Friday, February 29, 2008

An Antioch Network Statement of Cooperation

Next Monday night and Tuesday morning several pastors and laymen will gather for fellowship and discussion about forming a network of churches for the purpose of fellowship, partnership and encouragment in the expansion of Christ's kingdom. The blueprint of what Dwight McKissic proposes be called 'The Antioch Network of Churches has not been crafted, but Dwight did ask me to present on Monday night a doctrinal confession and statement of cooperation that will be open for discussion, amendment and possible adoption. If you are in or near Arlington, Texas next Monday and Tuesday feel free to join us for this time of fellowship. Details may be found here. The proposed confession and doctrinal statement are offered below. I will post my thoughts on the meeting beginning Monday night.


An Antioch Network of Churches Doctrinal Confession and Statement of Cooperation

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

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

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

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

The sole authority for faith and practice among the Antioch Network of Churches is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Doctrinal confessions, including this one, are only guides to interpreting the Bible, and have no authority over the conscience. Christians have historically differed in interpretation on finer points of doctrine not essential to Christian faith. Yet, with all our differences on secondary issues, we who form the Antioch Network of Churches desire to cooperate in ministry because of our love for the gospel.

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

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

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Things No One Ever Told You About Bible Women

Mona Loewen is a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Enid, Oklahoma, the wife of a retired banker, a Sunday School teacher of young women, and an example of the bright women who are in leadership at the church I pastor. Mona has learned Hebrew, studied theology at the Master's level, and is currently working on Chinese. Mona sent me an email yesterday with some thoughts she had written down about women in the Bible. I asked Mona permission to publish her thoughts, which she gave, and I then asked her to make herself available to answer any questions from readers or defend her views against those who would disagree. She agreed, and so Mona will be moderating this comment section. Feel free to fire away. If your conscience is bothered by a woman who knows Hebrew instructing men, read this post at your own peril.


Things that no one ever told you about Women in the Bible

Theory vs. Fact

Religious leaders give us a lot of direction concerning the role of women as they see it in scripture. They quote scripture from Paul's letters to back up their theories.

But when we study the real women of the Bible we seldom find any who fit the pattern we are exhorted to emulate. In fact, I don't know if we can even find one meek, submissive, quiet, un-opiniated real woman among those who are memorialized in scripture.

The real women who are the heroines of the Bible define the role of women by their real lives.

The New Testament begins with a tribute to assertive women. The third verse of the first chapter of Matthew tells about Tamar. Is she a submissive woman putting herself under the subjection of males? I think not. Read her story in Genesis 38 to see her role in bring about the purposes of God. Had she not taken some leadership the lineage of Jesus would have fallen apart.

Then we go down to verse 5 and find another woman highlighted in Jesus genealogy-Rahab. Joshua 2:3 tells her story. She was a harlot and a Canaanite but in Joshua 2:9 - 11 her confession is one of the great statements of faith in the Bible. And she is bold enough to ask the spies to save her family. And she becomes the ancestor of Christ and the one who introduces the "scarlet cord" which is used as a symbol of atonement throughout the Bible. She is mentioned again in Hebrews 11:31.

Also in Matthew 1:5 is Ruth. Go back to the Old Testament and read the book of Ruth to see two women who take action to bring things to pass in the lives of men. Their assertive, aggressive roles also gave them a place in history as being tools of God's intentions from the beginning of time which was the redemption of humankind.

And in Matthew 1:6-"the wife of Uriah" (the Hittite). I will concede that she was submissive to male authority (King David). But later she became a political leader making sure her son, Solomon, took the throne and forming international alliances. She became a leader with her own throne.

Jesus' Aunt Elizabeth was not afraid to speak up. She named her son, John, over objections of those around her. She welcomed Mary and her unborn child recognized the Messiah. She was the first to say "Ave Maria-blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb." She recognized her cousin (or niece?) as "the mother of my Lord."

Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a prophet (Luke 1:46-55) Luke 2:48. She was a mediator at the wedding at Cana. She was strong enough to be there at the cross to witness his cruel death. She was courageous, faithful, prophetic, and assertive.

Martha (my personal favorite) was Jesus good friend-he loved her (John 11:5). She served him, argued with him, complained to him and had the truest insight of who he was. Hers is one of the great confessions of the Bible (John 11:27). She understood his mission even better than his disciples.

Mary, the sister of Martha, went beyond role as a woman to sit at the feet of a Rabbi (Jesus), then was brash enough to wash his feet with ointment in front of others.

The Greek Syrophenician woman in Mark 7:24-30 was at first rebuffed by Jesus, but because of her retort he cast the demon out of her daughter.

These are the real women that I look to as examples-not some theoretical abstraction of womanhood defined by a narrow interpretation of a few verses from Paul.

Speaking of Paul, look at the real women Paul chooses to commend. He worshipped in Lydia's home, he was taught by Priscilla, and he worked with Euodias and Syntyche. In Romans 16:1, Paul commends Phoebe "our sister, being διάκονον." Diakonon is the word for deacon which means servant. Phoebe was a female deacon.

Timothy's grandmother, Lois, and mother, Eunice, were the spiritual leaders in their home.

Phillip had daughters who prophesied (preached).

(And as far as "family values," most of the biblical families are more dysfunctional than those today. In the very first family one brother murders the other. Noah's sons are not very exemplary, and we shouldn't even mention Lot. The mothers of Abraham's children were jealous of each other and the conflict between his sons has lasted even until this day. Isaac's family tricked him, Jacob's sons were jealous and cruel, David's kids were murderers, rapists and practiced incest. And in the New Testament we don't even know about families because the disciples abandoned their families to roam around with Jesus. Jesus family thought he was nuts and he practically disowned them - "Who is my family.?)

Ok - back to the women. We don't know much about Noah's wife and daughter's-in-law except they did get on the boat. Sarah was apparently a very attractive woman that Abraham put in a harem rather than getting himself killed over her. She was assertive at home because she convinced Abram to "obtain children" by Hagar and then sent her away. Lot lost his wife but his daughters took control of the situation and made sure he had descendants. Rebecca was a beauty who was used to hard work and outgoing. She spoke right up to Abe's servant and even watered his camels.

Rebecca orchestrated the events to trick her husband into blessing the son who God had preordained to be blessed.

Rachel told Jacob to "Give me children, or else I die." They argued but she eventually had her way. She even tricked her father.

Tamar knew what was the "right thing" for her father-in-law to do and made sure he did. She is part of Jesus genealogy.

This is just all in Genesis. Then there is Miriam, Zipporah, Rahab (mentioned twice in the New Testament), Deborah, Abigail, the Shunamite woman. Don't forget Ruth and Naomi. All of these women are aggressive, assertive, intelligent and took control. The woman in Proverbs 31 works outside the home, buys and sells land, brings in imported food and her husband's reputation is enhanced by her activities.

Esther is one of the most courageous persons in the entire Bible. She put her life on the line for her people and matched wits with some powerful men. In fact there is a lot of "leadership" shown in these women in a time when women were in a low position.

Again, in summary the real women who are the heroines of the Bible define the role of women by their real lives, not a hypothetical woman created by male theologians.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Do Conservatives Have To Be Like Oil and Water?

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is composed of conservative evangelicals who are articulate and theologically astute. This Council provides a great deal of scholarly research on the biblical roles of men and women in modern society and the church. Their conclusions are the traditional, complementarian viewpoints on manhood and womanhood and they believe their views to be completely biblical. The Board of Directors of this organization is composed of some highly respected men and women in the theological world, including popular author C.J. Mahaney and Presbyterian pastor J. Ligon Duncan. Several Southern Baptists serve as council members at CBMW, including Al Mohler, Dorothy Patterson and Danny Aiken.

Another Christian organization called Christians for Biblical Equality also retains many conservative, evangelical men and women on their Board. These fellow evangelicals, like those who serve on The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, are articulate, theologically astute, and do much to provide the evangelical world with a great deal of scholarly research on the biblical roles of men and women in modern society and the church. Their conclusions are egalitarian and they believe their views to be completely biblical. Gilbert Biliezikian, resident theologian at Willow Creek, represents the kind of scholarly approach taken by those affiliated with CBE. Dr. Biliezikian's book Beyond Sex Roles will probably be the standard bearer for the Christian who comes to his egalitarianism through a belief in the sacred, sufficient and infallible text. Endorsers of the Council for Biblical Equality are some well known, conservative theologians including Dr. Samuel Tang, Professor at Golden Gate Theological Seminary.

The purpose of this post is not to advocate complementarianism over egalitarianism or vice-versa. I simply would like to ask a question. On the home page of The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood there is a rotating list of quotes by prominent evangelicals who oppose egalitarianism. One particular quote caught my eye. It is written by Mary Kassian, a self professed 'homemaker,' a Southern Baptist professor of 'Women's Studies' at Southern Seminary, and a member of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Mary writes:

Biblical feminists seek to retain an evangelical base while at the same time modifying Biblical interpretation to be sympathetic to the concerns of the women's movement. However, in order to embrace both, Biblical feminists need to compromise the Bible. Biblical feminism therefore has become a theological crossing point between conservative evangelical theology and liberalism . . . Feminism and Christianity are like thick oil and water: their very natures dictate they cannot be mixed.

Other than pointing out to Mary that many conservative, evangelical egalitarian authors, including Dr. Biliezikian and Dr. Tate, might take umbrage at the allegation that their egalitarian views 'compromise' the Bible, I would like to sincerely ask Mary - and other complementarian evangelical friends - a very serious question.

Is it not possible to be a conservative, evangelical Christian who believes in the infallible and sufficient Word of God and come to egalitarianism through a study of the sacred text?

The official Statement of Faith for Christians for Biblical Equality emphatically declares:

We believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, is reliable, and is the final authority for faith and practice.

Someone told me last week that the violence in some African nations was worse between African tribes with various Christian views than between African Muslims and African Christians. I scratch my head when I hear stories about Christians fighting Christians in Africa thinking that there must be something distorted in the Christianity of those tribes. Likewise, I wonder if there is not something out of kilter with American evangelical Christianity when various views about the role of women in society and the church become "the crossing point conservative evangelical theology and liberalism." Ironically, both groups base their beliefs on 'the sufficient text.'

I never question the sufficiency of the Bible. It is the sufficiency of some evangelicals to reflect the spirit of Christ toward others when disagreement arises over intepretations of the sacred text that cause me to doubt whether or not we have genuinely experienced the Christianity of the Bible. I may be a complementarian, but I sure don't see the fellowship between my Christian egalitarian friends and myself as 'oil and water,' and I also have a hard time viewing this issue as 'the crossing point to liberalism.'

In His Grace,


Monday, February 25, 2008

The Problem of Centralized Authority and Control

Matt Drudge recently linked to an article on Premier Putin's 'democracy' in Russia.

Within the article is the following paragraph which describes the problem of modern Russia:

"Behind a facade of democracy lies a centralized authority that has deployed a nationwide cadre of loyalists that is not reluctant to swat down those who challenge the ruling party. Fearing such retribution, many of the people interviewed for this article asked not to be identified."

We who have leadership within our churches or the Southern Baptist Convention would do well to remember Russia as the example of how to cause a democracy to ultimately fail.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Trustees Not Susceptible to Political Agendas

Chuck Andrews is a pastor friend of mine in Oklahoma and one of the wisest men I've ever met. Chuck sent me this email yesterday and gave me permission to copy it here. Through his and others influence and encouragement, people whom I respect, I will be continuing to work in the direction which they request. I am recording the narrative but not publishing it (in fact, most of it has already been recorded) I am by no means giving up on the SBC. I will continue to seek to bring about change for the reasons Chuck articulates below:

Dear Wade

"I respect you and your decision to follow prudence. I don’t know whether I agree with it or not. Still, you are correct, in the post you deleted, when you said ‘until people get fed up with being bullied and stand on principle to stop the bullying nothing will change’ (paraphrased by my interpretation). Spiritual abusers thrive off of the timidity and tentativeness that they can create. Regardless of why someone does not want his/her name made public, you are absolutely correct, nothing will change. Spiritual abusers depend on it.

I don’t agree with the ones who say it is belittling to point out the obvious. Obviously, there are many, besides the woman mentioned, that didn’t mind their names being identified when placed in their positions but, now, do not want their names to be made public. Am I the only one who wonders where the ones who rose to leadership through the CR are and why they don’t let their voice be identified? How long would the narrowing of cooperative parameters survive if respected leaders risked their identity by speaking out against the bullying tactics that are going on? Where are the past presidents of the SBC, Executives of SBC entities, state Executive Directors, editors of Baptist press and state newspapers, and pastors of extremely public pulpits? Have we created such a political and professional Convention/Church that leaders have too much to risk for them to be straightforward and forthright in championing a corrective course? Or, are all those in leadership in agreement with this political/interpretive narrowing? Is it squeamishness or shrewdness that keeps them quiet? Is it timidity or timeliness that motivates them? Is their silence golden or galling? Does asking these questions belittle? I don’t think so. Asking questions may point out the obvious but leaders need to be challenged to be people of valor, integrity, and courage. There may be creditable reasons why some don’t want to be identified. Others, it may be cowardice. Still, we all need to be challenged to be people of gracious civil courage. IMO, if leaders don’t want to be public then they shouldn’t be leaders.

It was June 15, 2004 that Morris Chapman danced around the problems in his message to the Annual Convention when he said,

“In a practiced democracy, politics, the art of influence, is always an ingredient. But the passion of a trustee should be born from deep within in an encounter with the Living Christ, and then he is free to enthusiastically persuade others of the burden God has laid upon his heart. This is how it should be in the church, the association, the state convention, and the Southern Baptist Convention. This Convention deserves to be led by trustees who listen to God’s Spirit on the way to making decisions, not trustees who are susceptible to political agendas. Politics for the sake of control by a few is not how our forefathers envisioned the operations of our Convention. But I must warn you. Politics do not die easily.”

Later in that same message he said,

“Contemporary shibboleths are employed to exclude people. It is the sin of Pharisaism when good people, whose theology and ministry are above reproach, are slandered, discredited, or ostracized simply because they refuse to blindly follow particular political posturing. Innuendos, unfounded rumors, sly winks and nods are as deadly as an assassin’s bullet and usually as ungodly. . . . I am concerned…now that we have affirmed by vigorous endeavor that Southern Baptists are people of the Book, that we will develop a censorious, exclusivistic, intolerant spirit. If this occurs, we will be the poorer for it. It will not only result in narrower participation in denominational life, a shallower pool of wisdom and giftedness in our enterprises, and a shrinking impact upon the world, but we will be in the unenviable position of being right on doctrine but wrong with God.”

Here we are four years later. Just as history records the necessity of the CR, it also records the names of those who opposed it. Liberals, moderates, and some conservatives, who didn’t agree with the methodology, honored their names by taking a stand. They may have gone down but at least they didn’t go down in anonymity. If the CR had failed, those who are in leadership today would not be where they are, because, they too, honored their names by taking a stand. There were not many Joseph’s of Arimathea during the late ‘70s through the ‘80s. And you, Wade, have honored your name by publicly calling for a course correction. Many on your blog, who have identified themselves by name, have honored their names, as well.

I believe that history will call for the narrative of your experience to be recorded. In Morris Chapman’s metaphor, it will either be recorded as part of the tune-up, paint, and polish of this old ship Zion or it will be seen as another rejected maintenance on a sinking ship. Names are an important part of that record. You may choose not to publish it at this time but to not record it, IMO, would be like robbing history of Grace and Truth.

With My Friendship,


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Prudent Decision

"It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either.” Mark Twain

Two experiences today have convinced me to follow the third unspeakably precious thing in Twain's trilogy. Prudence is defined as the intellectual virtue which rightly directs particular human acts, through rectitude of the appetite, toward a good end. The prudent man is one who does the good, as opposed to one who merely knows the good. For a while now I have been looking for a principle that would lead me to know and do the higher good in making a decision to write the narrative of events over the past three years at the International Mission Board.

I posted earlier today my experiences as an IMB trustee when I discovered that there were some trustees who were seeking to enforce their belief upon administration that 'no woman should be in a position of authority over a man at the International Mission Board.' I gave a specific illustration and a general description of the successful attempts by some trustees leaders to make the IMB conform to this particular ideology. This morning's post, which is now deleted, related the things that I had experienced, the things I heard with my own ears, and the things I knew to be true because I was personally present when they happened. However, since the former female interim IMB Vice-President's name was mentioned, and it was communicated to me that she does not wish to be in the spot-light, I removed the post. People sometimes get more squemish over their names being mentioned than they do the very issues that need to be addressed. I do, however, respect the feelings of my sister in Christ and have honored her request.

This experience today confirms that it will do absolutely no good to write a narrative of events at the IMB over the past three years. It would make interesting reading, and though it would actually be a historical narrative, some would seek to classify it as fiction because the truth of what occurred over trustee leaders' attempts to establish 'doctrinal' policies that exceed the BFM 2000 is stranger than fiction. The little banal story I wrote today - in preparation of an article forthcoming by Religious News Service - is an illustration that writing about people and using their names - even to illustrate a principle - only brings embarrassment and sometimes anger.

The second thing that happened today to bring me to my decision on whether or not to write a book is a conversation I had with my friend David Sanders. David is an excellent writer and is a key editorial columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau. David encouraged me to not write a book on the basis of this principle:

Over time people respond to the systematic and uplifting teaching of the Word of God. To constantly raise the hood of the car to inspect the engine without repairing what is broken is non-productive. Use the talents God has given you to write, teach, and preach the life transforming principles of God's Word. Invest yourself in those things which are edifying and the change will come.

David convinced me. I have looked under the engine and seen some things that need repaired in the SBC. It is my desire to do some things to help, but ultimately help comes by giving answers, not revealing problems.

I have reached a decision prior to my deadline of March 1, 2008. I will not be writing a narrative of events at the IMB since 2005. I am finishing a new book on Jonah and a chapter on another collaborative book on what happened to 'civility' in Christian life. I will continue to pour my energy into teaching and preaching. We are now broadcasting live via the internet and our church launched this week a new television ministry. One of the men in our church is also taking on the responsibility of expanding our radio ministry nationwide beginning in April, 2008.

In the immediate future, March 3-4, 2008, I will be meeting with Dwight McKissic and a small group of pastors in Arlington, Texas to discuss the establishment of a new fellowship of conservative, evangelical churches - including Southern Baptist - called the Antioch Network of Churches. The Monday night portion of the meeting will be held at the local Holiday Inn and will include the following;

6:30 – 7:00 pm -- The Biblical Basis of the Antioch Network of Churches - Sam Storms

7:00 – 7:30 pm -- A Season of Prayer -- Adrian Moldovan

7:30 – 8:00 pm -- The Historical Basis of the Antioch Network of Churches -- Dwight McKissic

8:00 – 8:05 pm -- Break

8:05 – 8:35 pm -- The Doctrinal Basis of the Antioch Network of Churches -Wade Burleson

8:35 – 9:15 pm -- Vision, Mission & Purpose of the Antioch Network of Churches

We will be writing more on this new network of churches in the near future. If you are in or near the Arlington, TX area on Monday night, March 3, 2008 and would like to join us please come. For more information you may call Veronica N. Griffith, Min. of Communications & Spec. Events for Cornerstone Baptist Church at (817) 468-0083 ext. 203.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

I Don't Know the Definition of 'Fundamentalism,' But I Sure Know Christian Decency When I See It

This post is the one exception to my month long fast on writing about the International Mission Board. It is precipitated by news article set to come out through the Religious News Service.

It has been my position from the beginning of pastoral ministry that the evidence of God's grace in a person's life is Christ's love. As He Himself said, "By this shall all men know if you are my disciples if you have love one for another." One of the difficulties I have in understanding the issues we face in the Southern Baptist Convention is coming to an understanding of the 'philosophy' or 'theology' that is driving some men to devalue, and in some instances, mistreat Southern Baptist women. Addelle Banks with the Religious News Service is an excellent reporter who may be posting a story soon about my resignation from the International Mission Board. In the phone interview she asked me whether or not I would be writing a book about my less than three years of service as an IMB trustee. I told her that I had not yet made that decision. Then she asked what would be the determining factor on whether or not I would write a book. My response:

I would only write a book if I believed that the Southern Baptist Convention, the International Mission Board, and our Southern Baptist agencies would ultimately be helped by a formal discussion of the issues our Convention faces. My goal in writing the book would be to ensure that conservative, evangelical Southern Baptists who have chosen to identify with the Southern Baptist Convention might feel wanted - and not feel like outcasts. I want to prevent any future mistreatment of people like that which has been experienced by Sheri Klouda, Dwight McKissic and Wendy Norvelle.

Addelle knows Wendy. She asked me about her. In the fall of 2005 Wendy was the acting Vice-President for the International Mission Board. I did not know Wendy until I was appointed by the Convention as a trustee in June of 2005. It did not take me long to realize that this woman, who is in her fifties, is delightful, sweet-spirit lady, possessed with a keen mind, outstanding work ethic, and impeccable credentials. In fact, I was told by several people on staff and in IMB administration that Wendy is the most competent (a few used the adjective 'exceptional') employee at the International Mission Board. Dr. Rankin respected her so highly that he wanted to make her the permanent Vice-President and remove the title 'interim.'

It was in January 2006, the night before the recommendation for my removal from the board occurred, that I interrupted a late night meeting in the lobby of the hotel where trustees were being housed. About a dozen trustees were meeting in an 'informal' caucus and were discussing how to remove Wendy from her position and the steps and ultimate motions that would be made to accomplish their goal. The sentiment was expressed that a woman had no place being in her position of authority. I was gracious to the men present, but I let them know, in no uncertain terms, that not only was the meeting a violation of our 'Blue Book' which states that during regularly scheduled IMB trustee meetings, no trustees shall meet in 'caucus' sessions, either formal or informal, to discuss IMB business, but the opinions I overheard expressed in that caucus meeting were also a violation of the Scriptural commands to love one another and speak only those things that were edifying.

One of the struggles I have is writing about all the things that were said and done during the three years I served as a trustee. It is not my desire to embarrass anyone, but if you tell a narrative, you must identify the people involved. I have to weigh my desire not to embarrass people with the higher motive of seeking to protect the Wendy Norvelle's of our convention. The morning after the late night confrontation, I went to both Wendy Norvelle and Dr. Rankin and told them that there might be a motion designed to either publicly humiliate or remove Wendy from her 'acting' Vice-President position. I told them both that if it came in the plenary session, as I heard discussed, to not worry - I would have Wendy's back and would not let her be mistreated.

It was in that particular January trustee meeting in 2006 that the motion came to move into Executive Session (closed doors). I was seated on the front row and asked the Chairman, Tom Hatley, why we were moving into Executive Session. He did not answer me, and so I turned to my friend Rick Thompson, pastor of Council Road Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, and said, 'Rick, get ready, they are going after Wendy. I'm not going to let them. This could get heated.'

Once the doors were closed I heard the motion . . . "I move that Wade Burleson be removed from the International Mission Board for . . ." Rick and I looked at each other in disbelief and shock. It was then I knew that after six months as a trustee that we have a system where trustees are NOT to ask questions of trustee leadership. For months I had asked questions about the new 'doctrinal' polices and had repeatedly requested the anecdotal evidence from the mission field that there were problems that could be corrected by new 'doctrinal' policies. I had often wondered why there was an aversion to 'women' being hired in positions of 'authority' (check out the top administration of the IMB and find ONE female). For months I had wondered why an overwhelming majority of trustees were male. For months I had wondered why there was such an aversion to 'private prayer language' or 'alien' (whatever that means) immersion.

Then I knew. The system established years ago for the appointment of trustees enabled our boards and agencies to be filled with only like-minded Southern Baptists who would elect trustee leaders that had a particular ideology. I don't know if it should be called 'Fundamentalism.' Maybe not. But we must find some way to end our narrowness on certain issues. The Southern Baptist Convention is filled with women like Wendy Norvelle and Sheri Klouda. Until common people like you and me stand up and speak out against whatever ideology that leads to the unjust treatment of our Southern Baptist women, it will be difficult to show the world that we truly are His people who love one another with the love of Christ.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Observations on the Life of a Fundamentalist

Phil is a pastor friend of mine from Norman, Oklahoma who sent me a comment via email, believing it too long to post on this blog. I read Phil's words and believed that he articulated quite well some observations he has made on 'Fundamentalism' over the years. Please understand that I believe the kingdom of God, including the Southern Baptist Convention, is plenty big enough to have our share of men and women who hold to the views of Fundamentalism. I not only do not begrudge their views on life and spiritual matters, I would never insist they themselves change. The rub comes if and when our Southern Baptist Fundamentalist brethren take leadership roles in the SBC and then DEMAND everyone be like them.

After you read Phil's comment, which I have made as a post of its own, you might let us all know what you think about whether or not some in the SBC are in danger missing the purpose of our convention (cooperative missions) by attempting to make sacred that which the Bible never calls sacred, and accusing people who don't agree of being in 'sin.' My father preached an excellent message this morning on the difference between the 'function' and 'form.' He rightly concluded that the New Covenant Scriptures are primarily concerned with the 'function' (purpose) of life . . . but the various 'forms' (the methodologies) in how the life of Christ is lived out in the world should be as fluid and flexible as the number of unique individuals the Spirit has converted. It is my hope that we Southern Baptists always put our emphasis on our cooperative purpose and give freedom to others in the manner in which they fulfill that purpose. Here's Phil's observations . . .

I was a Chaplain at a children's Home and Pastor outside of McAllen Texas. I live on the Children's Home campus.

When Lester Roloff was killed, his large children's home in Corpus Christi. the Rebecca Home had to lay off more than a hundred workers within a month or two. These people had no money to leave the Valley to return to Ohio and Indiana areas from where they came. We hired about twenty-five of the men who brought their families to live on campus with them.

With the Roloff people we ended up with a mix of Bob Jones U., Hyles Anderson U, Tennesse Temple, and Liberty U people with some self taught people. It was a strange mix. All of them were what we called King Jameist. The Valley from Brownsville to Rio Grande City is a virtual hot bed of Fundamentalism. The main listening religious channel in the Valley was and probably still is KJAV on your dial. The MC of the radio program would not allow any guest on the talk station who even compared a modern translation with the KJV.

After conducting chapel every morning or after the regular weekly worship services, there would be five or six "Preachers" outside my office door armed with their KJV and ready to do battle because I had quoted out of the NASB or Phillips.

I litterally loved it. I have a mean streak in me that is covered over by good looks and a lovely personality. I was as mean as one should be with Fundamentalist and that is mean. I think during those times I was the sweetest Dad, husband and pastor of my life as I vented my hostility on those narrow between the eyes, so narrow in fact, their glasses are all unifocals and both eyes see out of the one glass.

A few of the things the Fundamentalist brought to our table while we trying to help them recover so they could find where they wanted to go:

1. No television whatsoever. We had televisions in all seven homes for the eighty in-service children and they began an immediate movement to make us get rid of them..

2. No processed sugar of any kind in any food. Our kids loved candy.

3. No caffeine of any kind such as chocolate, soft drinks, tea and coffee.

4. No versions of the Bible but the King James Version.

5. No limbs to show at any time which meant that men in one hundred plus temperature had to wear long sleeve shirts at all times while working on our two hundred and seventy acres.

6. No women in authority over men and manhood usually began at twelve, fourteen and sixteen depending on which group you battled.

7. No compromise on any thing at any time. Compromise was considered worst than lust, adultery, stealing, murder or reading or teaching using a modern translation which were almost cardinal sins of unforgiveness.

8. Females can never wear pants or slacks at any time or any age including toddlers, even if the hips were twice as wide, zipped up in back or side unlike men's pants. After twenty minutes on the play ground, slides, monkey bars, our boys could tell what color panties all the girls were wearing and would tell us so.

These people had very little joy in the Lord and seemed to have as their primary mission the destruction of everyone else's joy. I must say the Falwell people were the broader minded among the five groups and were called "Liberals."

If you want to know the main reason for home schooling within these Christian groups, look no further than female teachers in the Junior High and Senior High public schools. Women must never take authority over men.

At times I felt they did more damage to the cause of Christ in few minutes than all the demons of Hell could do in a full years work.

God bless,

Phil in Norman.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Woman Cannot Have Authority Over Boys?

Jack Beavers sent me an email with the following article from the February 13, 2008 Sports Illustrated online site.

Kansas activities officials are investigating an allegation that a religious school refused to let a female referee call a boys high school basketball game earlier this month.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association said referees reported that Michelle Campbell was preparing to officiate at St. Mary's Academy near Topeka, Kan., on Feb. 2 when a school official insisted that Campbell could not call the game. The reason given, according to the referees: Campbell, as a woman, could not be put in a position of authority over boys because of the academy's beliefs.

St. Mary's Academy is about 25 miles northwest of Topeka, Kansas.

Read the entire Sports Illustrated article here. I guess gender discrimination is alive in well in other places besides our convention.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What We Can Learn of Civil Dissent and Christian Disagreement From the Controversy Over Easter's Date

The word Easter has been adopted by Christians to signify the day of resurrection of Christ from the tomb.  However, the word has pagan origins and is nowhere found in Scripture or primitive Christian literature. Eostre was the mythical goddess of sunrise or spring for the ancient Germanic tribe known as the 'Teutones.' The Romans first identified the Teutonic people in the second century B.C. The Teutones were the forefathers of those we call the Dutch people today.  Eostre was the Teutonic goddess of life represented by the dawn of a new day or springtime. The direction of the sunrise (East) is named for her and Eostre (sometimes spelled Eastre and Easter) is also the ancient Anglo-Saxon word for spring.

When Christianity spread to Europe, the yearly Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which itself represents life, would eventually become known as Easter. Early Christian fathers (i.e. first and second century) would have had no concept of calling Christ's resurrection Easter. They would have called their celebration of the day of Christ's resurrection either The Saviour's Pascha or The Festival of Life. However, by the fourth century A.D. Christians everywhere were referring to the day of Christ's resurrection as Easter.According to the historian Eusebius (A.D. 311), it was the custom of the early Christian churches to mark the resurrection of the Paschal lamb with a period of fasting preceding the day of resurrection, followed by a festival or celebration feast on the day Christians officially celebrated Christ's resurrection. The churches were varied as to their fast customs, some fasted a single day, others two, and some even more days prior to breaking the fast with a feast of celebration.

A Controversy Unfolds

A controversy arose in the Christian churches around 190 A.D. related to the ending of the fast days associated with Christ's Pascha and the timing of the official Christian celebration of the day of Christ's resurrection. The churches of Asia, since the time of the Apostle John, would end their fasts on the fourteenth day of the moon in the lunar month of Nisan. The fourteenth day of Nisan is the day in which the Jews were ordered by God to sacrifice the paschal lamb and place its blood on the doorposts of their homes so the death angel might "pass over" (Exodus 12:6). Nisan is the first month of the Biblical Jewish lunar calendar and corresponds to sometime in March or April in our calendar. Modern Jews still follow their Old Testament lunar calendar and Nisan 14 continues to be the day set aside by orthodox Jews to commemorate Passover(Pascha). Of course, Jesus of Nazareth, the true Paschal Lamb of God, hung on the cross of Calvary on Nisan 14.  The timing of Christ's death points us to the fulfillment of the Old Testament laws through His work on our behalf and it reveals our Lord as the Paschal Lamb of God, sacrificed by our Heavenly Father on behalf of His children.

The early Asian Christian churches, claiming to follow the instructions of the Apostle John, would fast the days preceding the fourteenth day of Nisan, and then would break their fast on Passover Day and celebrate Christ's resurrection with "the  feast of the life-giving pasch" on the very day Jews celebrated Passover - Nisan 14. It mattered not on which day of the week Nisan 14 fell (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc . . . ), the Asian churches would break their fast and celebrate Christ's resurrection (i.e. Easter) on the same day Jews celebrated Passover. This date never changed on the Jewish calendar -  it was always Nisan 14 - but it would fall on different days of the week. However, Christian churches outside Asia would fast until the SUNDAY after 14 Nisan and celebrate the resurrection of Christ on the Lord's Day AFTER Jewish Passover.

The controversy that erupted in 190 A.D. occurred over the question of whether the festival of the celebration of the resurrection of Christ was to be kept on a Sunday, or whether Christians could observe it on the Jewish Holy Day of Passover, the fourteenth of Nisan, regardless of the day of the week on which it occurred. Those Christians in Asia who kept Easter on the Jewish Holy Day of Passover came to be known as Quartodecimans or terountes - names intended to be both identifying and derogatory. In 190 A.D. the Quartodecimans were declared to be "non-conformists" and were ex-communicated from "the true church" by Victor, the head of the Christian church in Rome. Another pastor, Irenaeus, while expressing disagreement with the Quartodeciman practice, nevertheless reproached Pastor Victor for his declaration of excommunication. Irenaeus' reproach of Victor is one of the clearest and earliest evidences that the pastor of the church in Rome, though influential, was not considered "the head of the church" (i.e. the Pope). Further, it is interesting to note that Irenaeus suggested that Victor should follow the moderation of his pastoral predecessors by accepting Christians who disagree over tertiary issues. In spite of Irenaeus' defense of the Quartodecimans, they soon died out in both influence and number.

The Flashpoint of Controversy Changes In Time

Barely a century after what is now known as "The Easter Controversy" of 190 A.D., Christian leaders gathered in the town of Nicaea to debate another "Easter" controversy. Churches were becoming confused as to the particular Sunday that they should celebrate Christ's resurrection. We have no extant records from this meeting except for a handful of letters from the emperor Constantine, who himself was present at the council and wrote to the Christian churches afterwards to share his thoughts on the decisions made. The historian Eusebius, in his work The Life of Constanine records for us one of the emperor's letters where he writes of the meeting in Nicaea:

At this meeting the question concerning the most holy day of Easter was discussed, and it was resolved by the united judgment of all present that this feast ought to be kept by all and in every place on one and the same day.

The question of the Sunday on which the resurrection of Christ should be celebrated was a source of major discussion at the Council of Nicaea because Christian churches had begun to celebrate Easter on different Sundays and argued about who was right. For instance, the Syrian (Antioch) Christians always held their Easter festival on the Sunday after the Jews kept their Pasch (or Passover) on 14 Nisan. On the other hand, at another important city, Alexandria, and seemingly throughout all the rest of the Roman Empire, Christians would calculate the time of "Easter" for themselves, paying no attention to the Jews. For this reason, the dates of "Easter" as kept by Christians at Alexandria, Antioch and other cities did not correspond with each other by the fourth century A.D.

The Council of Nicaea sought to establish a uniform day in which the celebration of "Easter" should be kept by all Christian churches. The leaders at Nicaea concluded:

Easter shall occur the first Sunday after the full moon that occurs after the Vernal Equinox of March 21st.

The Vernal Equinox (equiox is Latin for "equal night") is the first day of spring north of the equator and the first day of fall south of the equator, and is characterized by exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. Since the time of Julius Caesar Western Civilization had followed the aptly named "Julian Calendar" instead of the various lunar calendars used since the dawn of civilization.

The Julian calendar was a solar calendar that measured time by the earth's rotation around the sun rather than the lunar calendar method of measuring the moon's rotation around the earth. The New Year in the solar Julian Calendar corresponded to 'Eostre' or spring and was always celebrated on March 25th. The Julian calendar was in effect in 325 A.D. at the time of the Council of Nicaea.  The "Easter Debate" as to the specific Sunday on which Easter should be celebrated seemed to be settled by the Council at Nicaea; that is, until something strange began to be noticed by farmers, agriculturalists, and Christian leaders. As time passed, Easter moved further away from the Jewish celebration of Passover, and it seemed that the actual seasons (fall, winter, spring and summer) were a little off on the calendar. What was happening?

It was discovered that the scientests in Julius Caesar's court, authors of the Julian calendar, had incorrectly measured the length of the earth's year and seasons. The Julian year was short of a true revolution of the earth around the sun by a small fraction of a day. Therefore, as the centuries went by, Easter (or spring) on the Julian calendar, though a "fixed" date, was shifting in relation to the lunar calendar and the Jewish Passover. Further, the agricultural seasons seemed to be off kilter in terms of the calendar. If you were to look out your window on Easter in early spring in the late 1500's, it wouldn't seem like early spring.  Because of the Julian calendar's small error in measuring the earth's year, the actual vernal equinox had shifted over time to about ten days later than it should - from March 21 in 325 A.D. to the first of week of April by 1570.  

So, Pope Gregory XII, in the 1570's convened a commission to consider reform of the Julian calendar. Gregory rightly believed Easter should fall close to the Jewish Passover and a correction needed to be made to adjust the calendar to match the actual agricultural seasons. The recommended adjustments to the calendar by Pope Gregory were instituted in Roman Catholic countries in 1582 and became known as the "Gregorian Calendar." What happened to implement the Gregorian calendar was very odd. Ten days in the 1582 calendar were actually deleted, so that October 4, 1582 was followed by October 15, 1582 thereby causing the vernal equinox of 1583 and subsequent years to occur about March 21 instead of the first week of April, as it had happened in April 1582. In addition, the Gregorian calendar added "leap" years. A leap year is simply a year in which February is given an additional day for a total of 29 days instead of the typical 28. Thus a leap year consists of 366 days instead of 365 days.  According to the Gregorian calendar, every year that is exactly divisible by 4 is a leap year, except for those years that are exactly divisible by 100; these centurial years are leap years only if they are exactly divisible by 400. This formula is not as complicated as it first sounds, but it is important to understand that Gregory established leap years in order to keep Easter in the spring and close to the Jewish Passover. This year - 2008 - is divisable by four, and thus is a leap year.

Confusion Over Old Style Dates and New Style Dates

The change to the Gregorian calendar from the Julian Calendar did not occur all at once throughout Western Civilization. In Great Britain, Parliament legislated the change to the Gregorian calendar (eventually known as the "New Style" calendar) in 1751 after two failed attempts at change in 1645 and 1699. Parliament declared that September 2, 1752 would be followed by September 14, 1752 to accomodate the errors of the Julian calendar. This 1752 change also applied to the American colonies, but Alaska didn't change calendars until 1867, when it transferred from a Russian territory to a part of the United States.

In the short term after the change to the Gregorian calendar, dates were written with O.S. (Old Style) or N.S. (New Style) following the day so people examining records could understand whether they were looking at a Julian date or a Gregorian date. For instance, George Washington was born on February 11, 1731 (O.S.), but his birthday became February 22, 1732 (N.S.) under the Gregorian calendar. The change in the year of his birth was due to the change of New Year's Day from March 25 under the old Julian Calendar to that of January 1 under the Gregorian calendar. For the centuries preceding the Gregorian calendar, March 25 was always New Year's Day, corresponding to spring, "Easter" and "new life." Ever since the Gregorian calendar was implemented New Year's Day has been celebrated as January 1. Those individuals who were alive during the change to the Gregorian calendar, and were born prior to the change between January 1 and March 25, had their birthdates changed in terms of the year (one year was added to their Old Style Julian birthdate year), as was the case with George Washington.Ironically, even to to this day, the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates their holidays based on the Julian Calendar as an act of rebellion to the "Western" or Roman Catholic Church. Thus, the date for Easter in the Eastern Church is always different than the date for Easter in the Roman Catholic Church or evangelical churches in the West. For an even more precise explanation of the modern dating of Easter in Western Civilization, see this article by Mary Fairchild

What We Can Learn About Civil Dissent and Disagreement from Easter's Date

1. Matters which lead to debate and disagreement are usually far more complicated than some might wish them to be; thus, patience, reflection, and restraint from making simple, dogmatic, conclusive statements is always best.

2. If the moderation displayed by Iraeneus in his desire to accept Christians who disagreed over the date to celebrate Christ's resurrection had been followed by other early Christians, many major church conflicts during the patristic period could have been avoided.

3. Any Christian who spends more time debating the minutiae of "church" doctrine rather than cooperating with one another to lead the lost to faith in Jesus Christ has sacrificed true Christianity on the altar of man's religions.

4. The tendency to pronounce moral epitaths on those who disagree with you, including "ex-communication" from the "true church," is a problem that is neither new or uncommon.

5. One year's intense controversy soon fades into memory, and soon other controversies arise that are as inconsequential as the earlier ones. In all cases, the church of Jesus Christ will continue to grow and thrive. After all, He is the head of His church.

I hope this spurs your thoughts as we prepare to celebrate one of the earliest possible Easter celebrations in terms of date (Sunday, March 23, 2008). As for me, I prefer Nisan 14 (which happens this year to fall on a Sunday, April 20, 2008).But, then again, some call me a 'non-conformist.' :)

In His Grace,


Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Power of the Pen to Effect Needed Change

There lived in the mid-1800's a fiery evangelist named Lyman Beecher. His son, Henry Ward Beecher, became a famous minister in New York, and the evangelist's daughter, Harriet Beecher Stowe, wound up becoming well known in her own right while living in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The young Harriet was an abolitionist. She detested slavery. Harriet agonized in the 1850's over the flourishing slave trade south of the Mason Dixon line. But what, she thought, could this poor, relatively unknown daughter of an evangelist do to stem the growing tide of slave trade and stop the efforts of slave traders to expand slavery into the new territories of Kansas and Nebraska?

I can write, thought Harriet. That's what I can do. And write she did.

Harriet Beecher Stowe poured out her anger into a novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, that won immediate acclaim in the North and infamy in the South. More than three hundred thousand copies were sold in 1852, its first year in print, and over two million copies were sold during the next decade making it the bestselling novel in American history at the time - and according to proportion to population, it remains the bestselling American novel ever.

The book was adapted to the stage and countless thousands of Americans felt the author's agony over slavery in the character of Tom, who is eventually beaten to death by his master, Simon Legree. Audiences and readers also felt the author's hope and inspiration in defeating slavery through the escape of Eliza and her five-year-old son via the Underground Railroad. The nation became effected by the pen of a young daughter of an American evangelist.

According to Harry Stout, author of Upon the Altar of the Nation, Abraham Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe during the Civil War and reputedly greeted her with these words:

So you're the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war."

As those of who are parents tasked with the responsiblitity of properly training our children, we would do well to remember that the power of the pen shall never diminish. The keyboard may be the new instrument, but the ability to organize ideas through writing shall always wield tremendous power. Those who believe only the visual moves the massses simply need to be reminded that the all visual mediums (movies, television, videos, etc. . . ) follow scripts.

For all you Christians out there who write, keep it up. In the end, the kingdom of Christ is advanced. And for all you young people who play X-Box - consider dropping the controller and picking up a keyboard or a pen and write. It's far more satisfying to make history by doing good for the world than to simply watch the world go by.

In His Grace,


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Southern Baptists in Oklahoma Are Blessed

In 1982 I packed all my belongings into a 1975 Chevy Malibu convertible and made my journey to First Baptist Church, Holdenville, Oklahoma as the summer youth pastor. My summer vocation turned into a full-time call to serve First Baptist Church as their youth pastor, then their interim pastor, and then in 1985 the church called me to be their senior pastor. My first encounter with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma was at the annual meeting in November, 1982 at the Council Road Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma where this green, wide-eyed youth pastor was asked to pray.

Over the past twenty-five years I have served on the Board of Directors of the BGCO for a total of eight years. I have also served two terms as First Vice-President of the BGCO (1994-1996) and two terms as President of of the BGCO (2002-2004). It was my privilege to call Dr. Joe Ingram and Dr. William Tanner close friends, both former Executive Directors of the BGCO who have now gone home to be with the Lord. Dr. Herschel Hobbs and I served together on a couple of different tasks force at the BGCO, and though I sometimes disagreed with my friend from First Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, I can truly say he and I had a great relationship. I served on the search committee that called Dr. Anthony Jordan to be the new Executive Director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma in 1995 and have seen first hand the progress of the BGCO from the old days in the dilapidated building on 10th Street across from First Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, to the new, gleaming six story steel building at 3800 N. May.

This Oklahoma Southern Baptist is impressed with the progress of the BGCO. I spent the early part of this week in Oklahoma City at the BGCO Board of Directors meeting. Three things caused me tremendous gratitude this week about my involvment with the BGCO.

(1). First, there is an understanding among the brethren that our convention cannot be expected to conform to a unique ideology or narrow theology.

It seems that a handful of Oklahoma Southern Baptists desire for the BGCO Board of Directors to take a stand 'against Calvinism.' They requested that our Board . .

"take a stand against the presentation of reformed theology - often called “Calvinism” - as a legitimate topic that we need to debate; and instead of recommending that we should debate reformed theology, take a public stand against reformed theology”

The Board of Directors officially responded this week by reminding the brethren that Southern Baptists have historically cooperated with each other even though people take different positions on the doctrines of soteriology. Differences of opinion on 'reformed' theology should not hinder our cooperative work in evangelism and missions. In fact, the very nature of a cooperative work is that people with differences cooperate. Ironically, one particular church in Oklahoma is requesting that other Oklahoma Southern Baptist churches stop giving to the Cooperative Program if there is no official 'stand against' Calvinism by the BGCO Board. I would recommend that the church and pastor change the name of the Cooperative Program giving at their church to 'The Conformity Program.' (smile).

Thankfully, Oklahoma Baptists have resisted the demand of some to seek conformity on tertiary issues.

(2). Second, there is an increasing trend in Cooperative Program giving among Southern Baptist churches in Oklahoma.

In 2004 the average percentage CP giving among Oklahoma churches was 8.4%. In 2005 it rose to 8.94%. in 2006 it skyrocketed to 9.7% and it very well could be possible that when the 2007 ACP statistics are tabulated for Oklahoma churches the average Cooperative Program percentage giving of our nearly 18,000 Southern Baptist churches in Oklahoma will be over 10%.

I chair the Stewardship Committee for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and have seen up close the work of Bob Shelton, staff member responsible for stewardship at the BGCO, and the entire communications team. The Oklahoma BGCO staff is responsible for the 'Ten Again' campaign that will be taking off nationwide very shortly. Oklahoma BGCO staff is also playing a key role in national agencies, including the IMB, NAMB and our seminaries in helping them all to see the importance of the Cooperative Program. There is a tremendous weakness in the CP system when national agencies put more time and energy in their respective 'offerings' (or proposed offerings as in the case of the seminaries) than in promoting the Cooperative Program. And, speaking as an insider with nothing to gain, I am far more comfortable with the accountability involved in CP funds than in designated offerings. Oklahoma has caught the vision of CP. It's not well known that the national average for CP church contributions has declined from 10.4% per church to 6.4% per church over the last several years. With Oklahoma's help, this trend will begin to reverse nationwide.

However, one cannot expect Cooperative Program giving trends to reverse without the agencies funded by those CP dollars transforming ministries to reflect cutting edge ideas and technologies for reaching people with the gospel. The dollars invested by our state in video technology, internet websites, and the updating of our state paper are impressive. The thought and time invested in redesigning campus ministries, renovating youth camps, asking the tough questions that keep our state from being satisfied with status quo has offered all our churches the knowledge that Oklahoma does not live in the past - but is investing for the future. The effort to involve businessmen, women, people of color, and Southern Baptist leaders other than white, male pastors is one of the reasons Oklahoma Baptists is seeing a richness of diversity. Our national agencies would do well to follow such an example and think outside the box when it comes to the way SBC conventions and agency meetings are held electronically, the manner by which SBC churches are kept informed about agency business, and the ever increasing need to work toward more cooperation in missions ministries, not less.

(3). Finally, the BGCO understands that we are to keep the main thing, the main thing.

The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma has never officially adopted a doctrinal statement. The BGCO believes that doctrine should be left to the local church and association. The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma believes that all Baptist churches in Oklahoma should cooperate to see people come to faith in Jesus Christ, and keep the main thing, the main thing.

I thank the Lord that I have been able to serve in Oklahoma for the past quarter of a century. Have we done everything right? No, not at all. Some of my friends would agree wholeheartedly with that confession. Could we have done things differently or even more wisely in some areas? Absolutely. But on the whole, the kingdom of Christ is being advanced through the cooperative nature of the Oklahoma Southern Baptist churches, pastors and people that compose the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. For that, I am very grateful.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson