A blogging trustee of the Southern Baptist Convention International Mission Board said Wednesday that after meeting at length with the board’s chairman and vice chairman he is now confident “wisdom will prevail,” and a motion requesting his removal as a trustee will be withdrawn.
IMB trustees voted Jan. 10 to ask the Southern Baptist Convention to remove Oklahoma trustee Wade Burleson, claiming he broke trust by criticizing a board vote tightening doctrinal requirements for missionary appointees in a Web log.
Supporters rallied around Burleson, pastor of EmmanuelBaptistChurch in Enid and past president of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, setting up an anticipated showdown between factions he labeled “crusading” and “cooperating” conservatives when the SBC meets this summer in Greensboro, N.C.
On Wednesay, however, Burleson blogged that he believes “wisdom will prevail in the recommendation for my removal as a trustee of the IMB.”
“I have spoken at length with trustee Chairman Tom Hatley and trustee Vice-Chairman Lonnie Wascom,” Burleson said. “Both these men were personally gracious and listened to my concerns, as I theirs.”
“All of us desire what is best for the Southern Baptist Convention,” Burleson said. “All of us desire for our respected President Jerry Rankin to feel our support. All of us desire for people to realize that our missionaries are the heroes of the SBC, and we do not want to do anything to harm our ever-growing work.”
Burleson opposed policy changes last November to disqualify missionaries who practice a “prayer language,” or speak in tongues in private, and requiring baptism in a church that practices only “believer’s baptism” by immersion.
Burleson also criticized caucusing by trustees with a political agenda of embarrassing and eventually removing Jerry Rankin as president of the IMB. After the vote to remove him, he wrote that it suggests there is no place for principled dissent within Southern Baptist life.
Burleson said the last few weeks have been a “difficult time” but could in the end become “one of our convention’s finest hours.”
“I believe wisdom will prevail, and the recommendation for my removal will ultimately be rescinded,” Burleson wrote.
A fellow IMB trustee, meanwhile, said he believes Burleson was wrong to air his opinions over the Internet.
“We run enormous risk in society if we begin using blogs to shape policy,” John Schaefer, a trustee from Marietta, Ga., told the Georgia Baptist newspaper The Christian Index. “There is great potential to destroy an organized, orderly process for governance, regardless if you are serving in the secular or denominational world,” Schaefer said.
Burleson responded that, “I don’t know what board John has served on in the secular world, but I am sure that the investors in companies like Enron and WorldCom would have appreciated knowing about certain policies and practices before both went bankrupt.”
“The IMB is not comparable in circumstances to those two secular companies, but the principle is the same,” Burleson said. “A trustee has a larger obligation than to simply be loyal to fellow trustees by doing what they expect him to do.”
Burleson denied that he ever broke confidentiality and that he would apologize to anyone who feels his blog is the cause of division.
“I feel as a trustee I am ultimately accountable to the convention for my service,” he said. “Once the board passed these new policies, the proper procedure for a trustee in the minority position is to take his dissent to the convention at large.”
Burleson said the IMB’s attorney wrote an opinion stating that it is not against board policy for a trustee to voice dissent unless it violates confidentiality, intentionally deceives or seeks to harm the organization.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
Previous related stories:
Trustee’s Supporters Predict Showdown in Greensboro
Baptist Bloggers and Democracy
Baptist Roots Run Deep for Controversial IMB Trustee
IMB Recommends Removal of Trustee
IMB Trustee Denies Slander, Gossip Charges