Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Good in a Brother Who Has Become a Bother

In preparing for Sunday morning's exposition of Genesis 25 I came across an interesting observation about Ishmael from the pen of John Gill. Gill, in his Exposition of the Scriptures, comments on the names of three of Ishmael's sons, 'Mishma, Duman, and Massa' (25:14):

Of Mishma and Massa, and of their posterity, there is not anything said elsewhere, unless the Masani, Ptolemy {p} places near Arabia Felix, came from Massa. Dumah seems to be the same Isaiah speaks of in Ge 21:11; and in Arabia Deserta, where some of Ishmael's posterity settled, is a place called Dumaetha, by Ptolemy {q}, which perhaps had its name from this son of his. The Targum of Jonathan translates these three names,

"hearing, silence, and patience;''

which the Jews use as a proverb, when they would signify that 'there are some things to be heard and not spoken of, and to be patiently borne.' If Ishmael had in view to teach such lessons by the names he gave his children, he will seem to be a better man than he is usually thought to be (emphasis mine).

It was that last phrase that caught my attention. "He would seem to be a better man than he is usually thought to be." I think that could be said of all our brothers or sisters in Christ within the SBC. We may not all agree, and we may not like everything that our brothers in Christ say or do, but it would be intersting to see the transformation that would come to the SBC if we could intentionally focus on the good in that brother who has become a bother.

In His Grace,


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Simply Amazing: Amazing Grace at Carnegie Hall

A few months ago Rachelle and I had the privilege of meeting Wintley Phipps at the Oklahoma Baptist General Convention's Centennial Celebration. After the celebration - which was held at the First Southern of Del City, Oklahoma - Rachelle and I went to eat at the Cheesecake Factory in Oklahoma City. At the restaurant we were introduced to Wintley and his wife Anne by BGCO Executive Director Dr. Anthony Jordan and his wife Paula. Wintley and Anne were very warm and engaging in their conversation with us and Rachelle and I became big fans of their ministry that night. I had never heard Wintley sing until the Centennial Celebration, but I have since listened to him on multiple occasions via television and C.D.

My blogger friend Wayne Smith sent me the above video this week. Though this recorded portion of one of Wintley's performances is over eight minutes long, it is worth every minute of your time to listen to it. The recording is from Carnegie Hall in New York City and it has to go down as one of the most moving renditions of Amazing Grace ever recorded.

Have a great weekend and a wonderful Lord's Day Sunday!

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What Christ Says About Christians and Lawsuits

At the most recent chapel service at Southern Theological Seminary, as part of the annual Mullin's Lectures, the President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Forth Worth, Texas, made the following statement during his message:

“I am unalterably convinced that a significant percent of those who listen on any given Sunday to your message, though they are church members, are in fact lost. I judge that based much on the behavior of the church member. I cannot imagine a situation occurring among saved people where this one is taking that one to lawsuit (sic) in front of the, uh, pagan world. We are expressly forbidden that.”

One may listen to a recording of the entire chapel message here.

I think it is clear from Scripture that it is always best for Christians to settle their differences quickly, privately and justly. However, there are a few things one should consider before one assigns reprobation or eternal damnation to a brother or sister in Christ who takes a fellow Christian to civil or criminal court. It is a preacher's right to say what he feels from the pulpit, but it is the people's prerogative to judge whether or not the words are simply man's word, or in truth God's Word. God's Word seems to indicate something totally different from the preacher's quotation above.

(1). The courts of the land have been appointed by God for the purpose of justice.

When Christians follow Matthew 18 and the offending party shuns or refuses to listen to the offense, or where there is not a church (or church court) to sit in judgment, then it seems that I Peter 2:12-17 comes into play:

"Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right."

(2). There is Biblical precedent to appeal to secular authorities when a religious people or religious institution is poorly treating a Christian.

When the Jews sought to have Paul executed, the Roman commander resisted the desires of the religious Jews and ordered that Paul be flogged (whipped), but not executed. We read of Paul's reaction to the decision to have him whipped in Acts 22:25:

"Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn't even been found guilty?"

The Apostle Paul did not appeal to the Sanhedrin. The Apostle Paul did not appeal to the High Priest of the Jews. The Apostle Paul appealed to the secular Roman government on the basis of law.

Ray Steadman makes an interesting statement regarding appealing to the secular courts in his commentary on I Corinthians 6:

"I do not think he means that Christians are never to go to law; sometimes that is impossible to avoid . . . In certain cases, at least, this may be the only way that justice can be brought out."

(3). In an ideal situation, as was the case in the first few centuries of Christianity, a church court would listen to the grievances between brothers and rule justly. But except in a few, rare situations in certain denominations, all church courts have since been abolished. This leaves only secular civil courts as the final appeal.

I Corinthians 6:1-8 is used by some Christians as the final authority for a direct and eternal prohibition that Christians sue. This section of Corinthians calls attention to a long lost social function of the church — church courts. The following is taken from an exposition of I Corinthians 6:1-8 entitled Ordinary Christianity for the World"

Before Rome fell it was choked with a backlog of civil disputes in the Roman legal system. It could take years before a particular case came before a judge. The Roman legal system was choking on the rampant immorality and illegality that contributes to the rot of empires by generating social conflict. Great nations are more often destroyed from within by moral decay long before they fall victim to invading armies. And Rome had been rotting for hundreds of years before it was sacked by the Visigoths in 410 a.d.

At the same time, Christianity had inherited the elder rule system from the Old Testament, in which the local court overlapped the ecclesiastical court. We must remember that, while Rome had a great and powerful legal system, it pales in comparison to the Modern Western legal system in terms of its effectiveness and bureaucratization. Yet, even on the Western Frontier in early American history, civil courts were often few and far between. And in that context necessity required another way to solve disputes between people.

The structure of the Christian church, until the Modern era, had a system of courts to adjudicate matters between Christians — precisely because of Paul's admonition to avoid civil courts run by unbelievers. In the Modern era these church courts have, for the most part, fallen into neglect . . .

And yet, there is a contemporary movement to reestablish church courts in our time.

I believe it may be time that a church court be established for the Southern Baptist Convention - composed of godly men and women elected by the convention to handle matters of dispute involving state conventions and her agencies, national SBC agencies and entities and her employees, and other areas of SBC polity where there is no local church authority.

(4). Jesus Christ gives specific instructions regarding lawsuits and He says that those sued should make things right quickly IF they have done wrong. Notice, Jesus pronounces judgment upon the wrongdoer - but He makes no moral judgment regarding the person who sues the wrongdoer.

"If someone brings a lawsuit against you and takes you to court, settle the dispute with him while there is time, before you get to court. Once you are there, he will turn you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, and you will be put in jail. There you will stay, I tell you, until you pay the last penny of your fine." (Jesus Christ, quoted by the Apostle Matthew in Matthew 5:25,26)

I have recently received an email from a Southern Baptist who attended a forum entitled "How Submission Works in Practice: A Panel Discussion." I have asked for the audio of this forum, and have not yet received it, but the following is the account of a Southern Baptist who was present at the symposium and heard one of our Southern Baptist well-known speakers answer a question on how he counsels women who are abused by their husbands. I am not naming the speaker until I have heard the tape myself and verify the accuracy of first hand account sent to me - but this is the first hand account of what was said . . .

"At about fifty-five minutes into the message he is asked about how he handles wife abuse. He explained that he never recommends divorce, and only in the most serious of cases does he recommend a separation. He said he advises women who are being abused less seriously to do three things: pray, submit, and elevate their husbands. As an example of why he is right in counseling in this way, he gave an example of one of his counseling situations. A woman came to him and said she was being abused by her husband. He advised her that every night she should kneel down by the side of the bed and pray for her husband even if it made him mad and may cause him to beat her again. She did that, and she did get beaten. When she came back to church, she approached (the speaker) with her bruises and angrily told him, 'I hope you're happy,' to which he replied, 'Yes, ma'am, I am.' He went on to explain that he was happy because what the wife didn't know at that point was that the husband felt so bad about beating his wife again that he had come in earlier and repented and became a Christian and from that time on was a man of God. The moral of the story was that if a Godly woman stays in the situation and takes his advice (pray, submit, elevate), then she can trust God to move in the situation."

I can understand why some Southern Baptists, carrying the above mentality about succombing quietly and patiently to abuse, would argue that anyone who sues another cannot be a Christian. But as I look at all the teaching of the word of God, and the words of Christ himself, it would seem to me that the people who should be most worried about the court system are the abusers. God has established courts to punish the wrongdoer. In the above story, the wife could NEVER be considered the wrongdoer -even if she takes her husband to court. The abuser is the wrongdoer: period. End of story. If the courts stop the abuser from his abuse, then the courts have done their job - as appointed by God.

The federal judge in the Sheri Klouda vs. Southwestern lawsuit has denied all of Southwestern's motions to dismiss, and granted Dr. Klouda's second petition. Further, Judge McBryde has ordered a pre-trial settlement hearing between the parties and their primary counsel by mid-October. Dr. Klouda and her attorneys and SWBTS and their attorneys have to physically meet face-to-face in Fort Worth in a couple of weeks. This meeting was requested several times before any suit was filed, but there was no response from SWBTS. Now, they must respond.

Anyone who says Dr. Klouda is not saved because she has gone to the only court available to her to correct a wrong either does not believe in the sufficiency of Scripture and its clear teaching on these matters - which places Dr. Klouda well within the Biblical parameters of settling disputes over matters of law - or, is concerned that the judge may very well stop a form of abuse that some Southern Baptists find acceptable. Removing Southern Baptist educated, wonderfully competent, and justly hired women from Southern Baptist academia because it is the view of some narrow ideologists that it is solely the role of men to teach men in the classroom is, in my mind, abuse. It is a mistreatment of the women who were educated and hired for that very purpose, and simply stating their initial hiring was a mistake that needed to be corrected is not justification for the wrongful termination.

It would be prudent to abstain from making pronouncements on the condition of the soul of a Christian woman who, as a last resort, appeals to those government officials appointed by God to uphold justice.

It would also be prudent, as Jesus said, to "settle the dispute while there is still time."

In His Grace,


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The SBC Great Commission Resurgence Is Here

Just as historians look back to 1979 and the election of Adrian Rogers as the beginning of what is now known as "The Conservative Resurgence," I believe future historians will look back at the election of Frank Page in 2006 as the beginning of what will one day be called "The Great Commission Resurgence."

Tuesday I gave a report to the Board of Directors of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma regarding the incredible upsurge of Cooperative Program giving from Southern Baptist churches in Oklahoma. Bob Shelton, BGCO Stewardship Director, has led our Oklahoma state churches to concentrate on getting back to giving 10% of undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program. This past year, for every one dollar of undesignated giving to SBC churches in Oklahoma, 9.7 cents was forwarded to the Cooperative Program. That is an increase from 8.9 percent of every dollar the year before. The current national average is 6.4 percent. That means in a church with a one million dollar budget, if that church were from an Oklahoma Southern Baptist church, it would give on average $97,000 to the Cooperative Program. Likewise, if that same million dollar budget were in a church that was a non-Oklahoma Southern Baptist church, it would give on average $64,000 to the Cooperative Program. That is a very significant difference.

One of the great saxophonists of years past was once asked why his music was so much better than the average saxophonist. He replied, "If it ain't in your heart, it can't come out your horn." Until we actually place the Great Commission at the center of our purpose for cooperation, as Oklahoma churches are now doing, we will continually snipe at one another over non-essentials and fragment and splinter in dizzyingly different directions as a convention.

If we are to reach our goal of an additional 3,000 missionaries on the mission field in the next few years, it will only occur through increased CP dollars and intentional cooperation with churches and people who may not see eye to eye with us on tertiary matters. When CP giving increases, all the ministries of the SBC (the IMB, the seminaries, the North American Mission Board, state conventions, etc.) will prosper. The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma has received through June 30th of this year $430,000 more in Cooperative Program fund receipts than our state CP budget. Last year the BGCO took in more than 2.5 million dollars in receipts than we budgeted. At the end of the fiscal year we immediately forwarded half of that 2.5 million dollars to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, which then forwarded it to our missions agencies, seminaries, and other national SBC ministries. When water in the harbor we call CP rises, all boats rise with it.

Cooperative Program dollars have been used in the state of Oklahoma in some incredible ways this past year. Our BGCO state offices keeps 60 percent of CP money sent to them from Oklahoma churches and forwards 40 percent to Nashville. Of that 40 percent sent to Nashville, the International Mission Board receives half, and the other agencies of the SBC divide the other half. We are working as a state to forward even more monies to our national agencies and in reality, due to our additional $1.25 million surplus gift last year, Oklahoma Southern Baptists gave almost 41 percent of our state Cooperative Program revenue to the national SBC agencies.

The money that stays in Oklahoma is put to tremendous use to impact lostness in our state. It would be too much to list all that Oklahoma does in terms of ministry, but suffice it to say, people in Oklahoma know about Southern Baptists - in positive terms. From the 40,000 young people who attend Falls Creek, to the professional television commercials produced by our staff and aired across the state and seen by 90% of television viewers, to the Disaster Relief response teams that spread across the nation representing Oklahoma, when people think of Southern Baptists in Oklahoma, there is a positive feeling.

And that is the way it should be.

The harmony among the pastors in Oklahoma is unprecedented. We don't always agree with each other, but we don't yell and scream at one another. We don't always see eye to eye, but we respect the other person and his/her views. We have a sweet spirit among us in our state.

And that is the way it should be.

In our Stewardship Committee meeting yesterday we discussed some very significant churches in Oklahoma that have tremendous potential to increase their missions giving through the CP. Someone mentioned Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmond, probably the largest Southern Baptist church in Oklahoma in terms of budget and attendance, and made mention of the fact that Henderson Hills, though they are in the top fifty churches in terms of CP giving, could be giving so much more.

I was quick to point out that for Henderson Hills to be a significant contributor to the Cooperative Program, they must know that their autonomy is respected, their cooperation is valued, and they feel appreciated by state churches and pastors. Too many Southern Baptists are quick to make an enemy of a fellow Southern Baptist because either a church or a pastor does not see eye to eye with the powers that be. Worse, some are so determined to narrow the doctrinal parameters of what it means to be a Baptist, or demand ideological conformity to narrow views of non-essential issues, that if Southern Baptists are not careful and we let those ideologues speak as if they were the official spokespersons for all Southern Baptists, then churches like Henderson Hills, or Cornerstone in Arlington, or other non-traditional Southern Baptist churches might begin to feel unwelcome. For a convention that is built on cooperation, large conservative SBC churches that are made to feel unwelcome because of demands for ideological conformity on tertiary issues is the death knell.

The Southern Baptist Convention would do well to follow the example of Oklahoma. Focus on cooperation. Focus on the Great Commission. Accept people and their tertiary differences. Keep Christ and the gospel central. When that happens, the harvest will come.

The Great Commission Resurgence has already begun.

Would to God that it continues for decades to come.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Does Anybody in the SBC Care About Daycare?

In May of this year Dr. Paige Patterson told the closing assembly of the World Congress of Families meeting in Poland that feminism and 'the marginalization of men' are threatening the home. Patterson said,

"Mom and hot apple pie have been replaced by institutional daycare centers and cold apple turnovers at McDonald's."

Patterson explained that if efforts are not made to support women staying at home where they belong, that in a few short years men will be increasingly underrepresented among "the intelligentsia" and will gradually cede leadership to women in areas that should be reserved for men. Patterson lamented that most of the women ascending to these new roles will maintain a major focus on a career, not on the family and on children.

Six years years prior to his speech before the World Congress of Families, Dr. Paige Patterson closed the Ruby Reid Child Development Center at Southeastern Theological Seminary. Patterson told SEBTS students that he had "ideological problems" with the seminary sponsorship of a child-care center. Patterson said,

"Recent discoveries regarding children reared in child-care centers have only escalated our convictions that the child that is most likely to have a happy and useful life is a child reared in the home with the parents, not in a child-care center,"

Patterson's claim that Ruby Reid was not closed for these ideological reasons or it would have been closed when he became President nine years earlier rings hollow. A President must wait a few years until he has a majority of trustees who support his ideological views - or he risks angering the very people who have the ability to terminate him.

Word has it that one of the reasons Phil Roberts is on the hot seat at Midwestern Theological Seminary is because he closed the seminary's child-care center. Midwestern's child-care center had financial problems back in 2000, but with outside management the center has grown a million dollar annual budget. The reasons for closing the child-care center seem to have not been adequately explained to the trustees of Midwestern, if at all. Though Midwestern remains financially viable, it makes no business sense to close a profitable child-care center.

That is, unless the President of Midwestern has an ideological problem with day-care centers - as does his mentor Dr. Patterson.

Southern Seminary announced in April 2000 that the campus child-care program would close. After a strong outcry of opposition, seminary President Al Mohler pledged to keep the center for another year while seminary leaders studied long-term options to meet the seminary's child-care needs. At the time, Dr. Mohler cited financial issues for the closing of the day-care center and denied claims that the decision was based on a belief that mothers should stay home with their children.

There is nothing necessarily morally wrong with a mother who chooses to stay at home to raise her children. There is also nothing necessarily morally wrong with a mother who chooses to work and places her children in day care. It would seem to me that the mother must follow the Lord's leadership in this area, and it may differ from one mother to another.

What IS wrong is when leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, whomever they may be, determine what is wrong for all Southern Baptists - by ideological fiat. However, it seems that some Southern Baptists are beginning to understand the landscape of the SBC and are determined to resist the demands for ideological conformity. I think we will be a healthier convention when more and more Southern Baptists make their voices heard.

In His Grace,


Thursday, September 20, 2007

A Parable About An Unrepentant Son (or Sinner)

In a place called Vineyard there lived a Father and two adopted sons. One day the Father told the sons He would be leaving the Vineyard, but He would certainly return at a future time. He left instructions for the boys that the Vineyard was to be tended, and the grapes were to be harvested. There was no doubt both sons loved their Father, and there was no misunderstanding as to their mission - they were to harvest the grapes.

Over time, however, the sons had families of their own and soon many people from the the two son's families were in Vineyard harvesting the grapes as instructed by their Father. Eventually one of the sons, named Order, noticed his brother was not washing the grapes the way Father had taught them. Worse, all of those in brother's family were washing the grapes in the same manner - different from Order's way.

Order gathered his own children who were in the Vineyard and instructed them again in the proper way to wash grapes. Order spent hours that first day teaching his children the way Father had instructed them to wash grapes. The next day Order gathered his kids around and taught them again the principles of proper washing. Some of the young children who listened to Order were scratching their heads - they had always washed their grapes the way Father had taught them and were confused as to why they were being kept from the Vineyard to remind them of their Identity.

Soon, the reason for Order's ways were clear. Order 'order'ed his family to not associate with his brother's family in the Vineyard. He informed them that those grapes being harvested by their kin were possibly not part of a legitimate harvest because they had not been properly washed. Some of the more rebellious and independently-minded children of Order objected. The Vineyard was the Father's Vineyard, they said, and we are but stewards. Do not brother and his family answer to the Father and not to you, dear Order?

Order was livid. In his mind his own children were losing their Identity and a Rennaissance of what it means to be part of Order's family was needed. Order told his free-thinking children that if they did not have pride in being part of Order's family, they should leave the Vineyard. The children of Order responded, quite directly, that the issue was not disagreement with Order, but whether or not they would obey orders to not cooperate with their brother's family harvesting the grapes.

Order then pulled out all the stops against his brother and his brother's family by saying to all of Order's kids - "Our brother and his children are unrepentant sinners and we have been told by Father not to associate with the unrepentant, but to treat them as publicans. They do not belong in the same Vineyard with us." Some of Order's kids heard this and thought Order had lost his mind. Some wondered how Father would react when He found out Order called the Father's son an unrepentant sinner. Others in Order's family were embarrassed that those outside the Vineyard - people who didn't understand how the family operates - might think Order spoke for the whole family. One wise son of Order, however, won the day by speaking up when Order announced the need for an intensive Renaissance of Order's ways.

"Order," said the wise son, " Do you honestly believe it wise to take all of your kids out of the Vineyard to protect them from the brother's faulty methods of washing? Have you ever considered the fact that brother will one day answer to Father, and it might be best for us who are part of Order's family to work side by side with our brother's family, washing the grapes the way Father taught us, but concentrating on the harvest rather than identifying brother as an 'unrepentant sinner?'"

Order loudly rebuked the wise son in front of all the family, and even suggested the boy didn't understand the ways of Order. He implied the boy might be a secret member of brother's family; or worse, not even someone who should be in the Vineyard in the first place. Brother's family heard all the arguments on the Order side of the field and began to wonder why Order's family fought so much.

Right then, in the midst of all the debate and arguing among Order's kids, Father returned.

When Father asked for an accounting of the harvest in the Vineyard, Order proudly told Father that he had done his best to keep Order's family washing the grapes properly. When Father asked why the Harvest was low, Order proudly explained that when brother's family began to depart from the proper mode of washing grapes, he had withdrawn all of Order's kin from the Vineyard in order that he might rebuke them for associating with brother's family who were washing grapes improperly.

When Father heard from Order all the problems between brothers in the Vineyard, He called for the brother in unrepentant sin to stand before Him to give an account for his actions.

The moral of this parable is in the form of a question.

Which son stood before the Father in unrepentant sin?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cooperation Does Not Mean a Lack of Conviction

There are a handful of blogs that I read for personal edification and continuing education. One of those is David Rogers' blog Love Each Stone. David is a Southern Baptist missionary to Spain. He and I were at Baylor University together in the early eighties and I have followed his family and missionary career ever since.

I constantly learn from David. He is one of the most gracious men you will ever meet - or read. He is always chaste in his speech, civil in his deportment, and everything about him is seasoned with grace. David exemplifies the finest of who Southern Baptists are and what Southern Baptists believe. Most people know that David is the son of the legendary Adrian Rogers, has been educated at our Southern Baptist universities and seminaries, and has faithfully served Christ on behalf of Southern Baptists in mission fields abroad for two decades.

Recently David and Malcolm Yarnell, a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, entered into an online debate over the importance of cooperation among Great Commission Christians. Malcolm Yarnell takes the position that the only true
Great Commission Christians are Baptists. Everyone else, including Methodists, Presbyterians, non-Baptist Congegrationalists, Reformed Churches, Assemblies of God, and other Christians are in 'unrepentant sin' (his words, not mine) and Baptists should not cooperate with them on the mission field or in any church planting endeavors.

David Rogers responds to Malcolm's views by brilliantly showing why Christians should never divide over "secondary matters" or "disputable matters." David's hypothetical illustration of the "Common Loaf Denomination" is one of the most precise and understandable Biblical rationales for cooperating with other non-Baptist Christians on the mission field and in kingdom work you will ever read.

Then, Dr. Yarnell responds to David. Please read the letter in its entirety. Below are a few of Dr. Yarnell's statements to David (quoted exactly), with my observations and commentary of Dr. Yarnell's words.
"David, if I were to make a guess, it would be this: you, my friend, are still searching out exactly what you believe in many of these matters! "
I have read every one of David's letters, and it is evident that David is rock solid in his beliefs on baptism, the Lord's Supper, ecclesiology, etc . . . Dr. Yarnell even mentions that David expresses his views clearly. I find the statement that David Rogers, a Southern Baptist educated, long term career missionary is "still searching" exactly what he believes on baptism, the Lord's supper, etc . . . a little patronizing.

"My fear is that you have been brought to a precarious position by some of the worrisome trends in modern missionary thought and practice. These worrisome trends include, among many others, a confusion as to what exactly constitutes a Great Commission Christian, the invention of a distinction between "Baptist" and "baptistic," the affirmation or denial of the perspicuity of Scripture, confusion as to what it really means to cooperate with other Christians, and lack of clarity regarding a Baptist hierarchy of values."
Since Dr. Yarnell is not with the IMB, I'm not sure if he knows that the mission and purpose statements of the International Mission Board, adopted by the trustees of the IMB and implemented on the mission fields around the world, define precisely what a Great Commission Christian is, affirms the perspicuity of Scripture, and lay out clearly the terms of cooperation with other Great Commission Christians while maintaining Baptist distinctives. Dr. Yarnell's remarks appear to be very similar to the letter sent by Drs. Keith Eitel and Paige Patterson to IMB trustees in 2003 which criticized the administration and missionary employees of the IMB for these very issues. The 2003 criticism was specifically and directly rejected four years ago by the IMB trustees.

In other words, David, let us be clear that on the basis of the long-standing Baptist interpretation of the Great Commission, the following groups specifically do not qualify to be called Great Commission Christians: Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians (and other Reformed Churches), Non-Baptist Congregationalists, Quakers, Methodists, Pentecostals, and Assemblies of God. I will not provide an exhaustive list, for that would require a dictionary, but suffice it to say that any other Christian group that believes or practices what these Christian denominations distinctively believe and practice may not be legitimately classified as Great Commission Christians, even if some of them may be classified as "evangelicals."
I would be very interested in knowing if Dr. Yarnell's list of illegimitate Great Commission Christians is given to the public at large as an official representative of SWBTS, or merely his personal opinion? I would assume it represents his personal opinion and I affirm his freedom to express it publicly. It illustrates very clearly the direction some would like to take our board.

The errors of these other Christian churches are why some Baptists are more than willing to refer to them as "unrepentant sinners." When you disobey Christ, you are a "sinner." When you refuse to change your ways, you are "unrepentant." Thus, those who refuse to repent from their disobedience of Christ are "unrepentant sinners." This terminology seems to rub evangelical ecumenists in an especially noticeable way, which is probably why some of us readily use it. It helps bring forward important issues that are being buried in the rush of some naïve and errant children of the free churches to convert to Azusa Street, Canterbury, Geneva, Rome, and Constantinople.
I will not comment on this paragraph. I believe it says enough on its own.

I wish to commend Malcolm Yarnell and David Rogers for this very informative dialogue. I respect both men, believe them to be very sincere brothers in Christ and have absolutely no problem in serving with either of them at the International Mission Board. I do believe that in David and Malcolm you have a very clear understanding of the tension and the give and take between two diametrically opposite ideological and missiological viewpoints. Whichever viewpoint ultimately prevails in the IMB and the SBC will determine the course of our future. The differing ideologies, in my opinion, are best illustrated in this cartoon sent to me by Art Rogers.

Monday, September 17, 2007

To Whom Will Some Leaders Ultimately Listen?

Many are interested in the progress of the civil action against Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary by Dr. Sheri Klouda, the former female professor of Hebrew at SWBTS.

A few months ago Art Rogers called me and said someone from SWBTS had emphatically declared to him that the Klouda suit had been dismissed by the judge. I told him that it had not happened, and anyone who said it had was mistaken. Art informed me that the attitude of the person who told him the suit had been dismissed was one of absolute certainty. This past Friday the actual truth about the Klouda case was revealed.

The federal judge in charge has denied all of Southwestern's motions to dismiss the suit. Further, Klouda's second petition has been granted by the judge. Contrary to some who acted as if this case had no merit, the courts have indicated that there is sufficient reason for the case to proceed.

Judge McBryde's ruling can be interpreted several ways, but I think Matt's comment at SBC Outpost succinctly details the implications.

This is great news for her and terrible for Patterson.

Patterson was trying to get the lawsuit thrown out before having to engage in the discovery process. Now Klouda’s lawyers will have the opportunity to legally compel Patterson to turn over all kinds of evidence. There’s virtually no limit to what they can make him hand over. As long as what she’s asking for relates to her claims or Patterson’s defenses, he has to hand over the evidence (Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1)).

There are several types of discovery:

1. Interrogatories - Klouda’s lawyers can send a list of questions to Patterson that he must answer. One of the questions is guaranteed to be along the lines of, “Name every person with whom you in any way communicated concerning the potential dismissal of Dr. Klouda.”
2. Depositions - Klouda’s lawyers will be able to take depositions of Dr. Patterson and any other people they want to depose. A deposition is sworn testimony usually taking place in the lawyer’s office. The person being deposed is generally not permitted to refuse to answer any questions. Deposition testimony will only become public if the case goes to trial.
3. Production of documents - This one will be huge. Patterson will have to turn over all emails, letters, and any other documents that relate in any way to the situation with Klouda. Even if he has deleted emails, the court will probably require him to retrieve the deleted messages from backup files or through other means.

Patterson is also entitled to discover evidence. After both parties have had a chance to discover evidence, Patterson will probably move for the case to be thrown out on summary judgment. I’m oversimplifying things a little, but basically the judge will have to decide if there is any possibility that a reasonable jury could side with Klouda. If so, then Patterson’s motion for summary judgment will be denied. Klouda’s lawyers can use all the evidence from the discovery process (such as Patterson’s testimony, Klouda’s testimony, incriminating emails, etc.) to oppose the motion for summary judgment.

I think there’s virtually no chance of this case getting to trial. If Klouda survives summary judgment, then Patterson and SWBTS will probably settle. I just can’t see Patterson being willing to testify in open court.

I agree with everything Matt has said except for his next to last statement above, "I think there's virtually no chance of this case getting to trial."

I believe there is virtually no chance this case will not go to trial. This ruling virtually guarantees a jury trial in Texas before a courtroom of Dr. Klouda's peers. I would not want the job of SWBTS's defense attorneys. They must convince a jury that a woman, educated by Southwestern in Hebrew, hired by Southwestern to teach Hebrew, highly published in academia on the subject of Hebrew, and an exemplary and loyal employee of Southwestern was justly terminated by a new administration because she was a woman in a role reserved for men only - and it was a trustee mistake, albeit a unanimous one, to hire her originally.

Uh, oh.

Southwestern's trustees, if they knew of Klouda's removal, as claimed by trustee chairman Dr. Vann McClain, should have given long and careful thought about her removal for gender reasons. Or, as I believe, if the trustees of Southwestern had no clue that a female professor of Hebrew was being removed for gender reasons, then the trustees better do something very, very quickly to rectify their lack of oversight.

Either way, Southwestern will soon regret the day when they released probably the finest Hebrew scholar the Southern Baptist Convention has ever produced because she was a woman. One of these days trustees of our SBC agencies will learn you don't make decisions that affect the lives of people based upon a narrow ideology that is not held by the majority of Southern Baptists.

I just wish that leaders would begin to actively listen to Southern Baptists on these matters instead of being forced to listen to a judge.

In His Grace,


Friday, September 14, 2007

Ration is the Root of Cooperation: Let's All Ration

The word cooperation speaks of many people coming together, with everyone restricted to limited allotments of power, limited allotments of assets, limited allotments of influence. Oligarchies and monarchies by their very nature limit nothing. The few or - the one - hold all the power and control.

I believe it is essential that leaders of the SBC - including SBC pastors - understand that the Southern Baptist Convention is built on cooperation. The local church is the highest authority, and we have over 45,000 local churches in the Southern Baptist Convention. No one church has all the influence, not one church contributes all the leadership. No one church dictates to the whole what we can, or cannot believe or do. We cooperate together.

So it is with the agencies of the Southern Baptist Convention. Not one agency or respective President controls the SBC. No one president is alloted all the power, nor should he be. The Great Commission Council is composed of all the agency heads of the SBC, and cooperation is as essential among the Presidents of SBC agencies as it is pastors of the SBC.

There is room in the Southern Baptist Convention for every Bible-believing, Christ-honoring, missions-loving person. We need people from all sides of the non-essentials issues to let their voices be heard. We need people from all sides of the tertiary matters to make their views known.

What we don't need is the exclusion of one person over against another. We don't need attempts to stifle one side of debate, while encouraging the other. We need truth-telling without motive assigning. We need open, direct and transparent communication, and not anonymous letters. The SBC needs as much information as possible in the hands of as many people as possible. We operate best when the many cooperate together with limited allotments of power, money and influence by all.

I personally believe, thanks to the efforts of many, the base of power and influence that has been in the hands of just a few is spreading to many. As it spreads, nobody should begrudge it.

The SBC is built on cooperation.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Plenary Session of the IMB, Wednesday, September 12, 2007, Ridgecrest, NC

Following is my personal perception of the events that took place during the plenary session of the International Mission Board of Trustees meeting this morning, September 12, 2007 at Ridgecrest, North Carolina. I would like to remind everyone that I am not a reporter, nor do I claim to be. I am also not an official spokesperson for the board. I am an IMB trustee serving Southern Baptists and I happen to believe that all Southern Baptists should have access to as much information as possible regarding what is happening at our agencies. In one matter of IMB business today, Dr. Rankin requested that the specifics not be made public for security reasons and, of course, I shall abide by his request. I remind everyone who reads this blog that I also offer some opinions on what took place; that is the nature of a personal blog.

You don't have to agree with me in my perceptions. You don't even have to read this blog or my opinions. My purpose is to give information, and I come with a set of guidelines that I follow, which are:

(1). I will always tell the truth.
(2). I will never intentionally denigrate any individual.
(3). I will not be afraid to voice disagreement.
(4). I am but one voice among many, and I admit I could be wrong in my views.
(5). I desire for the International Mission Board to be as effective as possible in accomplishing her mission to take the gospel to all peoples.

I also have a set of biases that the reader should know:

(1). I believe Dr. Jerry Rankin is a tremendously effective leader for the IMB.
(2). I believe the IMB is most effective when we focus on our mission.
(3). I believe that accountability comes through complete transparency.
(4). I believe that every trustee of the IMB loves Christ and desires what is best for the SBC.
(5). I believe that unless leaders of the SBC stand up and say we have gone "far enough" in the conservative purge and resurgence we will continue to alienate Bible-believing, Christ-honoring, mission-loving people who happen to disagree on the non-essentials of the gospel but wish to serve in SBC mission work.

Now, to my opinion of the meeting.

Dr. Rankin's Presidential Report

This man is a missiological genius.

I heard one of the finest reports I've ever heard justifying the mission of the International Mission Board to extend the gospel to all people groups of the world through church planting movements by reaching into unevangelized regions of the world.

Dr. Rankin explained that the board must always carefully balance between placing missionaries in established countries like Brazil and Mexico, where Southern Baptists have had a presence for over 100 years, and reaching into those high security regions where there is little or no gospel work. Dr. Rankin explained that the IMB needs the "whatever it takes" attitude of the Apostle Paul, who in Romans 15:21 stated his objective of taking Christ to the unevangelized so that those WHO HAD NO NEWS OF HIM SHALL SEE, AND THEY WHO HAVE NOT HEARD SHALL UNDERSTAND.

Dr. Rankin believes we are striking a good balance in providing missionaries for established regions and sending out new missionaries to reach new, unevangelized regions. He asked that all Southern Baptists not focus so much on numbers that we lose the big picture. The harvest is directly linked to people having access to the gospel - and our mission is to take the gospel to "all peoples." To be reproducing indigenous local churches requires a great deal of work in preparing and sowing the new fields. Only after years of dedicated work and field preparation will the harvest come.

Dr. Rankin's report was filled with some relevant statistics and slides that showed the progress of our work, and I felt challenged, after listening to him speak, to facilitate even more people from our church to move to the far, unreached lands of the world to share the gospel of Christ.

Questions For Dr. Rankin After His Report

Immediately after Dr. Rankin's report, Jerry Corbaley stepped to a microphone, not to ask a question, but to make a comment. Jerry said he desired to place Dr. Rankin's endorsement of the blog SBC Outpost "behind us" and commended Dr. Rankin for withdrawing his endorsement of a blog that had risen to the level of slander. Jerry spoke for about five minutes about how blogs can be used by our opponent - the devil - and we best come to grips with what is happening. He said that we must not just say we believe the Bible, but we must do it (I Cor. 5). Jerry also thanked Dr. Rankin for his missiological views and then he sat down. After he spoke I was personally confused about two things:

(1). What did SBC Outpost have to do with Dr. Rankin's report?

I do not believe Dr. Rankin should have ever endorsed SBC Outpost, but I am not troubled by the fact he did - especially after he explained why he did and the reasons he withdrew his endorsement. I was asked to participate in SBC Outpost in the beginning and politely declined because I only wish to answer for my own words, not the words of others. In fact, one of the things that still bothers me is an attempt by anyone to associate comments on my blog to me. I have no problem answering for what I write, but I don't even wish to pretend to defend what someone else writes. Endorsements imply agreement. I can guarantee you Dr. Rankin does not agree with everything written on SBC Outpost - never has, never will; but in our very intense political environnment, it should be obvious that a tactic of some is to try to make someone guilty by association.

(2). What is the slander on SBC Outpost?

I asked Jerry Corbaley after the meeting to give me a specific of what he would call "slander" on SBC Outpost. I wanted a specific post, paragraph, sentence or word that he believed to be "slanderous." He may not have understood my question because he simply said if people would read the Bible they could come to an understanding of what "slander" is and apply that to their reading of the blogs. I desire to continue to do all I can to prevent general, generic allegations of "slander" or "hypocrisy" or "liberalism" - without supporting evidence. I have yet to be given any evidence of slander on SBC Outpost, but frankly, I don't care.

When will trustees learn that the best way to deal with slanderous blogs is to ignore them? Jerry feels SBC Outpost is slanderous but did not offer evidence. I can't understand all the attention. Could it be that some blogs, including SBC Outpost express good ideas, ring true, and are having an impact on the SBC because Southern Baptists are smart enough to discern truth? Who knows?

Maybe what you ought to do is read for oneself and decide if it is slanderous or rings true. Southern Baptists always operate best when evidence is presented on both sides, not just one, and people make up their minds for themselves.

A couple of other trustees went to the microphone after Jerry Corbaley and thanked Dr. Rankin for his leadership and prayed for our President. I couldn't help but smile when trustee Jeff Ginn, a really wonderful man and pastor, thanked the Lord in his prayer for Dr. Rankin's "transparency" and "openness" on the blogs when he answered the questions posed to him about salary. I'm quite confident Dr. Ginn felt Rankin's answers did not rise to the level of slander.

The Treasurer's Report

David Steverson gave us an excellent report on the finances of the IMB. We are well into the fiscal year and revenue exceeds the budget, and expenditures are within the budget. Those two things bode for a good year financially.

I really like David. He is from Oklahoma. He is only the ninth treasurer the IMB has ever had (there have also been only ten IMB Presidents in 150 years). David is the first CPA to serve as treasurer, and he is the first missionary to serve as treasurer. But probably the greatest compliment for David came from his predecessor, Carl Johnson, who served as IMB treasurer for 21 years and was asked to offer the prayer after the report. Carl proceeded to tell us that David is the finest treasurer the IMB has ever had.

I spoke to Carl Johnson during the break. It is the first time I had met him and, I must say, I am impressed. His calm demeanor, baritone voice and easy smile remind me that the IMB has had some wonderful servants over the years. Carl told me this anecdote about the treasurer's office. Well into Baker James Cauthen's tenure as President of the IMB, the finance office never invested in the stock market. There was always a very conservative approach to finances. During one trustee meeting, a trustee suggested the IMB invest a portion of their reserves. To overcome the fear that the IMB might lose in the market, the trustee pledged to cover the first ONE MILLION dollars in losses. The pledge was accepted - but the IMB never lost money and has never looked back. I like trustees who are willing to take a stand for what they believe is best and I appreciated Carl telling me this story.

A Conversation with Dr. John Floyd During the Break

Right before a brief recess, Dr. Floyd, Chairman of the Board, reminded all trustees that they needed their passports. Regional committees will be flying to the regions they serve in the spring of 2008. The IMB will pay for the trip for all trustees (all except a small portion of the fee). During the break I asked Dr. Floyd to which region I should go in the spring. He said that since I was not on a regional committee I would not be participating in the spring trips. I then asked Dr. Floyd what his rationale was for not appointing me to a regional committee this year. He said that I had never apologized to the board and I continue to blog.

I was stunned. I reminded Dr. Floyd that before the March 2006 vote to rescind the recommendation for my removal, a recommendation that had to come before the entire 2006 Greensboro Southern Baptist Convention, I was publicly asked if I would apologize before the board. I said at the time before the entire board, "I have no problem apologizing for something that I know is wrong, but I will not apologize for what I know is NOT wrong. Not only do I not wish to apologize, I stand by every word, sentence and paragraph I have ever written on my blog." The vote to rescind the recommendation was still unanimous - even after every trustee heard me say this publicly before the entire board.

I told John that I would not apologize now and I would not stop blogging. I also told him that I accepted his decision not to appoint me to a regional committtee. As I said in a comment yesterday, in this past year I have been to the South Asia Regional Office, the Pac Rim Regional Office, and I will be going in January 2008 to the East Asia Regional Office, and have plans to go to the Central Asia Regional Office as well. The regional leader for Middle America and the Carribbean is in our church and we wish to partner with him in missions; and our youth are looking for a partnership with the Western Europe region.

The conversation with Dr. Floyd became intense. Right before the end of the break I apologized to Dr. Floyd for allowing too much emotion to come into my conversation with him. I ended my conversation with Dr. Floyd with these words, spoken in as soft and gracious of a voice as possible, "Dr. Floyd, I will not apologize. I will continue blogging for the good of the Southern Baptist Convention and the International Mission Board. I accept your decision to not appoint me to a regional committee."

Dr. Floyd told me he believes that if I appealed his decision to the entire board he has enough votes to uphold his decision. It is my understanding that to overrule the ruling of the chair requires a two-thirds vote. I do not wish to appeal - there may not, at this time, be enough votes - I honestly don't know. I will continue to be patient. New officers are elected in May of 2008. I will blog as long as I am a member of the board and any trips I make overseas I will happily pay for myself.

Overseas Commitee Report

This report was given by the chairman of the Overseas Committee. Two significant reportables came from this report.

First, contrary to some who criticize the IMB for not doing anything about world hunger, the IMB designated $940,847.58 to 50 projects from the World Hunger Fund the last few months. Second, a new regional leader was appointed to the East Asia region. This young man and his wife will remain unidentified for security reasons.

Administrative Committee Report

The administration committee recommended the adoption of the new salary structure for employees of the IMB. I am grateful for the example that Dr. Rankin and our missionaries set in the matter of compensation. Nobody works for the IMB to become rich, and Dr. Rankin models the attitude needed in all our SBC executives when it comes to salary and compensation. He is open and transparent, just as Jeff Ginn said in his prayer. We currently have 502 staff positions who work to support our over 5,000 missionaries worldwide. Their work involves monumental tasks. We are hoping to reach the goal of 8,000 appointed missionaries in the very near future.

Vice-President Gordon Fort's Report

I always enjoy hearing from Gordon. He is in charge of overseas work for the IMB, and he gave another very informative report.

Gordon said that in 2007 we face three unique opportunities when it comes to fulfilling our mission as the IMB. First, for the only time in the history of the world, the urban population numbers more than the rural population - and urbanization is only increasing. The IMB is investigating opening an urban training center, particularly since most Southern Baptists who are called to the mission field come from rural areas and need to understand the big city.

Second, gospel orality, or the sharing of the gospel to those who cannot read or write is an ever growing challenge. We must continue to be creative in taking the story of the gospel to people who can't understand the written word. I was reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote as Gordon spoke, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Finally, Gordon told us that ministry to the deaf is a unique opportunity to Southern Baptists simply because the language of the deaf person through signs is universal. Gordon ended by challenging all of us to increase our giving and efforts to see 8,000 missionaries on the fields of the world.

Last Sunday while Rachelle, the kids and I were eating lunch at El Chico, I received an email on my blackberry from Southern Baptist missionaries overseas who minister to the deaf. Their entire family watched our worship service live and told us what a blessing the worship and the preaching were to all of them. I thought to myself as I holstered my blackberry - what a day to be alive in the world. At what other time in history could a Southern Baptist pastor exhort his people from the word of God in rural Oklahoma, have a missionary family in San Salvador, El Salvador listen to the message live over the Internet, and then immediately send a note of encouragement via electronic blackberry to the pastor while he's eating lunch with his family at El Chico.

It's a great day to be alive. It's a great day to be Southern Baptist.

In His Grace,


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Principles Needed for Healthy Relationships

After quite a few strong comments on what I thought to be a very innocuous post yesterday, I thought it might be good to list five key principles that I believe are essential for healthy relationships among Christians.

(1). Disagreement is not the same as disunity. Some of the healthiest, unified bodies of believers disagree over issues, but are one in spirit and purpose. The key to unity is not conformity but compassion.

(2). Love covers a multitude of sins. When we constantly try to point out sin in others, the spirit of the Pharisees is more prevalent than the spirit of Christ. That is not to say a brother should never be confronted in his sin, but the reasons for doing so should be very clear and unselfish in nature.

(3). Listening is far, far better than talking. God gave us two ears and one mouth, and it seems logical that a person ought to listen twice as much as he speaks.

(4). Courage is the ability to do the right thing in the face of opposition. Humility is the ability to not care if anyone ever knows.

(5). The phrase "I feel" ought to be used constantly in disagreements. (Example: I feel you are mistaken rather than "you are mistaken"). This makes what follows the phrase impossible to dispute (how can you say, "No, you don't feel that") and gives the other person the ability to not feel accused while he explains himself.

Blessings to all,


Monday, September 10, 2007

IMB Trustee Meeting ,Monday, Sept 10, 2007

The trustees of the International Mission Board gathered Monday at Ridgecrest Conference Center outside of Ashville, North Carolina for the September 2007 Board Meeting. There are over 1,000 retired missionaries who are at Ridgecrest for what many of them told me was "the biggest family reunion in the world." Rachelle and I enjoyed visiting with several missionaries at supper and around the grounds. Some of these men and women are in their 80's and 90's and have made their way to North Carolina to see friends, former colleagues, and other Southern Baptists who have served the Lord overseas. The IMB sets aside a week where we honor these retired missionaries once every five years. At supper, we sat next to a couple who spent forty years in Paraguay, two widows who have a combined service of seventy- five years on the continent of Africa, and a gentlemen who served many years in Russia. The highlight of the evening was when one of the missionaries, his voice choked with emotion, stated, "The hardest part is not deciding to go, but making the decision to leave." As I looked around the table of eight missionaries there was not a dry eye as heads nodded in agreement. Very moving.

The IMB trustees had a closed door forum this afternoon at 2:00 p.m. It has been said often here on this blog that whatever is said behind closed doors at the IMB is confidential in nature - and I am careful to follow this guideline. However, I am not a fan of trustee forums. I believe every item of discussion conducted by an SBC agency should be done in the public eye for all Southern Baptists to see. The only exception to this rule are those things that require secrecy for the protection of level three security missionaries or SBC employees overseas. However, anything that would require the revelation of specific names or locations of these men and women in dangerous regions of the world is rare and can be covered in closed door committee meetings. All other matters, including discussion, debate and dialogue is best conducted in plenary sessions for all Southern Baptists to hear and observe. The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tennessee has set the example for us all by having only a couple of closed door forums in the last several decades. The IMB has a closed door forum every board meeting.

The trustees of the International Mission Board are men and women who desire what is best for the SBC and the kingdom of Christ. Any of us, however, is capable of acting one way in public and another way in private - or saying one thing when people are listening and another when they are not. I am of the opinion that the SBC is a better convention when trustees and leaders say publicly what they feel free to say privately. I don't know if the practice of closed door forums will ever change at the IMB, but it is a goal of mine to see that it does before I am off the board. By the way, I happen to believe the same principle of transparency applies to the state, associational and church level as well.

The rest of the day was filled with the interviewing prospective missionaries. The plenary sessions of the IMB will take place on Wednesday morning and Wednesday afternoon at Ridgecrest. The appointment service will be Wednesday night. The trustees of the IMB are assigned to different regional committees (i.e. Pacific Rim, North Africa and Middle East (NAME), Western Europe, Central Asia, etc.). Regional committee meetings will meet tomorrow. I plan on visiting with some great missionaries who have served the SBC for decades. They have a great deal to teach me.

I will write again of the trustee plenary sessions late Wednesday night and post early Thursday morning.

In His Grace,


IMB Board Meeting, Ridgecrest, North Carolina

The International Mission Board is meeting at the Ridgecrest Conference Center outside of Asheville, North Carolina beginning today, September 10, and going through the appointment service on Wednesday night, September 12, at the Biltmore Baptist Church in Asheville, NC.

Rachelle and I were to have left Will Rogers Airport at 5:30 p.m. last night, arriving in Ashville just before midnight. However, our plane out of Oklahoma City to Atlanta was delayed by five hours due to overheating of the on board coffee pot. Despite repeated disavowals of the need for caffeine by all passengers, we were stuck.

There were approximately forty Miami Hurricane fans on the flight to Atlanta with us, and their only concern was that the liquor bar was open to drown out their sorrows over the 51 to 13 debacle in Norman, the worst loss of the Hurricanes on the gridiron in several decades. I loved giving them all grief.

We missed our flight from Atlanta to Asheville and had to stay the night in Atlanta. We arrived in Ashville at 12:00 noon and I am on my way to Ridgecrest for the trustee forum and the trustee meetings tonight. Over 1,000 retired missionaries will join the trustees this week as we honor and recognize several newly retired missionaries and appoint a good number of new ones. I have been promised a meeting with Billy Graham, but his recent poor health may preclude Rachelle and I visiting with him at his Montreat home.

I'll give a report on Monday's events late tonight.

In His Grace,


Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Little Humility in the Pulpit Is Needed in the SBC

I am surprised at the number of people in the Southern Baptist Convention, mostly pastors, who think that it is impossible to be anything but dogmatic when it comes to preaching the Scriptures. I agree with my brethren that the essentials of the gospel - those doctrines that define true Christianity - should be held with firm conviction. But when I explain to some of my SBC colleagues that my interpretations of tertiary doctrines or texts that are not as clear as others, are held by me firmly, but not dogmatically, there are some who seem to think I've lost my Southern Baptist mind. Further, when I explain that I am open to the possibility that I could be wrong in my interpretations and am unafraid to dialogue, listen to, and even cooperate, with those who disagree with me on the non-essentials, my loyalty to the Southern Baptist Convention is questioned. I, my family and my church can assure everyone who does not know me, but reads this blog, that I am as orthodox, conservative and Southern Baptist as any one person you can name in our convention.

I just happen to believe there needs to be a little humility in the pulpit.

My father, Paul Burleson, has pastored Southern Baptist churches for nearly the past six decades. He has pastored small churches and mega-churches before people knew what mega-churches were. He has trained hundreds of pastors who were receiving their theological education at Southwestern Theological Seminary in the 1970's. He is friends with several of big name pastors and SBC executives of today, but is known for his love and concern for the small church pastor. He and my mother, Mary, have led couples retreats for pastors and wives all across our convention. Everywhere I go, people know my father. He is a great preacher and he has every reason to be proud. Because of his maturity and years of experience in the ministry, he has every reason to insist he knows the truth - and is right in his views.

But he has taught me and others what it means to be humble in the pulpit. Listen to his words . . .

This is where I came to in 1980 in my own preaching when I determined to not preach anything as absolute except what I personally saw as clearly presented in the text. My message changed beyond anything I could have imagined. I came to grips with the fact that much/most of the things I was saying in the pulpit was coming from what I'd heard others, whom I admired, say was in the text or was generally Baptist held viewpoints because of traditions that were baptistic in reputation but had no real foundation in the text itself.

I also began to see that what Peter said of some of the things Paul the Apostle preached was correct. [This is also true of several matters in the text of scripture.] Some of the things he delivered WERE hard to understand and those that were the most difficult I decided I'd better hold my personal view as to their meaning lightly because the correct meaning was more important than my interpretation.

This is not out of a lack of confidence in the integrity or authority of the text but a true awareness of my own inadequacy to hear God accurately on occasion. Some things are clear. Some things are not that clear. When the text isn't totally clear I won't be dogmatic as to it's meaning. 1Timothy 2:15 and the "she shall be saved in child-bearing" is an example. From my present perspective the whole of that chapter may have been delivered through a glass a little darker than some are willing to admit. But that's another post.

Since the true biblical messenger is to be careful of proclaiming his/her own viewpoint, opinions or grievances, I tread lightly on some passages and some theological positions that others seem to state the meaning of with great personal conviction. More power to them. All I'm saying is the messenger CAN get in the way of the message if we declare as absolute our personal views on some issues where there are good people on both sides of a possible meaning of any given text.

I'm not sure but what God may have left some of His total message a little less clear than say the gospel so we will make clear with conviction that gospel and keep trusting Him for greater understanding of other theological areas. I love what Gene Bridges said... and I quote

"And, with that in mind, I think we can be more confident about our reliance on probabilistic reasoning, for if God has wanted us to have more evidence or better evidence, then it was within his power to do so. Hence we are judging certain questions on the basis of the evidence which he has left at our disposal. Therefore, we shouldn't be plagued by nagging, gnawing doubts about the possibility of being wrong. Even if I were wrong some of the time, it's out of my hands, and I'm in his hands. As a Christian, I don't require a godlike control over the evidence. I can go with what I've got because it's what God has given me to go by."

I have to say "amen" to that statement. I can give my understanding of difficult passages but respect others who differ with me trusting the God who gave it in the first place to be able to make clear His message ultimately.

To read all of Paul Burleson's excellent post and comment on it, go to his blog and read the two part article entitled The Foolishness of Preaching.

It's worth leaving up all during this September 9th preaching weekend. :)

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A Call for Intellectual Honesty and Consistency

Emily Hunter McGowan recently wrote a post over at SBCOutpost entitled Who Shall Have Authority Over a Man? In the comment section I wrote the following:

In our church, we have women who chair committees, serve as trustees, teach men in Sunday School classes and have had women teach from the pulpit. We do not have women "pastors" or "elders" at our church - for we have chosen to abide by the BFM 2000 confessionally - but unlike others, our church would have never chosen to make that issue a test of Southern Baptist fellowship and cooperation. Though I personally would not lead our church to hire female pastors or elders, we believe in giving freedom in this area to other churches because we see the possibility of interpretive differences regarding I Timothy 3 and we feel deeply that it is ultimately a local church decision.

I have said publicly that I would not personally lead my church to hire a female pastor, would not be a member of a church where the senior pastor was female, and I have no problem personally with the BFM 2000* on this issue. However, I am honest enough to say that my discomfort is personal and cultural — and not Biblical.

Yesterday a Texas Southern Baptist pastor challenged me regarding my comment. Pastor R.L Vaughn's tone was gracious as he wrote in his blog . . .

I certainly respect your feelings of personal and cultural discomfort. I have some things that make me personally uncomfortable as well. But, that being said, if we realize it is just that personal discomfort, don’t we have some obligation to change our comfort zone? Some have made comparisons of the female pastor issue to both slavery and segregation. What if we inserted those into the statement — 'My discomfort (with ending slavery) is personal and cultural — and not Biblical' or 'My discomfort (with integration) is personal and cultural — and not Biblical

Vaughn continues in his post - switching to the third person . . .

Burleson is representative of what some people think on the issue. Others believe that having or not having female pastors is a Biblical rather than a personal & cultural issue. In several blogs I've read online, folks have compared the female pastor issue with past issues like slavery and segregation. Wade Burleson himself made the comparison in the thread from which I am quoting. My point is that one can't have it both ways. If you want to compare keeping women from being pastors to keeping slaves, then perhaps you should react the same way to both. Wouldn't that be consistent? (emphasis mine)

Mr. Vaughn asks a great question. In fact, he goes to the very heart of the issue.

Has there ever been a time that Southern Baptists spoke forcefully, eloquently and passionately in support of the institution of slavery? Have Southern Baptists ever defended slavery from a perspective of trust in, and standing upon, the inerrant and infallible Word of God? Mr. Vaughn acts like this has never happened in the SBC. He implies that anyone who supported slavery -- just as anyone who supported "women pastors" - is doing so based upon "cultural" biases or preferences and is ignoring the clear teaching of God's Word. Pastor Vaughan acts as if any argument supporting slavery would have to be both ludicrous and incredible.

Enter Basil Manley.

This 19th century Southern Baptist pastor, President, author, and theologian preached a message at First Baptist Church, Charleston, South Carolina in April of 1837 entitled Duties of Masters and Servants. Shawn Ritenour presented a scholarly paper at the Austrian Scholars Conference at Auburn, Alabama in March, 2002. Dr. Ritenour writes of Basil Manley's message:

Manly’s arguments justifying the institution of slavery (were based) on the Scriptures.

In the sermon 'Duties of Masters and Servants' Manly first presents a Biblical justification for the existence of the institution of slavery and then exposits on the regulations God places on both masters and servants. In doing so, Manly uses as his primary text, Ephesians 6:5-9 which exhorts, “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same
shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him.” He additionally draws upon an impressive set of passages taken from the entire breadth of Scripture, including verses out of Genesis, Joshua, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Job, the Psalms, Proverbs, Malachi, Matthew, Luke, I Corinthians, Galatians, I Timothy, Titus, James, I Peter, and Philemon.

In defending the institution of slavery by appealing to Scripture, Manly aligned himself with the bulk of Southern Christian thinkers. Many of the arguments put forth by Southern clergy, including Baptists, were rooted in the doctrine of the infallibility of Scripture.

Allow me now to issue a call for intellectual honesty and consistency among Southern Baptists . . .

(1). Some Southern Baptists in the 1800's used the infallibility of Scripture to justify the institution of slavery and accused anyone who disagreed as liberal.
(2). Some Southern Baptists today use the infallibility of Scripture to justify prohibiting women from teaching men or holding a position of authority over men and accuse anyone who disagrees as "liberal."

Anyone see the consistency?

(1). Some Southern Baptists in the 1800's were not convinced the Scriptures supported the insitution of slavery, but personally supported slavery for personal and cultural reasons and did not harbor animosity toward those on the other side.
(2). Some Southern Baptists today are not convinced the Scripture prohibits women from teaching men or holding positions of "authority" over men, but personally support the prohibition of women pastors for personal, cultural and "confessional" (BFM 2000) reasons, but do not harbor animosity toward those on the other side.

Anyone see the consistency?

I agree with Mr. Vaughn's call for consistency.

What is needed is an intellectual honesty of where we Southern Baptists have been, where we are now, and where we may be in the future. To say we have erred does not compromise one's belief in the sufficiency and infallibility of the Word of God.

We Southern Baptists are people who believe in the inerrant Book - with a history of seemingly errant interpretations.

That is both honest and consistent. And when we have that attitude we won't be quite as smug and uncooperative as we would be without it.

In His Grace,


Monday, September 03, 2007

Some Sound Financial Principles This Labor Day

My internet Southern Baptist friend, Art Pierce of Virginia, sent me an article about the second richest man in the world. His name is Warren Buffett and he has donated $31 billion to charity. CNBC intervied Mr. Buffett and America learned several things about this multi-billionaire:

1. He bought his first share of stock at age 11 and he now regrets that he started too late!
2. He bought a small farm at age 14 with savings from delivering newspapers.
3. He still lives in the same, small 3-bedroom house in midtown Omaha, that he bought after he got married 50 years ago. He says that he has everything he needs in that house. His house does not have a wall or a fence.
4. He drives his own car everywhere and does not have a driver or security people around him.
5. He never travels by private jet, although he owns the world's largest private jet company.
6. His company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns 63 companies. He writes only one letter each year to the CEOs of these companies, giving them goals for the year. He never holds meetings or calls them on a regular basis. He has given his CEO's only two rules. Rule number 1: Do not lose any of your shareholder's money.
Rule number 2: Do not forget rule number 1.
7. He does not socialize with the high society crowd. His pastime after he gets home is to make himself some popcorn and watch television.
8. Bill Gates, the world's richest man, met him for the first time only 5 years ago. Bill Gates did not think he had anything in common with Warren Buffet. So, he had scheduled his meeting only for half an hour. But when Gates met him, the meeting lasted for ten hours and Bill Gates became a devotee of Warren Buffet.
9. Warren Buffet does not carry a cell phone, nor has a computer on his desk.

Warren Buffet's advice to young people: "Stay away from credit cards and invest in yourself and remember:

A. Money doesn't create man, but it is the man who created money.
B. Live your life as simple as you are.
C. Don't do what others say. Just listen to them, but do what makes you feel good.
D. Don't go on brand name. Wear those things in which you feel comfortable.
E. Don't waste your money on unnecessary things. Spend on those who really are in need.
F. After all, it's your life. Why give others the chance to rule your life?"

Food for thought on this Labor Day holiday.

In His Grace,