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[ # ] Latest Baptist Controversy: You Aren’t Heroes
January 13th, 2006 under Baptists, Christian Crap, Christianity, Politics, Walking Like Jesus

I’ve been silent concerning the recent controversy about the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention. I’ve stayed out of the mix primarily because I wanted to wait it out and see how it played out. It’s not over yet, but here’s my take so far. Let me begin with a brief description of the controversy. (Many SBC bloggers have spoken out about this issue. See Marty Duren’s blog and the Missional Baptist blog.)

On Nov. 15th, 2005 the IMB trustees adopted two new policies that would exclude persons from serving as missionaries. Anyone who engages in a “private prayer language” would be excluded from service. Additionally, if missionaries have been baptized by immersion in another denomination or non-denominational church, “it must be viewed as symbolic rather than sacramental or regenerative. Also, the church or denomination in which the baptism took place must adhere to the doctrine of the “security of the believer,” or the belief that one cannot lose one’s salvation.”

Many Baptists have viewed the first policy to be a direct attack on Jerry Rankin, the IMB’s president, because he has openly admitted to the practice of having a “private prayer language.” Several of the SBC leaders I have spoken with see this not as a doctrinal issue, but a political jab at Rankin. Three of the leaders I have discussed this issue with have claimed that the IMB trustees from Texas, under the direction of Paige Patterson, have led the charge because Patterson does not approve of Rankin being the IMB president. (For Patterson’s role in SBC life read this.)

Baptists also disagree with the second policy because it is “unbiblical” and seems to be too closely aligned with “Landmarkism,” a belief that “a “Baptist succession” may be traced from John the Baptist to modern Baptist churches in which believer’s baptism and Landmark principles have prevailed.”

Most recently, the IMB trustees have called for the removal of Wade Burleson, an IMB trustee from Oklahoma. His blog outlines his experience as an IMB trustee. Burleson seems to be a very humble, honest, and loving person. Unfortunately, his open opposition to these two policies have landed him in a “heap of trouble.” Southern Baptist bloggers have come to his defense and are organizing to oppose his ousting from the board. Their support is admirable and I hope they are successful.

But, a moderate Baptist leader recently asked a pointed question regarding this matter. Dr. Bruce Prescott, Executive Director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, and President of the Oklahoma Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State pointed out that the Baptists who are displaying their commitment to the SBC and the IMB missionaries were noticeably silent during an IMB “controversy” several years ago. In 2000, Southern Baptist missionaries were forced to sign the newly revamped Baptist Faith & Message (BF & M) or resign as missionaries. The BF & M has served as a guide for Southern Baptist agencies for years, but additions to the 2000 version excluded many (including me) Baptists from serving in SB agencies because of its narrowing scope. Many of us were devastated by the fact that our friends who had served faithfully for years were removed from their places of service and lost their “jobs.”

So, even though the attempts to thwart the IMB trustees from removing Burleson are admirable and warranted, this recent activity is not really a sign of hope for me and others who have been labeled and hurt by Southern Baptists.

Matthew 5:43-48″You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Burleson has argued that the current problems within the SBC are due to persons arguing over interpretation of scripture rather than arguing over the nature of scripture. OH REALLY?! DUH! It’s always been about that! Now, many of my Baptists brothers and sisters are experiencing what I and many others have been experiencing for years. It sucks doesn’t it? I wish you had been there for us. Wouldn’t that have been the Christian thing to do? Believe me, I’m not gloating. Welcome to my world! I’ll gladly welcome you and tell you that it’s a bit lonely here, but we’ll be OK. Trust me. I love you and so does God. The really frustrating part is that God loves them too. The best part, you can be yourself in front of me and I’ll still love you. You don’t need to be afraid any more.


Read the Comments

[ # 230 ] Comment from tomcottar [January 13, 2006, 10:21 pm]

Howie,
[murmuring something about a hammer...and a nail being hit on the head...]

Yup. Our frustration (yours, mine, and many others) is that, once again, POLITICS are
masquerading as HOLINESS. And it’s got the stench of pride and death on it.
Many of us have been hurt by the SBC machine, and have just decided to follow Jesus instead of getting our member’s club card punched.
Exclusion from service because of a private prayer language is crap..um, I mean, anti-scriptural.
And the baptism issue…’it should be seen as symbolic, not as regenerative’….um,..duh.
It’s symbolism over substance. The biggest problem I have with the conservative resurgence (although I consider myself conservative) is that the war on percieved liberalism is like the war on terrorism: it *has* to have an enemy. And as predicted, it has turned on itself in order to keep the drum beating…

Does Paige want an IMB position? Or does he just have a grudge against Wade?

[ # 231 ] Comment from howie [January 13, 2006, 10:33 pm]

As far as I know, Paige has a real problem with Rankin. I’m not really sure why.

[ # 232 ] Comment from Kevin [January 13, 2006, 10:38 pm]

Howie,

Bruce Prescott may have a point is some ways. I admit I’ve been silent in the past. I think it is because most of us younger SBC pastors are tired of politics and just stayed out. I was angry when I was @ Southwestern and they fired Dr. Dilday. I told myself I would just build a church and stay out of politics. But this is a kick in the butt for a lot of us. We feel like the SBC leaders don’t give a rip about us. I’m tired of it but instead of running we are going to Greensboro and make our voices heard. BTW- I wrote about this on my site.

[ # 233 ] Comment from Christie [January 13, 2006, 11:33 pm]

You have great insights into the controversy both now and previously. I pray that God will be glorified through it all.

[ # 234 ] Comment from micah [January 14, 2006, 12:03 am]

howie- i sincerely appreciate your feelings regarding the newest problem with the imb trustees. i disagree, however, that this argument is the same as that which has been dealt with over the past 30 years between many of the moderates in the convention and the so-called conservative/fundamentalist group. i was an imb missionary and i dealt with many friends who were part of the 2000 bf&m controversy. i also lived in virginia when the state convention split in two and i now live in missouri where the same thing has happened. i’ve sat down many times with paige patterson, bailey smith and the like and i can assure you there are fundamental differences between the controversies. the previous arguments did not primarily deal with differences over biblical interpretation, they dealt mostly with differences in biblical importance. in all other cases, as well, if there were differences of opinion there was scriptural support to validate the differences. in this case their is literally no biblical support to sanction the actions of the trustee board.

no offense, but you come across as one who is almost gloating that someone else is feeling the anger of some leaders in the convention since you’ve been wronged in your past. i don’t know about the others in this disagreement but i can promise you that i don’t feel a kinship with moderates simply because we’ve all been wronged. i have a kinship with moderates, and fundamentalists, because we all share a relationship with Christ and for that i’m thankful.

[ # 235 ] Comment from howie [January 14, 2006, 12:22 am]

Micah,
I’m really not gloating. I think that Burleson is a very brave and admirable guy. I applaud what he has done. I pray for him and his family. However, I must respectfully disagree with your view of how moderates view scripture. Sure, some do pick and chose what they want to believe (all of us do if we’re completely honest), but the profs I had who were forced out or “retired” loved scripture as much as I do. That’s why I sometimes am not too gracious with fundamentalists.

The conservatives that did doctoral work with me would also agree with me. The problem is that the fundamentalists scared the heck out of folks by claiming that those to the left of them “didn’t believe the Bible.” That’s simply not true.

I will admit that some of my profs were way “left” of most of the Baptists that I knew, but they did believe the Bible. I’ll also admit that there are a lot of former Southern Baptists who are gloating right now. There’s no room in my book for that attitude.

My point is that Burleson is being seen as some martyr or hero by some. One of my heroes, Jesus of Nazareth not only stood up against Pharisees, but also stood with and was a friend to sinners (I’m sure Wade does this too). If you really are bold, stand with someone you don’t agree with. Another of my heroes, Will Campbell was active in the civil rights movement. However, he also is a friend to racists. I think that’s pretty cool. He thinks that racists are loved by God too. So he must be a friend to them.

Hope this clears things up.

[ # 236 ] Comment from Gil [January 14, 2006, 12:22 am]

We were talking about this very issue in both my Church History and God and the New York Times classes (I am a student at the Divinity School at Wake Forest University) yesterday. The opinion among the professors was that while the SBC was concerned about getting rid of anyone who wasn’t as fundamentalist as they were, the charasmatics have come in through the back door, and that they may be the next target of SBC leadership. One of the professors had a great line about it, he said that the IMB was basically saying “You can get the holy spirit, you just can’t talk to him.”

It should be obvious to everyone that the leadership of the SBC is stuck in a “culture of persecution.” The previous target was anyone slightly to the left of the far right, and after the long battle, the leadership doesn’t know anything except battle, so they have to find a new target.

I hope that Kevin’s comments reflect the opinions of more SBC pastors, and that they are going to start doing something, but I am afraid it is too late. I think his attitude that it was “just politics” was the same as many others’. Honestly, I think that was a cop-out. Firing Dr. Dilday was not just politics. Firing missionaries was not just politics. Running professors out of the seminaries was not just politics. Is it “just politics” only if it doesn’t affect you? Good luck at Greensboro. You will probably just have the microphone turned off on you, be heckled by the crowd, in short the same thing will happen to you that happened to those who opposed the SBC leadership in the 1980’s. You didn’t fight then, and you allowed a precedent to be set. You’re right, they don’t give a rip about you. So, what makes you think they care what you have to say? They know how to deal with opposition like you. Unfortunately, many of those who might have helped you are gone now.

While the above paragraph may seem a little bit harsh, you have understand the huge sense of frustration many of us whose loved ones have been affected by the “politics” of the SBC feel. I was too young to be personally affected during the takeover, but I have mentors and friends who were. And I saw a church I loved permanently changed, and members and staff run off by a Pastor who was follwing the SBC line.

But, the SBC and those who are looking to turn the tide will be in my prayers.

[ # 237 ] Comment from Jon L. Estes [January 14, 2006, 12:28 am]

I’d be careful pointing fingers at people without first-hand information. I speak of the accusation you make towards Paige Patterson. I would agree he is an easy target to throw fault at due to his involvement in the SBC takeover. Many things can be directly linked to him but not all things. Knowing Dr. Patterson I would believe if he wanted Dr. Rankin removed he would speak directly to this and no one would need second or third hand sources.

Again, I believe you want to present the truth but the willingness to name Patterson but not the people who name him does not make you look fair.

Thank you for your article.

[ # 238 ] Comment from Kevin [January 14, 2006, 1:43 am]

This is not a time to point fingers at anyone. What happened in the past can’t be undone. But we can make the SBC a viable entity again. I’m tired of being known for hating Mickey Mouse and being against everything. I want to be part of a movement that follows Jesus. Jesus was about “LOVE” not being right! This whole junk makes me sick. The problem is most of the Mega church leaders in the SBC don’t give that much to IMB, NAMB or the Cooperative Program anyway. I’ll bet my church gives more than most do. I just got here so I’m not gloating. They have been a missions giving church for years. It’s time we made people accountable to us. Trustee is from the word trust. I don’t trust IMB’s trustees or the ones at Southwestern.

[ # 239 ] Comment from Dino [January 14, 2006, 2:07 am]

Howie,

I think you have a good assesment of what is going on. We share
much of the same sentiments about what is happening now and in the
past. I think Gil is right in some way that many who might be sympathetic
and able to help are now gone.

Wouldn’t it be great if the SBC were seen as leaders in compassion, justice,
love, and humility.

[ # 240 ] Comment from D.R. Randle [January 14, 2006, 2:29 am]

Howie, let me just offer a quick response. I supported the move in 2000 to require all IMB personel to sign the BF&M 2000 because I felt that any denominational employee receiving monies from churches should be held accountable to those churches by being accountable to the statement of faith agreed upon by them. However, I disagreed that they should have required missionaries on the field to sign a statement that they did not enter the field under. Thus I felt the best decision was to have a grandfather clause, which is what they apparently did with the new ruling. I disagree with the new guidelines, not because I am against calling men and women to account on Biblical issues, but because those issues are not dealt with in the statement of faith. Thus, the trustees are stepping over their boundaries to make rules that, while I find Biblical support for, do not give leeway to interpretation and experience. The fact that one must be re-baptized if for instance, he or she was immersed in a Free-will Baptist church even though they now hold to the doctrinal position of the SBC on eternal security is ludicrous.

Now, as far as what happened to Wade, I think this is a separate issue in that it deals with cooperation and controversy. Wade stood up against men who wanted him to bow to what they believed to be the best path. When he didn’t, they wanted to force him out. His ousting is by no means a Biblical issue, it is an issue of the heart and is motivated not by any Biblical aim, but by political aspirations and goals. And so while I think that past events in SBC life have been carried to this degree, I think this case is one in which the Biblical line is so skewed that one could not possibly imagine this as being anything but a political move by the trustees. Had they put forth legitimate Biblical support for such an ouster, I might be inclined to be more gracious.

I know that many see this as a direct parallel to events of the past in SBC life, but I truly believe that Prescott is dead wrong that men like Patterson and Pressler and others were motivated strictly by power and prestige. I think that they were motivated by Biblical concerns, but often times acted inappropriately in their zeal. I hope you can see how I delineate between the two situations. Regardless of how one sees these events in light of the past, something must be done to stop men from using political means to inact spiritual and Biblical revival. It will never work. We must trust the Holy Spirit to direct mens hearts and minds in order for them to come to the knowledge of the truth. In that way, we speak the truth in love and allow the kindness of God to bring all of us to repentence in whatever manner we should.

[ # 241 ] Comment from micah [January 14, 2006, 6:06 am]

Howie-

I have no doubt that you have been hurt and I’m sure you weren’t gloating, but it did sound that way. I would have to disagree with you, however, over the statement concerning the professor’s love for the Bible. The professors that I know of personally made significant claims against scripture. For instance one of the professors that I knew claimed that, “if God would have written the Bible it would have been a much better book,” in class while at teaching at Southeastern Seminary, and this was in the early 90’s. I’m sure their were some, maybe even many, who loved scripture, saw it differently than the fundamentalists and lost their positions because of it. I’m not an apologist for the conservative “takeover” or “resurgence”, I think the tactics were horrific, even though I appreciate the motive. I do think, however, that there was a great amount of leadership in our seminaries that denied the truths of scripture, and that had to be corrected, although I agree that different methods needed to be employed.

[ # 242 ] Comment from Paul [January 14, 2006, 10:50 am]

Howie,

Good observations. There is no doubt that too many were silent when good people were being wronged. I do think there were some corrections that were needed but the overall tactics of the “resurgence” was like nuking a hornet’s nest. A little bug spray would probably do the job. And that is why I’ve always been convinced that this was never solely about the Bible. That may have been a part of it (and even a large part for some), but for many - and especially those often seen at the front of the line, it was/is about control and power.

I keep returning to Walter Brueggemann’s book The Prophetic Imagination. For the true King to be established on his throne the agendas of the pretender kings have to be seen as not having the answers. I think there are a lot more coming to that conclusion, however late it may be.

[ # 243 ] Comment from Marty [January 15, 2006, 2:44 am]

Better late than never, I always say.

[ # 244 ] Comment from Kiki [January 17, 2006, 5:49 am]

Howie,

Some of us DID state our concerns in 2000–respectfully and lovingly. You can ask Dr. Rankin–he would back that up. My position has not changed on that. I will stand for what I believe based on what is biblical. I had reservations then, and still do, about becoming a “creedal” people.

Let me explain my position on that. I do see a need to establish a set of doctrinal beliefs, and I think it is crucial that we know what we believe and why. But it was the manner in which it was handled, and the future implications (which I think we are seeing in play now) that I was concerned about.

It greatly grieved me when the event of 2000 happened. We knew two of the three missionary couples who were fired personally. But God has taken care of them through the whole situation, and they have determined to become “better” and not “bitter” through this. In fact, the one couple returned to their original field (by an alternate means) and God has been working in amazing ways through their ministry!!!

But everything we do must be done in a Christlike manner. And the true enemy is Satan–not any group of men. Let’s not forget that.

I am sorry when anyone gets hurt by the actions of a fellow brother or sister. But we have to be so careful not to give Satan a foothold in the way that we choose to respond.

[ # 255 ] Comment from Simple Servant [January 19, 2006, 8:05 am]

I just have to chime in. I agree Wade is doing right, now, but he is no hero. He helped cause all of this.

We felt compared to leave the IMB when our fellow missionaries were fired or run off over being forced to
sign the 2000 BF&M. Below is a note I posted to Wade”s site. I am all for what he is doing now but he and others
need to deal with the fact they were duped by the ultra right that took over, not resurged. The bulk of the
people run off during the years of controverys were 95 percent orthodox, but Southern Baptist as opposed to
Independent Fundamentalist Baptist that had always hated the SBC. When I was in seminary only one, in a class of
100 students raised their hand when asked if they were dispensationalist. And it was a dispensationalist click
that took over. The 99 other semeinarians were mostly pastors and they and the SBC and churches they pastored
built the IMB and SBC and sent out thousands of misionaries. It was a decietful take over and guys like Wade
Burleson with a rich Southern Baptist herritage (not Independent Fundamentalist ) got duped into thinking it
was a battle for the Bible. It never was. It was a battle over being fundamentalist vs old time normal non
landmark Southern Baptist. And so Wade shouldn’t be surpised, if these new fundamentalist that took over, now
want to kick him out too. The proof of this is the charismatic “minority” exist from the old SBC days that could only
exist under old normal SBC, pre fundamental theology. That normal pre take over SBC theology si what Wade now
champions, and it’s main distinguishing point from fundamentalis theology is that it doesn’t exclude fellowship
on the non essentials.

You can bet these Charismatic Southern Baptitst would never have been allowed to develop at all with in Southern
Baptist life at all had the fundamentalist been there all along as they say. No, the fundamentalist came,
they took over, they
kicked out, and now they are kicking out some more. And Wade Burleson helped them come, even if duped, helped
them take over, and helped them kick out. So he has no one to blame but himself.

One last word. Wade is a breath of fresh air. Shows that the old normal SBC “non fundamentalist” outlook has
surviced at least a little. And more power too him now tha the sees the fundamentalist for what they are,
fundamentalist, not Cooperating Southern Baptist. But to be a true hero he will have to recoginze that he
was duped into sinning by the fundamentalist and hurt lots and lots of good solid genuine cooperating Southern
Baptist that are now gone from the Convention. If he does that, then he will have integrity and be a hero!

Below my post to Wade on his GRACE AND TRUTH TO YOU site under the Crusading Conservative article.

Simple Servant.

simpleservant said…
Wade,

I will be praying you continue to stand up for your convictions. I salute you. I praise your courage of
conviction and fight for transparency decency,and trust in the IMB. God is using you!

Now as one who served with the IMB for years, and years, and years, 17, been sick, lived in scary, dirty
primitive places, held too many dead babies in my arms to want to recall, working with the poorest of the
poor, sharing Jesus with those who had never heard, staring churches, ministering to human need, in the most
backward awful places you can imagine, for years, and years, and years; I wonder, did you stand up for the
convictions of the 70 or so IMB missionaries who were effectively run off from the field or out right fired
because they wouldn’t play the same game that many IMB trustees are playing now?

Some were fired after thirty years, that is right, thirty years of faithful service, not because they believed
wrongly, not becaused they behaved wrongly, not because they were afraid to be accountable, but because some
unnamed IMB board memberers weren’t satisfied with reams of interviews by the personel selection committee,
co missionary testimony, home church testimony, national testimony, etc etc.

The simple truth is they were just culling people out they happened to disagree with on unessentials, just
like they are doing now.

You standing up for your convictions is admirable and I will be praying for you, but it won’t really cost
you a thing. Not like it cost the missionaries who were run off and the people they ministered to.

The firing and running off of God called faithful missionaries cost many wonderful families huge heart ache.
Many, many, many wonderful, God called, home church affirmed, fellow missionary affirmed, national christian
affirmed, missionaries, left fruitful service at the whim of some some unnamed power weilding personalites in
the SBC/IMB. The worst result, some souls no doubt were lost to hell through lack of testimony or witness when
the missionaries left. Who knows, maybe thousands went to hell over the fastidiousness of some of the archetcts
of the “conservative” resurgence wanting make double sure all “employees” were completely loyal to the new guys
in charge.

And I just wonder, and I ask this as redemptively as I can, truly concerned pastorally for you wade as a man of
integrity, did you stand up for them? Did you stand up when they stood on Scripture and conviction and wouldn’t
sign a man made document, however good it be? I hope you did.

If not you should ask forgiveness. You simply must recognize you are a part of this whole fiasco if you played
big role in the the “controversy” game that treated Gods servants so casually as to run them off over
unesentials.

You can wash your hands if you want to, but you are a part of this and need to recognize that the same
unclean spirit that drove the missionaries from their God called fields of service and seperated you from
many of your bretheren is the same one you are doing battle with right now.

It is the same unclean sprit acting in the IMB and SBC today that your blogs so eloquentally expose. That
insasiable consuming, mean, calculating, rage filled, spirit works even now to get rid of even Jerry Rankin,
and any one else who loves Jesus and speak to him in a most intamate private way.

Brother it is nothing but a horrible SIN. These are just Judizers wanting to circumcize everyone to their
likings plain and simple, even if it means cutting them self off from the love of Jesus.

Brother Wade you need to come to terms with it, think about it. You helped all this come about! Do genuine
business with God about your past activities in feeding this filthy unclean sprit that has adulterated and
spoiled the once beautiful IMB and SBC.

And then continue on in your very needed work to expose the sick unclean spirit that has the IMB and much of
the SBC by the throat and has for much of the so called conservative resurgence. It is the same dog you have
been petting. Make no mistake, and he will bite you if you aren’t really careful.

And if you are wondering, I am one of those missionaries that was run off. No not fired, but how could I
stay knowing my fellow missionaries were being run off with no remorese what so ever by the very IMB who
should have been nurturing them? It was horrible, a horrible time for me and my family. The most traumatic
thing we have ever experienced. I remember I had to learn about the firings from a state paper as the IMB
sure didin’t tell us on the field.

And just in case you end up getting bitten real bad, by this unclean spirit dog that has ravaged the IMB
and SBC, I want you to know, Jesus will still be there for you, it will hurt bad, if you get bit, real bad,
but don’t worry Jesus will be there for you Wade and you will recover (as thousands have).

Even though we didn’t want to, we found there is life beyond the IMB, even abundant life, wonderful Spirit
filled life of service and affirmation. Too bad we can’t still be with the IMB, but till that unclean sprit
is swept out of the house I don’t think I want to go back, even for a visit.

I am praying for you brother Wade. Hold fast to Jesus and stand on scripture and don’t let them run you
off too. But if they do you will find yourself in good company.

An Anonomous Former IMB Missionary

(please let me stay anonomous as we still serve overseas and I don’t want to offend any IMB missionaries
with whom we are still good friends with and love deeply. I know they are all hurting enough!

[ # 534 ] Comment from bad breath [April 16, 2006, 4:55 pm]

You have a very interesting site. Glad I checked it out.

[ # 824 ] Comment from imb_sux [April 28, 2006, 8:09 am]

hey, check out my website if you want… imbsux.com

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