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IMB exec. committee proposes revising action on Burleson

GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP)–Trustees of the nine-member International Mission Board executive committee will recommend at the March 20-21 meeting in Tampa that trustees reverse a Jan. 11 motion asking the Southern Baptist Convention to remove Wade Burleson of Enid, Okla., as a trustee.

IMB trustee chairman Thomas Hatley of Rogers, Ark., told the Southern Baptist TEXAN the committee determined that the matter of disciplining a trustee can be handled internally. Meeting Feb. 10 in Atlanta, the committee reviewed the Burleson matter and acted unilaterally to offer the new plan.

The committee includes the chairman, first and second vice chairmen, recording secretary and chairmen of the board’s five primary standing committees.

Hatley is informing trustees of the proposal through e-mail Feb. 15, with an official news release anticipated Feb. 16.

“As a board, we continue to affirm our missionaries, our president and our staff, and we stand with them in leading Southern Baptists to reach the harvest fields of our world,” Hatley told the TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

In several weeks, Hatley said he will release a comprehensive explanation of the board’s earlier decision to assess missionary candidates regarding private prayer language and baptism, giving the historical and theological framework. Misinformation disseminated through informal weblogs caused confusion in the minds of some Southern Baptists, he said. He hopes a more detailed accounting of the timeline and rationale for those standards will help separate those issues from the matter of Burleson’s personal conduct as a trustee and answer questions that have arisen.

When the original action proposing Burleson’s removal was announced Jan. 11, Hatley said the board first explored other ways to handle the impasse with the Oklahoma pastor, who also is the immediate past president of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

“The decision to seek removal was based on broken trust and resistance to accountability, not Burleson’s opposition to policies recently enacted by the board,” the official Jan. 11 statement read. At various intervals of the Jan. 9-11 meeting, Burleson posted updated reports on his weblog, or “blog,” of his interaction with trustees, refusing trustee requests to stop the practice out of concern that inaccurate and confidential information was being disseminated.

Burleson said he used the weblog to express his concerns to a broader Baptist constituency, believing potential missionaries could be held back due to the new criteria and accusing certain trustees of “political power plays” and private caucuses.

Since November, Burleson’s weblog and several others have maintained frequent discussion of the issues. Many of the weblogs include feedback from online readers rallying to the embattled trustee’s defense and calling for a large turnout at the annual meeting of the convention in Greensboro, N.C., June 13-14 to vote against his removal.

Burleson, on his weblog Feb. 12, stated, “Trustee leadership has been very communicative with me these past three weeks, and I appreciate their hearts in dialogue. I have been asked to prayerfully consider shutting down this blog. Let me be clear. I have said, from the beginning, if I can be shown where my blog violates any policy or procedure of the IMB I will cease blogging immediately. In all fairness to my fellow trustees, blogging by a trustee is something new, and for everyone[’]s benefit I am considering possibly ending the blog until an official policy on blogging can be established in the [upcoming IMB trustee] meeting.”

With the initial wave of e-mails and letters opposing the action against Burleson subsiding, Hatley told the TEXAN that he was beginning to receive many letters expressing appreciation for the stand taken by trustees.

The policy on private prayer language regards the practice to be outside the norm of Southern Baptist doctrine and states that candidates holding to the conviction or practice eliminate themselves from consideration. The guideline related to baptism expects candidates to have been baptized in a church that practices believer’s baptism by immersion alone; does not view it as sacramental or regenerative; and embraces the doctrine of eternal security of the believer. Both the policy and the guideline feature an exception clause to allow for special situations to receive review.

    About the Author

  • Tammi Reed Ledbetter, Southern Baptist TEXAN