Thursday, August 30, 2007

Where Have All the Men With Real Courage Gone?

United States Senator Larry Craig has issued an apology for pleading 'guilty' to a misdemeanor charge of Disorderly Conduct for soliciting sex in the men's restroom at the Minneapolis Airport. The police report is a narrative of sad events.

Larry Craig's apology for pleading guilty to the crime is even more tragic.

Senator Craig says that he falsely pled guilty in an attempt to save himself, his family, the people of Idaho, and his fellow Senators from embarrassment. He wrongly assumed he could keep the matter 'quiet' and make it go away by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor. Senator Craig pled guilty, and signed the papers from the District Attorney's office, in spite of these two sentences which were directly above his signature and audibly read to him before he signed:

(4). I understand that the court will not accept a guilty plea from anyone who claims to be innocent.
(5). I now make no claim that I am innocent to the charge of which I am entering a guilty plea.

I think most people are focusing on whether or not Senator Craig is guilty or innocent of the charges. Some are convinced he is guilty. Others, including evidently his family, believe he is innocent of all charges. Everyone conjecturing on his guilt or innocence has lost sight of the real issue with Senator Craig.

Either way, guilty or innocent, Larry Craig is a liar.

He either lied when he pled guilty to a crime he did not commit, or he is lying now when he says he is innocent of the crime.

We don't need lying, gutless leaders in the United States Senate.

Almost two years ago someone at one of our SBC agencies suggest to me that I should apologize for accusations of 'gossip' and 'slander' that had been leveled against me - even though he himself knew the accusations were not true. He said that the veracity of the charges was inconsequential. For there to be peace and harmony, he reasoned, it would be best to just apologize.

I steadfastly refused. In fact, before the unanimous vote of the board to rescind the recommendation for my removal, I told the entire board I would not apologize for one word of what I had written unless I could be shown how what I had written was not true.

Only cowards confess guilt to things they haven't done wrong.

And for heaven's sake, the SBC, not to mention the United States Senate, need men and women of courage to lead - not politicians who stick their fingers in the wind to see which way the breeze of public opinion is blowing.

In His Grace,


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

If You Won't Let a Woman Teach Men Hebrew, You Best Teach That Woman to Bake Men Cakes

Gary Ledbetter, the editor of The Southern Baptist Texan, has written an opinion piece on the Southwestern Baptist Theological new undergraduate degree in homemaking entitled A Silly, Dangerous Idea? Gary's opening paragraph contains these words:

When the news media want to ask someone about a homemaking course at a Southern Baptist seminary, where do they go? Well, naturally, they turn to an unmarried pastor and a formerly Southern Baptist liberal whose work is largely dedicated to berating the SBC and its leaders. Maybe they are the only ones who don’t get it.

Since Gary does not wish to identify the two people to whom he refers, I will not to do so either. However, I would like to point out what I believe to be a flaw in Mr. Ledbetter's logic. Gary implies that criticisms of the SWBTS homemaking degree program from a "single" person and a "liberal" person are both unreliable. The sources, according to the logic of Mr. Ledbetter, are unworthy because they either have never experienced marriage or have a philosophical bias against conservative theology. However, that kind of thinking is inherently dangerous because it lends itself toward theological inbreeding. Think with me for a moment about ridiculing any criticism on the basis of 'They are not one of us or can't understand us.'

With that logic no married couple would ever ask Jesus or the Apostle Paul what they think about marriage because they were never married - and can't relate. Nobody would ever ask Christians what we think about abortion because we have never experienced the process. Nobody would ever ask a conservative pastor what he thinks of higher criticism because he doesn't believe in it- or use it - and is not sympathetic to liberal theology. Ironically, if this kind of logic were to be followed, then the editors of the Southern Baptist Texan and Baptist Press would never again write any article expressing criticism against homosexuality or the gay agenda since both aforementioned magazines are "conservative" and can't understand liberalism.

The premise of Mr. Ledbetter's opinion piece is illogical - unless you intend to remain entrenched in a polarizing viewpoint that categorically rejects any criticism from people "not like us." We must be careful that there does not form within the SBC an oligarchy of leadersip that expresses by fiat what is, and is not, appropriate for the entire convention. Left unchallenged, the SBC could quickly move toward quirky religious traditions. As Steve Hays says,

When a particular tradition enjoys an unchallenged monopoly, it becomes inbred and overbred—like a hairless dog the size of a kitten. Isolated theological traditions either go from good to bad or bad to worse. It’s only a matter of time before rite makes right.

A woman who invests her life being a homemaker ought to be praised. There is nothing wrong with a Southern Baptist woman bucking the cultural trend and spending her time caring for her husband, children and home. We who believe in the family laud such choices.

On the other hand, seminary is not a place to teach homemaking - even in the form of undergraduate degrees. It is an insitution of higher education for the purpose of theological education. It is a place for men and women to learn the languages, theology and the Bible - and in the opinion of many, including both conservatives and liberals, married and single, pastors and laymen, men and women, Southwestern Theological Seminary reduces her prestige and significance as a world class theological institution by bestowing homemaking degrees.

On the other hand if you won't let a woman teach men Hebrew, then you best teach that woman to bake men cupcakes.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Origins of Quirky Religious Traditions Shown

A friend recently made me aware of a post entitled The Value of Theological Competition, written by Steve Hays over at Triablogue

A theological tradition, if allowed to develop internally in cultural isolation, is apt to become overly refined. It becomes quirky and absurd.

The examples are almost endless. You end up with quaint, legalistic dress codes which were originally well-intentioned, but have hardened into dogma.

You end up with violent schisms over the one true way to pronounced the name of Jesus or make the sign of the cross.

You end up with communion tokens.

You end up with gilded shrines encasing the finger bone of a legendary saint.

The altar call becomes the central sacrament in fundamentalism. The altar call is to fundamentalism what the Mass is to Catholicism.

I could multiply examples, and my examples would reflect my own theological bias. But I say all that to make this point: theological competition is healthy, because theological competition has a pruning effect on theological eccentricities.

When a particular tradition enjoys an unchallenged monopoly, it becomes inbred and overbred—like a hairless dog the size of a kitten. Isolated theological traditions either go from good to bad or bad to worse. It’s only a matter of time before rite makes right.

But competition purifies the competition. When one tradition shines a spotlight on a rival tradition, that makes it more difficult for an idiosyncrasy or historical accident to graduate into an article of faith.

By itself, competition doesn’t prevent theological quirks and curiosities from mutating into pious dogmas, but it exposes them for what they are, and offers an escape route for those who have the ears to hear.

Is there too much theological diversity in Christendom? Undoubtedly. But I’d much rather have a healthy dose of theological competition than allow a doctrinal or ecclesiastical monopoly to go unchecked until it perfects a false premise or optimizes a primitive corruption—leaving us fettered and shackled in a dungeon of dogmatic decadence.


All who advocate allegience to religious traditions above Scripture should let out a collective ouch.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Preacher Finds His Voice in the Midst of a Battle: A Lesson from the Life of George Truett

Four years ago Dr. Joel Gregory preached a chapel message at Truett Seminary that has to go down as one of the finest messages on the primacy and urgency of preaching ever delivered to prospective pastors. I was recently given a CD copy of the message and have already listened to it twice.

During the message Gregory tells an anecdote of former First, Dallas pastor George W. Truett. I had never heard the story before, but it ministered to my heart. The segment lasts about three minutes and is an invaluable lesson for all of us who preach the gospel of Christ.

George W. Truett accidentally kills his deacon.

Update: Art Pierce sent me an email this afternoon and said that back in 1951, Dr. Morton, the elderly pastor of First Baptist Church, Gatesville, Texas told Art and his wife Stella this story. Dr. Morton was a good friend of both J. Frank Norris, the head of the Fundamentalist movement in Texas, and George W. Truett, the pastor of FBC Dallas, a man Norse considered to be a 'moderate. Both Norris and Truett were active in denominational politics in the early days of Texas Baptists.

It seems that after the shooting, J. Frank Norris, himself the pastor of First Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas would send to Dr. Truett a telegram every Sunday morning reminding the pastor that he had shot and killed his deacon.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Reminder That THE Issue Is One of Cooperation

It seems in recent days that some have lost perspective as to the singular issue within the Southern Baptist Convention that initiated convention wide change two years ago and resulted in the election of the relatively unknown Frank Page as President of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The issue, contrary to some who are like the boy that cried "wolf," is not liberalism. The issue is one of coooperation - or lack of it. The Southern Baptist Convention is only filled with Bible-believing, Christ-loving, mission-oriented people, pastors and churches. Within the strong conservatism of the SBC, there is a wide variety of interpretations on various issues including spiritual gifts, women in ministry (there is a confessional consensus in the SBC regarding male senior pastors, but there are disagreements on the role of women in higher education, missions, etc.), soteriology (Calvinism vs. Arminianism), eschatology, ecclesiology (elder rule vs. congregational rule; open communion vs. closed communion, etc.), and other issues of interpretation of the sacred text that have nothing to do with the essentials of the gospel. People want leaders with hearts of cooperation.

But the convention seems to be divided into two clear and different groups of people. There are those who wish to cooperate with all Southern Baptists for the purpose of missions and evangelism. There are others who wish to make every Southern Baptist conform to their particular interpretations and bar anyone from SBC missions service or leadership who disagrees with what they often will call "historic Baptist identity." The first group - those who wish cooperation with all Southern Baptists - are respectful of all views on the tertiary issues. They have strong convictions of their own, but they do not wish to exclude others who disagree. They will, however, oppose strongly anyone who demands conformity. On the other hand, those who are demanding conformity show very little tolerance for any opposing theological or doctrinal view. In essence, the conformity group unabashedly states they alone possess true "Baptist Identity," which by their very claim shows a lack of understanding of historic 17th century Baptist identity. Our forefathers thrived on dissent and diversity in a day of English religious conformity.

I'm not sure what these two groups should be called. Dr. Chapman has suggested cooperating conservatives and crusading conservatives. I probably prefer cooperating conservatives and conformity conservatives. I am hopeful that those that currently demand conformity will see the danger of doing so in a convention built on cooperation - and they will change their view. Before anyone says, "But you are asking people to conform to your view," let me say, again, that the only demand made by cooperating conservatives is that people STOP DEMANDING CONFORMITY. Cooperating conservatives ARE NOT demanding anybody doctrinally change. Nobody has to abandon their firmly held beliefs, but what needs to change is a lack of openness to the views of others and an unwillingness to cooperate with those who disagree.

The rhetoric has been intense. In fact, my very perceptive wife has said to me that people seem to wish to confuse the issue in the Southern Baptist Convention. At her suggestion, I will write the problem, as I and others see it, both succinctly and clearly:

If those Southern Baptists demanding conformity ultimately force out those Southern Baptists who desire cooperation, there will be no future for the "Cooperative Program," cooperative missions, cooperative ministry, etc. because there will be no Southern Baptists left with whom the conformists can cooperate.

I have seen missionaries rejected, trustees ridiculed, and laypeople reprimanded for not being "Baptist" enough. Granted, there has been a very strong and active political movement against those who are demanding conformity, but that is because the stakes are enormous.

Some of us will not be forced to conform to a particular ideology in order to be called a true Southern Baptist. I will die with the fundamentals of the gospel in my heart, but I and others will not sit by silently while other Southern Baptists demand conformity on doctrines that are not fundamental to the gospel. We willingly cooperate with any Southern Baptist who disagrees with us, and we will willingly, patiently and graciously debate the issues as needed; but when any Southern Baptist begins to say his view is the "only" true Baptistic view - particularly any Southern Baptist leader - then we cooperating conservatives will intentionally, purposefully and strongly resist.

Again, the reason to resist what seems to be a resurging "Baptist Identity" movement in the Southern Baptist Convention, which is in reality a conformity movement, is clear. If this group is successful in excluding those who disagree with them from serving as missionaries, trustees, professors or convention leaders, we will cease being a convention based on cooperaton. As it is, I am doing all I can to prevent hundreds of Southern Baptists who have personally written to me from taking their Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon dollars and leaving.

Unfortunately, some Southern Baptists wish nothing less than for those who have ideological disagreements on tertiary doctrines to leave the convention. These conformists are the ones who believe no doctrine is tertiary. Ironically, these conformists are also the only people who should be disqualifed from SBC leadership. Why? You don't have people who demand conformity running a cooperating convention which is fueled by the Cooperative Program. If the conformists ultimately prevail in our convention and institutions, all we will get is petty conflict, moves to exclude dissenters, and an ever increasing smaller number of convention members, convention dollars and kingdom advancement.

In His Grace,


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Worst Criticism Can Bring Out the Best in Us

My Oklahoma internet friend, Roger Simpson, drew my attention to the Daily Bread article dated August 22, 2007. His email was timely as I gleaned a wonderful lesson on handling criticism from the life of one of my theological heroes - Jonathan Edwards.

How do we react to hostile criticism? If it causes us to strike back angrily at our critics, we need to learn from colonial preacher Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758).

Regarded by scholars as an insightful philosopher, Edwards was vindictively attacked by the ruling body of his churh in Northampton, Massachusetts. They felt he was wrong to teach that a person needed to be born again before taking part in the Lord's Supper.

Although he was dismissed from his church, Edwards still maintained a loving and forgiving attitude. One supportive member wrote of him, "I never saw the least symptoms of displeasure in his countenance . . ., but he appeared like a man of God, whose happiness was out of reach of his enemies."

Edwards was simply copying the example of the Lord Jesus. When the Savior was insulted, He did not repay with an insult. When He was falsely denounced, He remained silent, "as a sheep before its shearers is silent" (Isa. 53:7).

Do you have an inner peace even when criticized? As you ask the Holy Spirit for His help, you can, as Edwards did, respond in a Christlike way to false accusations or gossip.

"Be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing" (I Peter 3:8-9)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Good Illustration of Passive Aggressive People

I have said more than once that I have met my share of passive aggressive people in the last couple of years. Passive aggressive people are those who talk sweet ('brother' this and 'brother' that), use spiritual lingo ('praise the Lord,' 'hallelujah', etc . . .), but all the while are looking to run over anyone in their way. I don't mind aggressive people when they flat out tell you their intentions. But the passive aggressive person is devious, dangerous and often destructive to himself and others.

Recently someone sent me the following illustration that verbally and visually paints the passive aggressive person in great - and humorous - detail.

To My Darling Husband,

Before you return from your business trip I just want to let you know about the small accident I had with the pick up truck when I turned into the driveway.

Fortunately I really didn't get hurt, so please don't worry too much about me.

I was coming home from Wal-Mart, and when I turned into the driveway I accidentally pushed down on the accelerator instead of the brake.

The garage door is slightly bent but the pick up fortunately came to a halt when it bumped into your car.

I am really sorry, but I know with your kindhearted personality you will forgive me.

You know how much I love you and care for you my sweetheart. I am enclosing a picture for you.

I cannot wait to hold you in my arms again.

Your loving wife.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Sectarians Focus More on the Church Than Christ

It seems when any struggle against theological liberalism ends, Baptists will invariably begin to withdraw from former evangelical allies in an attempt to preserve what Baptists believe to be a true, ecclesiogical "Baptist" identity. In other words, when the religious landscape is dotted with the carcasses of dead churches that have been overrun with the disease of theological liberalism, conservative Baptists recognize the foolishness in arguing with fellow evangelicals over lesser issues than the gospel. But when the circle of evangelical fellowship has been so narrowed institutionally as to exclude any who deny the true gospel, then the regrettable tendency of evangelical, conservative Baptists is to move away from discussion with other evangelicals over what it means to be "Together for the Gospel" into a struggle against each other over what it means to be "Separate" for the sake of church and ecclesiological purity.

I believe we are living in a very dangerous day for evangelical Christians and churches - particularly those of us who are conservative, evangelical Baptists. In a time when the world is succombing to aggressive and unbending Islamic ideology proliferated by the religious fanaticism of Islamic fascists, some Baptists, including Southern Baptists, are dangerously turning their wary eye toward fellow evangelicals in a battle for "church purity." Instead of recognizing the danger approaching externally, and the threat to destroy any vestiges of institutional evangelicalism, some conservative Baptists are removing their own evangelical brothers from fellowship - believing them to be either disruptive, unrepentant or ultimately illegimitate Christian brothers.

Fascinating Reading

I would like to offer five articles that will illustrate the point I am making above. Southern Baptists particularly will be hearing in the next five years from certain leaders about the importance of maintaining ecclesiological purity and a strict Baptist identity. I'm not sure why - in a day when we should be moving toward more evangelical cooperation and fellowship - that some among us are pushing toward strict separatism, but I will do my part in continuing to sound a needed alarm. The enemy is NOT among us.

Wayne Grudem, a man of incredible intellect and passion for Christ, seems to have been pushed by others to edit his Systematic Theology textbook. Strangely, the only section that is completely rewritten in the new edition is the section entitled "Do Churches Need to Be Divided Over Baptism?" In a textbook that numbers over one thousand pages, and in a day when many other subjects are in sore need of attention among evangelicals, why rewrite that section? I would hazard to guess that a couple of letters and phone calls from strategic people in the SBC who are pushing for a stricter and tighter Baptist identity sent Grudem to the edit room to change the wording of his textbook to reflect a tighter and "purer" ecclesiological viewpoint consistent with the resurging Baptist identity movement in the Southern Baptist Convention. (Update: So as to not have to guess I called Dr. Grudem and had him read this blog and he graciously told me that the rewrite was precipitated by some Southern Baptist elders in a former church where he was a member and another Baptist pastor who called him from out of state to urge him to rethink this question. He acknowledges that the debate is a serious one, but he rewrote the chapter of his own accord and not because of pressure.) One can read Grudem's rewrite of the section in question here.

Grudem's close friend, and fellow evangelical Baptist pastor, Dr. John Piper, responds to Grudem's rewrite, disagreeing strongly with Grudem, and carefully addressing the problems Grudem's textbook changes bring.

Dr. Grudem responds to John Piper's article with a personal letter published (with permission) here.

I appreciate the gracious spirit exhibited by both men, but don't let the kindness displayed by Wayne Grudem and John Piper cause you to miss the very important issues at stake.

To help you understand the consequences of the debate - which shall be ongoing in the Southern Baptist Convention for at least the next couple of years - you ought to read Southern Baptist theologian and fellow church member Sam Storm's excellent analysis on what is at stake in this debate between Grudem and Piper.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Ben Cole: A Testimony of Faith in Christ's Power


One of the major lessons that I, Wade Burleson, have learned during these past two years of blogging is that we Southern Baptists often make false judgments about men and women whom we have never met. It is easy to feel we know someone through his/her writings, but it is the spoken word that conveys the spirit and character of a person much more than the written word. One only has to read the writings of Luther in Table Talk, or Calvin in his letters to the Geneva Council, or Gill's lectures in rebuttal to criticisms that he believed in 'eternal justification' to realize that one's pen is often sharper than one's spirit.

This past Sunday night, August 19, 2007, our church had the privilege of hearing the personal testimony of Ben Cole. Ben has joined Emmanuel's staff to develop small group ministries, coordinate our media and audio/visual productions, and assist with pastoral ministry among our people. Ben was introduced last Sunday in all three of our morning services and spoke Sunday night during the evening service.

Some people across our convention have formed a biased and negative opinion of Ben without ever meeting him. For those of you in that group, or even for others of you who know him personally, it would be worth your time to listen to Ben's personal testimony, preached last Sunday night at Emmanuel, and reflect upon the power of Christ to transform lives.

After listening to the message you might be interested in the question and answer time that followed.

I believe you will come away from hearing Ben's testimony with a clearer understanding of Ben's devotion to Christ, his ability to communicate the sacred text with both passion and power, and his desire to always keep the church focused on Christ. Those who know Ben personally understand that his contributions to the kingdom of Christ are both unique and needed. Say what you will about him after listening to his testimony, but you will never again say he is not a believer in, and a recipient of, Christ's power to transform lives.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Preachers Who Act As If They Have No Personal Sin Preach a Milquetoast, Powerless Gospel

For a long time now I have tried to put my finger on a problem I find difficult to articulate. It's one of those problems that I can feel in my own life, sense in the writings and preaching of others, but have a hard time explaining.

In essence, the problem is a pretense of spirituality that borders on being fake. It is the covering of what one really feels (anger, bitterness, resentment, envy, etc . . .) by using 'Christian' words or a spiritual lingo that gives off an air of holiness or godliness, but just beneath the surface something else can be sensed bubbling to get out. We pretend to have it all together and lose sight of our need of God's mercy.

All of us know that the word 'hypocrite' comes from the ancient theater and described the actor who used masks to pretend to be someone he wasn't on stage. I sense too many of us in ministry hide behind spiritual masks of our making.

Preachers struggle with transparancy.

I wish we would resolve to take off our masks and let people see who we really are - including our sins and stumblingblocks. I wish that instead of forcing everyone to act as if they don't have problems, we would create an environment where people freely shared their struggles without fear of retribution or recrimination. I wish that we could use the straightforward language of Luther when we see something that bothers us, or manifest the kind of direct rebukes Calvin deployed in dealing with Servitus, or speak our minds like our 18th Century Baptist forefathers did when they opposed the Socinians and Universalists of their day - while at the same time declaring to the world our own sins.

I guess what I'm saying is this: It is refreshing to be around people who say what they mean, mean what they say, and make no apology for saying it -- all the while freely acknowledging - and confessing to others - their own humanness, frailties, and sins. In other words, I long for the day when we preachers speak specifically and directly about the sins of others -- but at the same time freely speaking specifically and clearly of our own gross and multiple sins -- in order to remind everyone that Christ died for sinners -- not saints.

For those of you who have a hard time understanding what I've just said, read the following quote of 16th Century Reformer Martin Luther. His words may make you even more confused -- but they speak to my soul and articulate what I've been feeling.

If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2 Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God's glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.

Let Your Sins Be Strong:
A Letter From Luther to Melanchthon
Letter no. 99, 1 August 1521, From the Wartburg
Translated by
Erika Bullmann Flores
from: _Dr. Martin Luther's Saemmtliche Schriften_
Dr, Johannes Georg Walch, Ed.
(St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, N.D.),
Vol. 15,cols. 2585-2590.

A.W. Tozer on Leadership Within Evangelicalism

"We might well pray for God to invade and conquer us, for until He does, we remain in peril from a thousand foes. We bear within us the seeds of our own disintegration. Our moral imprudence puts us always in danger of accidental or reckless self-destruction. The strength of our flesh is an ever present danger to our souls. Deliverance can come to us only by the defeat of our old life...God rescues us by breaking us, by shattering our strength and wiping out our resistance. Then He invades our natures with that ancient and eternal life which is from the beginning. So He conquers us and by that benign conquest saves us for Himself.

With this open secret awaiting easy discovery, why do we in almost all our busy activities work in another direction from this? Why do we build our churches upon human flesh? Why do we set such store by that which the Lord has long ago repudiated, and despise those things which God holds in such high esteem? For we teach men not to die with Christ but to live in the strength of their dying manhood. We boast not in our weakness but in our strength. Values which Christ has declared to be false are brought back into evangelical favor and promoted as the very life and substance of the Christian way. How eagerly do we seek the approval of this or that man of worldly reputation. How shamefully do we exploit the converted celebrity. Anyone will do to take away the reproach of obscurity from our publicity-hungry leaders: famous athletes, congressmen, world travelers, rich industrialists; before such we bow with obsequious smiles and honor them in our public meetings and in the religious press. Thus we glorify men to enhance the standing of the Church of God, and the glory of the Prince of Life is made to hang upon the transient fame of a man who shall die."

A.W. Tozer

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

An Irony: We Once Thought the Indians Savages

'The Trail of Tears' (1838-1839) culminated in the relocation of over 20,000 Cherokee Indians from Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and North Carolina to Northeastern Oklahoma. Estimates are that 4,000 Cherokee men, women and children died during The Trail of Tears. Upon settling in Oklahoma at an area called Park Hill, just outside of the present day city of Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the Cherokee Indians began to rebuild their nation. Within a decade of arriving in Oklahoma, around the same time the Southern Baptist Convention was being formed, the Cherokee people - with the help of missionary Samuel Worcester who came with the Cherokees to Oklahoma - began to establish a system of education for the Cherokee men - and women.

The Cherokee Female Seminary

In 1851 the Cherokees at Park Hill began a seminary for women, with rigorous curriculum, patterned after that of Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in Massachusetts. The seminary offered no instruction in Cherokee language or culture, but was open only to full- and mixed-blood Cherokee girls. The school was in operation until 1909 and approximately 3,000 girls attended. These women and their educational experiences greatly influenced the Cherokee Nation and the lives of their descendants. Students at the Cherokee Female Seminary took courses in Greek, Hebrew, Latin, political economy, literary criticism, theology, philosophy and other advanced academic courses. Pupils staged dramatic productions, held music recitals and published their own newsletter. The seminary building was eventually destroyed by fire, but three original columns from the building mark the entrance into the modern Cherokee Heritage Center.

The first woman to receive her Ph.D. in the United States of America, Miss Sarah Worcester, was a descendent of the founder of the Cherokee Female Seminary. Wilma Mankiller, the female Chief of the Cherokee Nation in the 1980's said this about the Cherokee Female Seminary . . .

"The Cherokee Female Seminary was among the first educational systems built west of the Mississippi - Indian or non-Indian. In fact, for a period of time during the mid-nineteenth century, the Cherokee population was more literate than the neighboring non-Indian population”

The Cherokees were so successful in educating Cherokee women through the Cherokee Female Seminary that some of the more traditional Cherokee men began to complain that the women were no longer suited for domestic chores. Eventually, the traditionalists were overruled and the Cherokee Female Seminary was folded into the Cherokee Men's Seminary which had been established in Tahlequah, Oklahoma and the combined schools became what we know today as Northeastern State University, one of oldest institutions of higher learning west of the Mississippi, and still the university with the highest concentration of Indian students in the United States.

Highly educated and theologically minded women in the United States is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it is interesting to compare the manner in which Southern Baptist women are treated in one of our seminaries today versus the vigorous rigors of academic training of Cherokee Indian women in 1851. Paul Littleton directed my attention to the following recent testimonial of a Southwestern Seminary student's wife.

“We have been out of Southwestern Seminary for a little over two years now. While we were there we saw many good things happen and met many good people. One of the things that I attempted while we were their, was to be a part of their Seminary Wives “club”. I was immediately turned off when I sat on the first night of the meetings and heard all that would happen in the upcoming semester. First, Dorothy Patterson wanted us seminary wives to pay and enroll as students in order to come to these meetings. Why you ask??? Because the more “students” that are enrolled, the better they (SWBTS) look to the Southern Baptist Convention. So here we all sat in this large room listening to Mrs. Patterson talk about how expensive it was to turn on lights in a building and how we should all be ashamed of ourselves if we decided to “audit” this “class” and not register for it because THAT wouldn’t help this seminary. The meeting went on to talk about topics that would be discussed over the next semester. They ranged from 'Taking Care of Your Home,' to 'Taking Care of Your Husband.' Both could be valuable things to hear someone speak on. Except 'Taking Care of Your Home' was about making your house perfect “looking” and being able to pour tea correctly, and 'Taking Care of Your Husband' was about ironing his handkerchief and packing his suit case correctly. Needless to say I was shocked.

In a day when some Southern Baptists seem to believe it is wrong to educate women in the classics, the languages, or Biblical theology - not to mention to employ women in teaching these subjects - it might be well for us all to remember the example of those evangelical, conservative Christian Indians who have gone before us.

No doubt there will be opposition by some when there they see an increasing number of theologically minded women in the Southern Baptist Convention or female Hebrew, Greek and theology professors given positions at Southern Baptist seminaries. A few might even wish to destroy the ministerial reputatation and careers of those Southern Baptists who affirm women in the highest of academic roles within the SBC. But, the negative reaction of some should never negate the positive results of what is accomplished through an intellectual and theologically minded populace of Southern Baptist females.

Davy Crockett was severely persecuted for standing up for the Cherokee people before Congress in the 1830's at Washington, D.C. Crockett's own political career was destroyed because he supported the Cherokees when everyone else wanted them out of sight and out of mind. Davy Crockett left Washington D. C. and eventually made his way west to Texas where he became a frontier hero and died at the Alamo. But before Crockett left the nation's capital he made a statement regarding his strong stand for the oppressed Cherokee Indians - a statement that is as appropriate today regarding women in Southern Baptist academia as it was in Crockett's day regarding the Cherokee people:

"I would sooner be honestly damned than hypocritically immortalized"

This Sooner couldn't agree more.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Silence That Sounds Serious at Southwestern

This morning I read a post by Paul Littleton over at SBC Outpost that reraised a couple of questions in my own mind about the ongoing Sheri Klouda incident at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas and the continuing implications for the Southern Baptist Convention and agency oversight.

I wrote in my initial post on the Klouda termination that Dr. Klouda had been hired unanimously as Professor of Hebrew by the Board of Trustees of SWBTS on June 24, 2003, only to be later forced out because 'she was a woman in a man's position.' When Dr. McClain, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Southwestern, gave an interview to a couple of news wires two days after my post first appeared, he said my blog post on Dr. Klouda's forced removal was 'filled with inaccuracies.' After repeated attempts to contact Chairman McClain by phone in order to speak with him personally about his statement to the press, I finally left a detailed message with his secretary. I told her that I would like to be informed specifically of the 'inaccuracies' in order to immediately correct them.
Five days later I was sent a short and abrupt email from Dr. McClain's office explaining his comment to the newspaper reporters. Dr. McClain's email contained these five words . . .

'Dr. Klouda was not hired unanimously.'

Subsequent to Chairman McClain's email I requested a copy of the minutes of the January 2003 SWBTS Board of Trustee meeting. I wanted to see for myself if Dr. Klouda's hiring, indeed, was NOT unanimous as Dr. McClain alleged. If Dr. McClain was correct, then the factual 'inaccuracy' in my post needed to be immediately corrected and I needed to publicly apologize. I assumed Dr. McClain had already backed off of the previous use of the word 'inaccuracies' since his email contained only one fact from my post that he was disputing. I knew my initial written statement on the vote count did not come from the SWBTS minutes - it came from the person who was present at the meeting and hired by SWBTS - Dr. Klouda herself. Could Dr. Klouda have been wrong?

When I attempted to obtain the minutes of that January 2003 SWBTS trustee meeting, I was told by the SWBTS Presidential office that I could not receive them. Even though the minutes were the approved, plenary session minutes of the SWBTS meeting when Dr. Klouda was hired, and even though the Southern Baptist Convention bylaws state every Southern Baptist entity shall send its' minutes to the Executive Committee, I was forbidden to see them. Paul Littleton posted today about his similar frustration as he sought to obtain those same SWBTS minutes for himself.

To this date I have not received the SWBTS minutes of that June 2003 trustee meeting, though I have asked both verbally and in writing that they be sent to me. However, I did have a SWBTS trustee call me and tell me that, contrary to statements to the press by SWBTS board leadership, my post was completely accurate, and the minutes would reveal that Dr. Klouda was hired unanimously.

As I see it, the administration and leadership of the SWBTS Board of Trustees are making a huge mistake. I am not convinced the entire SWBTS board is fully aware of the difficult moral and legal predicament in which they have been placed through misleading statements to the press by SWBTS administration and board leadership. I have friends on the SWBTS board who I am sure are completely in the dark regarding the handling of the Klouda situation. Yet, what concerns me is the implication by SWBTS adminstration and board leadership that the entire board was fully informed and consented to the direction of SWBTS administration in forcing out Klouda because she was a woman. According to the Associated Press, which cites court papers that have been filed, Dr. Klouda was removed from her position because "Dr. Klouda was a mistake that the trustees needed to fix."

Two questions come to my mind when I read statements about Dr. Klouda being a 'trustee mistake' that needed to be fixed. (1). Is it possible for the entire body of SWBTS trustees to vote 'unanimously' in hiring Dr. Klouda, and for that same board to later call their unanimous decision 'a mistake'? Surely there is at least one trustee who was confident he did the right thing when he voted to hire Dr. Klouda. Or, (2). Could it be that when Sheri Klouda was forced to leave Southwestern, only the SWBTS adminstration was involved in the decision, and the trustees of SWBTS were not even informed?

The answer to the second question according to board leadership, specifically Chairman Dr. McClain, is 'no.' He has publicly stated that all the SWBTS trustees were kept fully informed by the President of SWBTS. However, I have had at least a half dozen SWBTS trustees tell me they had no clue about Klouda's forced removal, much less the reasoning behind why a unanimous action of the Board of Trustees needed to be 'corrected.' Again, if a 'trustee mistake' were being 'corrected,' then there should be a public record of where the detailed explanation is given to the trustees as to why their unanimous decision was a mistake. In addition, there should also be a recording in the minutes of the trustees 'vote' to correct their mistake.

What complicates the matter for SWBTS is the fact that Dr. Klouda's personnel file and job evaluations prior to her removal are stellar. Her exemplary work record and personnel file negates any attempt by someone to say she was removed for reasons other than gender. The multi-million dollar question is this: Did the trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary believe they made a mistake when they hired a female Hebrew professor in June of 2003, and did they, through informed consent, vote to reverse their mistake?

I firmly believe any examination of the minutes of SWBTS will show that the SWBTS trustees, in spite of statements to the contrary to the press by board leadership, were never informed of the steps taken to remove Klouda. I would be more than happy to be corrected in my assessment - and this can easily be done by providing the minutes of the trustee meetings. Yet, nobody is able to confirm or deny what actually happened in SWBTS trustee meetings regarding the Sheri Klouda situation because nobody in administration or board leadership is willing to let Southern Baptists see the minutes.

I am convinced that operating an SBC agency in this manner must change. Ironically, when SWBTS's leadership refuses to listen to Southern Baptists dressed in suits, ties and dresses who politely ask for information, they may end up listening to non-Southern Baptists dressed in robes who aren't so much asking for information as they are mandating change and decreeing penalties.

In His Grace,


Friday, August 10, 2007

Samuel Worcester and the Kingdom of Christ

Last night I watched the 20/20 news special Pastor to Power which detailed the ministry of Southern Baptist evangelist Billy Graham to eleven Presidents of the United States. One of the ABC Presidential historians interviewed during the show, Richard Norton Smith, made a memorable remark about Billy Graham.

"Billy Graham came to understand something that every President ought to know on Inauguration Day: Temporal power is fleeting and ultimately the gospel trumps the Gallup Poll"

Sometimes I wonder if we Southern Baptists truly understand what it means to live for the kingdom of Christ. It seems that we can be guilty of falsely associating patriotism, southern culture, etiquette, and Republican politics with genuine Christianity. I know we know better, but it's easy for us to question the spiritual genuineness of anyone who disagrees with us politically, culturally or nationalistically. I would like to tell you the story of a pastor who not only understood the difference between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of man, he paid the highest of all prices to remain loyal to the former in face of severe persecution from the latter.

Voices from the Grave

This past Wednesday, August 8, 2007, my son Logan and I visited a cemetary just outside of Tahlequah, Oklahoma. In a farmers field a few miles beyond the city limits is a grave yard reserved for the Boudinot and Worcester families. Two men of special significance to evangelical Christianity and Oklahoma history are buried there. One is a Cherokee Indian named Buck Watie (1800-1839) who is better known by his English name Elias Boudinot. Elias was a very devout Christian and took his 'Christian' name from the nationally renowned Elias Boudinot, the former President of the United States under the Articles of Confederation. President Boudinot first met Buck Watie in Washington D.C. in the year 1818. It is said that the the former President was so impressed with the young Christian Indian that he promised to financially support Buck in his pursuit of formal education. From that day forward Buck Watie took the English name Elias Boudinot as his own - an act that deeply moved Buck's namesake.

Buck 'Elias Boudinot' Watie eventually became one of four Cherokee men who formalized a treaty with the United States government to sell all Cherokee lands east of the Mississippi to the United States government, and in return, to receive from the government a 'perpetual homeland' in Indian Territory - now called Oklahoma. The vast, overwhelming majority of Cherokees who lived in northwestern Georgian, southern Tennessee and northeastern Alabama were furious that the New Echota Treaty with the United States government had been signed. In accord with the Treaty, the Cherokees were allowed to voluntarily move west to Indian Territory (Oklahoma), but when only a few hundred had moved by the deadline, the government began a forced removal in the fall of 1838. Over four thousand Cherokees died in this mandatory relocation which is now famously called The Trail of Tears. The bitterness toward Elias Boudinot for signing the Treaty was so great that he was murdered by his fellow Cherokees in front of his wife and children on June 22, 1839 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. What is ironic about Elias' death at the hands of his own people is that Elias signed the New Echota Treaty genuinely believing his people were better off apart from the sinful oppression of the greedy white men back east who would stop at nothing, including war, to obtain the Cherokees' land.

Buried next to Elias in the farmer's field is the man I wish to honor in this post. His name is Samuel Worcester (pronounced 'Wooster') and the Cherokee Indian Elias Boudinot was his good friend, Christian disciple, and fellow laborer for the kingdom of Christ. Samuel was first a missionary to the Cherokee Indians in Georgia, and later a missionary to the Cherokees in Oklahoma. Though Samuel is not known by many modern evangelical Christians, his missonary life and testimony rivals that of David Brainard.

Samuel Worcester (1798-1859) was the 7th generation of pastors in his family, dating back to when his family lived in England. When Samuel was born his father, the Rev. Leonard Worcester, was a minister in Peacham, Vermont. According to Charles Perry of the Peacham Historical Association, Leonard also worked as a printer in the town during the week.

Young Samuel exhibited an unusual strength in foreign languages. While studying in New England the minister met and befriended Buck Watie, the Cherokee Indian described above, who by this time had already taken the name of Elias Boudinot. Samuel and Elias became close friends. When Worcester joined the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions he requested assignment to a Cherokee village that was in particular need according to Boudinot. The village came to admire the 'white man' with a message and many were converted to Christianity through Samuel's ministry to them. The Cherokee's in Georgia gave to Samuel a Cherokee name which meant "The Messenger." (see The North Georgia Notables)

A Man Who Served a Higher Kingdom

Samuel deeply loved the Cherokees. He was the best speaker of the Cherokee language among white men in the New World. He not only learned their tongue, he lived their ways. He earned their trust. It is said that Samuel was responsible for leading many chiefs to faith in Christ, and the Cherokees came to be considered the most 'civilized' tribe of the Indians because of their wide professed Christianity, progress in formal education, and particular skills at farming and printing. Samuel and Elias Boudinot began the first ever Indian Newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix, and helped bring the Cherokee people into more literacy than the white citizens of Georgia that surrounded them. However, when gold was discovered in northern Georgia in the late 1820's the insatiable thirst for riches in the Cherokee's land led the Georgia state assembly and Georgia Governor George Gilmer to officially adopt 'a policy of forcible Indian removal.' Plans were made for what Georgia called a 'Land Lottery,' to be held in 1832, where all the Cherokee tribal lands would be awarded to white settlers.

Samuuel Worcester and 11 other missionaries and pastors to the Cherokees met at New Echota in Georgia, a city near the current Rome, Georgia, to make plans to protest the forced removal. New Echota was the capital of the Cherokee Nation until it moved to Tahlequah, Oklahoma in 1839. The men met and published a resolution in protest of the Georgia law that the state assembly had passed requiring all whites to get a license to work on Native American land. This law was preparation for the forced removal of the Cherokees. Worcester reasoned correctly that obeying the law would, in effect, be tantamount to surrendering the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation. Governor Gilmer ordered the militia to arrest Worcester and the others who signed the document. Quickly brought to trial and convicted, Worcester and the others held firm to their beliefs. Even though the United States Supreme Court had already ruled the Cherokee Nation was independent and all dealings with them fell under federal jurisdiction, not the state, the Supreme Court rulings were ignored by both Georgia Governor Gilmer and President Andrew Jackson. Samuel Worcester was kept in prison - for almost two years.

A Fragile and Important Diary

Today I spoke with Pastor John Worcester who lives in Seattle, Washington. John is the great-great-great-grandson of Samuel Worcester. When John was ordained into the ministry, his aunt gave to him, in a very solemn family ceremony, the diary that Samuel Worcester kept during his imprisonment in Georgia. This diary is now held by the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, under loan by the Worcester family, in order to ensure proper care for it. The diary has never been published but John Worcester has graciously agreed to send me a copy of the microfilm for my own archives.

In the diary Samuel speaks of God's goodness and sovereignty over all things. Ironically, it was the imprisonment of Samuel that played a significant role in Elias Boudinot changing his mind about Cherokee removal to Indian Territory. Although Elias initially and publically opposed such a plan, he came to believe that if the United States government could harshly imprison a white man who opposed Indian relocation - and a missionary at that - the government would not stop at anything to obtain Georgia Cherokee land. This dim view of future treatment of Cherokees in Georgia by the respective federal and state governments eventually led Cherokee leaders Elias Boudinot, Major Ridge, John Ridge and Stand Watie to sign the New Echota Treaty. This signing of the Treaty also eventually resulted in the execution of all the signers in Oklahoma by their fellow Cherokees except for Stand Watie - who was Elias' brother - and who would later become the only Indian general in the Confederate Army. Stand Watie is also recognized as the last Confederate General to surrender during the Civil War in 1865 - in Fort Towson, Oklahoma - two months after the surrender of General Lee in Virgiania.

Upon release from prison in 1834 because of a change of governorship in Georgia, Samuel Worcester moved to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and eventually established residence at Park Hill (just outside Tahlequah, Oklahoma). Samuel prepared the area for what he knew would be the removal of the entire Cherokee Nation from Georgia to Indian Territory. In a future post I will explain the tremendous influence Samuel had here in Oklahoma in establishing both a men's and a women's seminary in Tahlequah, printing the first book ever published in Oklahoma (according to the Oklahoma Historical Commission), and discipling the Cherokees regarding Christianity by teaching them the Bible in their own Cherokee language. My own city and region around Enid, Oklahoma have felt the influence of Samuel Worcester. When the federal government had trouble negotiating a treaty with the wild Plains Indians in the mid 1800's (our highschool mascot is the Enid Plainsmen), it was a Cherokee Christian convert and disciple of Samuel Worcester who helped the United States government make peace with the Plainsmen Indians. But, I digress . . .

Lessons from the Life of Samuel Worcester

In researching the life of Samuel Worcester this week I was moved by three things:

(1). This highly educated missionary was considered a 'traitor' to the United States and 'unpatriotic' by his fellow citizens. Yet, even while enduring a long imprisonment, Samuel Worcester determined it was better to suffer for the kingdom of Christ than to be praised by the kingdom of men. I am reminded that my main priority as a pastor should be the gospel and not popularity. As Billy Graham is said to understand, 'The gospel trumps the Gallup Poll.'

(2). While some are going through their lives searching for comfort and temporary pleasures, there are others who are giving their lives for the sake of eternal and higher pleasures. I couldn't help but think of the thousands of people who travel to Grand Lake, or float the Illinois, or go about their daily business all around Tahlequah and never realize the significance of the actions of some great men and women that are buried near them at Park Hill. In fact, as Tiger shot a 63 at the PGA on Friday in nearby Tulsa, Southern Hills, I reflected on the fact that knocking a little white ball into a hole pales in comparison to bringing a soul into the kingdom. No pastor ever ought to minimize either his calling or the importance of his work.

(3). There are some events, even in the lives of God's people, that can never be explained satisfactorily by human standards. The murder of Samuel's good friend, Elias Boudinot, in front of Elias' own wife and children, is horrific. Yet, in the end, both Samuel and Elias died. How they died matters little. What they died for matters everything. As 19th Century missionary to the New Hebrides cannibals John Paton said,

I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer

I'm not sure if anyone else enjoys history as much as I, but I am thoroughly convinced that we have a great deal to learn from those who have gone before us. I learn from Samuel Worcester that the kingdom of Christ should always trump the kingdom of men in our lives and ministries.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Sunday, August 05, 2007

A Road Trip, a Special Anniversary, and Ben Cole

Today my thirteen-year-old son Logan and I begin a four day road trip across Oklahoma. I am researching the early Baptist mission work among the Native Americans and we will make our way to the old Fort Arbuckle in Southern Oklahoma, Fort Towson in Southeastern Oklahoma, Fort Gibson in Eastern Oklahoma and Mission Hill near Tahlequah in Northeastern Oklahoma. My son is the photographer and I am the interviewer as we will be preparing for a special presentation I will be making for Oklahoma's Centennial Celebration and the Cherokee Outlet Run Anniversary on September 16, 2007. We also will be interviewing a couple of professional golfers in Tulsa, Oklahoma, courtesy of my friend and deacon Herman Hackett. Logan told me to be sure and publicly thank Herman for his generosity in giving us the clubhouse passes for the PGA Tournament at Southern Hills -- Logan says it makes researching the Indians worth it! :)

In addition, today, August 6th, 2007, Rachelle and I celebrate our twenty-fourth wedding anniversary. I can honestly say I am more in love with my wife today than I was on our wedding day. She is not only a wonderful wife and mother, she is my best friend, my soulmate and an absolutely beautiful person in every sense of the word. In other words, she's still one hot mama! :)

Finally, our church is welcoming to our pastoral staff the soon to be Dr. Ben Cole. Culminating a two month long process, our Personnel Committee unanimously voted one week ago last Sunday night, and we announced yesterday morning, the hiring of Ben Cole, Pastor of Parkview Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. Ben will help us in our small group and media ministries as well as other pastoral duties. Ben will be introduced to our church Sunday morning, August 19th, and he will be sharing with our church his testimony that night. Though he has already briefly worked with our staff in preparing for some of the technical and structual changes needed to launch our new ministries on September 2, he will play a key role in implementing some of those changes this fall. We all believe Ben will be able to contribute greatly to the people and ministries of Emmanuel Baptist Church. I know Parkview loves their pastor and we will be praying for them as they prepare for this time of transition.

Due to the upcoming road trip I will not be posting again until next week. Lord willing, I will respond to any comments or questions late tonight. Have a great week and God's blessings to you all.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Friday, August 03, 2007

Those Who Tell the Truth Will Often Pay A Price

Not far from where I live in Enid, Oklahoma is a little town called Marshall. Buried in the Marshall North Cemetary is a nationally acclaimed Oklahoma author and historian named Angie Debo (pronounced Da Bo'). Although Angie died in 1988 at the age of 98, and although she received many prestigious awards from across the nation during her lifetime, the state of Oklahoma did not recognize her achievements until one month before she died.

It seems Angie got cross ways with our state and federal authorities in 1940. Angie had the nerve to tell the truth about the theft of Indian lands in Indian territory by our federal government. These lands now form the state we call Oklahoma. Angie's controversial book, entitled Still the Waters Run, portrays a series of of dozens of broken promises and contracts that eventually led to the Indians losing land that had been promised to them as a perpetual homeland. Angie, a University of Chicago graduate and a thorough historian, carefully researched her book, but state officials refused to allow it to be published in Oklahoma. In 1940 the book was published by Princeton University Press.

According to University of Oklahoma historian David Dary, the publication of 'Still the Waters Run' cost Angie Debo any teaching position in Oklahoma's universities. Though Angie would eventually write nine books and be granted the prestigious Award of Scholarly Distinction, she was forced to return to the high school classroom in rural Oklahoma. From Marshall, Oklahoma, Angie would often provide reviews for the New York Times. She was unwelcome and under appreciated in her own state of Oklahoma and admired by others outside the state -- all because she had the audacity to tell the truth about how we became a state.

Angie Debo's story reminds me of these three lines from 'A Few Good Men.'

Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessep: You can't handle the truth!

One month before Angie died at 98 in February of 1988, Oklahoma Governor Henry Bellmon traveled to Marshall, Oklahoma to officially recognize and award Angie Debo for her life's contributions and work. Angie's portait now hangs in the Oklahoma State Capital Rotunda next to humorist Will Rogers. Her last book 'Gerimono: The Man, His Time, His Place' was written when she was 83 and won the prestigious Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.

But Angie is most remembered for her persistence in uncovering and revealing the truth. Her book 'The Road to Disappearance: A History of the Creek Indians' was the basis for a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in which important land rights for the Indians were recognized. Angie was loved by the little, overlooked people of our state, and hated by the establishment.

There are three things Angie Debo's story confirms for those of us interested in the twists and turns of persistence in telling the truth.

(1). Those who tell the truth will often pay a price extracted by the establishment.
(2). Persistent truth-telling will eventually lead to significant, landmark changes.
(3). In the end, the establishment will be so transformed by the necessary changes produced by truth-telling that the truth-teller will eventually be recognized and honored by the establishment.

So . . .

May those who write blogs persist in writing and upholding the truth - regardless of the consequences. In the end, truth will prevail and the truth-teller will be honored - either here or the here-after.

In His Grace,


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Do Bible Versions Reveal Levels of Conservatism?

I received an email from a missionary that asked me a question about the International Mission Board no longer approving the New International Version for publications. It seems that field personnel in at least one particular region were told . . .

'If quoting a verse from the Book, the NIV is no longer an approved version. To simplify things at the pr office, they would like verses used in this format: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NASB). This is only if you are quoting a whole verse. If you are paraphrasing part of a verse, you don’t have to put the version. (This is true for all company publications—not just C’net).

These are the approved versions:

ESV – English Standard Version

HCSB – Holman Christian Standard Bible

KJV – King James Version

NASB – New American Standard Bible

NKJV – New King James Version

I immediately called the International Mission Board in Richmond, Virginia to find out if this were true. The staff and administration of the IMB were very responsive to my questions and answered them thoroughly. I encourage any Southern Baptists with questions or concerns to call the respective agency's administrative personnel. I believe you will find them responsive, as did I.

I was told that the particular email in question conveyed a much stronger statement against the New International Version than the IMB administrative staff intended. The issue is simply one of being able to check to make sure that any verse that is used in IMB publications is quoted accurately. There is a style manual that the IMB uses to ensure proper grammar, and this manual has historically contained five 'approved' versions of the Bible. Rather than adding a 'sixth,' the IMB replaced the New International Version with the Holman Christian Standard. It was not meant to be a statement 'against' the NIV. The IMB has no desire to issue 'approval' or 'disapproval' statements regarding the NIV. It is simply a matter of internal style.

However, the senior administrator who spoke with me on the phone did tell me something interesting. He said that there have been a few Southern Baptists who have complained about to the IMB administration about the use of the NIV in official publications. I didn't press him to explain the complaints or even elaborate whether or not the removal of the NIV from the style manual is a desire to avoid any future criticism, but it did give me pause to reflect.

I was given the NIV on my eighteenth birthday and memorized the entire book of Romans from the NIV. When I preached through Galatians at Emmanuel I used the NIV. Many Southern Baptist churches use pew Bibles that are NIV. The NIV has been a highly used version of the Bible by many Southern Baptists in the last half century.

Many Southern Baptists may not be aware of the King James Version Only Baptists who dot the religious landscape. Though I still preach from the King James Version, I really get chills up my spine anytime I'm around people who suggest there is an inerrant and 'inspired' English translation of the God breathed, inerrant and infallible word of God. It is obvious that the IMB administration is not KJV Only -- but I think it would be well for all of us who are Southern Baptists to be on guard against any attempt to measure one's spirituality, conservatism or dedication to Christ by what version of the Bible we use.

In His Grace,


Thank You for All Your Help for the Klouda Family

This is the final update for all of you who have contributed to The Klouda Benevelonce Fund established here at Emmanuel Baptist Church on behalf of Pinky and Sheri Klouda and their daughter Abbey.

Pinky has been unable to work as much as he would like due to his heart condition. Due to the financial difficulties the Kloudas have faced since their unexpected move to Indiana, it has been impossible to afford the necessary treatment for Pinky.

As of August 1, 2007, Southern Baptists from around the nation, and in some instances missionaries from overseas, have contributed in the last four months a total of $16,333.36 to the Klouda fund here at Emmanuel. Sheri told me over the phone yesterday that her family has been overwhelmed at the generosity of Southern Baptists. Pinky has now been scheduled for an angioplasty procedure to remove the two blockages in his heart, and the financial support the Kloudas have received has made this affordable for the family.

Our church is now closing the Klouda benevolence fund for the Kloudas, but we do so with an abiding and deep belief that Southern Baptists really do care about people in need. Our prayers continue for Sheri, Pinky and Abbey. We believe the Lord will provide for them in the future in surprising and unexpected ways.

In His Grace,


P.S. Sheri Klouda emailed me this evening the following to be posted here. "Once again let me express our humble gratitude to all of those who shared gifts with us and supported us during our struggles. I recognize that we are not only referring to Southern Baptists, but other believers from diverse places, all of whom have demonstrated their caring towards us. May God bless all of you richly for your generosity and your sensitivity to our needs. We do ask for your continued prayers on our behalf as we seek the next steps in our lives. We have been truly OUTblessed!" Sheri

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Wisdom of Augustus Toplady for Today's SBC

My friend Dr. George Ella was commissioned in the 1990's by the British Historical Society to write a definitive biography biography on the great Anglican pastor, theologian and poet Augustus Toplady. Most Southern Baptists would only know of Toplady through the hymn 'Rock of Ages,' which he wrote. I have recently reread Ella's excellent biography and supplemented my desire to know more of Toplady by reading the beneficial one volume book entitled The Complete Works of Augustus Toplady (Sprinkle Publications: 1987). I found myself gleaning golden nuggets of counsel from Toplady's written wisdom regarding ministers, principles he articulated nearly 300 years ago. The following examples are relevant for Southern Baptist pastors and leaders today. In a time when some Southern Baptists seem to grasp for the choice morsels of denominational praise and acceptance, leaving the choicest meats of principles, heartfelt convictions, and necessary reform on the convention's plate, the words of Augustus Toplady provide the needed fuel for evangelical, reform-minded pastors to keep the faith.

(1). When the minister is falsely or slanderously accused.

"Gospel ministers should not be too hasty and eager to wipe off every aspersion that is cast on them falsely for Christ's sake. Dirt on the character (if unjustly thrown), like dirt on the clothes, should be let alone for a while, until it dries; and then it will rub off easily enough." (Augustus Toplady, Observations and Reflections, The Complete Works of August Toplady, Sprinkle Publications, page. 550).

(2). The passion of the preacher's life and message.

"Gregory Nazianzen says, in his euologium on Basil, 'Thy word was thunder and they life was lightening.' Such should the preaching and lifestyle of every minister be." (Ibid, p. 550).

(3). On pastors not responding to the trivial and trite criticisms of colleagues.

"Were evangelical preachers and writers to stop, and give a lash to every spiteful noisy cur that yelps at them in their way to the kingdom of God, they would have enough to do before they got to their journey's end." (Ibid, p. 550).

(4). The courage of conviction in the heart of the leader.

"The best clock in the world will be spoiled, if you are perpetually moving the hands backwards and forwards, and altering it in order to make it keep time with a variety of other clocks; it will hardly ever go regularly and well. So a minister, who shapes and accommodates his sentiments and discourses to the tastes and humours and opinions of other people, will never be happy, respectable, or useful."(Ibid, 550).

(5). On the preaching of the pure gospel.

"Among the great variety of preachers, some give the pure gospel wine, unadulterated and undashed. Others give wine and water. Some give mere cold water, without a drop of wine among it. The weight of opposition will always fall heaviest on those who sound the gospel trumpet loudest." (Ibid, p. 550).

This is food for thought for any evangelical Southern Baptist pastor who wavers between his desires for the favorable opinions of men and his faithful fulfillment of God's calling, regardless of any human endorsement.

In His Grace,