Monday, June 11, 2012

7 Years: The Seed of the Weed Has Bloomed in the SBC

It was in the fall of 2005, nearly seven years ago, that the trustees of the International Mission Board established a doctrinal policy that exceeded the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message and excluded otherwise qualified Southern Baptists from serving on the mission field. I had been elected by the Southern Baptist Convention to serve as a trustee of the IMB the previous summer, and after my fellow trustees set up their new doctrinal standard without convention approval, I was faced with a difficult decision. I could either resign in protest over what I called at the time "the narrowing of the doctrinal parameters of Southern Baptist missions cooperation," or I could remain a trustee of the International Mission Board and begin a blog to make Southern Baptists aware of what was taking place at their cooperative Southern Baptist missions organization. I chose the latter.

Ironically, the two new doctrinal policies at the IMB did not affect me personally. I have never had a "private prayer language," nor have I ever seen the need for one. Also, I was baptized "in a Southern Baptist church." I would qualify as a missionary under the two new doctrinal policies. However, I felt strongly that to exclude other Southern Baptists from the mission field over how they pray in private, especially when the 2000 BFM is silent on the matter, was an act that went beyond the appropriate authority of IMB trustees. Also, for the IMB trustees to adopt a definition of a "proper" baptism that places qualifications on the baptizer and the "church" where the baptism takes place, is historically a Landmark doctrine and practice and not a Southern Baptist doctrine. Something had to be done to correct the error of the IMB trustee board. That error was not so much IMB trustee leadership personally holding to cessationism or Landmark ecclesiology; rather, their error was demanding ALL Southern Baptists believe like them by passing doctrinal policies that excludes from missionary serve those who disagree with them. Only the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in session has the ability to change the doctrinal standard of cooperation.

SBC trustees were never called to be the doctrinal watchdogs of the Southern Baptist Convention. Nor do they have the authority to establish a doctrinal basis for our coooperation as Southern Baptist churches, especially by implementing doctrinal demands that go beyond the 2000 BFM. The Southern Baptist Convention, through adopting the infamous Garner Motion, is in agreement with me. One day (possibly very soon), Danny Akin and Al Mohler may actually see the light on the Garner Motion and thank those responsible for its passage.

Seven Years Ago Was the Seed of the Weed

I have often been asked why I drew a line in the sand over the "private prayer language" and "baptism" policies. Most Southern Baptists have very little patience with what they believe to be a charismatic practice (praying in tongues in private), and even more Southern Baptists have little understanding of the dangers of Landmarkism. "Why", I was asked, "do you draw a line in the sand over these particular issues?"  IMB trustee leadership was furious over my public opposition, particularly since hundreds of Southern Baptists were reading my blog and writing trustees and asking "What are you doing?" In order to avert attention from the real issues we faced, trustee leaders sought to make me the issue. This led them to attempt very poorly thought out actions against me, including a motion for my removal from the board (later rescinded), the adoption of a new policy that demands that all IMB trustees (and I quote) "publicly support board approved policies that they cannot privately support." This latter policy, in my opinion, is the most absurd policy ever passed by a Southern Baptist agency in the history of our Convention. I, of course, voted against it, and continued my written opposition to the IMB doctrinal standard that exceeded the BFM. Why would I be willing to go through such an attack against me personally? Why would I put my family, my church, and my ministry in the line of fire?

Because of what I saw coming.

I told a few people privately, and I told them seven years ago, that if people didn't start drawing a line in the sand over attempts to narrow and constrict the doctrinal parameters of Southern Baptist cooperation, then we would eventually get to the place that Calvinists would be told they are no longer welcome in the SBC. Then, we would come to the place that those Southern Baptists who are not dispensational in their eschatology would be told they are not welcome. The only Southern Baptists that would eventually be left are those who would believe just exactly like those small, independent, separatist Landmark Southern Baptist churches and those who lead them. I remember what Jerry Falwell said when he joined the SBC, an act that drew heavy criticism from his fellow separatist, Landmark Baptist brothers - "I haven't changed, the SBC has changed."

Today, Jerry Vines has written an article on his blog entitled It Is Time to Discuss ALL of the Elephant in the Room.

I don't like it when people say "I told you so," so I'll close this blog post by saying I am increasingly uninterested in a convention that repeatedly defines its existence by what it is against than what it is for. I don't particularly like self-acknowledged Calvinists, and my theology is about as anti-John Calvin as any theology can get -- however, I despise a convention fretting over doctrinal conformity to the neglect of mission urgency. I'm coming to New Orleans with video camera and microphone in hand in order to help de-weed the garden.


Anonymous said...

I find it very ironic that Vines says that it is time to discuss the Elephant in the room but yet comments are closed at his blog site.

Garen Martens said...

Go Wade! I wondered why you were taking Logan along to N.O. This should be interesting.

Paul Burleson said...


Turn ALL video and mic responsibilities over to Logan. He's a GENIUS at the craft. Then, Wade, give us your critique of all the proceedings. With you AND Logan doing your individual thing, we'll ALL be able to experience the Convention in this new era way of "being there."


Anonymous said...


There will be an immediate ruling saying you can not tape any proceedings

Grace again
Rom 5:1

Alan Cross said...

Things do seem to be coming to a head on both sides. As Calvinists gain more power, they are choosing those like them who preach the "true gospel" to fill positions. The "traditionalists" see this and are upset because they thought that they were the only ones who could do this. So, they draw up a doctrinal statement that articulates their views and the Calvinists are upset because they thought that they were the only ones who could do this (I am being a bit facetious, but you get my point). The whole thing is absurd as both sides do the same thing and are upset with the other for doing what they themselves are doing (or would do, if they could).

It seeems that this is less about theology than it is about power for one camp or another. As neither a Calvinist nor a newly minted "Traditionalist," I appear to be a man without a country in the Soteriology Wars - a place that I find exceedingly familiar in Baptist life.

I too, will be in New Orleans, Wade. Most everyone from the old blogging days will be there. It will be quite the reunion. I'll be looking for you with your camera and I am bringing a resolution of my own that actually relates to the gospel and ministry and impacting our communities - what the GCR was supposed to be about. Why aren't we talking about the GCR anymore? That could have been a good conversation if we would have stuck with it for more than a year or two.

Wade Burleson said...

Anonymous 9:37

Apparantly, you can only discuss an Elephant in the room one person does all the dissing and cussing.


Wade Burleson said...

Garen and Paul,

It should be interesting!


That's funny.

Anonymous said...

When my nephew was really small, my sister was trying like the dickens to stop him from picking his nose. She tried everything. All the logic failed. All the little tricks (like hot pepper sauce on his finger tips) failed. He would not stop picking and grinning.
Finally, one day he told the truth after yet another argument with his mother over the issue. He looked at her said, "But I like boogers."
That is nasty, I know. But I share it because I am drawn to your comment about our convention pushing for "doctrinal conformity" over "mission urgency." The point is - we like doctrinal conformity; we like for folks to think like we think. Plus, it is easier to fight for doctrinal conformity than it is to be missionally urgent. Like easier to write about the "true" Gospel than to share it with a lost person.
I too am increasingly frustrated with a Convention that prefers to stand and around and pick their noses instead of concentrating on the task left to us by Christ Jesus. -- Heath Lloyd

Bob Cleveland said...

I too shall be there, sitting close to a microphone. It's not time to say "I told you so" yet, but if things don't take a U-turn, and pretty quickly, it will be, next year.

And I don't mind saying it.

Aussie John said...


It would be out of order for me to comment on the situation you outline, but, past experience as a Baptist in this country tells me that if it wasn't the present issue it would be something else.

Whilst ever Baptists allow hierachical local, or denominational leadership to rise and flourish these unedifying battles will be perpetual.

It seems to me that Baptists have forgotten whom they claim to be.

Debbie Kaufman said...

I am going to be accused of hero worship here but frankly I don't care. You are a beloved hero by so many of us at the church you pastor because not only do you take stands that cost you dearly, but you allow us to take stands as God leads too. In fact allow isn't the right word. You encourage and stand with us as well.

Logan and your children will be second generation who will then teach their children, as so many of us have taught our children to stand against injustice, prejudices and wrong and that is the strength of the church. Hopefully someday our Convention will follow suit or be just a history lesson as it will be no more.

Thank you not only for your example but for you, Paul, Mary, Rachelle, encouraging us as a body of Christ to say and go where God leads, never implying or telling us as laypeople that we are not being led by the Spirit. It has made all the difference in so many of us who look to scripture and prayer for our leading.

Debbie Kaufman said...

As a addition, Alan and Bob Cleveland are also long standing heroes of mine. Thank you for your message as well.

Unknown said...

You make wonderful points, I only have slight difference on the final path. I believe all that will be left of the SBC is a much smaller group led by Mohler's seminary graduates. All the rest will become part of the non-denominational world.

Wade Burleson said...


Your words are deeply appreciated, but not nearly as much as your person is appreciated by my family and me. Thanks for your friendship.

Wade Burleson said...

Alan Krell,

I hope not.

Anonymous said...

I wish you and Logan much luck!

Random thought...Seven years....I find it interesting that it took seven years for this to develop. Seven always seems to be the key number, seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine in Joseph's time. And for those of us like myself who believe, seven years of tribulation after the Rapture to come.


Jim said...

This did not begin 7 years ago. It began more than 30 years ago when the fundamentalists invented a "Bible war" to rally mostly ignorant Southern Baptists to their cause. I was there in Houston when Adrian Rogers was elected President of the Convention an the slide toward intollerance began. Where were all of you hand-wringers then. Oh yes, you were children...some not yet born. The SBC was once a beautiful expression of conservative American Christianity. No liberals, as accused, just degrees on the conservative spectrum. Now it is an embarassing collection of intollerant Pharisees. Good luck, Wade, I wish you well. No one cares; they want to maintain the safety of the status quo. The SBC is a part of the past. A shining example of illerevancy and spiritual decay.

Anonymous said...

Im sorry that Im not as "old" as you are, Jim. Was commenting in Pastor Wades usage of the mention of "seven"


Wanda (Deb) Martin said...

"I'm coming to New Orleans with video camera and microphone in hand in order to help de-weed the garden." Wade


We'll do our best over at The Wartburg Watch to highlight the de-weeding process.

I'll be "watching" the proceedings, just as I did last year.

Matt said...

"I am increasingly uninterested in a convention that repeatedly defines its existence by what it is against than what it is for."

So what advice would you give a young Baptist pastor that lacks the loyalty that so many years of cooperation and service with the SBC have engendered in you and others your age?

If you are "increasingly frustrated," I am apathetic and disgusted.

As The Clash so famously asked in the 70's: "Should I stay or should I go?"

Aussie John said...


I can't but think about G.K. Chesterton's words:

"A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it".

Wade Burleson said...


Tough question.

I would historically say, "Hold the course." Don't know that I would say that to a young pastor today.

Off The Cuff said...


You obviously believe that there is hope for the SBC, otherwise you would not be attending. Am I correct?
What needs to happen at this year's convention?
Is it likely to happen?

Wade Burleson said...

Off the Cuff,

You are correct about my belief in the SBC. I have deep roots.

I have seen the power of cooperative missions. I have friends in the SBC all over the United States. There are some outstanding churches in the SBC.

What needs to happen? In my mind, a few things:

(1). First, we think far too highly of ourselves. A little humility and self-deprecation is needed. Humor has a way of bringing this about. I hope my video reporting will be as humorous as we intend.

(2). Second, we need to identify the REAL problem in the SBC and continue to work toward a solution. Here's the REAL problem. Some want EVERYBODY to be the same. IF THE SBC WERE INTENDED FOR EVERBODY TO BE IN CONFORMITY ON EVERY DOCTRINE we would be participating in the Conformity Program instead of the Cooperative Program. You can only cooperate when there are differences and Landmark, Independent, Cessationist, Prohibitionist, Moralistic Fundamentalists want everybody to look like them. That's the real problem. You keep the heat on those guys.

(3). You never be afraid to let the SBC know where there a problems. Too many pastors are more concerned about their careers than truth. I heard of one pastor who accepted (and then rejected) a call to a particular church "because I can't see myself at that church forever." What? I ask, "What does that have to do with your calling? Is that not a concern about your career." Anyway, when pastors are more interested in strengthening the function and mission of our convention than they are about their next election, we will progress.

We'll see what happens. I'm looking forward to it.

brad/futuristguy said...

I do have a very small amount of hope left for the survival of a *cooperative* focused SBC, which is where I have spent most of my church life over the past 35 years.

However, that hope has dribbled away at a far faster pace the past 10 years as multiple groups with conformity mentalities work ever harder at their take-over games. So, if I used to consider a church's relationship with the SBC as a general recommendation, it is now an almost automatic red flag signalling extreme caution (if not immediate avoidance).

That's sad, but then again, we are in the midst of a global paradigm shift AND generational leadership shifts. I don't expect ANY macro-organization to survive that doesn't get past it's narcissistic, bound-set, old-guard mentality.

Actually, maybe all the factionalism is for the best. Let the quarrelers and the compliance mongers have all the organizational assets they seem so bound and determined to control, and maybe then those who truly want cooperation can leave, reconnect, and move forward.

Anonymous said...


You said:"Actually, maybe all the factionalism is for the best. Let the quarrelers and the compliance mongers have all the organizational assets they seem so bound and determined to control, and maybe then those who truly want cooperation can leave, reconnect, and move forward."

They have the assets which they contributed very little toward and put all there focus on control which results in fighting among themselves all of the time.

Maybe there needs to be a mass exodus of us that support them and then they can support themselves.

Tony said...

I totally agree with the point you made but I thought you were a "self-described Calvinist." Self dislike here? :)

James the Calvinist said...

Wade, why would you say that you do not like self-acknowledged Calvinists?

Also, what's your beef with John Calvin?

If you're really as anti-John Calvin as you can get, why didn't you sign that recent statement then?

James said...

Jerry Vines allowed David Hyles to be a member of FBC JAX.

Wade Burleson said...


I don't like Calvin's ecclessiology, church/state blending, infant baptism, allowing Servitus' death, etc...

I also don't like any title for a believer that puts him behind a man.


Anonymous said...

"To deny the strong influence of New Calvinism at Southern or Southeastern is to try to hide the Elephant. I sent a number of young people to both seminaries. Some, not all, returned with unkind, critical attitudes toward their childhood pastor."
-Jerry Vines

Young people returning from Seminary as adults who no longer worship their pastor is a thing to be celebrated not scorned.

James the Calvinist said...

I understand. :)

Anonymous said...

As a missions pastor I love this " I despise a convention fretting over doctrinal conformity to the neglect of mission urgency"

If there is a real concern over the lost then let's have the "traditionalist" and us of the DoG persuasion join hands and seek to reach the 6000+ people groups without the gospel. Conformity and Control will only divide us.

Anonymous said...

“I don't like it when people say "I told you so," so I'll close this blog post by saying I am increasingly uninterested in a convention that repeatedly defines its existence by what it is against than what it is for. I don't particularly like self-acknowledged Calvinists, and my theology is about as anti-John Calvin as any theology can get -- however, I despise a convention fretting over doctrinal conformity to the neglect of mission urgency. I'm coming to New Orleans with video camera and microphone in hand in order to help de-weed the garden.”

Wow! Where did THAT spirit come from?

Wade, after reading Hankins' full statement, “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” and Mohler’s, Vine’s and Akin’s responses it seems to me that Hankins and Vines are expressing their positions and what they support as do Mohler and Akin in theirs. The Convention has always been full of those with diverse and varied positions and at this point it appears that all involved, other than you, are encouraging continued dialogue and understanding rather than simply “defining its existence by what it is against”.

It is healthy to have this dialogue especially in order for us to understand the positions of others. What I am already discovering as a result of this dialogue is how much we Southern Baptists have in common and that those Southern Baptists that I have previously identified as “Calvinists” are not some monsters with two heads!

Just because Hankins and others have expressed a view in contrast to that of those leaning toward a more Calvinist approach doesn’t mean they are mounting a campaign for “doctrinal conformity” especially to the “neglect of mission urgency.” Plus, after just receiving the report that
2011’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering exceeded the previous year’s by $1 million it seems that the united commitment and passion for reaching the world for Christ has never been stronger among all Southern Baptists.

I particularly was impressed by the point made in Mohler’s response as to how good it is that Southern Baptists are focused on dialogue relative to salvation and the work of Jesus Christ due to their having already dealt decisively with issues like homosexuality, abortion and the inerrancy of the Word in contrast to so many other denominations. Contrary to what seems to be your position, Mohler welcomes the discussion and points out how healthy and focused our Convention actually is in doing so.

With this in mind I am puzzled as to the attitude expressed in your statement above which seems to portray someone with an agenda to accentuate fears and suspicions which as of now have yet to be proven to be a valid concern and reality. Mohler’s view seems to express one who is not threatened by those who are articulating a view different than his and that he has enough confidence and trust to allow it.

I am disappointed that you are not assuming the role similar to Mohler and Akin of attempting to inform and educate those of us in the Convention who have obviously misinterpreted much of what has been assigned to the “New Calvinist Movement”. As I learn more I fear less. Their approach will have the result of contributing to the unity of our Convention rather than fanning flames of divisiveness.

I’m praying that your approach of “coming to New Orleans with video camera and microphone in hand in order to help de-weed the garden.” will be one of a small minority so as to minimize the hostility and divisiveness.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the memories. I remember well all the attacks you went through beginning 7 years ago. Thank you for speaking out on these issues as well as the later efforts by some trustees to label our missionaries as liberals and heretics. All our IMB missionaries owe you a debt of gratitude.

My personal belief is that these two issues had nothing to do with theology. The private prayer language issue was brought up by a group of trustee leaders to try and embarrass Jerry Rankin because of his past statements that he had a private prayer language. I am not sure why they threw in the baptism requirement since it is not scriptural or included in the BF%M. Probably it had to do with their landmark tendencies.

As I have said before, little done in the name of the conservative resurgence had anything to do with theology. It was driven by ego and desire for power.

I am thankful that I did not experience a theologically conservative resurgence in any Baptist entity I was associated with. My church, association, state convention, Baptist college, Baptist seminary and the IMB where I was employed were already as conservative theologically, if not more so, before the Pressler-Patterson led political resurgence than they are today.

If the leaders do not fight or divide over Calvinism it will be something else. They have to fight to justify their existance.

Wade I enjoyed lunch with Stacy and your in-laws in Texas last week. Hope we can visit again some time. Wish I could be at the convention next week but I will miss it. If you are passing through western Arkansas, any time soon let me know.

Ron West

Anonymous said...


I appreciate your concerns, but for me they beg a historical question. In terms of undermining cooperation and urgency in mission, how do you see the current attempt to define denominational allegiance/identity narrowly through soteriology any different from the previous generation's battle over the Bible? Looks strikingly similar and similarly lamentable from where I sit now in Cooperative Baptist life. The quest for doctrinal purity (as opposed to a generous orthodoxy vis-a-vis the Great Tradition of the church or, what C.S. Lewis called, "mere" Christianity) seems to create a never ending cycle of schism that always undermines mission. It certainly runs counter to the prayer of Jesus for Christians to model the unity of the Godhead, so "that the world might know" (John 17). As a Baptist college student in the early 90s, I recall the leaders of the Conservative Resurgence promised that the CR would reinvigorate Southern Baptist missions and evangelism. What's being promised this time? Reminds me of the saying, "fool me once...."

Steven Porter

Bryan Riley said...

The best day will be when we all just claim Christ and preach the gospel of the Kingdom he preached.

Anonymous said...


You didn’t ask my counsel regarding your decision to “stay or go” with the SBC. But I thought I would risk offering one perspective from someone that you don’t know but who was drawn to your quest for where to serve.

I believe that if you hold to the literal teachings of Scripture, have a passion for reaching the world for Christ, are determined to fight against the temptation to be swayed by the winds of the world’s ever-changing standards of morality, and hold to Jesus Christ as being God Almighty-incarnate and the one and only way to have a redeemed relationship with our Creator-God, you should STAY!

Southern Baptists ARE human and we all fail to succeed over our carnal nature 100% of the time. But I believe that the Southern Baptist Convention and its churches have more “savor” left in its salt than any other Christian organization. The seminaries are not all that they could be but I can tell you from my personal experience in attending as a student almost 30 years ago, they are MUCH closer, in my opinion, and on track to teaching the Word of God as it is written and intended to be experienced than it was back then.

After serving with the FMB/IMB for more than 2 decades I can assure you that there is still no other mission-sending organization that comes close to being as efficient, committed to obeying our Lord’s commandment to “go” or training and leading its missionaries to live out the Word faithfully than today’s IMB. We are seeing more souls won into the Kingdom and national churches strengthened and unengaged people groups being acknowledged and reached than we ever have before. This is largely due to the DNA of the Southern Baptist Convention and its very heartbeat.

As is the case with our imperfect churches, if we run every time we encounter a scrap we contribute nothing and miss the opportunity to be used by God to contribute to its growth and maturing. The same applies with our Convention. You have much more to work with in the SBC today than you will find if you flee seeking some “perfect” haven with other church organizations or becoming independent.

I am not speaking from a blind-loyal allegiance to the SBC due to being a part of it for years. I too have considered exiting during the past tumultuous years when the fighting for control was at its most intense. I have a lot of friends who DID leave but I’m glad that I did not follow their path. I quite often disagree with things going on within the SBC but I’m glad that I stayed and believe that this Convention has greatly attributed to my better serving God in the way I believe He would want me to serve Him.

So, if you’re of the mindset mentioned earlier, stay and join in contributing to making the SBC all that it can be to God’s glory. Don’t be discouraged and DON’T be overly-influenced by negative blogs, sensationalism and paranoid ravings that you may pass along the way.

A friend

Christiane said...

I hope that you and Logan can record some of the proceedings and share them with everyone.

I always hope for healing in the SBC, as I know that there are still people like yourself, and your good family, and Debbie, and Alan Cross, and Bob Cleveland,
and so very many others.

You have always done what you thought was right, even when it didn't turn out as well as it might have . . . that tells me that you and many others have followed the Way of hope that Our Lord gave us, which does not include discouragement.

You have my prayers for your safe journey and for your efforts.
This quote will be meaningful to you, I think:

"“Hope is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart;
it transcends the world that is immediately experienced,
and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons

. . . It is not the conviction that something will turn out well,
but the certainty that something makes sense,
regardless of how it turns out.”
(Vaclav Havel)

God bless your journey.

Pege' said...

Wade, me thinks all you will have in the end is a DVD called "WEEDS". The tares grow with the good wheat and God exposes and separates them when they are exposed. I support you my friend. Maybe prayer would be a better "WEED EATER"?