Thursday, January 31, 2008

Thirty Days of Thought and Prayer for Me

To My Fellow Southern Baptists:

For over three years now I have sought to live by principle in the face of intense personal pressure placed upon me by some of my fellow trustees at the IMB. My wife Rachelle, my Emmanuel church family in Enid, my fellow Southern Baptists in Oklahoma, and a host of new friends from all over the world have been extremely supportive during these difficult times. From a 2006 recommendation for my removal from the International Mission Board of Trustees and its reversal, to the 2007 attempt to bar me from IMB trustee meetings and its reversal, and through the ongoing public statements about my character by Southern Baptists with whom I do not have the pleasure of friendship, there has been an incredible amount of negative publicity for both the Wade Burleson family and the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole.

Through it all I have sought to be gracious, to always see the best in people, and to be extraordinarily forgiving of those who have either intentionally or unintentionally sought to hurt me or my ministry. There have been times when I have lost my patience, and apologized for my shortness. There were occasions when I was blind to my own faults, and listened to people who wisely counseled me and helped me see my shortcomings. Through it all, I can honestly say I have never sought to intentionally denigrate any single person, whether those who deem themselves my friends or those who see themselves as my foes.

I realize it is my natural tendency to come to the defense of those broken or defenseless Christians who I perceive to be weak or powerless to either protect themselves or find a place of healing and rest. My desire to defend the defenseless, speak for the voiceless, and protect the vulnerable leads me to come across very strong to those I perceive to be bullies. I have sometimes justified my firmness by pointing out that Jesus was soft to the broken adulteress, but He took a whip to the religious Parisees. But . . .

I am not Jesus. I don't have His judgment or His wisdom. Sometimes the human judge of the Pharisees can become the Pharisee. It was my privilege to spend the past four days at the International Mission Board with my friend, John Parton, who travelled with me to Gainseville, Florida for the meeting. John is gruff. He'll tell you what he thinks. His family has abandoned him for his treatment of them. He cursed often during the week, and I cringed every time a fellow trustee was near, lest they hear. John was a Navy Seal for four terms in Vietnam and twelve years total. He became a mafia enforcer in California after the war, and he has broken every commandment and many U.S. laws multiple times. But God is doing a work in John. To see this man weep as I talked with him of Christ in a restaurant booth, to hear his voice break as he shared with me the fear of dying alone, and to spend four 24/7 days with John helped me know that I am not at heart a Parisee. That's not what I'm saying about myself - that's what John said to me.

Yet, today, I felt like a Pharisee. I do not expect anyone to understand, nor do I ask for your sympathy. I posted a blog that detailed the reasons why I have stood by principle in the face of extraordinary pressure over the past three years. Yet, in giving my explanation, I identified people and their actions, rather than speak to principles and issues. For over three years I have sought to address issues and stay away from anecdotes and narritives with names. After landing in Oklahoma City and driving through a snowstorm back to Enid, I read what I posted last night, again, and I was struck with the fact that it is not my responsibility to create brokenness in another human being. Only God can do that kind of work.

'Discipline' in the Bible is a beautiful, medical word. It represents the actions of one who will take precautions to set a 'broken' bone. It is to always be done with grace, humility, tenderness and kindness, and when set properly, the bone is stronger than it was before it was ever broken. It is a majestic experience to help bring healing to a broken person through Christ and His grace. Unfortunately, it is beyond our power to create spiritual brokenness. God has called us all to be men and women of peace; people of the gospel, not a people of the Law.

But to be a person of peace does not mean that you or I cannot have deeply held principles that we live in the face of fierce opposition. I believe deeply that Southern Baptists should have the freedom to debate issues and enjoy one another in spite of our differences. I feel strongly that brothers and sisters in Christ who possess a different skin color, or pray in another tongue, or worship in a freer manner, or view the world through a varied lense, or whose interpretations of tertiary doctrines are different than mine should all be accepted as worthy participants in the missions and ministry efforts of the Southern Baptist Convention. Jesus Christ is our bond. He is the Living Word, and if we miss Him, we will never truly either rightly interpret or apply the Written Word.

Therefore, I wish you to know that I stand by my decision to not seek forgiveness for violating the new trustee standard of conduct that states a trustee shall publicly affirm that which he cannot privately support. It was right for me to break that policy in following my conscience and deeply held principles, and it was right for me to resign from the IMB. However, before I write the narrative of my experiences at the IMB over the past three years, I need to give a great deal of thought and prayer to whether or not this is God's desire for my life. I am not saying it is or it isn't. I am saying that I do not know. I do know my post from last night was not appropriate at this time and I have taken it down.

I appreciate your prayers on my behalf. I will not blog about the IMB through the month of February and I will seek the Lord's direction for the future of my involvement in the Southern Baptist Convention. I would much rather spend my time building something. I am afraid my story might only tear down. I trust the Lord will give me clear direction. Contrary to what some might say, I love my fellow trustees, I love those who are ideologically, philosophically and theologically different from me, and I love the Southern Baptist Convention. I will let you know my decision by March 1, 2008.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Far Enough: The Imbroglio in the IMB and SBC

I have read a handful of comments by people who appreciate the spirit and tone of my 'letter of apology' but can't understand why I would not seek forgiveness for violating the 'new' trustee standard of conduct (2006) that states an IMB trustee must publicly affirm a board action even if he cannot privately support it. Allow me to explain why I cannot apologize for violating that standard in 2006 and early 2007, and why I believe it to be a 'standard of conduct' that may well go down as one of the worst policies ever adopted by any Southern Baptist agency in the history of our Convention.

When an agency of the Southern Baptist Convention allows her trustees to ask any and all questions related to a proposed board action, when agency business and all corresponding debate by trustees is held in plenary sessions under the open view of Southern Baptists rather than behind closed door in Executive Sessions, when every agency trustee is allowed to follow through with due diligence when attempting to examine proposed policies, and when trustees experience a free and open debate on important issues before the board, then it is absolutely unnecessary for an agency to pass a 'standard of conduct' that prohibits trustees from public dissent of any board approved action. For 161 years every agency of the Southern Baptist Convention, including the International Mission Board, did not feel it necessary to stifle trustees from expressing public reservations over board approved actions. But in March 2006, IMB trustee leadership led the board to adopt a four page document called 'Trustee Standards of Conduct' that forbad public dissent of board approved actions by IMB trustees and it superseded the fifty page policy manual (called the 'Blue Book') that formerly governed IMB trustees in terms of their responsibilities and accountability. It was at that same March 2006 trustee meeting in Tampa, Florida where IMB trustee leadership also led the board to rescind the recommendation for my removal from the board, a motion that they had just passed the meeting before.

I was recommended for removal from the IMB board in January 2006 after months of attempting to work behind the scenes as a duly elected trustee to wrestle through some serious issues before our board, but being stymied at every turn by trustee leadership as I sought to find answers to some very important questions that I had as a new trustee. It was only after I repeatedly experienced an unconscionable and heavy handed attempt to stifle debate over the proposed doctrinal policies, and received no anecdotal evidence for their need - though I REPEATEDLY asked for it - that I wrote in December 2005 that certain trustees (without naming them) were pushing some horribly written doctrinal policies for political purposes, including the end of Dr. Rankin's era as President of the IMB. You can rest assured I can support what I have written on this blog, and I will soon do so with the names of those involved. Further, I wrote that these two policies would exclude from Southern Baptist missionary service otherwise qualified Southern Baptists. I also pointed out that both doctrinal policies in question (baptism and private prayer language) exceed the clear statements of the BFM 2000. I said it was time to stop 'the narrowing of doctrinal parameters' of cooperation within the Southern Baptist Convention. The post was entitled "Crusading Conservatives vs. Cooperating Conservatives: The War for the Future of the Southern Baptist Convention."

I felt the need to go public with my opposition to the new 'doctrinal' policies at the IMB because the Southern Baptist Convention needs to see clearly the danger of excluding her own from cooperative mission work, and the importance of a Convention based on cooperaton expanding her cooperative mission efforts, not reducing them. Trustee leadership absolutely refused to allow me to ask IMB staff and Candidate Consultants their opinions of the trustee 'proposed doctrinal policies,' and NOBODY in trustee leadership would or could give me ANY evidence that problems on the mission field necessitated such policy changes. In the end, I was told by John Floyd that there was NO anecdotal evidence from the field that these policies were needed. To him this was a 'doctrinal' issue and the IMB needed to be 'doctrinally' pure and those who disagreed with him and others on the Board on these 'doctrinal' issues were not 'worthy' of appointment. That, my friend, spells trouble with a capital T.

The IMB Trustees Exceed Their Convention Authority

So, you have the very bizarre scenario of trustee leaders of the International Mission Board exceeding their convention mandated responsiblities and taking the action of implementing doctrinal policies that exceed the BFM 2000. Ironically, if those new policies were to be made retroactive, then Dr. and Mrs. Jerry Rankin would be terminated. Of course, it was stated at the time that the new 'doctrinal' policies would not be made retroactive. Yet, the same thing was said in 2001 when missionaries on the field were told that they would NOT have to sign the new BFM 2000 and could serve under the old 63 Faith and Message. Later, the trustees broke their promise and terminated more missionaries in one day than any other day in the history of the IMB. Who's to say those kind of broken promises would not occur again?

At the IMB in 2005 you had the absurd circumstance of a former employee of the International Mission Board, John Floyd, who himself left the IMB as a regional supervisor for reasons that will be articulated at a later date, now serving as the Chairman of the Personnel Committee of his former employer and pushing policies that would disqualify the very President under whom he had previously served if those policies were to be made retroactive. Trustee leadership was furious that I publicly questioned the rationale for their actions. When, in then end, the trustee board voted to adopt the new policies (by a controversial vote total), I took my objection to the SBC through my blog.

Trustee leadership then recommended my removal for 'gossip' and 'slander' but immediately changed the wording (when challenged to prove it) to 'loss of trust' and 'resistance to accountability.' When they realized I would be able to defend my objections to the IMB policies before the entire convention (as I did for over one hour to a select group of Convention leaders in February of 2006 in St. Louis), trustee leadership led the IMB board to unanimously rescind the recommendation for my removal at the very next IMB meeting in Tampa, Florida, in March 2006. In that same meeting trustee leadership asked that a NEW Trustee Standard of Conduct be adopted which states that "trustees must publicly affirm a board action even if they cannot privately support it." I voted against the 'new' trustee standard of conduct, arguing that (1). it was the worst possible policy any Baptist agency could ever pass because it violates every sacred and historic Baptist principle associated with religious liberty and freedom of conscience, and (2). it was a cowardly way to deal with my public dissent because it removed the issue of my objections to the doctrinal policies that exceed the BFM 2000 from being dealt with by the SBC at large. Trustee leadership felt it was better to seek to control me and contain me within the board than to allow the full and free public debate that would occur over these very important issues before the entire SBC if the recommendation for my removal were to move forward.

The Reasons The 'New' Standard That Forbids Dissent Was Violated

After March 2006, several important motions began the process of appearing before the Southern Baptist Convention. One of these motions was offered by me and necessitated that I intentionally violate the 'new' standard of conduct in order to explain the need for the motion. Some of the motions before the Convention included the request to establish an investigative committee to determine whether or not prospective trustees of the International Mission Board were being called, vetted, and approved by sitting IMB trustees to the Board in violation of the bylaws of the Southern Baptist Convention, and the infamous 2007 'Garner Motion' where the Convention was asked to adopt the statement that requested SBC agencies to view the BFM 2000 as the only convention-wide approved doctrinal statement, and as such, a sufficient guide for cooperation. I intentionally violated the "new" trustee standard of conduct that prohibits dissent and wrote about the two poor doctrinal policies of the IMB and how they were damaging to the future of the SBC in order to 'garner' support for those motions. By the way, the Convention passed both motions.

I do not regret violating the 'new' standard of conduct that forbids dissent in 2006 and early 2007 and therefore I cannot apologize for it. The Convention needed to address the issues at the IMB, and they did for the good of our cooperative mission work. I can and do apologize for the fact that my dissent has distracted board leadership from focusing on missions, but I make no apology for following my conscience. Even though I have not written anything about trustees in the last several months, every IMB meeting since the summer of 2007 has been filled with attempts by trustee leadership to 'deal' with Wade Burleson, and I absolutely regret that. However, I have no regrets that I joined dozens of other Southern Baptist leaders in 2006 and early 2007 throughout the Convention to speak to the very important issues within our Convention. The SBC eventually adopted the 2007 Garner Motion and now everyone knows that the narrowing of doctrinal parameters of cooperation at individual SBC agencies is unacceptable in the SBC.

An Olive Branch Rejected

My heartfelt statement last night was an attempt to extend the olive branch to my fellow trustees and put the focus on missions at the IMB and off of me. However, my statement was not accepted. Trustee leadership desired for me to state I was wrong in violating the new trustee standard of conduct that forbids dissent. I cannot apologize for that which I believe is right. My public dissent expressed over the IMB trustees adopting 'doctrinal' policies that exceed the BFM 2000 only BECAME a violation of 'Trustee Conduct' in March of 2006; I had been publicly dissenting for three months. This blatant attempt to stifle me placed me in a position of either continuing and being censured or resigning. I chose the former. I chose to follow the path that I deemed would bring about the higher moral good for our Convention. Others may disagree with my view that I was doing the higher good, but I was willing to put my name, my reputation, and my future on the line. That is how deeply I believed in resisting the narrowing of the 'doctrinal' parameters of cooperation (regardless of the motivation of those pushing it), and how strongly I felt about the attempts to stifle dissent

I have seen the good that has come to our Convention through the Garner Motion and the election of Frank Page. There are a great number of new IMB trustees who do not have any historical context, but certain other trustees have been around for a long time, and they are the ones who are now in leadership. These trustees now understand they are under a great deal of scrutiny in any action they take - as it should be. Nevertheless, current trustee leadership led by John Floyd, Chuck McAlister, Jerry Corbaley and others would not accept anything from me last night but a statement that said, "I was wrong for violating the 'new' trustee standard of conduct that forbids dissent."

Again, I cannot apologize for those things that I did that I do not believe are wrong. History will be my the judge. It did become crystal clear to me last night that for me to continue in my service as a trustee of the IMB, I would be a distraction. Questions would continually be asked, "Has Wade apologized yet?" or "Is Wade on a committee yet?" or "Has the censure been lifted?" These questions are a distraction for the board when they meet. The board needs to focus on missions, listen to the vision of the President and staff, and help them implement that vision.

A Needed Reprimand

The Executive Committee of the SBC strongly reprimanded the Executive Committee of the IMB this past Monday for seeking to bar me from trustee meetings, stating that the IMB Executive Committee had opened up the IMB to a lawsuit from the SBC or myself for violating the bylaws of the convention. The inability for trustee leadership to understand they were violating Convention bylaws when they sought to bar me from meetings is ridiculous, particularly when I told Chairman Floyd this very thing prior to their action. I would have informed the entire board before they voted, but I was not given the opportunity to speak, and after the vote, when I went to the microphone to ask a question, I was told I would not be recognized.

Last night in my final plenary session with the IMB I went absolutely as far as I could go in seeking to bring about a resolution through drafting the statement I read to the full board. I even offered to shut down my blog immediately if the statement were accepted. The Executive Committee said that my statement was not acceptable. The impasse is clear and no resolution can be seen; and the impasse is is distracting to our mission work. The idea that the board 'removed' the restrictions this Monday to my participation in board meetings and was reaching out to me is absolutely absurd. Several trustees told me that both I and the SBC Executive Commitee were excoriated behind closed doors Monday by trustees who were furious that they would have to remove the 'restrictions' from me serving on the Board. One trustee went so far as to say something needed to be done to bar me from trustee meetings, just as if I were a 'pedophile' or a 'murderer.' Two trustees told me they almost resigned on the spot when they heard that, but others 'amened' the suggestion. Such speech would be tempered in open meetings. Nevertheless, any trustee who is tempted to be giddy that I am no longer serving as a trustee might consider waiting until June before they allow themselves to rejoice.

For the sake of the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole, I will continue to stay involved in seeking to keep the basis of our cooperation intact and resisting the temptation in the hearts of some to narrow the doctrinal parameters of SBC missionary and ministry cooperation. The Convention will change - or we will die a thousand Convention deaths (Dwight McKissic, Sheri Klouda, Jason Epps, etc . . . ). Jerry Rankin will not now be a victim as others before him. By God's grace, the SBC fold will stop decreasing and start increasing because we are NOT interested in disqualifying everybody who disagrees with us over tertiary issues.

I'm sure not going anywhere.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Decision I Believe Is Best for the Future of All

The following statement was read by me during the plenary session of the International Mission Board, Tuesday night, January 29, 2008.

My fellow trustees,

I want to briefly share with you what a great privilege it is to serve with you as a trustee. It is my belief that God has uniquely gifted and called each one of us to this role so that we can work together to advance the IMB’s mission. My earnest desire is to be a working member of our team so that we can accomplish that mission together. While I understand that some of you may harbor doubts about my ability to actually be a “team player”, I want you to know that I am committed to being a team player and that perhaps you have not yet seen or understood a full picture of me. Accordingly, as we move forward into a new year of serving the IMB together, I would like to say a few words to clear the air of past events, express my commitment to working with you within our internal standards, and then once I’ve spoken, let the proof of my verbal commitment be seen in my future actions.

To begin with, I do admit that I have in the past intentionally violated our newly revised (Spring 2006) internal standards of conduct. In particular, I publicly disagreed with certain actions taken by this board, rather than speaking in supportive terms or staying silent on matters about which I disagreed. The new standards of trustee conduct, adopted in the Spring of 2006, state that a trustee must publicly affirm a board approved action even if he cannot privately support it. I want you to know that I never expressed my dissent out of a desire to harm the work of the IMB or any of you, my fellow trustees and brothers and sisters in Christ. Instead, I did so out of an exercise of my conscience. Simply put, I believed in my conscience that it was the right thing to do to further our mutual goal of supporting the IMB’s purpose of cooperatively taking the gospel to all peoples of the world. I recognize that many of you may have been upset by my decision to express my disagreement and feel that it has hurt the work of the IMB. Scripture teaches us that sometimes we can exercise our conscience in a way that offends others. I am sorry that this seems to be the case here.

Therefore, it is my goal going forward, to the extent it rests in my power to do so, to live at peace with all of you and not cause you offense. It is also my goal to have a greater focus on the work of the IMB than on me. Accordingly, I commit to you this day that I will no longer violate, intentionally or otherwise, our new trustee standards of conduct. If I find myself in disagreement with a policy or proposed policy of the Board, I will express my disagreement using the channels that are available—for example, plenary forum sessions, trustee forum sessions, and private communication with fellow trustees—but will not take my disagreement outside of those confines to the blogosphere or world at large. In fact, if this statement is accepted, I intend to shut my blog down immediately after this board meeting. I should add that it is possible, however unlikely, that an occasion might arise where I believed that we had enacted a policy that violates Scripture or conscience. If that were to happen, I would resign and express my disagreement outside the structure of the IMB or understand I will be censured. I do, however, consider such a future occasion to be unlikely. It is my belief that God has blessed the work of the IMB because it is carrying out a mission close to his heart and that so long as we collectively continue to seek him in prayer, he will guard us from error and bless our work.

I do look forward to working with you as a fellow servant this year and in the years to come.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

The above statement was not deemed an acceptable apology by the Executive Committee of the International Mission Board. I was informed by Chairman John Floyd of its unacceptablity last December when I initially sent it to them. I had also been told at the time, however, that the Executive Committee would present my letter to the board at this January 2008 trustee meeting for the board's discussion and possible approval. However, that promise was not fulfilled. The Executive Committee chose not to bring my statement before the full board at this trustee meeting for their consideration. When I realized today that my letter would not be discussed as I was told, I requested that I be allowed to read it to the full board during tonight's plenary session. I was recognized and read the statement in full. Chairman Floyd then informed the trustees that the Executive Committee had not deemed my statement to be an acceptable apology. Nothing else was said.

Then, Chairman Floyd dismissed all guests, reporters, and staff and called the trustees into Executive Session. Chairman Floyd related to the board that the Executive Committee rejected the apology because I needed to specifically apologize for violating the new trustee standards of conduct that prohibit any public dissent of board approved actions. Since the new trustee guidelines that prohibited dissent were adopted in 2006, I have intentionally violated that policy by writing my objections to doctrinal board policies that exceed the 2000 BFM. I have written that my fellow IMB trustees have passed new doctrinal policies - without any field evidence that there was a need for such policies - and as a result of these doctrinal policies that exceed the BFM 2000, and in the minds of some, violate the clear teaching of Scripture, the IMB is now NOT appointing otherwise qualified Southern Baptist missionary applicants to the field. The narrowing of these doctrinal parameters of cooperative mission work is dangerous to our convention and threatens our belief in the historic Baptist principles of the sufficiency of Scripture, cooperative missions, and religious liberty. Worse, the 2006 revised trustee standard of conduct that prohibits public dissent is unconscionable, unbaptistic, and will one day be viewed by Baptist historians as a tragic mistake. I have stated, repeatedly, that I cannot apologize for expressing my public dissent on these issues since the IMB trustees should have never taken the actions in the first place. It is a matter of conscience to me.

However, in an attempt to put these issues behind us and to move forward as a board, I offered the above statement tonight as a genuine expression of what I was willing to do to take the focus off me and place it back on missions. But in that specially called closed door meeting after the plenary session I was, again, pressed to apologize to my fellow trustees for violating the new trustee policy that prohibits public dissent. I reiterated my desire to apologize for any unintentional offense among my trustees that my dissent may have caused, but I could not apologize for my choice to publicly dissent. I had voted against the policy that forbids dissent, and in my mind, to publicly affirm the policies I have questioned, when I cannot privately support them, would make me a liar. I told my fellow trustees that I stand by the statement I read into the record and could go no further. My desire was that we could put this issue behind us as a board and focus on that for which we are responsible - missions. Let me reiterate the preceding sentence, it is the heart of tonight's action.

Though I do not believe it is within the purview of the International Missions Board of Trustees to establish doctrinal policies that exceed the BFM 2000, and though I believe at least one of those policies was initially pushed to embarrass the IMB President, and though I believe the convention's Garner Motion has affirmed the inappropriateness of such policies that exceed the BFM 2000, and though I have expressed my courteous dissent on the basis of principle, my statement tonight was simply an attempt to get our board refocused on missions and off of tangential issues and to let my fellow trustees know I was desirous to move forward with them in the work of cooperative missions.

Again, my statement of apology was deemed unacceptable by the Executive Committee of the IMB. The board seemed to accept the Executive Committee's recommendation that my apology was unacceptable because no board member made a motion to reverse the Executive Committee's decision not to accept my statement.

It became crystal clear to me tonight that it would be impossible for me to continue as a trustee of the International Mission Board. The appropriate forum for my continued service to the Southern Baptist Convention is now outside the IMB Board of Trustees. I deem it better to be censured by man than to be condemned by conscience. It is my decision to resign, effective immediately, from service as a trustee of the International Mission Board. I will continue to work to effect change within the Southern Baptist Convention and will post later this week my plans for the immediate future.

I will also be leading our church to increase her involvement in our cooperative missions work. I hope you do so at your church as well.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Monday, January 28, 2008

IMB Meeting, Monday, January 28, 2008 - Day 1

John Parton and I left Enid at 8:30 this morning and drove to Oklahoma City where we caught a plane to Atlanta and then one to Gainesville, Florida. We had the pleasure of sitting directly in front of Bobbye Rankin on the flight into Gainesville. Bobbye was her usual gracious and kind self. She has a great ability to make everyone feel at home in her presence and represents the Southern Baptist Convention and our worldwide work in missions quite well.

We arrived at the Hilton Hotel on the beautiful campus of the University of Florida at 5:00 p.m. eastern time. Our plane schedule did not allow me to attend the 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. trustee forum (closed door meeting), but several trustees shared with me the details of the discussion. As usual, I will honor the confidentiality of the closed door meetings, while expressing my belief - again - that any business of the International Mission Board that does not compromise missionary security should occur in full view of the Southern Baptist Convention.

After dinner trustee Chairman John Floyd left a message on my hotel phone telling me that the trustee board had been informed (he did not say be whom) that they did not have the authority to bar me from trustee board meetings. Further, trustee leadership did not have the authority to refuse to pay my expenses to come to the trustee board meetings, nor did they have the authority to keep me from participating and voting in any session where the full complement of the IMB trustees convene. This was not a surprise to me since I am familiar with both the bylaws of the Southern Baptist Convention and the International Mission Board and predicted this very outcome.

Frankly, however, I must refuse to accept reimbursement for my travel to and from IMB Trustee Meetings. I am requesting that Chairman John Floyd and trustee leadership (a new Chairman will be elected in May) take the budget funds spent on my (and once a year, my wife's) plane fare, hotel, meals, car rental or shuttle tickets, and various other expenses associated with fulfilling my trustee responsibilities and contribute those funds (estimated between $1,000 and $1,500 per meeting for six to seven meetings annually) to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for foreign missions. Emmanuel Baptist Church and her pastor consider it an honor to contribute these funds to the work taking place among Southern Baptists on the mission fields of the world.

The hour is late, and we look forward to an early start tomorrow as we visit with several missionaries and pastors who are in the area and attend the Plenary Session tomorrow evening at 6:30 p.m.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Sunday, January 27, 2008

IMB Meeting, Gainseville, FL, Jan. 28-30, 2008

I am flying to Gainesville, Florida from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Will Rogers World Airport this morning, Monday, January 28, 2008 at 10:30 a.m. It looks like my flight does not land in Gainseville in time to attend the trustee forum, but I will be attending the International Mission Board trustee meetings Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. I will listen carefully to all business before us and will register my votes on recommendations made during the public sessions and shall keep you informed regarding the approved actions of the board during those plenary sessions.

John Parton, one of the seventy men appointed by the US Navy to be on the original Seal Team One in the 1960's will be accompanying me to Gainesville. I had the privilege of leading John to a relationship with Jesus Christ a while back and he is a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Enid, Oklahoma. When John came home to his native California after Vietnam, he had to overcome the emotional baggage of spending several months behind enemy lines fulfilling covert missions. By John's personal estimates he killed over 1,000 people during the war with either his bare hands or his government issued knife and has lived with great guilt because of his actions. My desire for John is for him to one day accompany me back to East Asia to personally participate in leading as many people as possible to faith in Jesus Christ. This trip to Florida will enable John to understand how missions works for the Southern Baptist Convention. Fair warning: John is still a little gruff around the edges. First time he ever heard me preach a while back, he came to the front of the auditorium where I was surrounded by several of our older Women on Mission ladies. John declared quite loudly and boldly, "Man, that was one one hell of a talk." You should have seen the look on the faces of those ladies. The neat thing for me is to be able to see how God has worked in John's life over the last several months and the desire that is building in him to see people all over the world come 'to know his Lord.'

John and I have most of Tuesday free. If you are in or near Gainseville, Florida on Tuesday, January 29th, come to the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center where the IMB meeting will be held and have a cup of coffee with us in the lobby. Or, we'd love to have you join us for lunch on Tuesday. We will be in the lobby from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, lunch at 12:00 noon, and then we will be back in the lobby from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. We would love to visit with any pastors or missionaries who can make it to the Hilton. John and I will also be participating in the appointment service on Wednesday night at Westside Baptist Church at 7:30.

For those of you who cannot be in Gainseville, I will do my best to let you know what is happening at the IMB meeting. May the Lord continue to bless the work of the IMB and the SBC.

In His Grace,


Friday, January 25, 2008

A Thank You to SB's from Sheri Klouda

"On behalf of the Klouda Family, I want to thank every one who opened their hearts and shared gifts with us during this latest season of challenge. We are grateful for the generosity shown by so many, and we have been encouraged by your notes of support and encouragement. Pinky is trying to adjust to his new limitations, but as you can imagine, this is difficult for a man who is accustomed to taking care of his family's "physical" needs. During nearly subzero tempertures, we did not have to worry about the heating bill, and we were able to begin paying medical bills as they trickle in. Pinky has new prescriptions, and since it is the beginning of the year, we have to pay the new deductibles, so the gifts we received helped us do that as well. We have groceries and firewood. We have not yet received the major hospital bills, but expect them any day. I will know what the cardiologist will advise next after January 28th when Pinky receives another echo cardiogram. Please continue to keep our family in your thoughts and prayers as we wait to see what God will do next. I want to thank Pastor Wade personally for his willingness to plead our cause and for his concern for our family."


Sheri Klouda

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Momentary Lapse of Naming Rights: The Truth in Crisis at Southwestern Theological Seminary

Trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary approved the establishment of a cultural engagement center during their October 2007 meeting at the seminary's Fort Worth, Texas, campus. According to Baptist Press, the center will be named for Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission since 1988, and will be a partnership between the seminary and the ERLC.

It is obvious that Southern Baptist Richard Land is deemed a brilliant cultural and philosophical thinker by trustees and administration at Southwestern Seminary. One does wonder, however, if the naming of the cultural center after Richard Land places Southwestern's official argument for terminating Dr. Sheri Klouda on dangerous footing. Dr. Klouda was released by Paige Patterson with the explanation that she was a woman in a position reserved for men. A nationwide uproar ensued over Klouda's dismissal. SWBTS trustee Chairman Van McClain found himself in an awkward position. Seeking to explain away the unanimous trustee vote to hire Dr. Klouda in 2002, a scant one year prior to Dr. Patterson becoming SWBTS President, Dr. McClain told the Associated Press that Klouda's hiring was a 'momentary lax of parameters.' Van McClain further said that Southwestern's removal of Klouda (without a trustee vote) was an effort by administration 'to be more consistent with most Southern Baptists' understanding of Scripture on the matter.'

Ironically, Southwestern's 'offical' rationale on the Klouda matter is completely opposite of the views of the very man for whom their new cultural center is being named. In James Hefley's book "Truth in Crisis: The Controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention" (vol. 4 of a 5 vol series), page 176, Dr. Richard Land is quoted, verbatim, during his 1988 job interview with the Christian Life Commission (now ERLC) Board of Trustees, as saying.

“I understand that [women’s ordination] is a problem with many [Southern Baptists] . . . and it is one that we need to be sensitive in addressing. It has been my experience and I hope I’m not being judgmental here, that many people, I suspect, use the women’s ordination issue as an excuse for having attitudes about women that aren’t Christian. I think we have to . . . make it very clear that we affirm the equality of women . . ., and be extremely cautious about extrapolating from two spheres, the home and the church. For instance, I don’t’ think that anything in the New Testament would prohibit a woman from being a professor or an administrator in any of our seminaries or colleges.”

I can hear almost now hear the argument being prepared by SWBTS attorneys that there was a momentary lapse of parameters in the naming rights of the new cultural center at SWBTS. I don't anticipate, however, that a judge or jury will accept that argument. When one man (President Patterson) believes a woman should not teach Hebrew to men, and then that one man seeks to enforce that peculiar belief on an SBC institution - regardless of previous trustee decisions and the Southern Baptist Convention's collective will about the matter - then the agency in question opens herself up to both public embarrassment and tremendous liability. Sadly, the danger of an oligarchy of philosphically like-minded men handpicking agency trustees over the course of several years is that an agency finds herself being governed by trustees who find it difficult to hold accountable the very person to whom they owe their position. One only has to look at the strategic SWBTS trustees who were hired to serve on faculty at SWBTS after Patterson was hired by them to serve as SWBTS President to understand the machiavellian tendencies of some within the SBC.

Maybe the trustees should consider naming the new cultural center the Sheri Klouda Center for Cultural Engagement. In all practical purposes she may very well end up owning it.

In His Grace,


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

An Opportunity to Speak to the Entire SBC

It seems the Lord has deemed fit to give me an opportunity to speak to the entire Southern Baptist Convention which will convene in Indianapolis, Indiana in June of 2008. Two weeks ago, just as I was boarding a plane with my wife to travel overseas to visit several of our missionaries I received a copy of an email sent to William Harrell, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. The email, copied below, is from Hiram Smith, member of Olive Baptist Church, Pensacola, Florida.

To: Rev. William F. Harrell, Chairman
Executive Committee, SBC
Nashville, TN

Dear Mr. Chairman:

It is my intention, and the intention of others, to introduce a motion to immediately remove Rev. Wade Burleson from membership on the Board of Trustees of the International Mission Board of the SBC at this year’s convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. Numerous other good faith efforts have been made to get Reverend Burleson to bring his incessant Internet publishing into line with biblical standards of communication within the Christian family. Regrettably, these efforts have failed, making this most unpleasant initiative necessary.

Southern Baptists need to reestablish an appropriate level of responsible and respectful dialogue and debate within the appropriate forums of the Convention, and not “before the unrighteous,” as Paul cautioned the Corinthians. The Internet is not the proper forum for any agency-entity trustee to attack and criticize SBC leaders, nor fellow trustees, nor the carefully and prayerfully voted decisions by trustees of any SBC agency-entity. All these things Rev. Burleson has done and continues to do.

Draft of motion: “I move that Reverend Wade Burleson be removed immediately from the most honorable position of trustee of the International Mission Board of the SBC, and that the current Nominating Committee be asked to recommend his replacement.”

After seeking to obtain information on appropriate protocols for submitting this action and having my requests declined, I am “shooting this off in the dark.” Therefore, please adjust the content and format of this communication, taking whatever action is necessary to assure (sic) that the opportunity to introduce a motion to this effect in Indianapolis will be secure.

Please feel free to contact me by phone (at any hour), email or postal delivery, especially if I am required to submit any more information. Details on my identity, church membership, etc. are in Executive Committee office files from numerous resolutions that I submitted at the last SBC conventions in Indianapolis and Nashville.


Hiram Smith (member, Olive Baptist Church)

I do not know Hiram except for a few of his comments on this blog, including this one (the fifth comment down) in a post from last November. Hiram is also the one who recommended to the 2005 Nashville, Tennessee Southern Baptist Convention that ten percent of the SBC ELRC budget be given to Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church Ministries to support efforts 'to reestablish the rights to acknowledge God in America.'

The Lord works in mysterious ways.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Several Observations from Our Mission Trip

Rachelle and I have returned from overseas after spending a great deal of time with many of our Southern Baptist missionaries. I have been able to visit five of our eleven overseas IMB regional headquarters in the past two years, and have spoken personally to several hundred of our Southern Baptist missionaries during that same time. There is so much to be excited about and thankful for when it comes to Southern Baptist cooperative mission work. This most recent mission trip reinforced several things I already knew about our work and taught me several other things. In no particular order, the following are several observations from our most recent mission trip. The comment section is now open and unmoderated.

(1). Just as the sun never used to set on the British Empire, the sun never sets on the work of Southern Baptists. There is no region of the world where you will not find Southern Baptists, called by God and appointed by the IMB, reaching people with gospel of Jesus Christ.

(2). Though there over 5,000 Southern Baptist missionaries appointed by the IMB, there are tens of thousands of other gospel missionaries serving on mission fields who have been appointed by various other sending agencies representing various evangelical churches and denominations.

(3). It is not always easy - nor necessary - to distinguish between those new church plants and conversions on the mission field that are the direct result of Southern Baptist mission work as compared to the work of other evangelical missionaries or indigenous believers. All evangelicals have a tendency to cooperate on the mission field for the cause of Christ and do not pay near as much attention to separation as people in the States do.

(4). One of the missionaries with whom we were most impressed in terms of her language abilities, vision to reach her city and hard work sincerely thanked me for representing her back in the States. She was appointed in 2004 after answering 'yes' when asked if she possessed a private prayer language. The new policies which forbid such appointments went into effect in 2005.

(5). Some of the best International Mission Board work in difficult places of the world occurs through doors opened via medical missions.

(6). The baptism and new church start statistics - reported by Southern Baptist Strategy Coordinators on the mission field and compiled in the annual ASR - are difficult to grasp. Over 25,000 new church starts on the mission field in 2006 represents five new church starts for every one Southern Baptist missionary. Even accounting for the fact that many new churches are often begun though indigenous believers planting those new churches, it is difficult to comprehend the magnitude of 25,000 new church plants on the mission field associted with Southern Baptists. On the ground observation reveals the difficulty of even beginning one new church in dangerous parts of the world - the very frontier where Southern Baptists are putting most the emphasis.

(7). When Southern Baptist leaders spend more time on the mission field with our missionaries, I believe the emphasis on 'numbers' will diminish and our appreciation for steadfast faithfulness in terms of ministry will increase. William Carey spent nearly two decades on the mission field before he had ONE convert. I sometimes wonder if we Southern Baptists have lost perspective on what it takes to be a patient in building faithful ministries.

(8). If I were a Southern Baptist missionary on the field, supported by Southern Baptist Cooperative Program funds, and I lived in a city where there were Baptist churches started by Southern Baptists, I would attend that church instead of a larger non-denominational church.

(9). The one thing that keeps me a Southern Baptist pastor and my church a Southern Baptist congregation is the cooperative work we Southern Baptists do together in the area of missions; work that when closely observed is even better than imagined.

(10). The world is a lot smaller than it was even a decade ago. Through the internet, skype, emails and other forms of communication, it is possible to be overseas and keep up in real time with things going on back home - even if it is watching the disappointing loss of the Cowboys on a laptop.

In His Grace,


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Interpretations of the Inerrant Word Change in Time

-- Pastor Wade and Rachelle are overseas and will be returning to the States by next Monday. All comments are being moderated in his absence at our discretion. -- (Blog Administrator)

I was recently reading The Records of the General Conference of the Protestant Missionaries of ______, May 10-24, 1877 and came across this interesting anecdote. The infamous female SBC missionary, Martha Crawford, wife of T.P. Crawford, prepared a paper for the conference entitled "Woman's Work for Woman." She was one of four women missionaries who had been invited to prepare and present papers on various issues related to missions at the General Conference. Interestingly, in all four cases of the presentations prepared by women, a male read or presented the ladies' papers, an action that would be deemed very odd in modern SBC circles. However, it seems that in the 1870's the common belief was that the Bible prohibited women even speaking in church (I Tim. 2:11-12). The Records of the General Conference reveal that Hudson Taylor rose and said, "I wish that some of our sisters here could be induced to speak of their own work . . . " and it seems that shortly thereafter a Miss A.M. Fielde of the American Baptist Missionary Union did actually rise and present her own paper. This anecdote reveals four things to me:

(1). Interpretations of the sacred text will often change in time - as evidence by the fact that nobody in SBC circles would demand today women keep silent and not be allowed to speak in the presence of males while in church - an injunction universally agreed upon in the 1870's.

(2). It sometimes requires well-known and highly respected leaders of a convention to cause Southern Baptists to reevaluate interpretations that are possibly in error.

(3). To be dogmatic on tertiary doctrinal issues leaves a convention open for possible future embarrassment, and therefore, all Southern Baptists should embrace humility - and the possibility of being wrong - when articulating beliefs that are of a tertiary nature in regard to the gospel of Jesus Christ (eschatology, ecclesiology, pneumatology, etc . . .).

(4). History is the greatest anecdote against poor decisions in the future.

Lest we think the above anecdote has no relevancy to the modern SBC, I am reminded of a training conference not long ago when a young, immature recent seminary graduate refused to listen to a woman missionary teach him anything. He demanded her husband addresss him in the classroom setting.

Oh, that the SBC had her Hudson Taylors.

In His Grace,


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Difference Between Foundations and Corners

-- Pastor Wade is currently overseas with his wife Rachelle. He was able send the following few thoughts about some of the things he has seen and learned. You may leave a comment if you wish. We will moderate their publication until Pastor Wade returns to the states next week --- (Blog Administrator)

"In the southern states of America there are some Baptist pastors and theologians who feel they have the corner of theological truth. Notice, I did not say the foundation of truth, but the corner of truth. Firm, solid foundations are absolutely necessary for a stable structure, but how an architect finishes out the corners is a measure of style, function and creativity. Any southern architect worth his salt will finish corners differently overseas than he would in the United States; or, if he flat out refuses to be flexible on corners in various cultures, then that architect will put himself in danger of having no working relationship with anyone but those in his neck of the woods who love the way he finishes his corners.

Some Baptist pastors believe that the only true ecclesiology (doctrine of the church) is the way their local ecclessia operates. Deacons? Why of course, but all male. One pastor? Absolutely, with ultimate authority over the congregation. Baptize converts? Certainly, but not for identification with Christ; only as the door of entrance into our ecclesia. Ordinances? Without a doubt, but only with those in our local ecclesia, and administered by those duly qualified as pastors and deacons of our ecclesia. "Why, for heaven's sake," say some of my southern Baptist pastor friends, "This is the only way a true ecclesia should look."

Tight, clean corners that all look the same is the desire of these southern pastors.

But a few of my pastor friends need to spend time on the mission field overseas. They need to go to the provinces where all hotel rooms for foreigners are bugged. They need to walk down the street where the police, both uniformed and undercover, keep a close eye on you. They need to sit with our missionaries as they have their emails for the past year laid in front of them by government officials. They need to help one of our missionary couples pack as they leave quickly from the place they have called home for the past few years under threat of arrest. They need to observe the locals in their small house churches as they sing quietly, pray quietly, worship quietly, and welcome any believer into their presence - regardless of denominational affiliation. They need to allow a tear or two flow as they watch a female leader of a baptistic house church baptize a couple of new converts in a bathtub, only to have watchers outside prepared to warn the half dozen people within about approaching military police. They need to breathe a prayer of thanks for God raising up a man of influence in the community after years of only females being willing to risk their lives, jobs, families, and future for the cause of Christ. They need to realize that their demand for neat little corners at overseas ecclessias - in order to make them like like some southern churches in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Florida - will only cause southern missionaries to be frustrated, overseas believers to be perplexed, and the kingdom of Christ to be minimized.

May God keep us southern Baptists concerned about the foundation overseas but allow each culture to finish out the corners of their local 'ecclesia' as best suits the culture in which they find their ministry."

In His Grace,


Monday, January 14, 2008

The Work We Do Cooperatively Is Unparalleled

--- Pastor Wade and Rachelle will be returning to the United States later this week. They are currently overseas and have sent an update which we place here for your encouragement (Blog administrator) ---

One of the things that strikes any Southern Baptist who has the pleasure to visit the field and communicate with our missionaries is the incredible benefit of cooperating for the purpose of reaching new people groups with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have had a few Southern Baptist pastors who have suggested that it might be easier to send out missionaries directly -- bypassing our convention cooperative work. I have steadfastly insisted that the solution to any problem within the SBC is NOT to do independent missions, but to work together to help stop the narrowing of the parameters of missions cooperation within the SBC and to do everything possible to get every Southern Baptist excited about working together for the sake of the gospel. Having now been on the field for several days and having some incredible visits with our missionaries, it has been seared into my heart even all the more that we can all do together what no one Southern Baptist church can do independently. When I get back I will share some of the great gospel work that is being done to reach different people groups overseas, but this morning I would like to give a shout out to the support personnel who saved the life of a young missionary by being able to transport her out of the country while facing a life threatening health problem that arose quite suddenly. The details of the story are gripping, but for security purposes all I can say is that this young lady, who is now studying at one of our SBC seminaries in the US, would not be alive were it not for the heroic efforts of the support personnel our missions organization who went all out to get this young lady the medical attention she needed. The process of evacuation was incredibly complicated, and if this young lady had been from your church, supported solely and independently by the people of your church, then this young Southern Baptist journeywoman would no longer be alive. You would not have had the resources, people and expertise in place to get her out. But because of our Southern Baptist cooperative mission work, Lottie Moon, and the work of all our churches working together rathern than separately, this young lady, Lord willing, will be back on the field after seminary for a career of sharing Christ with people overseas. Again, the work that we do cooperatively cannot be matched by our individual Southern Baptist Churches. Let's keep the parameters of cooperation as wide as possible for the support of missionaries appointed by our convention.

In His Grace,


Friday, January 11, 2008

Giving to Support Those Who Share the Gospel

--- Pastor Wade was able to send another email from overseas, one that encourages us to remember why we give through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. We do not anticipate being able to hear from our pastor again until the middle of next week due to the areas where he and Rachelle will be travelling in the next few days. You may wish to leave Pastor Wade a comment, but as stated earlier, we will wait for his return from overseas and allow him to moderate the comments that you leave. May each of you have a blessed weekend and a wonderful Lord's Day Sunday. ----

"Never pity missionaries; envy them. They are where the real action is --- where life and death, sin and grace, Heaven and Hell converge. " Robert C. Shannon

The above quote was given to me yesterday and is epitomized in the story of a missionary that Rachelle and I shared lunch with on Friday, June 11, overseas. This young man and his family were forced out of the country where they served for several years.The government officials initially gave him forty-eight hours to leave, but after an appeal, he and his family were given a few more days. They left everything behind because they were unable take anything that couldn't fit in a suitcase. To watch their small son's reaction when told that his 'Big Wheel' had to be given away because their wasn't room is something they will not forget. But, more importantly, to be forced from the place to which they were called by God because they faithfully shared Christ was even more difficult. To hear their story, and the enthusiasm of going to a new region, and a new people, to continue fulfilling their call, illustrated to us both the quote by Robert Shannon. No pity for these heroes of the faith; only more opportunities for future excitement of being where the real action is.

Having now travelled to five of the eleven regional headquarters of our convention over the past year, I can say without hesitation that the regional offices that have been established for the support of field personnel are incredibly effecient. The men and women that serve to support the missionaries are are all very gifted and just as called as those who spend their time planting churches in the villages and cities. The pay scale for our missionaries is not high, but each works hard to turn the mission dollars of Southern Baptists into actual ministry by doing quite well at balancing frugality in living expenses, effeciency in ministry expenses, and actually concentrating on how to reach the most people possible with the money available. I have often heard it said that missonaries from other conventions would desire to be appointed by the IMB because of the guaranteed salary and benefits, but for those of us who have seen the missions and ministry side of the Southern Baptist Convention, we know that getting to the place where Southern Baptist missionaries do not have to worry about raising financial support takes many years of laying the foundation for an organization that models effeciency. Southern Baptists began laying that foundation for our mission work over 150 years ago, and the results are being seen today on the mission fields of the world. The Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering are the two financing mechanisms that makes our international missions ministry tick. Trips like the one Rachelle and I are taking make us realize all the more the need for MORE Southern Baptist pastors - not less, MORE Southern Baptist people - not less, MORE Southern Baptist churches - not less to all feel ownership for what is taking place in and through SBC missions.

In His Grace,


Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Sacrifices Being Made by Missionaries

Pastor Wade is in overseas visiting and encouraging missionaries who are giving of themselves for the expansion of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He has sent us an email to update his trip.

"Rachelle and I remarked upon landing at the International Airport that the average Southern Baptists has absolutely no idea how difficult it is for a missionary to bring his family halfway across the world to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. From the simplest things like being greeted at the airport, hustling family through immigration, conversing with government officials as to the reasons for your entry into their country, finding transportation to your new home, enrolling kids into school or homeschooling, getting acquainted with fellow evangelicals in your area --- and of course, fulfilling the purpose of coming by leading others to an understanding of the person of Jesus Christ --- it is utterly amazing the trials and difficulties faced by each of our missionary units. It is absolutely incomprensible to most Southern Baptists the sacrifices made by our missionaries. I am intentionally being vague of where we are because of security issues, but I can assure you there is no fear in the eyes of those who serve our King. We Southern Baptists have reasons to be proud of our missionary workforce, and we should do everything within in our power to INCREASE cooperation - not minimize it."

In His Grace,


Monday, January 07, 2008

Off to Far East Places for a SBC Mission Trip

As you read this Rachelle and I are making our way to the Far East for a mission trip. Rather than attempting to blog during the two week journey, my computer has been left at home. I will be speaking to several groups in several places during the trip, and my goal is to be an encouragement to those who follow Christ on the other side of the world.

My next post will be a synopsis of the trip and my thoughts in preparation for the impending International Mission Board meeting in Gainesville, Florida on January 28-30, 2008. I will be present at the IMB meeting and I will participate as I always have - faithfully attending every session, quietly listening, and writing about those issues that are discussed in the public plenary sessions so that Southern Baptists can be kept informed about the work of our cooperative mission efforts. The IMB meeting is in Gainesville, Florida and I will be paying for my own way to attend. I am also paying for the air fare, hotel and meals of a fellow church member to attend the IMB meeting with me. His name is John Pardon and he is a colorful and interesting Christian that I had the privilege of leading to Christ a few years ago. John was a member of the original SEAL TEAM ONE (Navy Special Forces) sent to Vietnam in the early 1970's and some of his stories will make your hair curl. I am looking forward to introducing him to how SBC missions operate, as well as continuing my discipleship of him as he advances in his walk with Christ.

I will post again on Monday, January 21st, 2008. In my absence let me encourage you to venture over to the blog one Mary Burleson, my mother, entitled Reality Check. But be forewarned. If you have a problem with a woman teaching men truth (in Hebrew or English), then stay away, because you will definitely be taught.

Until then, grace and peace to each of you.

Wade Burleson

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Al Mohler: The Right Man for the Wrong Job?

I distinctly remember the first time I met Al Mohler. It was at the 1993 Southern Baptist Convention in Houston where Al was introduced as the newly elected President of Southern Theological Seminary. Al presented himself as he always does - erudite, well-spoken, and driven. Since 1993 several of Emmanuel's church members, both men and women, have walked the corridors of Norton Hall pursuing Masters' Degrees at the recommendation of their pastor.

This week Al Mohler allowed the release of a statement that he would be running for the office of President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Al is well known in the evangelical world, serving on the board of Focus on the Family, appearing often on secular television shows, and weighing in regularly on the political and social issues of our day. Al is ubiquitous, but before anyone suggests the 2008 SBC Presidential election is already decided, it must be remembered that Al publicly endorsed Ronnie Floyd prior to the 2006 Southern Baptist Convention, and it should be obvious from Floyd receiving only 24% of the vote at the convention that the influence of Al is not as great in the SBC as some might presume. There are three reasons why I predict Southern Baptists may not elect Al Mohler, and instead place someone - similar to a Frank Page - in the office of President at the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention in Indianopolis.

REASON NUMBER ONE Southern Baptists are now desiring gospel cooperation, not the separatism of Fundamentalism.

Many thousands of Southern Baptists, including me, were willing to 'battle for the Bible.' We are not willing to battle for additions to the Bible. While Al Mohler strongly believes that the gospel should not be compromised (as do we), and is sometimes critical of the emerging church movement (as are we), it is just as dangerous to demand conformity on matters that exceed the gospel. Some have expressed fear of Mohler's Calvinism, but it his Fundamentalism which should cause pause when it comes to electing Al as President. Whereas Al could argue Calvinism is based upon an interpretation of the sacred text, it is more difficult to deny his Fundamentalism is based on additions to the sacred text. For example, Al has called intentional childlessness moral rebellion. Chapter and verse from the sacred text are not used for such pontifical pronouncements, and we Southern Baptists should always quickly question moral standards that exceed the sufficient Scriptures. Further, when one's orthodoxy (doctrine) contradicts one's orthopraxy (practice or behavior), confusion arises. For instance, in arguing for the moral pronouncement that intentional childlessness is rebellion against God, Mohler writes:

To demand that marriage means sex--but not children--is to defraud the creator of His joy and pleasure in seeing the saints raising His children.

Last time I checked only outright Socinians and Open Theists - not orthodox Calvinists - believed God intends to create children but is defrauded by the saints. Orthodoxy would say that God is as sovereign over the means as He is the ends. Is it not possible that a soverereign God actually had a hand in inventing contraception? Most Calvinists I know would agree. But when Calvinism weds herself to Fundamentalism a conundrum is born.

However, the more compelling reason to reject Mohler's Fundamentalism is the dangerous view of authority. In a cooperating convention like ours the Southern Baptist Convention is THE highest authority. At last year's Southern Baptist Convention the messengers adopted the Garner Motion which affirmed the following statement regarding the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message:

We acknowledge that the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message is the only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the Southern Baptist Convention and as such is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention.

For those who doubt that the Convention knew what they were doing when they affirmed the Executive Committee statement by adopting the Garner Motion, I would encourage you to read the transcript of the entire debate PRIOR to the vote which affirmed the Garner Motion by a nearly 60% magority. Southern Baptists knew what they were doing. The Convention spoke.

But the next day Al Mohler said the Convention did not know what we were doing. When one man - or an oligarchy of men - refuses to follow the Convention's authority, the Convention no longer exists as an autonomous body. I have always worked under the premise that I will do what I am doing on the IMB until the convention speaks and says 'no more.' My authority flows not from the IMB Board of Trustees; my authority flows from the SBC. My ultimate authority is God and His Word, and if the Convention ever departs from either, then I must leave. But I will not leave until the Convention speaks. The danger is when a man thumbs his nose at the Convention's authority and continues to serve in contradiction to that Convention - all the while receiving funds from the Cooperative Program for his ministry. The tide of Fundamentalism - which washes away gospel cooperation by the perpetual demands to conform on tertiary issues - must be stemmed in the SBC. The very existence and identity of our Convention is at stake.

We also need a President who will focus on the gospel more than politics. We need a President who will focus more on that which unites us than that which separates us. We need a President who serves the Convention rather than a President who controls the Convention. We need a President in 2008 who will lead us into a gospel resurgence.

REASON NUMBER TWO: It is at best unwise, and at worst a conflict of interest, to have an entity President simultaneously serving as President of the Southern Baptist Convention.

It will be argued by some that Paige Patterson served as President of the SBC exactly ten years ago (1998-2000). It is no accident that the committee appointed (not nominated) by President Patterson to revise the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message included relatives and close friends. It is also no accident that a restrictive view of the role of women - a view reflected in the personal philosophy of then President Paige Patterson - eventually found its way into the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. Though no major doctrinal confession in the history of any Baptist body since 1600 contained such a tertiary statement about women, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted this one - in no small part to the powers of appointment of the President.

Now, let's move to a modern example. Two years ago a majority of Southern Baptist seminary Presidents pushed hard for the implementation of an annual "Seminary Offering" similar to The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, including her Board officers, felt incredible pressure to acquiesce to the desires of the seminary Presidents. In the end, the Executive Committee, through the appointment of appropriate committees who independently studied the proposal, politely said "no" to such an offering.

Now, fastforward to 2008. Suppose Al Mohler is elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention. He will not only serve as the President of an entity, he will preside over the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. He will have appointment powers - including over any committee he wishes to form to reinvestigate a 'Seminary Offering." This potential conflict of interest is fastidiously avoided - by policy and bylaw - within the secular corporate world, and it SHOULD be banned by any non-profit religious organization, including the SBC.

One of the reasons that the Southern Baptist Convention in 2008 seems to be controlled by the top down, instead of the tried and true historic Baptist grassroots level of governance, is because too many Southern Baptist leaders in the past thirty years have never met a sycophant they would not promote. Truly great leaders gather people with opposing views around them so that their leadership iron will remain sharp by the fires of dissent and challenge. The oligarchy of leadership that has typified the SBC during the Conservative Resurgence must be broken for no other reason than the incestuous control of agencies and boards through the appointment of simple 'yes' men must be broken for the health of our agencies. Demands for absolute conformity in all things among Baptists is like inbreeding within a family. Soon, the children will be unable to think on their own - literally. And, even more tragic, those in charge of the family won't hesitate to remind the children they are too dumb to know what needs done.

REASON NUMBER THREE: The Southern Baptist Convention needs the leadership of a man who sets the example for generous giving through the Cooperative Program.

Mohler is a member of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, where he serves as a "teaching pastor" and a Sunday school teacher. The church contributes 3.3 percent of its $5 million in undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program and nothing to the SBC's two mission offerings according to Baptist Press (UPDATE: It seems that Highland did not accurately report their traditional mission giving to the ACP. See the church's clarification here. We commend Highland for their stated goals for traditional missions giving for 2008). The mission's giving of one's home church is more important than it might seem at first glance, and in the coming months and years I am quite positive that this issue will only grow in importance in the minds of those whom will chose who leads the SBC.

There already has been an announcement that two other men will be running for President. I know both men and believe them to have good motives and the best interest of the SBC at heart. Just like Al, they will do what they feel called to do.

I do believe, however, that there may very well be another candidate for President of the Southern Baptist Convention who will be right man for the right job. He may, or may not, be revealed until May - just a month prior to the SBC. It is even possible that this man will not even announce, and simply let his name be revealed at the SBC Convention. Regardless, Southern Baptists should continue to express their gratefulness for Al Mohler, but should give serious consideration to whether or not he is the right man for the wrong job.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Thursday, January 03, 2008

On Cornbread and Buttermilk: Racism in the Southern Baptist Convention

Before Pastor Wade departed for his mission trip he left instructions that if Dwight McKissic were to call and request the original post be deleted, that we were to follow his friend's instructions. Pastor Dwight has indeed informed us today (January 7th) that he conversed by telephone with the author of the remark in question which precipitated this post. Pastor Dwight is convinced that the remark was not inentionally made to be demeaning toward him or those of his race. Some, including his church staff, were offended, but he himself has fully accepted the author's explanation that he did not intend for the remark to cause offense. Pastor Dwight requested us to remove the original post. Following Pastor Dwight's request and Pastor Wade's instructions, this post and all related comments are being removed. We are hopeful as well that the comment which caused offense to some, uninententional as it was, will be removed by SBC Today.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Strategic Visioning Process for the SBC

Mark Twain said "most of my life's worst experiences never actually happened." Southern Baptist blogs, including this one, have sometimes peered into the future of the SBC and worried about what "might" happen. As 2008 dawns I think the approach by those of us who have expressed concerns over the narrowing of the doctrinal parameters of cooperation might offer some solutions.

Gary Lockwood, author of Remember the Future, says there are three kinds of people in this world:

(1). Those who MAKE things happen - Inventors

(2). Those who WATCH things happen and complain - Resentors

(3). Those who don't know what's happening - Consentors

Over the course of this year I will offer a strategic visioning process for the Southern Baptist Convention. Vision processes seek to create a compelling picture of a desirable future that often represents quantum change from the past. There are many good things that are occuring in the SBC, but until someone tackles the systemic and endemic problems that are present within the SBC and her agencies, we will often get sidetracked from our mission of advancing the kingdom of Christ on earth.

In leading up to the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention, I will write posts designed to provide solutions to some of the problems we face. Many of these posts have already been written, but will be published at appropriate times, including the first one entitled Character Counts: The People Called Southern Baptists: 'Brothers and Sisters, We Are Not Professionals Nor Politicians: We Are People Who Belong to Jesus.'

The title says it all.

In His Grace,