening.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

P.S. Listen to Dr. Chapman's entire address here

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Practical Outworking of the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention's Adoption of the Executive Committee's Statement Regarding the BFM 2000

"The Baptist Faith and Message is neither a creed, nor a complete statement of our faith, nor final and infallible; nevertheless, we further acknowledge that it is the only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the Southern Baptist Convention and such is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention."

Adopted by the Messengers of the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio, Texas, June 13, 2007.

The above statement, adopted without opposition by the entire Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention this past year, and pulled out of the 2007 Annual Book of Reports for adoption by the entire Southern Baptist Convention, passed by a 58% vote of the voting messengers in San Antonio, Texas.

The trustees of our agencies are elected by the Southern Baptist Convention. The convention cannot 'instruct' autonomous agencies what they can, or cannot do, but I have repeatedly stated that as a trustee of the International Mission Board, I am accountable to the Southern Baptist Convention for my actions on the International Mission Board, for the Southern Baptist Convention elected me, not the board of trustees of the IMB (at least I think: wink). Allow me to review the events of the past year and a half and show how this very important decision by the SBC to adopt the Executive Committee's statement on the BFM 2000 has now brought us full circle.

The Beginnings of the Controversy

The controversy at the International Mission Board began in November of 2005, when I questioned the authority of my fellow trustees to implement new doctrinal 'policies' that (1). Rejected Southern Baptist missionaries who possessed a 'private' prayer language, based upon a doctrinal belief that 'tongues' were not a gift given by God to any Christian for private edification, and (2). Rejected Southern Baptist missionary candidates who were baptized in churches, or by individuals, that 'did not believe in eternal security' even though those missionary candidates already were members of a Southern Baptist church that had 'accepted' their baptism, and the candidates themselves were baptized by immersion, trusting Christ alone for salvation.

I asked privately, repeatedly, and eventually publicly the following question:

'Who has given us trustees at the IMB the authority to reject missionary candidates from our cooperating Southern Baptist churches based upon a refusal by those missionary candidates to conform to a specific interpretation of a tertiary doctrinal issue that the only consensus Southern Baptist confession of faith, the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, is silent about?

The Tipping Point Is Reached

The post that upset so many people was written in December of 2005, one entitled Crusading Conservatives vs. Cooperating Conservatives: The Battle for the Future of the Southern Baptist Convention. The quote that summarizes that post is this two sentence paragraph:

The Southern Baptist Convention, through the trustees of our boards and agencies, is narrowing the parameters of fellowship and cooperation to the point that real, genuine conservatives are being excluded as unfit for service in the SBC.

Our convention hated liberalism twenty years ago and we expelled it from our midst, but at this hour we better hate legalism and Fundamentalism as much as we did the former liberalism or we will find ourselves so fractured and fragmented that we no longer have the ability to cooperate about anything, including missions

Again, the above comment was written a over a year and a half ago, right here on this blog. My feelings have not changed.

A Conservative Foot Soldier Wakes Up From a Ten Year Nap

I was a foot soldier for the conservative resurgence in the early 1980's, driving Paul Pressler around Oklahoma, rallying people to go to Dallas to take back the Bible. I was elected as Chairman of the Denominational Calendar Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1994 and still have framed in my office an original copy of the program of the first Southern Baptist Convention in 1845, in Augusta, Georgia, right beside the 150th Anniversary Program of the 1995 Southern Baptist Convention with Dr. W.A. Criswell, Dr. Herschel Hobbs, and myself on the program. In 1995, I took a decade off from participating in the SBC. My four kids were ages 1 to 8, and I needed to invest time in my family, my church (which was involved in a building program), and my state. During those ten years I served two terms as Vice-President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and two terms as President. During June, my wife and I would either be on vacation or in Israel, and we only attended the Southern Baptist Convention three times from 1995 to 2005. In other words, I was out of touch with the SBC.

In 2005, when I was contacted to serve as trustee of the International Mission Board, I accepted. I hadn't sought it, but I was honored to serve. During the orientation and first few meetings, I really enjoyed getting to know my fellow trustees and especially the missionaries, but I quickly began to feel like Rip Van Winkle. I had awakened to a convention that in some ways I did not recognize.

The Grand Old Lady Was Being Crippled

For example, I knew that when Dr. Jerry Rankin had been hired as President of the International Mission Board, the fact that he spoke in tongues during his private prayer times, had been raised. However, the chairman of the search committee at the time, Dr. Joel Gregory, had said that Dr. Rankin's private prayer language was not an issue. Dr. Rankin became President of the International Mission Board and quickly became one of the most respected men in our convention.

In 2005, as a new trustee, I was told that it was now deemed best by IMB trustees that Southern Baptist missionaries NOT have a private prayer language. Beside the fact that the sitting President of the IMB would have been rejected as a SBC missionary were the new policies to have been in effect during his interview process years earlier, as an IMB trustee, I felt I needed to know why this new policy prohibiting a private prayer language was needed. I asked for anecdotal evidence that there was a 'charismatic' problem on the field not being properly handled by administration or staff. I asked for the evidence time, after time, after time. I never received it.

Finally, I was told that no anecdotal evidence was needed. This was a DOCTRINAL matter and the board was implementing the policies based upon a doctrinal interpretation that a 'private prayer language' was not Biblical. Of course, I was told that 95% of Southern Baptist churches believed the way the trustees believed, and it was 'our right' to implement whatever doctrinal standard we trustees desired. Of course, now we know, according to an independent survey conducted by Lifeway, over 50% of Southern Baptist pastors believe that a private prayer langauge is a legitimate gift from God.

I affirm every Southern Baptist's right to believe that a private prayer language is not a legitimate gift -- as I do every Southern Baptist's right to believe that a private prayer language is a legitimate gift of the Spirit. What I don't affirm is a board of trustees meeting behind closed doors and adopting a 'doctrinal' policy that exceeds the Baptist Faith and Message, excluding otherwise qualified Southern Baptist missionary candidates from service.

I don't have the time to deal with my problems with the baptism policy except to say it bothered me more than the private prayer language policy. The BFM 2000 is silent on the authority of the baptizer, or the need that the baptism should take place at the hands of one who believes in 'eternal security.' The controversy at the IMB was never about baptism by any method other than immersion, but rather, the demand that the IMB tell churches what was 'an appropriate' baptism in terms of 'who' baptized the church's member. I personally believed the new policy reflected a very strong Landmark tendency - a doctrine that often threatened to divide our Southern Baptist Convention in years past, and wrenched the very important ordinance of Christ from the local church into the hands of a board of trustees of a SBC agency.

Where Were These Demands For Doctrinal Conformity Coming From?

Through various events that I have documented over the last year and a half, including my own election as a trustee of the IMB, I was under the opinion that many of the demands for doctrinal conformity were emanating from our Southern Baptist seminaries, particularly one seminary President who believed that orthodoxy could only be defined by his own personal views on Landmarkism, cessationism, anti-Charismaticism, anti-Calvinism, hyper-dispensationalism, etc . . .

Nothing wrong with these doctrines - unless you begin to demand that every Southern Baptist believes the way you do. My motion to investigate the controversies at the IMB, which was referred back to the IMB by the convention, included requests to investigate the following:

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

I only point out to you these 2006 recommendations to show that the vote this past Tuesday night at the 2007 SBC was not taken in a vacuum.

What the Adoption of the Executive Committee's Statement on the BFM Means

(1). Any policy or guideline at an agency, that is based upon a doctrinal interpretation that EXCEEDS the Baptist Faith and Message, is not in line with the convention's vote to adopt the Executive Committee's statement on the BFM.

Some might argue that the BFM, by the statement itself, is not a COMPLETE statement of faith. As Dr. Mohler said today, it is not sufficient for the hiring of seminary professors.

I agree. There are some agencies, like seminaries, that need tighter, narrower, and more defined confessions - like the Abstract of Principles. The Convention has already approved the Abstract for Southern and Southeastern (not to mention it predates every BFM), but if Southwestern Seminary were to desire to 'tighten' her institutional confession, the proposed doctrinal confession would need to be voted upon by the convention as a whole.

(2). If trustees of any agency, particularly convention wide agencies like the International Mission Board or the North American Mission Board, were to refuse to abide by the convention's wishes of not demanding conformity on doctrinal interpretations not found in the BFM, then those trustees should be answerable to the convention -- since the convention elected them.

This does not mean there cannot be guidelines or policies that are implemented for moral, ethical or pragmatic reasons (weight, homosexuality, adultery, etc . . .), but new 'doctrinal' guidelines that exceed the BFM 2000 cannot be implemented unless there is a convention-wide consensus.

(3). I am in agreement that any trustee or employee who signs the BFM, but makes known any variance or disagreement with the BFM, should make that known publicly and in writing. The convention, then, has the right to remove that trustee, just as they have the right to remove trustees who do not follow their wishes in NOT establishing new doctrinal guidelines or policies that exceed the BFM.

I have made it known, from the very beginning of my service with the IMB, that I have two very minor disageements with the BFM. Since the 2007 SBC convention voted last night that the BFM was not infallible (thank the Lord for that one), I feel quite comfortable with my wholehearted affirmation of the BFM with only these two very minor disagreements over 'closed communion' (I believe in modified open communion as do many other Southern Baptist pastors and churches) and the innocency of infants until they personally sin (I believe the Bible teaches infants are guilty before they actually sin). Actually, there may be only ONE minor disagreement because I keep having professors tell me the BFM doesn't teach infants are innocent before they sin, but I have a hard time seeing their logic.

But, since all Southern Baptists believe the BFM is a consensus CONFESSION and not a mandatory CREED, then minor disagreements should be appropriate. That, in fact, is the nature of the difference between a confession and a creed.

I have also pointed out three other minor wording problems (the 'Spirit baptizing rather than 'Christ,' making every effort to end war, etc . . . ), but those minor disagreements were not my own personally, but written by Sam Storms and used to illustrate a point over 'minor' doctrines vs. 'major' doctrines of the faith.

Nevertheless, if someone believes that someone, similar to me, can't wholeheartedly affirm the BFM 2000, while at the same time expressing disagreement over closed communion and the innocency of infants, well then, that person ought to make a recommendation for my removal from the International Mission Board.

That's consistent. If you wish to ADD to the BFM -- the convention should make the decision. AND, if someone thinks closed communion is a 'major' and 'primary' doctrine, necessary for Southern Baptist missions and ministry service, then by all means, bring that person before the convention and let the convention decide if they should serve.

I think you will find that the convention will make the decision that this is a minor doctrine, one over which Southern Baptists should not divide. I'm very willing to be the guinea pig in order to show, by living example, the difference between a creed and a confession.

In fact, I was hoping that motion would come from the floor at THIS convention. It would serve well as an illustration between essentials and non-essentials, local church autonomy vs. denominational hierarchy, etc . . . I do not believe closed communion defines who is, or who isn't, a true Baptist.

(4). I do believe everyone in the SBC, on both sides of this issue has a good heart. But, I can't understand why anyone in a position of authority within the SBC would take such a flippant, even careless attitude toward the wishes of the entire convention.

My post yesterday was the strongest post I've ever written. I think I was simply taken back by the attitude and the words I heard by a handful of the seminary Presidents in reaction to the convention's vote to adopt the BFM statement. I am hopeful that in time, a more humble and soft attitude will prevail toward the ultimate authority of our convention -- the majority vote of messengers. Authority does not ultimately reside in the President's office, nor even ultimately even in the boards of trustees, but in the people who put the trustees in place.

(5). Finally, prior to 1979 our convention cooperated for the purpose of missions. Since 1979 the focus has become an attempt at bringing doctrinal purity to our convention. It is now time to refocus on the very reason we became a cooperating convention -- missions!

I am hopeful that the next year will help us refocus.

This post shall be my last one until the weekend.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

The Hornets' Nest and Integrity at Our Seminaries

When I was a kid a observed over the course of several days Texas hornets building their nest in the dark crevice of our front porch. One day, after the nest was completely built and protected by the intruder hornets, I took a swipe at it with a broom handle. The swipe was a direct hit and the cacophony of violent buzzing assaulted my ears, not to mention the very intentional anger of those hornets who were told they didn't belong on this particular porch. The odd thing of this experience for me was that I had no animosity toward the hornets - in fact, I used my experience of observing them to eventually write a high school paper on persistence and teamwork.

But the hornets darn sure were mad at me.

I couldn't help but smile today as I heard Dr. Al Mohler give his 'seminary' report to our convention. Similar to Paige Patterson yesterday, Al's speech sounded more like the announcer at a World Wrestling Federation event whipping the crowd into a frenzy before the fight than a report by the erudite seminary President that he is. The messengers heard no statistics, no reports on new academic degrees or programs, and no financial information. What we did hear was how Southern Baptist messengers have absolutely no idea what we did last night in adopting the Executive Committee statement on the BFM 2000. I wonder if I am the only one who is just a little bit insulted at the suggestion SBC messengers are not smart enough to know what we are voting on. I, again, encourage everyone to watch the tape of the debate (I love the Internet).

There can be ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT messengers KNEW EXACTLY what they were voting on. Just like the hornets on my front porch, the reason some SBC leaders are mad is not because they didn't realize it wasn't 'their' porch when they started building their theological nests, they are upset because someone had the gall to knock them off the porch intentionally and without apology, telling them they had built their nest on the wrong porch. Seminary Presidents don't dictate 'de facto' what the convention believes by orchestrating the adoption of policies and guidelines that reflect their own theological shibboleths at institutions that they themselves guide (or worse, at those agencies they don't guide). Last night, the convention declared that our cooperation in missions and ministry revolves around the only consensus confession our convention has adopted - the Baptist Faith and Message. If you wish your doctrinal policies to be narrower and tighter at your agency, Mr. President, then get our approval. If you have great reasons for doing so - like hiring a seminary professor - we'll approve, but we won't be excluding people for disagreements over doctrinal matters not addressed by the BFM without full convention approval.

While walking back to the hotel I asked an older gentleman if he had heard Dr. Mohler's and Dr. Patterson's speeches to our convention. I think the gentleman's response indicated he was thinking in terms of the efficiency of his hearing aid rather than his presence in the arena because he responded, "I couldn't help but hear them. I had to turn down my hearing aid cause they were shoutin' so loud."

I admire Dr. Mohler. Like Al, I am personally reformed in my theology. We send students from our church to his seminary to receive the finest theological education in the land. I respect his theological acumen, passion and love for Christ. But today, Al Mohler showed me another side to his personality. He seemed angry. He seemed defiant. He seemed like his ego had been bruised. "How dare YOU tell ME what I can and cannot do."

According to Al, the motion passed last year at the Executive Committee (without debate or dissent), and adopted by SBC messengers last night, is the end of the Southern Baptist Convention as we know it, unless he and others do something about it. Joining Al as the guardians of the SBC are Paige Patterson, President of SWBTS, Richard Land, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and Chuck Kelly, President of New Orleans Theological Seminary.

These four men, led by Dr. Mohler today, thumbed their collective nose (Editors note: I changed the original analogy, desiring a little more grace here), "We do not care that you have told us the Baptist Faith and Message is the only consensus confession of the Southern Baptist Convention and is sufficient to guide us. We will draft any confessional statement, policy or guideline we desire because the hiring of seminary professors is critical to the future health of the SBC and the Baptist Faith and Message 'does not say enough' doctrinally to give us good hiring policies and guidelines."

Paige Patterson has already recommended to friends the disbanding of the SBC Executive Committee. Chuck Kelley said last night the adoption of the Executive Statement would have no effect on his institution and Richard Land has already angrily chastized two gracious SBC theologians who wrote an excellent book on grace and unity around the essentials and freedom in diversity on the nonessentials - a book given to all registered messengers in our SBC packet. The messages of these four men might best be considered like the pronouncements of the Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse. They are not like the horsement in Revelation in terms of their persons or character (for we all know them to be fine Christian men), but their messages are those of death and destruction to the SBC if the messengers collective will wins out.

Famine, pestilence, disease and death. According to these four men, we are now ruined as a Convention. But is that not silly? What is it that scares these men? Read carefully again the motion that the entire Southern Baptist Convention adopted by a convincing majority on Tuesday night.

"The Baptist Faith and Message is neither a creed, nor a complete statement of our faith, nor final and infallible; nevertheless, we further acknowledge that it is the only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the Southern Baptist Convention and such is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention."

It reminds me of a little kid who gets scared because someone's in the room, only to have the light turned on and see it's Grandma.

There Is A Simple Solution That Nobody Wishes To Discuss

The convention has simply said, "If you wish to have doctrinal standards or guidelines that EXCEED the Baptist Faith and Message, simply GET convention approval!"

How easy is that? If Al Mohler wishes his seminary to be a Calvinistic seminary, which it is, and demands all professors be Calvinistic in their soteriology, which he does, then simply bring the Abstract of Principles to the Convention and articulate why we need a Calvistic theological seminary in the SBC. And you know what? The convention will approve. The Abstract, I guarantee you, will NOT be voted down as an additional institutional confession to the BFM 2000 --- for SOUTHERN SEMINARY. Frankly, I believe it can be shown that the convention has already affirmed its approval of the Abstract as the guiding confessional statement, above and beyond the BFM, for SOUTHERN Seminary

But, just as I listened to Al Mohler and Paige Patterson debate Calvinism at last year's Pastor's Conference and saw profound disagreement between the two men, if we were to attempt to get the Abstract as the additional institutional doctrinal confession at SOUTHWESTERN -- well then, Katy, bar the door! You talk about fireworks. The convention will look like New York Harbor on the night of July 4th.

There are SIX seminaries. For heaven's sake, one seminary may wish to ADD TO her doctrinal preciseness by adopting a confessional statement that holds to a particular interpretation on the gifts, that ALLOWS the seminary to hire continuationist Baptist professors like Dr. Sam Storms or C.J. Mahaney. For heaven's sake, Dr. Mahaney speaks for an entire week during campus revival at Southern, but because he speaks in tongues, and Dr. Mohler and Dr. Patterson demand that their trustees pass policies that prohibit tongues, they can't teach at Southern or Southwestern (or anyone like them). FINE -- bring those NEW doctrinal guidelines that go beyond the Southern Baptist Convention's Baptist Faith and Message to the convention during YOUR SEMINARY REPORT -- and let us as convention messengers vote to allow your institution to adopt this ADDITIONAL confession. We will when you explain to us WHY you need this at your seminary.

If we don't particularly like the narrow theological bent of your seminary, we very well may go to Golden Gate or Southeastern or somewhere else that doesn't adhere to those new doctrinal standards that exceed the BFM 2000 that your board, with convention approval, has adopted. We are not restricting you in any way from basing policies or guidelines on doctrinal interpretations of issues that are not addressed in the BFM 2000 -- get your trustees to adopt them and bring them to the convention for appropriate rationalization, debate and eventual implementation.

There's room enough in the SBC for six seminaries to disagree on matters of soteriology, ecclesiology, eschatology, etc . . . . Again, BE AS DOCTRINALLY PRECISE AS YOU DESIRE TO BE AND BRING YOUR ADDITIONAL CONFESSION TO THE SBC FOR APPROVAL!!

We'll honor it.

The Difference Between Seminaries and Convention Wide Agencies

There are six seminaries. ONE International Mission Board. There are six seminaries. ONE North American Mission Board. There are six seminaries. ONE Lifeway.

The Baptist Faith and Message is sufficient as the doctrinal standard for those agencies that represent EVERY Southern Baptist Church in our convention. Here is some helpful advice for the four men I've mentioned in this post - men I respect, but have no problem telling where they err in logic.

(1). You are the President of your agency alone, nobody else's.
(2). Don't try to tell us who is Southern Baptist and who isn't, the BFM does that.
(3). Add to the BFM all your heart desires for your institutional confession, we'll listen to your impassioned pleas for why you need the doctrinal preciseness, and approve it at our SBC with your well reasoned and well presented arguments.
(4). If we add to your institutional confession it does not mean a change in the general consensus confession that forms the basis of our cooperation -- the BFM.
(5). We don't want you demanding anyone be a Calvinist, or a Landmark, or a cessationist, or a continuationist, etc . . . We want freedom to cooperate while disagreeing on these issues.
(6). Keep your hands off the IMB and NAMB by demanding they reflect your personal, doctrinal shibboleths.
(7). Realize that the sheep are getting smarter.

We do quite well cooperating around the essentials of the faith, granting liberty in the non-essentials of the faith, and charity in all things.

That's who we are as the cooperating convention known as the SBC.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Historic Vote No Amount of Spin Can Change

Last night the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio passed by a clear majority the recommendation to adopt the Executive Committee statement on the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. The official tally has not been released, but I was sitting in the back of the convention and saw with my own eyes the recommendation passed by a clear majority. The convention adopted the following statement:

"The Baptist Faith and Message is neither a creed, nor a complete statement of our faith, nor final and infallible; nevertheless, we further acknowledge that it is the only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the Southern Baptist Convention and such is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention."

This statement is clear, concise and incredibly important.

In essence, the convention said that the agencies and institutions of our convention do not have the right to narrow doctrinal parameters beyond the BFM 2000.

This does not negate agencies establishing policies because of 'moral,' or 'ethical,' or pragmatic concerns -- but it does let the agencies know that no tightening of the doctrinal parameters shall occur without full convention approval. The agencies are children to the mother (the convention), and the children do not tell the mother what is, or is not, a Southern Baptist in terms of doctrine.

It seems to me that trustees of our agencies must take into account the action of this convention before they attempt to narrow the doctrinal standards of their insitution through policies, guidelines, or additional doctrinal confessions.

The mother has spoken.

I would encourage everyone to watch the debate at the video archives. There was no confusion over the issue from those debating the motion, and there was no confusion on what the convention was being asked to vote upon. Some people are very upset because they believe the wheels have fallen off the doctrinal bus of the SBC (not true, but that's how they feel).

Some of us are absolutely ecstatic because the children of our convention (the agencies) have been given a little spanking by the mother. They have been told they have no right to say who is, or isn't a Southern Baptist. If agencies draft policies or guidelines that go beyond the BFM 2000, and then exclude otherwise qualified Southern Baptists from participation in missions or evangelism ministry based upon those policies or guidelines that reach beyond the Baptist Faith and Message -- then they are violating the very convention who elected them to serve as trustees.

Now, let's see if the kids listen.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

P.S. The vote was 57% in favor of the recommendation.