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IMB chairman recommends further restriction on trustee blogger

ALBUQUEQUE (BP)–International Mission Board trustee Wade Burleson of Enid, Okla., will continue to be restricted from holding committee assignments in light of a report of the board’s executive committee presented May 24 by trustee chairman Thomas Hatley of Rogers, Ark.

Hatley recommended that newly elected chairman John Floyd of Memphis, Tenn., continue to restrict Burleson from service on any committee, encouraging Burleson “to change his position to follow a biblical model of restoration of wounded brothers and sisters in Christ.”

The restriction is to be lifted immediately once Burleson publicly acknowledges that his actions during his first year of service “have seriously eroded the confidence of his fellow trustees and that he can and will work with them in a way that will instill mutual trust,” Hatley said, and that he apologizes for repeatedly questioning their motives.

Hatley said Burleson had made a good start with a statement on his weblog expressing an apology that, in Burleson’s words, “some trustees feel broad brushed with the allegation that they were a part of a group of people out to remove Dr. Rankin,” referring to IMB President Jerry Rankin.

Hatley said the apology “would be really wonderful if that were expressed in the context of the statements themselves.” He also advised Burleson to offer “a verbal apology before this board and not just on the blog site which many will not access, therefore they will not benefit from receiving that apology.”

In concluding, Hatley said he had initially removed from his report concerns about Burleson breaching confidentiality until informed of posts made to the weblog regarding matters discussed in a private trustee forum only days earlier. Hatley said several trustees informed him of the new development and IMB counsel confirmed the posts by Burleson.

“Because of that and other breaches of confidentiality, I would recommend that our new chairman also use his prerogative to bar Brother Burleson from the forums and executive sessions in the coming year because of the lack of ability to restrain himself from publishing information shared in confidence,” Hatley said.

Hatley quoted statements that appear on Burleson’s weblog from four dates in December and January. He cited Burleson’s characterization of “conservatives who love the battles of decades past” who “have fallen victim to a crusading mentality of blood thirst,” with recent actions of the IMB board cited as evidence of such charges. Burleson drew the conclusion that “conservative crusaders have yet to learn how to sheath the sword, and rather than cooperate with fellow conservatives in reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ, they have gone after the head of Dr. Jerry Rankin.” A further reference was made to Burleson’s portrayal of trustees who disagree with him as having “forgotten how to minister in the power of the Spirit through prayer, humility and cooperation.”

Hatley also questioned Burleson allowing posts from contributors to the weblog that characterized trustees as “bigoted” and having “petty self conceit.” Hatley quoted a Jan. 12 statement in which Burleson said of some IMB trustees, “They might be guilty of shortsightedness, lack of wisdom, or may simply be clueless….” A few days later, Hatley noted, Burleson blogged, “I have shown, and will continue to show, great respect for my fellow trustees.”

The report read by Hatley stated that Burleson “has, beginning late last year, posted and maintained on his personal blog site a running commentary on the operations of the Board that included the repeated assertion that our recently approved policy on private prayer language and guidelines on baptism were enacted not for any legitimate purpose having to do with the effectiveness of IMB global operations, but rather as a part of a concerted action on the part of un-named trustees to embarrass and undermine our president. While expressing his opinions Brother Wade was offensive and combative toward this board.”

While having “no desire to restrict his opinions” nor insisting “he agree with the majority of this board on any issue,” Hatley said that “when character is impugned and motives are judged that a spirit of mistrust emerges that can damage the ability of this body to work together.” He indicated that while Burleson felt these matters stand reconciled, Hatley told the Oklahoma trustee that “others do not enjoy that view and remain hurt by his comments.”

Hatley urged trustees to stay focused on “a lot of good things to talk about and do” instead of being “distracted by matters such as this,” then he recognized IMB Executive Vice President Clyde Meador for a staff report.

At that point, Burleson approached a microphone, stating, “Mr. Chairman, I just have a quick question for you. I appreciate the spirit in which that was given. I do not know to what you refer when you speak of breach of confidentiality. No one has come to me personally.

“I did things to make sure I did not breach confidences,” Burleson told Hatley. “I would just request that specifics be shared since the charge has been shared in public forum. If you’d please state what it is and I will on the spot repent if there was a breach of forum.”

Hatley responded, “I appreciate that and I think repentance is due, but I would not, even after revealing this, I would still not change my recommendation even with repentance because of the pattern of the breach of confidentiality demonstrated. Repentance needs to be shown by action and not just by words.”

Responding to the clarification Burleson sought as to how he violated confidential trustee deliberations, Hatley stated, “Matters that were shared only in forum, not in plenary session, about the intent of the executive committee to make a recommendation and the purpose of that was mentioned on your blog. It had not been mentioned in this session, so that would be a violation of confidentiality.”

Hatley also stated that the information shared by Burleson was inaccurate. “It was misrepresented on your blog.” Indicating that the nature of the forum discussion “was not to revisit the policies, but in a broader context, looking at doctrinal matters as a whole. And so you not only published it when you shouldn’t have published it, you even misquoted it and reported it inaccurately.”

Burleson replied, “Mr. Chairman, what I would say to that is I’m not sure what you’re referring to.”

Hatley answered, “I’m sorry, you’ll have to close that microphone. I need to recognize Clyde to come and give his report. Thank you.”

Following the meeting, Burleson sought further discussion with Hatley, asking a reporter to listen in. “You need to hear this. I need a witness,” he stated. As the former board chairman spoke with another man, Burleson asked, “Dr. Hatley, Dr. Hatley.”

As Hatley finished his conversation and returned to gather his papers, Burleson again sought a hearing, stating to Hatley, “Brother, you did it again,” repeating his concern that charges were made without evidence of wrongdoing.

“I will not talk with you,” Hatley responded twice in response to Burleson.

Hatley later told the Southern Baptist TEXAN his reason for preventing Burleson from offering further commentary on the executive committee report prior to the IMB staff reports. “He had an answer to his question and began a similar dialogue as before. I had been asked by multiple trustees not to give him the floor and so I gave him one shot at an apology and once it was clear that was not his point, I moved on.”
A complete transcript of Hatley’s report and the response by Burleson appear on the TEXAN’s website at www.sbtexas.com.

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  • Tammi Reed Ledbetter