Friday, November 30, 2007

Twas the Night Before the Big XII Championship

'Twas the night before the Big XII and all through the land,

not a Tiger was stirring, not even the band.

Their Jockeys were hung by the locker with care,

in hopes that the Sooners soon would be there.

Truman was nestled all snug in his bed,

while visions of the BCS danced in his head.

And Pinkel in his kerchief full of Tiger pride,

and Bob and the Sooners ready to ride.

When down in San Antone there arose such a clatter,

Chase sprang from his bed to see what was the matter.

He realized the Option was gone in a flash,

and Maclin's dreams of running had just been dashed.

The Tiger tight ends trembled as they watched the show,

A Crimson and Cream luster set the horizon aglow.

When what to their wondering eyes should they find,

but a miniature Schooner, seven National Titles behind.

With a wizened old driver, skilled in leading his troops,

they knew in a moment it must be Bob Stoops.

More rapid than Temple his players they came,

and he whistled and shouted and called them by name.

"On Bradford, on Joe John, now Patrick and Murray!

On Chris Brown! On Iglesias! On Hartley and Kelly!

To the top of the conference! To the top of it all!

Now dash their hopes! Dash their dreams! Dash away all!"

And then in a twinkling, the Tigers fought back a scream,

and Chase saw the last of his Heisman trophy dream.

The defense drew in their breath and looked all around,

and realized that their "Pig" was nowhere to be found.

Bob's eyes how they twinkled, his coaches how merry!

As they carried on the legacy left them by Barry.

Gary's sad little face and a fear in his belly,

he shook on the field as his knees turned to jelly.

Pinkel spoke not a word, and the ball they couldn't carry,

Stoops filled up the scoreboard and then turned to Gary.

And laying his hand on the shoulder of his friend,

he gave Pinkel a nod and said, "Like Norman again."

Bob sprang to the Schooner, to his team gave a shout,

to the BCS they flew and left Mizzou down and out.

And we heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight,

"Boomer Sooner to All and to All a Good Night!"

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Forget President of the United States: Mike Huckabee for President of the Southern Baptist Convention

Mike Huckabee’s served as president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (1989-91) and several other years as an Arkansas Baptist pastor. In the July 19, 1990, issue of the Arkansas Baptist News, ABSC President Mike Huckabee wrote the following column that I felt was worth my Southern Baptist brothers and sisters in Christ reading. His words could have been lifted straight from 'Grace and Truth to You.'

“The ‘L’ word that may characterize our greatest threat is not liberalism but legalism. If all the liberals in Arkansas Baptist churches held a meeting, they could meet in the corner booth of a Waffle House and still have room for guests.

Legalism is the reduction of the whole of the Bible to a rather limited system of ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ that the one espousing already lives. By carefully limiting ‘right and wrong’ to those beliefs or practices one already adheres to, the legalist is able to always be right and never wrong. Convenient system to be sure. It requires no struggle of conscience, no agonizing soul-searching, no brokenness. Others aren’t judged by the character of Christ, but by the behavior of the legalist.

Legalism is not limited to the theological camp of the conservatives, moderates or anyone in between or beyond. Like a worthless weed, it grows in whatever soil it is planted and is capable of choking out anything that gets in its way without ever producing fruit of value.

Biblical faith is sure about God, but never so sure about self. Legalistic faith is sure of self, and may or may not be as sure of God and His Word. A legalist questions everyone else’s motives and mission, but never sees a need to question his own. A strong Christian is not only interested in believing right, but living right. A strong Christian should want others to be more like Jesus, not more ‘like me.’

We do not live under ‘Lord Law,’ ‘Lord Tradition,’ ‘Lord Religion’ or even ‘Lord Belief.’ We are saved when we confess ‘Lord Jesus.’ When He is Lord, we learn a new ‘L’ word – love. Jesus said that the world would know we belonged to Him not because we worship the same, believe the same or even live the same, but because we love one another.”

Uh, Mike, how about being President of the Southern Baptist Convention?

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Russia Arrests Kasparov for His Public Dissent

The Wall Street Journal reports:

A Moscow court on Saturday night sentenced Garry Kasparov, the former world chess champion who leads a coalition of opposition parties, to five days in prison for leading an "unauthorized" demonstration in the capital. If forced to serve out the term this week, Mr. Kasparov would be out of the picture in the lead-up to Sunday's parliamentary elections.

The charges against Kasparov were trumped up by the authorities, and when questioned by Kasparov's attorney about the false allegations, the court was closed to both public and media scrutiny. A blog published the information of the trumped up charges through an interview with Kasparov's attorney.

The Journal further reports:

(Kasparov) is denied access to the media and prevented from freely campaigning and assembling, and is finding no relief from the judiciary. Mr. Kasparov, a contributing editor to the Journal's editorial page, isn't surprised, calling his conviction Saturday "a symbol of what has happened to justice and the rule of law under Putin."

Kasparov has been a consistent critic of the Russian government's authoritarianism, has repeatedly faulted Putin for poorly devised and ineffectual government policies, and has publicly called for investigations into the disappearances, false arrests, and murders of fellow dissidents. Larisa Arap was forcibly detained in a mental asylum and medicated against her will because she dared speak out against those in authority. The still-unsolved murder of journalist and Putin critic Anna Politkovskaya was followed by regular physical and verbal attacks on the president's opponents.

John McCain recently wrote an opinion piece against President Putin's authoritarianism entitled Why We Must Be Firm With Moscow. McCain believes . . .

A firm and unified response by the world`s great democracies to aggressive Russian behaviour abroad could mellow the belligerent elements.

There is trouble in Russia. The only way the authoritarian Russian regime will be dismantled is when firm, consistent pressure is applied to Putin and other Russian government leaders against the immoral and unjustified persecution of critics of the Russian government. Those who cherish freedom in this world better wake up and do something about what is happening in Russia before it leads to an even tighter axis of totalitarianism with Iran and North Korea that will lead to our world into despotism not seen since Stalin and Hitler.

Evil prevails when good men do nothing.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Sunday, November 25, 2007

At Least Blogging Baptists Are Using Their Brains

At the 2007 Georgia Baptist Convention a Resolution on Blogging was passed by a majority of the state messengers. The resolution has some good things to say, which I would wholeheartedly support, including statements like the following:

"Responsible blogging can be a means of promoting the flow of information and encouragement of our people."

But one statement I found quite remarkable.

"That we reaffirm the historic method of administering our agencies and institutions through elected boards of trustees, and we call upon bloggers to cease the critical second-guessing of these elected leaders."

The resolution went on to call those who 'second-guess' elected leaders to 'repent' - as if questioning the actions of those in authority is sin.

The authors and proponents of this resolution - presumably old enough to not only remember, but also participate in the Conservative Resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention - have either selective memory or the inability to blush at the logical inconsistencies of their own resolution. They themselves questioned the actions of the Boards of our Southern Baptist agencies leading up to - and during - the Conservative Resurgence.

It seems when the dissenters become the establishment those who arise as the new dissenters become the rebellious sinners who need to repent for questioning recognized authority. What baffles me is not the submission of such a resolution by those 'in authority,' but the refusal and/or inaction of Georgia messengers in attendance to amend the resolution before adopting it. Some believe this resolution is aimed at me. I found that hard to believe. The only paragraph that even remotely resembles my blog is the sentence forbidding the second guessing of 'elected' leaders. However, since I am one of those 'elected' leaders, you Georgians feel free to violate the resolution you passed and place your comments that oppose my views on this blog. I promise, you will not be called upon to repent.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Issue for Us All Is Cooperation for the Gospel

There are a few readers of this blog who do not understand the deep problem we face in parts of the Southern Baptist Convention, some of her respective agencies, and some (not all) of our Southern Baptist state conventions. Those who misunderstand the issue will read yesterday's post Personal Holiness by Abtaining from Tea Drinking and be amazed that someone would use sarcasm to oppose the new bylaw amendment at the SBTC that identifies the use of alcohol as a beverage as 'sin.' Alcohol is NOT the issue. Neither is tea. Neither is a private prayer language. Neither is the the qualifications of the administrator of the ordinance of baptism. Neither is women teaching Hebrew. Neither is (ad infinitum) . . .

Southern Baptists are on both sides of the issue of private prayer languages (see the Lifeway poll). Southern Baptists could argue both sides of women teaching the languages. Southern Baptists could debate till Jesus comes whether or not Jesus drank alcohol as a beverage or whether or not someone 'sins' when they drink beer or wine without getting drunk. Southern Baptists can even argue, believe it or not, the merits or demerits of drinking tea. Yesterday I received an email from the author of a new book set to be published in January of 2008 entitled "The Truth About Caffeine, How Companies That Promote It Deceive Us and What We Can Do About It." The author also is the sponsor of the National Caffeine Awareness Month in the US - an annual event (5th year!) that is recognized in 5 states and over 21 cities.

Points can be made by people on both sides of the separate issues. But making points is not our problem. Arguing over the finer points of theology or morality, not abundantly clear in Scripture is not the issue. The issue is fundamentally much deeper and systemically much more dangerous.

We Southern Baptists are losing our identity.

We used to be known for our efforts to cooperate in taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to unreached people groups around the world. We used to be known for our stands on liberty of conscience and our firmly held belief that the Word of God was sufficient for our faith and practice. We were, in short, Christ-honoring, Bible-believing, liberty-loving, missions-minded, Southern Baptists who cooperated with each other regardless of our differences.

Dave Miller, commented on my blog yesterday and absolutely nailed the issue for Southern Baptists:

Any human organization can set its parameters for fellowship. If the SBC decides that teetotalling is necessary for employment in its organization, it can do so.

What it cannot do is imbue its parameters with divine authority. To require alcohol abstinence is fine for any human organization. To call it sin goes beyond the authority of any human being.

Only what is prohibited in scripture is sin.

The SBC can set any parameters it wants on its fellowship. The stricter the parameters, the more people will be excluded. And the SBC can limit the behavior of its employees in any way it chooses.

What it cannot do is claim these parameters are biblical mandates or that those who violate them are violating the will of God.

Too many Southern Baptists are sitting on the sidelines while some of our agencies and a select few leaders within the Southern Baptist Convention are narrowing the doctrinal parameters of cooperation within the SBC. The Bible is no longer the sufficient standard of our cooperation - and neither is the 2000 BFM - for the practice now is to change policies and guidelines at the personal whims of a few in power. This must stop. Liberty of conscience and a love for cooperation must be regained within the Southern Bapitst Convention. That is the issue for us all.

I close with the words of George W. Truett, the late pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Texas, as he stood on the East steps to the Capitol in Washington, D.C. and spoke to 15,000 Baptists on May 16, 1920:

Baptists have one consistent record concerning liberty throughout all their long and eventful history. They have never been a party to oppression of conscience. They have forever been the unwavering champions of liberty. Their contention now, is, and has been, and, please God, must ever be, that it is the natural and fundamental and indefeasible right of every human being to worship God or not, according to the dictates of his conscience, and, as long as he does not infringe upon the rights of others, he is to be held accountable alone to God for all religious beliefs and practices. Our contention is not for mere toleration, but for absolute liberty. There is a wide difference between toleration and liberty. Toleration implies that somebody falsely claims the right to tolerate. Toleration is a concession, while liberty is a right. Toleration is a matter of expediency, while liberty is a matter of principle. Liberty is a gift from God. It is the consistent and insistent contention of our Baptist people, always and everywhere.

May we Southern Baptists regain our identity of liberty for the sake of cooperation in gospel missions and ministries.

In His Grace,


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Personal Holiness: Abstaining from Tea Drinking

Last week the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention replaced the bylaw that required all SBTC employees and elected officials to abstain from drunkenness (a biblical command) to a demand that all SBTC employees and elected officals abstain from “the use of alcohol as a beverage.” The only reason for such a bylaw change is the belief held by SBTC leadership that drinking an alcoholic beverage is a sin - for everybody. A year ago, when I first heard about the SBTC bylaw proposal, I spent a few minutes and wrote a post declaring my deeply held belief that drinking tea was a sin - for everybody. Having served in leadership of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma for the past twenty years, I am inclined to offer my own bylaw amendment next year at the BGCO, demanding that all BGCO employees and elected officials abstain from tea drinking. If you find the following post absurd, then you best ask yourself what you are going to do to ensure that Southern Baptists, either at the state level or the national level, stop codifying sin for others by exceeding the clear standards of the sufficient Word of God.

Reasons Why Tea Totalers Should Be Excluded from Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma Leadership by a Bylaw Change That Calls for Everyone to Abstain from Drinking Tea

(1). Drinking tea leads a person to addiction to caffeine.

There might be some who allege that drinking just one or two glasses of tea does not lead to caffeine addiction. This is technically true, but unfortunately, not all Christians who partake in moderate tea drinking can stop with just a couple of glasses. It is not uncommon for Christian men and women to progress from tea, to coffee, to 64 ounce Colas or Mountain Dews. Where does it stop? How does one know when the line of addiction has been crossed? If caffeine is addictive, then why play with fire? We must conclude that Drinking tea is a sin (Counsels on Diet and Drink: Part II, Tea and Coffee, page 434).

(2). Tea and coffee are destructive to the Christian's body, which is the temple of God.

As pointed out above, caffeine is highly addictive. Quitting coffee can cause withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, sleepiness and irritability. The acidic nature of coffee can lead to stomach ulcers. When the excess acid enters the bloodstream, it also increases calcium loss in urine. Both coffee and tea have no nutritional value. Tannin, the substance that makes tea cups brown and coats tea pots, is used for tanning leather. Imagine the stomach after twenty years of tea drinking.

Caffeine is able to penetrate deep into vital tissue. Evidence shows that it may be linked to male infertility and also birth defects by passing through the placenta. Drinking coffee during breast feeding will cause caffeine to be present in mothers' milk.

Caffeine has a powerful effect on coronary arteries and the pulmonary and systemic vessels, causing a greater flow of blood to the heart muscle, but decreasing the flow of blood to the brain by constricting cerebral blood vessels. Caffeine can cause abnormally fast, abnormally slow and irregular heart beats. It also wreaks havoc on blood pressure, commonly producing hypertension. Coffee has been linked to heart disease, pancreas and bladder cancer, and hypoglycemia.

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, providing that familiar kick on which we have come to depend. But as with all stimulants, there is a price to be paid. If you run the body on overdrive for an extended period of time by artificially stimulating the adrenals, expect breakdown to occur.

(3). Though the Bible does not expressly forbid the drinking of tea, there is an overwhelming preponderence of Biblical evidence that tea drinking is a sin.

"Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him" (Proverbs 10:36). The same acidic quality of vinegar, tea and coffee is as damaging to the Christian as smoke is to the eyes.

“Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand” (Phil. 4:5), “…every man that strives for the mastery is temperate in all things” (I Cor. 9:25).

Though some might argue that these verses do not explicitly 'forid' the drinking of tea, it is clear that the Christian who desires to be holy in all things will not even begin to cross the line of introducing tea or coffee into his system.

(4). Though some have the gall to say Jesus drank tea on the cross, it was clearly not the same kind of tea or substance that tea drinkers consume today.

Some try to be cute in their arguments for moderate tea drinking by pointing out that Jesus drank 'vinegar' on the cross, which contains the same acidic and caffeneited quality as today's tea.

The Bible states, "And one ran and filled a sponge full of vinegar and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink...." (Mk. 15:36).

Biblical scholars have long pointed out that the acidic and caffeinated content of the vinegar drink offered to Jesus was less than 5% of the acid and caffeine found in today's most popular teas. To compare the actions of Jesus at Calvary with today's tea drinking should be considered a sin in and of itself.

To justify your own desire to drink tea by pointing to the conduct of Jesus is shameful.

(5). The argument that drinking tea is not illegal in the United States, and therefore, lawful for the Christian, is an argument straight from hell.

Homosexuality is not illegal in the states. Adultery is not illegal in America. Dressing inappropriately with boxers showing, and breasts peeking out of tight tops is not illegal in my hometown, but does that make it right?

Just to say drinking tea is not illegal is in reality no argument at all. "In everything we do, whether we eat or drink, we do for the glory of God" (I Corinthians 10:31).

(6). Some cultures drink tea as a normal part of daily life, but that is no excuse for Christians to drink it, since we are to be 'a cut above' the world.

Some missionaries might argue that drinking tea in China is a cultural event, and to identify with the Chinese one must drink tea. As it is said, "When in Rome do as the Romans."

Hogwash. We are not to let culture affect us, we are to be a shining example to culture of how Christ can transform people. The person who drinks tea on a regular basis simply has no idea what Christ can do for his life, and if you drink tea with him, while introducing him to Christ, then you may give him the impression he can continue drinking tea as a Christian.

When in Rome do as Christ would do. Christ would not sit and drink tea with the Chinese. How could He defile His holy body in such a manner?

(7). When a Christian purchases tea he is supporting an entire industry that has made a fortune by leading people to the mind altering, destructive, and nearly impossible to break addiction to caffeine.

This industry must not be supported by Christians. Every dollar you spend on green tea is like purchasing a death warrant for the person who will later die from an acidic stomach from the tea produced by the company to whom you gave profits.

It is time for Christians to shut down the entire, godless industry of tea making and associated tea products.

(8). It has been scandalously reported that some young, Southern Baptist pastors are actually having Bible studies in the local Starbucks in an effort to lead people to Christ.

The pastors who have begun this new outreach program seem to have no understanding of what it means to be 'in the world, but not of the world.'

No matter how many people have come to Christ through these creative efforts, it is unconscionable for SBC pastors to actually meet in a location where people are introducing into their bodies an agent that alters the mind, changes the disposition, and eventually destroys the body.

No matter how slick the environment, there is no excuse for the compromise of the gospel.

(9). A great concern for the loosening of the standard of total abstinence from tea drinking is the belief that those Southern Baptist moderates and liberals who drink tea will eventually cause the Southern Baptist Convention to turn back from a firm belief in the inerrancy of the Bible.

It is being reported that there are actually some pastors who are either not using the Bible in their ministries, or trusting in very loose translations of the holy and inerrant KJV.

For example, one loose knit association of SBC pastors have actually quoted Psalm 23 as:

The Lord is my barista; I shall not want.

He maketh me to recline on green sofas: he leadeth me beside the clean tables.

He repoureth my latte: he maketh me a ristretto of righteousness for goodness sake.

Yea, though I walk through the aisles of instant coffee, I will fear no nescafe: for thou art with me; thy cafe and it's staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest an espresso for me in the presence of mine tea drinking colleagues: thou anointest my ears with friendly banter; my latte hath art on it.

Surely warmth and bonhomie shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the cafe of the Lord for ever

(10). Drinking caffeinated tea for recreational purposes physiologically acts as a 'mind altering drug, "

Once a Christian says it is all right to alter his mind by introducing outside agents to change his perspective, where will he stop? Why not marijuana? Why not cocaine? The libertinism of the modern Southern Baptist Convention must be checked. The line in the sand must be drawn with tea and coffee.

There will be a recommendation for a bylaw change introduced at the 20008 Baptist General Convetion of Oklahoma in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, November 15, 2008, which will forbid any BGCO employee or elected offical from participating in the recreational use of tea or coffee.

May God keep our the Baptist General Covention of Oklahoma pure.

May God bless the Southern Baptist Convention.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Problem in a Nutshell - A Censure Synopsis

I had a new reader of this blog write me and request a brief synopsis of the problem, from my perspective, at the International Mission Board. Interestingly, he told me that he was more excited about SBC missions and felt he knew more about our cooperative work because of my blog. He couldn't understand the basis of the censure after reading about it in his state Baptist paper and asked if I would write a brief synopsis to help him understand the issue from my perspective. With new readers in mind, and realizing that many, many great things are happening on the mission fields, I offer below a synopsis of the problem among IMB trustees.

The Beginning

The International Mission Board of Trustees passed two new policies on November 15, 2005 that forbids any Southern Baptist from being appointed for missions service who (a). honestly admitted when asked that he/she had a private prayer language, and/or (b). were baptized by an administrator of the ordinance, deemed qualifed by the candidate's local church, but 'unqualified' by the trustees of the IMB.

These two doctrinal policies put emphasis on two things the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message treats with silence. To exclude otherwise qualified Southern Baptist missionaries on 'doctrinal' grounds NOT addressed in the BFM is a backdoor way of 'narrowing the doctrinal parameters of Southern Baptist cooperation' without changing the BFM.

For six months I sought to reverse the new policies by working within the Board of Trustees. I was surprised at what seemed to me to be attempts by trustee leadership to stifle free debate and dialogue over the proposed policies. A letter from Dr. Rankin voicing his opposition to the policies - a letter which he requested be sent to all the trustees - was intentionally withheld from trustees by trustee leadership. My requests to hear from the IMB's Candidate Consultants and Regional Leaders (staff members) regarding the need for these policies was denied twice by trustee leadership. I found it very disconcerting that our focus on missions was being sidetracked by an attempt to narrow the doctrinal standards of cooperation - with no justifiable reason for doing so.

Public Dissent Begins

In December of 2005 I began this blog in order to graciously and courteously express to the Southern Baptist Convention my dissent over these Board approved actions. In January of 2006 a recommendation for my removal was presented to trustees, by trustee leadership, behind closed doors. Originally the recommendation was for 'gossip and slander' (which was completely without merit), but within twenty four hours the basis for the recommendation was changed to 'loss of trust' and 'resistance to accountability,' which I assumed meant 'you aren't doing what we want you to do.' There can be no legitimate or believable denial that the issue was my public dissent on this blog. The powers that be felt that the policies passed and I should be quiet. I remained both courteous and gracious to all trustees, including trustee leadership, throughout the effort to remove me.

On March 22, 2006, the Board of Trustees unanimously rescinded the recommendation for my removal. Though I was asked to apologize for my public dissent - before the trustees voted to rescind the recommendation - I graciously declined, telling all the trustees that I stood by everything I had written, and that courteous dissent is both healthy and Baptist. However, later that same day the BOT passed new policies that forbid trustees from expressing public dissent of Board approved policies. Rather than allowing the Southern Baptist Convention to decide if I should remain a trustee, IMB trustee leadership determined to deal with it internally by passing new policies that threatened censure for anyone who publically dissented.

I was not particularly keen on receiving a censure and so I initially thought I would cease any public dissent over Board approved policies that exceed the BFM 2000 and violate Scripture. However, I received affirmation from the Southern Baptist Convention through the LifeWay survey that revealed over half of Southern Baptists believe a private prayer language is a legitimate gift from God, and I was emboldened when the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention adopted the Garner Motion which states the Baptist Faith and Message is a 'sufficient' doctrinal standard for Southern Baptist cooperaton. I began to use my blog, again, to seek to implement the Convention's desires.

The Censure Motion

Late last month the trustee who originally went behind closed doors in January 2006 to seek my removal sent an email to all IMB trustees requesting I be censured because it is obvious I had not repented, much less apologized. I published the email for all to read. The email was about me, and I learned two years ago that the best protection for my reputation and character is to have everything said and done be in the open so all Southern Baptists can see. I am ashamed of nothing and welcome complete transparency.

When I arrived in Springfield, Illinois for the last trustee meeting, I felt that trustee leadership was desirous of censuring me. Though no trustee had ever personally contacted me by phone or email with concerns over my blog, I had grown accustomed to things being handled behind closed doors at meetings where the body only hears from trustee leadership.

In my meeting with the Executive Committee on the Monday before the start of the Springfield, Illinois Board meeting I made known my desire not to become the issue - again - within the IMB. I informed the Executive Committe that I would shut down my blog on December 6, 2007; I would resign from the IMB before the end of the year, and I would personally apologize to any trustee who felt he had been 'disparaged' by my blog. I did request to speak to the entire Board - uninterrupted - before I resigned. I asked to speak to the trustees in the Public session, but since I knew trustee leadership would not allow that, I said I would acquiesce to speak to them behind closed doors.

The trustee chairman asked me to put my proposal in writing and dismissed me from the meeting. I was interrupted in the process of writing out my proposal by an event that is so bizarre I felt I was in the Twilight Zone (one of these days I will write about it). I had not completed the proposal by the allotted time, so a sub-committee from the Executive Committee was sent to meet with me. I gave more information to the sub-committee, including the reasons for my decision to resign. They wrote everything down to 'report' back to the Executive Committee. I reiterated to this small committee of three that I did not want Wade Burleson to be the issue at this IMB meeting during the very important Lottie Moon season, and if they would just leave well enough alone, I would be gone by the first of the year. However, if the Executive Committee proceeded with a censure, then I would not be resigning - for reasons that were very clear to that committee.

I did not meet again with the Executive Committee. I assumed through conversations I had the next morning that nothing was going to happen in terms of the censure. However, that night, trustee leadership called trustees into Executive Session, read the three page motion to censure me, did not afford me the opportunity to speak to the Board, did not reveal my offer to the Board, and allowed 'Question' to be called after only one person spoke. One of my trustee friends said after the meeting 'those railroad tracks went right across your chest.' I just smiled.

The Future

The deacons at Emmanuel Baptist Church, Enid, met last Sunday night and voted unanimously to express to anyone who will listen their unqualified support for their pastor. They also did some other really nice things for me that I feel no pressing need to elaborate. I did not know the meeting was being called, and I was not present - having a previous commitment in Oklahoma City for our Oklahoma's Centennial. Needless to say, I have a church that knows me and understands my convictions well. They know their pastor believes courteous dissent is essential for any healthy organization, including their church. Sunday School teachers are free to teach opposite of what their pastor teaches on tertiary issues of Scripture. Deacons and members are free to publicly express their disapproval of church actions. All we ask is that everyone maintain a gracous, loving and courteous spirit. I think I just assumed all Southern Baptists were like us.

Let me assure my Southern Baptist partners in missions and ministry that I will continue to fulfill my service as a trustee of the International Mission Board. I will be paying my own way to the Board meetings. I will continue to try to keep grassroots Southern Baptists informed, and I believe with all my heart progress is being made.

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Today's Debate Is Tomorrow's Success

The following was sent to me and several other IMB trustees, including Chairman John Floyd, by Southern Baptist layman Joe Hall. I do not know Joe. I have never met him, nor have I ever spoken to him, but I always find it refreshing when Southern Baptists laymen take the time to get involved, and in Joe's case, articulate their thoughts so well.


Can any good thing come out of Oklahoma?

By: Joe Hall

When I was a student at Grand Canyon College in the late 60’s I had a conversation with Dr. Niles Puckett, my Greek professor. The conversation came about because of a debate he allowed in Greek class between a Church of Christ and a Baptist pastor. Both were young and full of them selves and made their arguments. Some of the young students felt that the Church of Christ preacher may have won the debate based on his communication skills. He spoke louder and longer than either.

After class I spoke with Dr. Puckett and enquired as to why he hadn’t stepped into the discussion and corrected the false interpretations offered by the Church of Christ preacher concerning baptismal regeneration. Dr. Puckett was a member of the church I served as Student Associate Pastor and I felt I knew him well and yet was surprised by his answer. He told me, “Joe, it is not my calling to become the conscience of or to take the place of the Holy Spirit for any of my students. I allowed the debate because I want you to listen to various sides of issues and seek God’s voice to you and make intelligent decisions based on hearing all sides. Then I want you to go to God’s word and hear what the Lord has to say. Then I want you to make an informed decision for your self.”

Forgive me for this long story but Dr. Puckett’s advice has stuck with me and has served me well in my own life and in my business. I feel that my organization would be weakened if every one of my managers always agreed with me. I feel the need to allow my key leaders to shed light on all sides of our business.

Now we cut to the chase. It is my belief that the issue is not just the narrowing of acceptable standards and beliefs but the narrowing of leadership. In the recent actions of the IMB key leaders, trustees of the IMB, chosen for their leadership skills and knowledge of the work, have not been rewarded for insightful disagreement. Steps have been taken that attempt to keep any disagreement in check. I believe that once the decision has been made, the decision is the rule of the day until the rules are changed. To kill all disagreement before, during, or after the decision is made opens the door for falling into the trap of the good old boy syndrome. Stemming disagreement ensures inward growth. Everything that lives changes and change is good but change must be reasonable and useful. Therefore all sides of an issue must be explored, weighed for usefulness, exposed as correct or false, and decided upon in such a way that debate is not stymied. Gracious disagreement enhances the opportunity of a well thought through direction. Today’s debate or disagreement is tomorrow’s success.

The actions of the IMB of late are not healthy, productive, or insightful but rather smack of hurt feelings or a “who’s in charge here” attitude. They are not in the best interest of the SBC, IMB, individual missionaries, and most especially the lost and un-reached around the world. I have a personal feeling about things like private prayer language, baptismal authority, and individual disagreement but they are not important. What is important is my responsibility to add something significant to the discussion and not be castigated for my thoughts. John Floyd shared with me that a trustee who does not play by the rules will be sidelined. It is my opinion that the recent rules are ill gotten and ill advised. I would like an answer about how these rules relate to the constitution of the IMB, how they diminish or strengthen the work of a leader chosen to represent Southern Baptist, at least in terms of communication, and how it is good to do this censure thing the month before our largest single Missions Resource gathering. As a pew sitter I am in favor of some soul searching, explanation to the constituents, and some changes that will bring about healthy disagreement.

I have heard all my life this formula: tell the people, pray the issue, and lead where God is going. The IMB is God’s, entrusted to His people of the SBC. It does not belong to the leaders of the trustees of the IMB or to its’ staff. It is time for accountability to the people who provide resources for it in God’s name.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The SBCT-Texas International Mission Board

Baptist Press reported on the 2007 Southern Baptist of Texas Convention held in Arlington, Texas last week. I was interested in reading about the officers of the convention and the resolutions coming from the convention and the relationship each had with the International Mission Board.

The Officers

The immediate past President of the SBCT, Steve Swofford, is a current trustee of the International Mission Board.
The new President of the SBCT, Bob Pearle, just completed eight years of service as a trustee of the International Mission Board.
The new First Vice-President of the SBCT, Nathan Lino, is a current trustee of the International Mission Board.
The new Second Vice-President, Jimmy Pritchard, is a current trustee of the International Mission Board.

The Resolutions

Eight resolutions were passed, several of which speak directly at the mission and work of the International Mission Board.

First, the SBCT Resolution on the Role of the Baptist Faith and Message calls upon "all Southern Baptist entities to employ it as the minimum theological standard" in direct opposition to the Southern Baptist Convention's Garner Motion. The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention said just this year regarding the Baptist Faith and Message:

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

If entities were to follow the SBCT Resolution instead of the Garner Motion and the understanding of the SBC Executive Committee, there would be all kinds of doctrinal policies implemented that exceed the BFM 2000. These policies then would exclude otherwise qualified Southern Baptists, who affirm the BFM, from missionary service, and narrows the doctrinal parameters of cooperation at the whims of individual trustee boards - like what is happening.

Second, the SBCT Resolution on the Importance of Sound Doctrine for True Unity states "churches, denominations, and conventions have compromised their doctrinal distinctives in modern days in an ecumenical attempt to include people by excluding sound doctrinal principles" Those who are familiar with the papers of Keith Eitel, missions professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, know that some criticize IMB administration, feeling that our missionarys' are being led to cooperate with other Great Commission Christians on the mission fields, and as a result, there is growing doctrinal compromise.

Third, the SBCT Resolution on Evangelistic Outreach states that "we acknowledge the necessity for all Southern Baptists to be in the world but not of the world and therefore distinct from the culture without abrogating our God-given responsibility to reach the culture"

The Principles of Contextualization recently adopted at the IMB arose out of a fear of some that some missionaries may be watering down the gospel by adapting too much to the culture in which they lived and were contextualizing the gospel beyond appropriate Biblical parameters to reach varying people groups.

Fourth, the SBCT Resolution Reaffirming Regenerate Church Membership states "a New Testament church is formed through covenant by a group of Christians intentionally gathering in the name of Jesus Christ and under his lordship (Matthew 18:19-20; Colossians 2:10, 19); and WHEREAS, baptism of only believers by immersion in the Triune name is the only proper means of entering a local New Testament church . . . "

The above resolution reaffirms that there is no true church but a Baptist church - one who understands the ordinance of baptism properly. It implies there is no other church under the Lordship of Christ but a Baptist church (one who obeys the ordinance of baptism properly). It also affirms there are only local Baptist churches - implying there is such thing as a universal church, or Bride of Christ, that encompasses all true followers of Jesus Christ whether they have been properly baptized or not.

Finally, the Resolution on Alchohol Abstinence states that all elected officials and trustees from the SBCT will vow to abstain from alcohol as a beverage. (Correction: The resolution on abstinence passed last year. This year the resolution became a bylaw change. The SBCT is working hard to codify their resolutions (wink)).


There are very eerie similarities between what is happening at the Southern Baptist Convention of Texas and the International Mission Board.

I would suggest if we desire to continue to narrow the doctrinal parameters of Southern Baptist missions and ministry cooperation beyond the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message; if we desire to have more and more doctrinal policies added to the 'minimal standard' of the BFM 2000 for requirements of service at our SBC agencies; if we desire to isolate ourselves from Christians who are not Baptist on the mission fields; if we desire to recognize only Baptist churches as true churches; if we wish to force a vow of abstinance upon all Southern Baptists; if we wish to emphasize doctrinal purity in tertiary matters to the neglect of evangelistic cooperation; if we wish to continue to ignore the wishes of the Southern Baptist Convention as expressed at our annual meetings . . . then . . .

Let's elect more SBCT leaders as IMB trustees. Good men, all, but seemingly insistent that all Southern Baptists conform to their ideological, philosophical and theological ideals - and willing to do everything necessary to ensure this conformity occurs.

In His Grace,


Update: It seems some think I have erred in writing SBCT instead of SBTC. I have not. I believe it is more accurate to identify are neighbors to the south as the Southern Baptist Convention of Texas instead of Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. The first recognizes our brothers to the south can do as they please - for they are their own convention. The latter implies they are typical of all Southern Baptists. I prefer to identify our brothers and sisters to the south as the SBCT.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Don't Get Mad Over the Censure: The Policy That Forbids Dissent Should Cause The Pain

In December 2005 I began to express my courteous and public dissent - through this blog - over the two IMB policies that excluded othwise qualified and God-called Southern Baptists from serving on the mission field. The policies excluded Southern Baptists who were (a) baptized by ordinance administrators deemed unqualified to immerse by the IMB trustees, and/or (b) who responded truthfully, and in the affirmative, when asked if they prayed in private in an unknown tongue.

Three weeks after I began my public dissent on this blog I received an email from the attorney of the IMB, a very godly man who is no longer with the IMB, who clarified the freedom of sitting trustees to publicly dissent from board approved actions. In the email, dated January 6, 2006, the IMB attorney states:

I know of no bylaw or policy that would preclude public expressions of opposition to Board approved policies on various blogs. As long as you act in good faith, you can, in my opinion, publicly oppose and even seek to pressure other trustees into re-examining past decisions.

That was exactly what I was doing. My blog was designed to inform Southern Baptists of two doctrinal policies that exceeded the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, and that otherwise God-called and qualifed Southern Baptist missionary candidates were being excluded from missions service and ministry participation. I began to call these policies "the narrowing of the doctrinal parameters of Southern Baptist cooperation."

Within three days of receiving this January 6, 2006 email from the IMB attorney, trustee leadership of the International Mission Board sought the adoption of a recommendation for my removal. This recommendation had to be presented to the June 2006 Southern Baptist Convention for approval. The basis for the recommendation for my removal changed from time to time, depending upon who one asked and when one asked, but it was obvious to everyone in the know at the time that my blog - filled with what I believed courteous dissent and written in good faith - was the issue to the trustees who voted for the recommendation.

Then, with a sudden change of heart, on March 22, 2006, just three months before the Southern Baptist Convention was to vote on the motion for my removal, the IMB trustees who sought the recommendation just a scant two months earlier, unanimously reversed themselves and voted to rescind the motion for my removal and expunge it from the record. Ironically, that same day, the trustees passed a four page Trustee Standards of Conduct designed to any stifle public dissent.

The March 22, 2006 'Trustee Standards of Conduct'

For 162 years, the International Mission Board did just fine without a guideline that forbad public dissent. But on the very day the motion for my removal was rescinded, the IMB board of trustees passed a statement saying:

Individual IMB trustees must refrain from public criticism of Board approved actions . . . trustees are to speak in positive and supportive terms as they interpret and report on actions by the Board, regardless of whether they personally support the action.

What is not known by many is the last paragraph of the new "Trustee Standards of Conduct." It made clear what would happen if a trustee chose to 'publicly dissent.'

Depending on the circumstances, appropriate action could include . . . a motion to censure the violating trustee or trustees, or suspend their active involvement with the Board or to take the final action of removal from the Board by action of the SBC.

I opposed this policy, stating to anyone who would listen at the time, that it was the worst policy ever passed by any agency of the Southern Baptist Convention. It was illogical, irrational, and violated the very essence of Baptist identity. We Baptists are, by nature, dissenters. To stifle free and courteous dissent is to deny our Baptist heritage and identity.

I initially thought I would stop my public dissent of Board approved policies on this blog - simply because I did not enjoy the prospect of a censure. But then I realized the only way Southern Baptists even knew about the new policies that were excluding missionaries was through my blog. The only way the SBC knew we were 'narrowing the doctrinal parameters of missionary cooperation and participation' was through this blog and others like it.

I told my wife in April of 2006, less than a month after the policy that forbad dissent was passed, that I was going to intentionally violate it by continuing to publish my courteous dissent of the two policies that continued to exclude otherewise qualified Southern Baptists from missionary appointment. Everyone who reads my blog knows that I have been only affirming of the vision of President Jerry Rankin, am absolutely supportive of the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Offering, and desire MORE missionaries on the missions fields not less. But I intentionally chose to express my public dissent to help get those missionaries on the fields white unto harvest - the very place they belong. I also submitted myself to the guideline which calls for my censure if trustee leadership so desired.

However, in 2007 the Southern Baptist Convention passed the Garner Motion which stated that agencies SHOULD NOT exceed the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message through the implemention of doctrinal policies that go beyond the convention-wide approved confession of faith. I not only felt affirmed in my gracious and courteous dissent, I looked forward to the Board rescinding the two doctrinal policies that went beyond the BFM 2000, and I looked forward to seeing the appointment of those Southern Baptist missionary candidates who were wrongly being excluded.

Yet, the two unbiblical and narrow policies were not reversed after the convention, and I wrote a post about the unwillingness of trustees in our agencies to follow the desires of the SBC. This was one of the posts referred to last week as the basis for the censure. The majority of the IMB trustees last week (not all) voted to censure me. It seems there has been another overwhelming backlash toward the actions of the IMB Board of Trustees regarding this censure. The anger of grassroots Southern Baptists, however, is misplaced.

You Should Be Upset Over the Policies, Not the Censure

I humbly and genuinely accept the censure approved by the majority my fellow trustees. They not only were within their rights to censure me, they should censure me to abide by the illogical policy they passed on March 22, 2006. I chose to publicly dissent knowing full well I would likely be censured. I told my wife last year that the day might come when a motion to censure would be brought.

So be it. I accept it. I will not apologize for courteous public dissent.

I will continue to respectfully and publicly dissent when I cannot privately support board approved actions. To publicly dissent is not a question of loyalty, is not evidence of a lack of unity in the Spirit, but it is in the end, the only way to ensure that the boards and agencies of our Southern Baptist Convention maintain our Baptist identity and live by Christian principles of openness and transparency and refuse to change the Baptist Faith and Message - the doctrinal basis of our cooperation - through back door, hidden agency policies.

The Southern Baptist Convention will eventually decide if it is wise, prudent and Baptist to stifle dissent. I already believe I know their answer. The adoption of the Garner Motion affirms my place in the SBC. Southern Baptists do not desire the largest missions sending agency in the world to narrow the doctrinal parameters of missionary participation beyond the BFM 2000. I am also convinced that the SBC will desire to hear from any trustee who feels we are in danger of violating Scripture and exceeding the BFM 2000 by narrowing the parameters of our cooperation to exclude otherwise qualified, Bible-believing Southern Baptists from SBC missionary and ministry service.

What should upset Southern Baptists is not the censure of Wade Burleson. What should upset Southern Baptists is the policy that stifles the dissent of majority opinions through threat of censure.

The Offer to Resign

There have been some who have questioned why I would offer to resign at the last Board meeting. Quite simply, it was the first time I had ever been confronted by trustee leadership about violating the 'new' guidelines that forbids public dissent and I knew a censure, which would distract us from our mission and purpose, was more than likely coming.

So, instead of distracting the Southern Baptist Convention our from mission business during Lottie Moon, I offered to . . .

(1). Shut my blog down on December 6, 2007, the two year anniversary of it's start, and
(2). Until December 6, 2007, since I was now being confronted about my public dissent, I would abide by the March 22, 2006 guideline that forbids it until I shut down my blog, and
(3). I would resign before the end of the year, and
(4). I would apologize to any trustee who was personally offended by anything said on my blog, because I have never sought to disparage any trustee, but only to write about the issues we face.

However, I said, quite emphatically, that I would NOT apologize for my public dissent because I INTENTIONALLY violated the policy that forbad public dissent because there was, for me, a higher principle at stake. It is like an ambulance speeding because a wounded passenger needs to get to the hospital. It is like a pastor who breaks confidentiality because he has heard that abuse is taking place. To break the guideline that forbids dissent is the lesser of two evils: It prevents our convention from losing her sense of Baptist identity by modeling gracious, courteous dissent.

However, I also said, IF trustee leadership decided to put the focus on Wade Burleson and censure me, then I would accept their decision to censure, respect them for it, humbly receive it as fulfillment of the 'new' Trustee Standards of Conduct, BUT

(1). I would also continue my blog, and
(2). I would not resign, but fulfill my term as appointed by the SBC, and
(3). I would also continue my public dissent, if and when needed (that is, when I could not privately support a board approved action because it exceeded the BFM 2000 or violated Scripture), and
(4). I would humbly accept any future censures as the fulfillment of the March 22, 2006 'Trustee Standard of Conduct Guidelines.'

In other words, nobody should be upset over the censure. I'm not. I freely admit I violated the March 22, 2006 new guideline that forbids dissent. I knew that a censure - more than likely - would be coming. Southern Baptists should be upset with the policy that forbids dissent and threatens censure when it occurs. In other words, if you are angry today, your emotion is misplaced by about eighteen months. You should have been upset, as was I, eighteen months ago on March 22, 2006.

Closing Thoughts

Don't forget that others besides me are being excluded by illogical and ill advised policies, but these God-called missionary candidates are not being heard at this time. They have no appeal. I do, and I intend to represent them to the end.

Also, it is ironic to me that I heard from a former trustee who gave me multiple examples of public criticism by sitting trustees of Dr. Jerry Rankin and his vision for the IMB over the past fifteen years. This trustee asked a very simple question to me: "Is public dissent only forbidden when trustees express disapproval of trustee decisions, or is public dissent also forbidden by trustees for decisions made by the IMB President and his administrators?"

Great question.

I believe that Southern Baptist trustees should be free to express courteous public criticism and dissent for decisions made by both trustees and administrators.

The SBC will soon decide.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Quote of the Day

"I am struck by the absence of resistance, dissent, and critical judgment in the moral repertoire of contemporary evangelicals. These disciplines - and let us call them disciplines - are rarely intoned in our sermons, publications, and seminaries, and when they are, they are most commonly regarded as manifestations of pride. Evangelicals are quick to admonish unity when there is a whiff of disagreement in the air. Dissent must be quashed for the sake of harmonious ideals, which we consider spiritual virtues. But perhaps the situation only masks our swift retreat from the costs of discipleship, fueled by an inferiority complex, which plagues us ... We are failing to raise up a generation of Christian critics at a time when dissent should be a vital part of confessing Jesus Christ as Lord."

Charles Marsh, Wayward Christian Soldiers, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007, 191-92. (Thanks to Matt for pointing this quote out).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Open Meetings Mean Fewer Misunderstandings

"In 43 years there have been fewer than six executive sessions (closed door, private meetings) . . . The Executive Committee (SBC) has an open ear for anyone one who wants to speak to it. For almost 25 years the gallery has been two to three times bigger than the size of the Committee, and the gallery has been permitted to ask any question, to give any information, to make any point and to offer any objection." Dr. Albert McClellan, December 31, 1980, The Baptist Program.

SBC leaders would do well to imitate Dr. Albert McClellan and the Southern Baptist Executive Committee of the mid-20th century. Some Southern Baptists feel that our agencies should follow the example of corporate boards and keep all things private except what 'corporate officers' want you to hear. Public relations departments, press releases, and image surveys are all tools used by the corporate world to keep the 'reputation' of the business intact. Christian ministries, however, should desire to thrive on genuine integrity, full transparency, and complete openness. Reputation should not be nearly as important to followers of Christ as integrity. Christ is the light of the world, and all things done in His name, including the spending of donated monies, debates about how to best fulfill our mission and purpose, and questions - asked and answered - that lead to greater organizational accountability should all happen in public forums. It goes without saying that concerns for missionary safety must take priority, but except for that single concern, every other Southern Baptist item of business should be offered, debated, and settled in the full public view of the Convention herself. Lawyers may not like that model, but grassroots Southern Baptists should.

Two examples from last week's IMB trustee meeting serve as an example of the benefit of debating issues publicly rather than behind closed doors.

(1). First, the debate over what trustee Hershael York calls The Most Important Business at the IMB Meeting - the adoption of 'Five Principles of Contextualization' - took place behind a closed door Executive Session instead of in an open 'plenary' session of the board. I felt that all the comments during the debate, on both sides, were excellent and explained how Southern Baptists can effectively share Christ with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and other religious people. Trustees, staff, and special guests discussed how the issue, what is appropriate and what is not in terms of contextualization (presenting the gospel in the context of the culture in which the person finds himself), and various related important issues. Unfortunately, nobody but those behind the closed doors last Tuesday night will ever hear the excellent discussion. It might be argued that to discuss the evangelizing of Muslims or people of other faiths is 'dangerous.' All that needs to be said in rebutting that argument is one sentence: 'When we are more afraid to talk publicly in our religious meetings of leading Muslims to know the Prince of Peace than the Muslims are of allowing radicals to speak openly in their mosques of putting to death those who shall not submit to Islam - then we show ourselves to be ultimately more fearful of man than we are faithful to God.' Southern Baptists must begin to talk openly about our desire to evangelize the world instead of acting as if it is some big secret.

(2). Had the presentation and 'discussion' over the motion to censure me taken place in public, then there would have been less of an opportunity for anyone to misunderstand the basis for the censure. Though I would have desired for the focus of the meeting to be on missions and not me, I humbly accept the censure for persisting in 'public dissent.' IMB trustees were well within their rights to censure, based on the irrational March 22, 2006 'new' Trustee Standard of Conduct guideline that declares 'trustees must publicly support board approved policy even if they do not privately support it.' Baptists are true dissenters in both religious identity and actual history. To stifle dissent is to deny our heritage and nature. When the doors of meetings of Southern Baptist agencies are opened again, and people get familarized again with the practice of civil debate, gracious discussion, and courteous dissent, then there will no need to feel the need to stifle dissent to preserve 'unity.' But most of all, when there is full and free debate for all to hear, then there will be fewer opportunities for misunderstandings.

For example, a Southern Baptist named Bob A. emailed one of my fellow trustees (whom I shall not name) and requested the 'basis' for the censure motion. The IMB trustee emailed Bob back with his answer - which was then forwarded to me. When I read my fellow trustee's email I called him immediately to help clear up his confusion, but I marveled at his rationale for the basis of the censure. The IMB trustee responded to Bob's question "Since when in Baptist life can there be no public disagreement with actions of one of our agencies?" by writing the following:

That is NOT the issue we are facing . . . What happened is that Mr. Burleson began a critical and scathing blog against the leadership of the trustees and the IMB president. He was publically critical of our leadership - not the issues. He was repeated asked to stop from this personal attack of our leadership and he refused. It has nothing to do with the issue or his dissent. It was his unchristian criticism of our leadership.

This IMB trustee, who 'voted' for my censure, admitted to me today that he rarely reads my blog, and when he does, he finds I am always courteous and gracious. The reason I oppose closed door meetings is because the people who want the doors closed control the flow of information. I couldn't help but think that the average Southern Baptist who read blogs understands more of the issues at play than some trustees.

I believe that we will one day see the benefit of holding open door meetings and will refrain from closed door Executive Sessions except for rare occasions. I give absolute, unconditional and irrevocable permission for any and all relevant information related to the censure to be made available to anyone who asks. This is not a sensitive issue. It is a simple disagrement among believers over the right for sitting trustees to publicly and graciously dissent over board approved actions of our agencies.

When agencies practice open meetings, there will be no need for public dissent because all dissent will already be heard - in the meeting itself.

In His Grace,


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Stifling Dissent Is Not Baptist, And It Is Not Good

We had another great Sunday of worship yesterday at Emmanuel Baptist Church, Enid, Oklahoma. Our church is filled with wonderful people who not only understand grace, they live it. We enjoy freedom to express our divergent views on the non-essentials, celebrate the diversity of backgrounds from which we come, accept each other as equal members of the family of God, and encourage one another to be true to his or her convictions without imposing those personal convictions on others. I think serving as pastor of this church for the past 16 years has probably caused me to assume all Southern Baptists were like this in spirit. Not only is individual dissent, both public and private accepted, it is encouraged. We just ask that people have a gracious, civil spirit when they let their views be known - even their views are opposite of the pastors'. I assumed, it seems now wrongly, that this philosophy was the warp and fabric of Southern Baptist life.

I have discovered in the last two years that some Southern Baptist leaders believe public dissent over decisions that have been made is a sign of denominational disloyalty, or worse, a lack of Christian unity. For this reason, those Southern Baptist leaders see nothing wrong with asking trustees to 'publicly support that which they do not privately support.' To me, that kind of thinking encourages Southern Baptists to either pretend or lie and opens up our convention to a very dangersous future. A better standard would be for Southern Baptists 'to practice courteous and gracious dissent when one cannot personally support what has been approved.'

I believe I have practiced courteous and gracious public dissent in these blog posts for the past two year. The sum total of what happened last week in Springfield, Illinois is that the Executive Committee of the International Mission Board requested I apologize for my courteous public dissent - which they said violated the 'new' Trustee Standards of Conduct passed on March 22, 2006. I refused because I believed that new guideline which stifles dissent is one of the worst guidelines passed in the history of any agency of the Southern Baptist Convention - other than the 1845 IMB policy that allowed the appointment of missionaries that owned slaves. Imagine for a moment that the March 22, 2006 guideline which stifles dissent had been actually been in force in 1845 and I was a trustee then. I might be opposed to slavery, but to abide by the new policy that forbids public dissent I would have to say . . .

"I support missionaries owning slaves because this is the board approved policy."

If grassroots Southern Baptists honestly cannot see the danger of stifling dissent, somebody please tell me right now so I can leave the Southern Baptist Convention tomorrow morning. I personally don't think that this is the case. I believe Southern Baptists desire courteous, gracious, honest, and transparent dissent instead of prohibitions of dissent, and it is for this reason I refuse to apologize for violating the new trustee guideline that forbids dissent. It is also why the controversy which began two years ago is really a referendum on whether or not we as Southern Baptists will allow the stifling of courteous dissent. I believe there is inherent danger in forsaking our Baptist heritage by demanding absolute conformity and pretentious harmony rather than allowing gracious dissent and seeking transparent, Spirit-filled unity in the midst of diversity.

The Background for the Current Censure Controversy

When the 2005 International Mission Board Personnel Committee, chaired by current board chairman John Floyd, passed the new policies prohibiting the appointment of new missionaries who either had a private prayer language or had been biblically baptized but not in a Southern Baptist Church, most Southern Baptists had no idea that the two new doctrinal policies had been inacted and that they exceeded the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, and most importantly, that they excluded from cooperative missionary service hundreds of otherwise qualified and active Southern Baptists who felt called to the mission field.

When I was contacted in early 2005 by sitting International Mission Board trustees and asked to serve with them on the Board, I had no idea that these two policies were being formulated by the Personnel Committee of the IMB. When the Nominating Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention contacted me a couple of weeks later to begin the process of appointment, and when the Nashville Southern Baptist Convention in June 2005 appointed me as a trustee, I still had no idea about the new policies.

My first meeting with the International Mission Board was in July of 2005 in Richmond, Virginia at the International Learning Center. I was placed, like all new trustees at the time, on the Personnel Committee. I very distinctly remember the first meeting I attended where we approved a missionary candidate for appointment and the statement was made by the chairman that had that particular candidate come before us at our next committee meeting, he would have been denied because the new policies would be in effect.

That was the first time I heard about the new policies. It is also the very first time I spoke at an International Mission Board committee meeting. I asked a two word question that would eventually change my entire understanding of the Southern Baptist Convention:

"What policies?" I asked.

When I was told of the new policies that banned the appointment of missionaries with a 'private prayer language' and banned from appointment those missionaries who were not baptized by a 'proper administrator,' even though the missionary candidate's home Southern Baptist Church had received the candidate's baptism as both biblical and valid, things began to click in my mind.

It dawned on me why sitting IMB trustees were contacting me about serving with them.
It dawned on me why I was being asked to join a subset of trustees that were meeting concurrent with the official IMB board meetings.
It dawned on me what some tenured trustees were meaning when they told new trustees that there was unfinished business at the IMB.
It dawned on me why Southern Baptists were being excluded in an agency that is supposed to be known for Southern Baptist cooperation.
It dawned on me why sometimes Southern Baptists were viewed as isolationists on the mission field.
It dawned on me why Jerry Rankin's vision for the IMB was opposed by some.

The Problem Stated

There are some Southern Baptists in leadership who hold to a very narrow doctrinal view of Baptist identity (i.e. "I'll tell you what a Southern Baptist is - look at me - and if you aren't like me, you aren't a Southern Baptist"), so the idea that someone could pray in tongues in the privacy of his or her prayer closet and be a true 'Southern Baptist' was unthinkable to these leaders - even though the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message was silent on this issue and eventually a LIFEWAY survey showed 50% of Southern Baptists considered a private prayer language to be a legitimate gift of the Holy Spirit.

Further, the leftover vestiges of Landmark influence among southern Baptists is sometimes seen in a very strict view of the 'local' church. The inability to see all believers, regardless of local church affiliation, as 'The Bride of Christ' and the 'Body of Christ' causes southern Baptists, influenced by Landmarkism, to refuse to embrace other believers from different denominations and conventions as partners in fulfilling the Great Commission. When there is a strong focus on Baptist identity to the point of religious sacerdotalism there arises more of a concern that converts be identified as Baptists - even more so than Christians.

Ironically, this strong view of the pure, local Baptist church is being morphed by some into a belief that 'The Southern Baptist Convention' should be treated like a church as well. The SBC is the mother church if you will, and in the case of the baptism guideline, if the mother church tells the members of the 'daughter' church that the baptism they recognized (by immersion, after coming to faith in Christ, trusting in Christ alone for salvation) is not valid because the person who performed the baptism was not a valid administator (i.e. 'a Baptist'), then the 'little' church must listen to the mother and rebaptize that missionary.

I would fight tooth and toenail for any Landmark Southern Baptist who is a cessationist to be free to articulate his views, serve on boards and agencies, and even lead fellow Southern Baptists. But when CANNOT be allowed to happen in a convention built on cooperation, is those who hold to this narrow view of Baptist identity to seek to EXCLUDE other Southern Baptists who do not hold to thier particular views.

A Catostrophe in the Making

In the summer of 2005 I could see the Southern Baptist Convention was headed for catostrophe through the actions of the International Mission Board. But instead of making my concerns known to the Southern Baptist public at large in July 2005, I worked diligently to try to change the policies within the structure of the IMB.

For five months I sought to get the policies reversed:
(1). I pointed out that the Personnel Committee of the IMB did not have the authority, according to our bylaws, to establish policy without full Board approval.
(2). Though I was told that the two policies were 'guidelines,' when I asked why they kept being referred to as 'policies' by certain trustees, it led to a discovery that there is functionally no difference between a policy and a guideline.
(3). I asked for the rationale behind the need for such policies. Where was the field evidence that there was a charismatic problem on the field not being handled appropriately by International Mission Board staff? Where was the documented evidence that there was a problem with 'tongues' being spoken publicly and not handled properly by staff? Where was the evidence than even ONE missionary had been appointed under the old policies that had not been scripturally baptized? I was not given any evidence because there wasn't any. Eventually I was told by Dr. Floyd that there did not need to be any field evidence of a problem - that this was a 'doctrinal' matter, and the IMB could establish a new 'doctrinal' standard - even if it went beyond the BFM 2000.
(4). The questions I raised, behind closed doors (my blog did not begin until December 2005), caused the matter to be brought before the entire board for discussion and debate in November 2005.
(5). During the debate over these policies I asked to hear from each of our staff Candidate Consultants and Regional Leaders on their views of the new 'policies.' My request was denied. I requested that Dr. Rankin's views on this matter, detailed in a letter which had been withheld from trustees by trustee leadership, be given to us.
(6). I was always very respectful and courteous in my speech, and in no form or fashion did I ever hinder debate or disrupt meetings. My behavior was Christian, civil and respectful at all times. I cannot control what others say about me, nor the gossip and rumors spread about me, but I can control my behavior, and I am confident that everything was done with Christian grace.
(7). I know for a fact that trustee leadership resented a 'rookie' questioning them. They told me. They told others. But I pressed on seeking a full and free debate.
(8). The policies were voted on in the November 15, 2005 IMB trustee meeting and passed. There was a very public dispute over the reported vote totals.
(9). Since the policies (or guidelines) have been adopted, I have asked for the number of missionary candidates that have been excluded as a result of the new guidelines. I have not yet been given an official number.
(10). Once the board took action, and believing that the adoption of the policies were a violation of our purpose as a board and the wishes of the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole, I decided to take the matter to the convention at large. As a trustee appointed by the Southern Baptist Convention, I was obligated to make my concerns known.

The Major Issue in the Southern Baptist Convention

There are some Southern Baptissts, driven by a denominationally narrow ecclesiology and a very narrow definition of Baptist identity that believe Dr. Rankin, and current IMB administration, have gone too far in their efforts to partner with other evangelicals in doing “whatever it’s going to take” to reach the unreached people groups of the world and make disciples of all nations.

I wholeheartedly agree that it is within the purview of IMB trustees to hold Dr. Rankin responsible for the implementation of his vision. But what is wrong is when a people feel, whomever they may be, that the doctrinal standards of missionary cooperation and denominational service can be altered without convention wide approval. It also doesn't help when the doctrinal changes, implemented through the 'newly adopted' private prayer language and baptism guidelines, disqualifies the President of the International Mission Board from serving as a new missionary appointee were he to be appointed under these new guidelines.

For this reason, I began my blog in December of 2005. I took my dissent, which had been private for six months, to the Southern Baptist Convention at large. In January 2006 a trustee alleged my blog was filled with 'gossip' and 'slander,' and the trustees voted to remove me without ever having presented to the public the proof of the 'gossip' or 'the slander' - even though I requested the proof be made public repeatedly. I knew that if Southern Baptists saw the 'proof' they would see that it was simply courteous dissent. The 'proof' never came.

Of course, the recommendation was altered when read to reporters later that same day in January to say the motion for my removal was for 'loss of trust' and 'resistance to accountability' and not a word was said about 'gossip' and 'slander.' Eventually the entire recommendation for my removal was rescinded and expunged from the record on March 22, 2006 - less than three months before the entire Southern Baptist Convention would hear my defense and vote on the recommendation of whether or not I should continue to serve - and the exact same day the internal 'new' Trustee Standard of Conduct Guidlines which stifled dissent with threat of censure was passed..

The March 22, 2006, new conduct trustee guideline, adopted by a majority of the International Mission Board, contained the following regulation:

Individual IMB trustees must refrain from public criticism of Board approved actions . . . trustees are to speak in positive and supportive terms as they interpret and report on actions by the Board, regardless of whether they personally support the action.

Initially, I really thought it best initially to attempt to follow the guideline prohibiting dissent, and I did my best to 'support that which I didn't support,' but I saw very quickly that when Baptists, or any Christian group for that matter, take away the cherished principle of free and courteous dissent, the group can quickly deteriorate under the whims of autocratic leadership. Exerting absolute authority over missionaries, fellow trustees, or IMB administrators, to the point that everyone fears to speak out lest they lose their job, their position, or their reputation is highly unhealthy and dysfunctional for any organization, but particularly any Christian organization. Further, when you publicly state you support what you don't actually support, you are at best pretending, and at worst lying. Transparency is the opposite of such pretension.

What began with me publicly dissenting against the majority decision of the trustees of the International Mission Board to use a back door approach to narrow the doctrinal parameters of missionary cooperation - without going to the Southern Baptist Convention - has now come full circle. My public dissent began after months of working privately, behind the scenes. What started out as a concern over the direction we were heading as an entity by leadinng our convention, post de facto, to narrow the doctrinal parameters of denominational cooperation has now, again, come full circle.

I am being censured for my public dissent.

The censure is not over behavior - I have been only gracious and civil in my dealings with my fellow trustees. The censure is not over disrupting meetings - I have always spoken softly and only when acknowledged - never disrupting the decorum and order of a Christian organization. The censure is not over anything immoral, unethical or sinful.

I am being censured for my public dissent.

The ironic thing about this whole mess is the censure did not have to happen. I offered the olive branch.

Stifling dissent is the tool of control. But in the grand scheme of things, when autocratic leaders resort to the stifling of dissent, it is a sign that they fear losing control. It is a sign that change is in the air.

I confess, again, my love for all my fellow trustees, and for trustee leadership, including John Floyd, Paul Chitwood, Bill Curp, Jerry Corbaley and others on the Executive Committee who stood by these men in recommending the censure. I realize that the majority of trustees may not fully understand all the issues at play, nor my offer to the above men to step out of the controversy so that the focus could be on fulfilling Dr. Rankin's vision for the IMB. Regardless, the action in Springfield, Illinois seemed to me to be the Lord giving to me clear direction for my immediate future.

I shall continue my courteous public dissent.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson


Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Path to Keep a Focus on Missions Was Clear

The November 5-7, 2007 Springfield, Illinois International Mission Board trustee meeting could have gone down as one of the greatest trustee meetings in the history of the IMB. We heard some wonderful field reports from our Regional Leaders, we received some amazing statistical information about the number of churches planted and baptisms performed in our overseas missions work, and we passed the largest missions budget ($305 million dollars) in the history of the IMB.

Unfortunately, the Springfield, Illinois trustee meeting may be remembered as the time when a rare, possibily unique, censure was issued against a sitting trustee. The very sad and unfortunate truth is that this censure, and the resulting distraction from our mission work, was absolutely avoidable. I feel it is necessary to show that if there is a loss of Southern Baptist focus on missions during this very important Lottie Moon season, it is because a few leaders chose not to follow the very clear path laid out for them that ensured missions, and not conflict, stayed in the forefront of the IMB. I will avoid using names to keep anyone from feeling my words reflect poorly on them. However, Southern Baptists should ask the question 'Why?' Why did this censure have to happen? Why now? For what purpose? The fact that it did occur, in light of what I am about to tell you, is a sign that some Southern Baptist leaders have either lost perspective about what is really important in SBC life, or are so obsessed with the stifling of any dissent, or are so consumed with keeping power and control that comes with absolute authority, or (and I pray this is not true) they have been so blinded by either vendetta or personal ego that they can't see any higher calling.

Even though the censure was a majority vote, I am absolutely certain that the majority of International Mission Board trustees did not know the information this post contains when they voted to censure. However, a few trustees in leadership were told, in detail, what I am about to tell you. It is not confidential information. though it should have been shared with the entire board, it was not. It was not shared with the trustees in the Monday night trustee Forum because my censure was not even discussed. It was not shared with the full trustee board during Executive Session Tuesday night when my censure was voted on. I probably would have shared the information with all the trustees had I been asked to address the board before the vote, but I was not afforded the opportunity to address the trustees before they voted on my censure.

No Executive Session rules of confidentiality are being broken in this post. The information that I am about to share with you was given to two IMB trustees who serve on the Executive Committee as well as an administrator of the IMB. These three men were sent to meet with me by the Executive Committee late Monday afternoon (5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.) to seek out a resolution that would stop short of a public censure.

I am free to give the details of what I said to these men in that meeting - a meeting which occurred at the end of a hotel hallway as the four of us sat on a couch and two chairs - because the Executive Committee themselves reported in the Censure Recommendation, what I said. The Censure Recommendation states the following about this four man meeting:

Trustee members of the Executive Committee and a senior staff IMB staff member met with Burleson on the evening of November 5, 2007 for further discussion. Burleson was asked to apologize for the following violations:

(a) Making public private communications with fellow trustees;
(b) Speaking in a way that reflected poorly on fellow trustees; and
(c) Publicly criticizing board approved actions instead of speaking in positive and supportive terms as he interpreted and reported on actions of the Board of Trustees, regardless of whether he personally supported those actions.

Burleson stated that the violations regarding speaking in a way that reflected poorly on his fellow trustees were unintentional offenses for which he would gladly apologize. However, he stated that he intentionally chose to make public private communications with the trustees and that he intentionally chose to publicly criticize board approved actions instead of speaking in positive and supportive terms as he interpreted and reported on board actions.

That 'official account' of the meeting is correct - as far as it goes. It does not say enough. Not near enough. But before I tell you the critical information that is left out of the Censure Recommendation, let me tell you what the Executive Committee did get right about what I said to those three men sent by the Executive Committee to meet with me.

The Details of What Was Said Are Accurate

I did tell the men that I would personally and publicly apologize to Winston Curtis, Jerry Corbaley, and John Floyd for posts on my blog, posts that I was told 'reflected poorly' on these men. I stated that though none of these men had ever approached me personally with his offense, and though I had never intentionally sought to disparage these trustees, I would accept the word of the Executive Committee that the men had been offended, and would issue an apology to them publicly - without reservation - immediately.

I also said to them, and it is reported correctly by the Executive Committee, that I could not apologize for making public so called 'private communications' with fellow trustees. But the rationale for not apologizing is not given. Why would I not apologize? Because the alleged 'private communications,' were conversations that occurred about International Mission Board business, and were questions being asked of me by Southern Baptists. I asked these questions to keep Southern Baptists informed about their missions agency (see my explanation here). In no form or fashion did I violate Executive Session rules of confidentiality in any of my blog posts. Also, if someone I visited with at the trustee meetings, either missionaries or trustees, stated that our conversation should be 'private,' I always abided by their request.

Finally, the Executive Committee accurately reports in the Censure Recommendation that I said I could not apologize for my public dissent of board approved action. However, again, the explanation was not fully given. I do appreciate the Executive Committee reporting that I said the following:

"Burleson further stated that he would not apologize for these intentional violations of the Trustee Standards of Conduct and Trustee Responsibilities. Burleson stated that he had voted against these standards of conduct when they were adopted because he believed in the principle of dissent."

The Executive Committee left out the word 'Baptist' before the word 'dissent.' I'm sure this omission was unintentional. I told the three men that I was a Baptist first, and the principle of courteous dissent was a cherished one. I could not apologize for publicly opposing the private prayer language and baptism guidelines, nor could I refrain from opposing the 'New Trustee Standards of Conduct' because those 'new' standards contained a very un-Baptistic policy. The 'new' trustee standards, adopted March 22, 2006 in Tampa, Florida, say this:

Individual IMB trustees must refrain from public criticism of Board approved actions . . . trustees are to speak in positive and supportive terms as they interpret and report on actions by the Board, regardless of whether they personally support the action.

I told them that I could NOT, in good conscience, abide by that policy. When they told me that I was bound by the 'New Trustee Standards of Conduct,' I reminded them that I voted against the 'New Trustee Standards of Conduct' on March 22, 2006. They said it made no difference, and they could not understand why I would 'intentionally' violate the public dissent rule and then refuse to apologize. I told them that my Bapist principles were higher than 'new' trustee guidelines, and I could neither violate my conscience nor my convictions by abiding by the 'new' trustee standards of conduct that prohibited public dissent of board approved policies.

Why Were New Standards of Conduct Needed in 2006?

March 22, 2006 was the day the International Mission Board voted to adopt 'The New Trustee Standards of Conduct' in Tampa, Florida. It also happens to be the very trustee meeting where trustees voted to rescind the recommendation for my removal from the board - a recommendation that would have had to be offered, debated, and voted on by the messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro, North Carolina three months later - June 2006. But before the IMB trustees went into closed door session to rescind the recommendation for my removal, and eventually expunge it from the record, the 'new' Trustee Standards of Conduct, which stifled dissent, were passed. At the time, and during the debate, I said to anyone who listened that 'the new guideline prohibiting dissent is the worst policy passed in the history of any agency of the Southern Baptist Convention.'

For years the International Mission Board trustees were guided by the conduct guidelines contained in what is known as the 'The Blue Book.' There was no prohibition against public dissent in 'The Blue Book.' Why, all of the sudden, were 'new guidelines' needed to stifle dissent in March of 2006? Well, I think it was because my blog was causing a stir in the SBC. I always spoke courteously and graciously in my dissent, but I tried to explain why the new private prayer language and baptism guidelines were ultimately harmful for the SBC - an agency was narrowing the doctrinal requirements for missionary cooperation beyond the convention wide accepted Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

Simply put, rather than having the Southern Baptist Convention deal with the recommendation for my removal for dissenting against the guidelines passed by the IMB that went beyond the BFM 2000, trustee leadership tried to deal with me by passing 'new' guidelines that stifled dissent and threatened 'censure' or 'discipline' if the 'new' guidelines were not followed.

Initially, I really thought it best to attempt to follow the guidelines prohibiting dissent, and I did my best to 'support that which I didn't support,' but I saw very quickly that when Baptists, or any Christian group for that matter, take away the cherished principle of free and courteous dissent, the group can quickly deteriorate under the whims of autocratic leadership. Exerting absolute authority over missionaries, fellow trustees, or IMB administrators, to the point that everyone fears to speak out lest they lose their job, their position, or their reputation is highly unhealthy and dysfunctional for any organization, but particularly any Christian organization. Further, when you publicly state you support what you don't actually support, you are at best pretending, and at worst lying. Transparency is the opposite of such pretension.

So, for the past several months my writings have always been supportive of the mission and work of the IMB, respectful of my fellow trustees (even those with whom I disagree), and always for the purpose of bettering the IMB and the SBC - but I have publicly dissented when I felt it necessary and I have always sought full transparency in our work. It seems that many people have been encouraged by my blog to become more involved in mission work, particularly SBC mission work, through what I have written, including this missionary appointee who note sent me the following comment this week while I was in Springfield:

Wade, my wife and I saw you this afternoon when you came into the hotel in Springfield. I wanted to come up to tell you hello and that you are one of the reasons that we decided to proceed with an appointment with the board and soon we will be moving our family to a restricted access area and it really helps us to know that men like you are standing up for what is right.


Even if some of my fellow trustees cannot see the positive in my blog, it is certain that others do. My goal has been to increase missionary participation, increase giving to missions, and to increase the number of missionaries appointed to serve the SBC.

Displeasure Expressed for Using the IMB as 'A Platform.'

However, the trustee spokesman for the three men who met with me that early Monday evening, November 5, said he was upset that I (and I quote), "used my position as a trustee on the IMB as a platform to raise concerns in other Southern Baptists over what I was calliing 'the narrowing of the doctrinal parameters for missionary cooperation and participation in the Southern Baptist Conventon.'"

They felt my bog was a detriment to missions. These men said the Executive Committee desired an apology for all three things on the list given to me - and my willingness to only apologize for the personal offenses, but not apologize for intentional violations of the 'new' trustee guidelines put us in a quandry. There was a stalemate.

What the Executive Committee DID NOT Report

Toward the end of the meeting I was finally asked the million dollar question:

"Wade, what solution would you propose?"

I told the three men, two Executive Committee trustees and the IMB administrator, my proposed solution to the stalemate. Again, my proposed solution was NOT reported in the Executive Committee's Censure Recommendation description of my meeting with these three men. Again, the full board of trustees was NOT told what I had offered in the Executive Session.

Here is what I said.

I did not desire Wade Burleson to be an issue at this meeting. I wanted people to focus on Lottie Moon, missions, and the great things that were happening around the world. I did not wish to be the focus of this meeting. I did not intend to say anything about Jerry Corbaley's 153 page email and believed that since Southern Baptists could read for themselves what he wrote (which, by the way, was all about me), there was no need to discuss it any further. It had nothing to do with our missions purpose.

Further, I said that I was feeling it was time to move forward in my own ministry, and that I was feeling led to do four things, and would do all four if the Executive Committee would simply ignore any attempts to censure me, and move forward in the IMB's work.

(1). I would, without hesitancy, apologize both publicly and privately to the three men who felt certain of my posts placed them in a poor light, and,
(2). I would, from this date forward (November 5, 2007) abide by the 'new' trustee guidelines prohibiting dissent, because . . .
(3). I was closing my blog on December 6, 2007, as it related to the IMB and the SBC, choosing to concentrate on personal ministry, and
(3). I would step down as a trustee of the International Mission Board before the end of the year, but . . .
(4). I would not apologize for any violation of the 'new' trustee guidelines regarding public dissent of board approved guidelines and would leave my posts up as a testimony that I stand by the veracity of all I have written.

I further told them that I believed the majority of Southern Baptists agreed with me that Baptists should have the right to graciuosly and courteously dissent from the majority, and that the Garner Motion, adopted at the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention, indicated that the majority of Southern Baptists agreed that the IMB had gone too far in passing doctrinal guidelines that exceeded the BFM 2000.

I could not apologize for saying that there was the 'narrowing of the doctrinal parameters of missionary cooperation' because I could never apologize for telling the truth, even if it was not what trustee leadership, or other leaders in the SBC wanted to hear. However, for the sake of avoiding further controversy, and for the purpose of keeping the International Mission Board focused on missions, and not 'the Wade Burleson issue,' I would do the four things above.

I told them that if the Executive Committe would wait until the NEXT IMB Board meeting that Wade Burleson would be no longer an issue. I would be gone. But if they pressed for an apology, they would not get it.

The Decision To Censure Shows a Lack of Southern Baptist Statesmanship

I honestly thought that the issue was resolved. We closed that little four man meeting in prayer and the next day, I was absolutely convinced that I would not be censured. I called my wife and told her nothing was forthcoming. I told my Dad the same thing. I told Ben Cole everything was off. They all knew of my impending resignation.

In my mind, I was attending my last IMB trustee plenary session Tuesday night, when, out of the blue, we were called into Executive Session. I was, just like two years ago, completely blindsided. I had not been told the censure was coming. I had not been given the three page Censure Recommendation. I was not asked to speak to the motion. I have no clue how many trustees knew what I offered to do, but I am honestly clueless as to why my offer was not accepted. Maybe stunned is a better description than clueless.

The Lord Is In Charge

I am grateful that I learned from a young age to trust in God's providence. There is no human, logical explanation as to why I was censured. I realize that some might say, 'Well, if you had just apologized, it wouldn't have happened.' I don't know how to respond to that kind of thinking except to say that an apology for publicly dissenting, or an apology for keeping Southern Baptists informed in as transparent of a manner as possible would be a violation of my principles and my conscience - as a Baptist Christian and as a trustee elected by the SBC to serve Southern Baptists - not my fellow trustees.

So . . . because a majority of fellow trustees voted to censure me . . .

(1). I will NOT resign from the International Mission Board and will faithfully serve out the tenure assigned me by the Southern Baptist Convention, and
(2). My wife and I will gladly pay our own way to International Mission Board meetings and rejoice that the money saved for our expenses can be used in overseas missions work, and
(3). I will continue blogging about IMB trustee meetings, including all the information needed for Southern Baptists to understand what is taking place in the largest missionary sending agency in the world.
(4). I will continue to be gracious and kind to all my trustees, and will be supportive of the mission of the International Mission Board, but will continue to publicly dissent, when appropriate, if there are IMB policies implemented, guidelines approved, or actions taken that either violate Scripture, Baptist principles, or Christian charity, and finally,
(5). I will humbly accept any future censures from my fellow trustees, for my conscience is bound to a higher principle than that guideline which stifles dissent.

Let me encourage you to give to Lottie Moon this Christmas season. Let me also encourage you to increase your Cooperative Program giving. This week the Lord has shown me that I couldn't get out of the IMB and the SBC even if I wanted, and I definitely desire the IMB to be strong as ever.

The Lord must have a plan for this current controversy. Heaven knows I offered the olive branch.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson