Monday, September 15, 2008

Conflict Among Baptists Is Not Always Bad

The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention just completed their three day board meeting (September 8-10, 2008) in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Hershael York from Kentucky, a new trustee appointed last year, recently blogged about what he calls "this very historic meeting." I would like to agree with my friend Hershael and use his own words to show that the IMB is better off than they were three years ago because of controversy between trustees from 2005-2008.

Hershael's blog is called Confessions of a Pastor. Here are five reasons, using York's own words (in quotations below), why I know the IMB is better off than it wsa three years ago.

"I am just now returning from an historic meeting of the International Mission Board"

When Grace and Truth to You first began nearly three years ago, blogging was compared to trafficking in "internet pornography" by several IMB trustees during trustee meetings. It's refreshing that those kinds of things are no longer being said.

"Staff, trustees, and a special task force are working closely together, perhaps more than ever before"

An extraordinary turn of events for which every Southern Baptists ought to be grateful. The trustee system was never designed to be manipulated by outside parties in order to thwart the implementation of IMB administrative staff's vision. Trustees are not called to RUN the IMB. Trustees are called to support the vision of administrative staff (for heaven's sake, that's why we hired them), hold accountable the expenditures of budgetary monies, and offer support for those missionaries called to do the work on the field. Trustees are NEVER to micro-manage the IMB, but the closed door sessions involving trustees and staff in 2005 and 2006 usually denigrated into certain trustee leaders questioning the day to day decisions of administrative staff (i.e. (1). "Dr. Rankin, I heard you said 'this' in chapel with your staff? Is that true? (2). "Dr. Rankin, your Candidate Consultants don't seem to know how to "screen" candidates, so we'll help them. How about a couple of new "doctrinal" policies to help your staff weed out certain 'un-Baptistic' missionaries your staff of Consultants seem to be sending us?" (3). "Dr. Rankin, we are going to place an offer on your desk for early retirement? Don't you think it is time to step down?" This last one was behind closed doors that were behind the 'official' closed doors.) Sounds to me like there is a renaissance of trust among trustee for administative staff.

"We serve churches to facilitate their involvement in the Great Commission and the sending of missionaries to bring all peoples to faith in Jesus Christ."

Every Southern Baptist ought to be doing back flips over the adoption of the above Core Value. Though it has been a core value before, trustees seem to have forgotten it. In 2005, SBC churches were not being 'served' when the missionary candidates the CHURCHES sent to be appointed were REJECTED by trustees who felt they knew MORE than the CHURCHES about baptism. The idea that a group of trustees would reject a biblical baptism of a missionary candidate - that the candidate's OWN CHURCH HAD ACCEPTED - because the candidate's baptism was not performed in a Southern Baptist Church (or one that 'believes' in eternal security) - IS NOT SERVING THE CHURCH. Thank God the trustees are now understanding their servant's role of "serving churches to facilitate their involvement in the Great Commission is changing." It can't be long before the silly "doctrinal" policy change that arose out of a misconcepton of trustee "authority" will be overturned as well.

"We partner with Baptists and other Christians around the world in accordance with IMB guidelines."

Of course we do. That's why we better be doggone sure that we don't narrow those "guidelines." In 2005 we were going down the road of allowing certain idealogical trustee leaders to "backdoor" the Southern Baptist Convention into believing that the only GENUINE Christian is one who looks like this: (a). A Southern Baptist, baptized in Southern Baptist Church, and (b). one who renounces all belief in the possibility of the continuation of spiritual gifts,and (c). one who abstains from any belief in the "orality" of the gospel and always insists on using the 'written,' inerrant Word to share the gospel, and (d). believes that 'the church' is an institution established with 'officers,' who alone have the authority to dispense communion, baptize converts, etc . . . and, (e) any other "guideline" the IMB wishes to establish.

Kind of hard to cooperate with other "Christians" on the mission field who believe in those things when you can't even find but a handful of strident Southern Baptists in the United States who hold to such convictions. Maybe trustees are now seeing the danger of such narrow "guidelines."

"We took some positive steps to show greater trust in our Richmond staff as they work with missionary candidates and present them to the Board."

On a scale of 1 to 10 - this one is a 10.

Greater trust in Richmond staff in 2005 would have meant the "doctrinal" policies that exceeded the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message would have never passed. ALL OF THE RICHMOND STAFF OPPOSED TO THEM. The President, the Vice-Presidents, the Candidate Consultants, the Regional Leaders - all of IMB'S administrative staff were in unanimity that the policies were detrimental and harmful to the mission of the IMB.

So, maybe - just maybe, the conflict at the IMB over the past few years has made our IMB better. Trustees now know their place, and it is to be supportive of the people we hire to do Southern Baptist mission work and not to try to do the work ourselves.

Grace and Truth to You will be watching closely to see if the excellent progress made in Atlanta continues in the months to come.

In His Grace,



Wayne Smith said...


The Board unanimously approved the following,
What does this mean by way of vote?

Hershael W. York said:,

Following Dr. Rankin's lead, the task force presented to the trustees a statement of vision, mission, and core values. “””After evaluation, discussion, tweaking, and the presentation of a final form, the Board unanimously approved the following:”””

Wayne Smith said...

Nobody dared voice an objection. :)

It can be said, however, that several trustees were not happy about the proposal - particularly that part which gives the staff Candidate Consultants an extraordinary amount of power to bring the missionary candidates of "their choice," - with trustees simply "affirming" staff's recommendations. The former Green Sheet process for missionary candidates where trustees, in essence, were doing the Candidate Consultant's job, has been GREATLY abbreviated - including a very short interview process with trustees.

Those trustees in leadership in 2005 and 2006 who pushed for the new "doctrinal" policies came privately to the Ad Hoc Committee and demanded this particular provision be removed.

They lost.

Kudos to the Committee for standing firm.

Wade said...

Now, the administrative staff and professional missiologists we HIRED to get the best missionary candidates on the field are the ones selecting the missionaries -

Now trustees - men who pastor small churches in the sticks, who idolize conservative resurgence leaders, and who feel that missionaries on the Arab mission fields should NEVER use the word "Allah" for God, but should substitute the word "Yahweh" or "Jehovah" for "Allah" when they share the gospel with Arabs (true story) - are simply being called upon to AFFIRM the professional missiologists (staff) recommendations about who best serves Southern Baptists on the mission field.



Anonymous said...

I am encouraged.

Anonymous said...


"Men who pastor small churches in the sticks" Ouch! I think I know what you mean. But do you really want to put it that way? The next thing you know you'll be saying their "clinging to God and guns." Just a thought from someone who pastors a small church in the city.

Anonymous said...


greg.w.h said...

(Summoning my best Russian Jewish Rabbi voice a la Fiddler on the Roof:)

A thanksgiving on behalf of those who have had control relinquished on their behalf by the other trustees?

Thanks to the Master of the Universe who is willing for and desirous of a relationship even with knuckleheads like them (and me)! Additional thanks that his longsuffering isn't eternal and that he acts swiftly when he chooses to do so!!

That's somewhat in jest, of course, but I want to share a thought with your readers that occurred to me during one very difficult stretch that my wife and I suffered through about six years ago. I'm the only income earner in our family and we went through a stretch where we only had a couple of months' income in a 24 month period. All of the money ran out and we were dependent on a (non-Christian) friend for housing (including utilities) and our families to provide for food and asundries.

During that time, especially during the last six months of it, the situation became excruciating as we moved out of the house we had been in and ran out of cash in our retirement accounts (yes, we made it sixteen of the 24 months before that happened, which in retrospect was amazing.)

At the time we moved out, I was particularly disappointed with the situation and complaining more than a little to God about it. The Holy Spirit offered me a thought: if I want people to pray for you, might I not put you into difficulty so that they will not be able to escape the need to do so?

I never was given an explanation of the antecedent to why the Holy Spirit would want people to pray for me. But I'm now far more sensitive to when other people are in trouble and hurting and far more willing to share my own needs in prayer time than I had been before. So I can sense the good in the situation even though it was indeed excruciating.

But regardless, I have this thought when I hear of those who end up in conflict, in trouble, and in difficulty when God's people pray for them: what a blessing it is for their names to be lifted up like fragrance before the Throne of Heaven. Can you imagine what it is like to hear your name spoken in the presence of God Almighty?

I can! And you Wade and Jerry Rankin can, too, in part because of this situation. But so can Paige Patterson, Jerry Corbaley, John Floyd, and Tom Hatley.

Because there were many of us praying that God would gently change the dynamics of this situation and lead all of those involved to understand his way, his timing, and his wisdom and to forego ALL personal agendas.

I would like to think the change in direction is precisely a result of God answering those prayers even though I think you and Ben deserve credit for shining a light on the personalities and helping us understand how to pray for the situation.

But no good would have come of it solely because people changed the human dynamics. I believe it has taken and will continue to take God's involvement to create the cleansing that we need in order to re-align with his will for our churches.

And I'll offer this exhortation: if God did so much with so little prayer--after all, how many of us remembered to pray daily?--imagine how much more he will do when we pray faithfully to him daily for the cooperative mission and education efforts of our Convention and its missionaries, educators, and administrative staffs!

Perhaps we should test God on this and see what he will do??

Greg Harvey

Steve said...

It looks like not all the Job-like experiences made it into the Scriptures!! I DO need to pray more for folks, GWH.

I am so glad that the worldly eperiment by worldly men seems to have run its course at the IMB. Perhaps some of the worthy missionary candidates can come back through the system if they haven't been turned against the SBC completely by the doings of men.

See, y'all just needed a couple more True Blue Mist Kentuckians on thet thar board and ev'e'then straightens out real nice't.

Tom Parker said...


There is no way for me to know the mind of Dr. York but I am really missing what was so historic about this meeting.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post of what everyone seems to feel is good news. I am glad things are peaceful on the IMB BOT.


Unknown said...


I trust your judgment in this matter… and if you say it is a good day for the IMB, then I am hopeful. Yet, I will remain “disenfranchised” until those policies that prevent my cooperation with the IMB are removed. I await that day with anticipation and great hope for the future of the IMB.

Grace Always, said...


You are correct.

I should have worded that phrase better.

My point was that a small church pastor in the rural part of Western Oklahoma has no business attempting to guide the word a Southern Baptist missionary should use for "God" in a metropolitan city of 4 million Arabic speaking Arabs, particularly when that small church pastor has never even been overseas and has no missions experience. said...

G. Alford,

Hang in there with me. We've lost Ben Cole, the Outpost, Marty Duren and others who have given up on the SBC. I respect them for their decisions, but if everybody did that there would be no hope.

Change is coming in the SBC, but it takes time and people like G. Alford and others not abandoning ship.

Wade said...


Good point.

I don't think Hershael considers it "historic" that there was a lack of animosity from trustees toward staff (that would be really sad if that is what he meant), but I think that Hershael is referring to impending changes on the IMB where 11 regions of the world will be reduced to 5 target areas - less top-down management and more field up service.

We'll see.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Wade. That's what I hoped you meant.

Anonymous said...

Wade - I'm curious as to your source about "5 target areas". I'm in Western Europe with the board and my understanding is that the 11 regions are being reduced to 8 global affinity groups.

Just curious.

Ray said...

Ray, it may be 8. I was told 5, but your number may be either a compromise number or the original number intended.

Either way, there is a reduction of regions.

Writer said...


"Men who pastor small churches in the sticks"?? Brother, I am disappointed that you would choose to villify pastors of small churches in an ad hominem statement.

This is exactly the type of attitude in the SBC that I am trying to overcome: Big churches are good and small churches are bad. I hope you can identify with my concern for anyone who would denigrate the majority of the SBC: small churches and their pastors.

I invite you to come to Sapulpa, OK on March 27-28, 2009 for one of our regional Small Church Leadership Conferences and speak to some of these "men who pastor small churches in the sticks". I think you find them to be humble, godly, and just as fervent in their faith as any large church pastor.


Bob Cleveland said...


I may just be getting really good at being an old curmudgeon, but right now what I see is a generous increase in verbiage. I hope your assessment is right, but for the time being, I'll just sit and observe.

Come to think of it, that's about all
I do anyway.... said...


I already said I could have used a better choice of words. As I have said to you before, it is not the first time, nor will it be the last time, that you will be disappointed in me. Thanks for the invitation to the Conference.



Cynthia Kunsman said...

Hallelujah for a step in the right direction. Every single step towards cooperation and unity is a great blessing. We should celebrate them all.

Anonymous said...

"I may just be getting really good at being an old curmudgeon, but right now what I see is a generous increase in verbiage. I hope your assessment is right, but for the time being, I'll just sit and observe."

Me too. I will wait on breaking out the non alcholic sparkling white grape juice for now.

SBTS is very much into hierarchies and viewing doctrine as club so I am not holding out hope this is really less micromanaging. It could just be some restructuring.

I also remember York's post a while back about their being less animosity at the IMB once Wade was gone..sorta blaming it all on him for not going along at the time. I hope all that is in the past and there really was a change of heart.


Anonymous said...

While they are few, if any, truly great boards of directors in the U.S.--and maybe none at all among Southern Baptists (anyone think of one?)--those which are probably would suggest that the IMB trustees have a LONG WAY TO GO before being considered to compose a very good board.

During the past few years, the IMB's well-meaning but inept trustee leaders (i.e., Hatley, Floyd, et al) essentially have sought to re-write the book on what constitutes good board leadership--but have become a laughing stock to other better boards looking on. As large a denomination as the SBC is, a person would think correctly that there MUST be among us at least a few more men and women who understand how board work is AND is NOT to be done properly.

The IMB leaders of late have functioned as if the task with which the convention charged them is "rocket science"--it certainly is one requiring a high degree of true spirituality (not fake spirituality, which proves false when examined more closely), but otherwise is not at all rocket science.

Again, more and better board training done among us before any SBCers are nominated for board work.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Very true conflict is not always bad as long as the dialogue is open and both sides are open to understand the other's position. For example in regards to women instructing men which can also be supported by research in developmental psychology in the formative stages (meaning modeling for fine motor skill development). A close mentoring relationship would be required which is the greek word used in the type of teaching that Paul states to Timothy. Does this mean that a woman can't do a lecture or convey instructions on her expertise? Not at all. Why can't there be recognition on where both sides have a point and modify the position from there. I tend to think it is because the element of mentoring is missing from modern discipleship. We need more George Muellers types.

Anonymous said...

To Lydia who wrote:
"I also remember York's post a while back about there being less animosity at the IMB once Wade was gone, sort of blaming it all on him for not going along at the time."

Wow! Do you think that York actually thought that if Wade had gone along with all the shenanigans and ill-treatment of God's chosen missionaries, that somehow the nonsense would have been more acceptable? York should not be so concerned about people having animosity toward the board. I was sort of thinking that York would be more worried about the reaction of the Higher Power who called those good missionaries to their service.

I do not know Wade, but, as a concerned outsider, it appears that he has been trying to do the right thing, as he was given to discern it, without fear of personal consequences.

It is that kind of strength that the "misguided" trustees should recognize and honor.

It is that kind of strength is inspired and inspiring.