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IMB officers seek withdrawal of request to remove trustee

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–The executive committee of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board’s trustees has decided to ask the full board of trustees to consider a motion that would reverse the motion passed at its January meeting to recommend the removal from office of trustee Wade Burleson of Oklahoma.

The trustee executive committee — which consists of the board’s chairman, first and second vice chairmen, recording secretary and chairmen of the board’s five primary standing committees -– met in Atlanta Feb. 10 to review the Burleson action. IMB trustee chairman Tom Hatley will ask the trustees to consider reversing the motion passed in executive session during their Jan. 9-11 meeting in Richmond, Va.

After the January meeting, Hatley stated the action was taken because of issues involving “broken trust and resistance to accountability, not Burleson’s opposition to policies recently enacted by the board.” Southern Baptist Convention messengers elect trustees to convention boards and entities at the convention’s annual meetings. Without a motion to reverse the vote of the January meeting, the IMB trustee recommendation related to Burleson would be acted upon at the SBC’s June 13-14 annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C.

Hatley will make the recommendation for a motion to reverse the approved removal motion at the trustees’ next full board meeting, scheduled for March 20-22 in Tampa, Fla. He issued the following public statement Feb. 16:

“As chairman of the International Mission Board, it is my intention to ask our board of trustees to reverse our action in January recommending to the Southern Baptist Convention in June that Wade Burleson be removed from office as an IMB trustee.

“We have determined that we have the ability to seek management of these issues through internal processes that were not known during our January meeting. We have never reached this stage of conflict before and did not know of all our options until recently.

“I have consulted with our board officers and our standing committee chairmen, and they agree with me that we should move forward with a motion to withdraw our request for SBC action.

“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.

“We also want to praise the Lord for the generosity of His churches in supporting missions. More than ever we are seeing the peoples of the earth responding to the gospel. Our focus will not be diverted; we will continue to exponentially increase our impact around the world until every person has heard the story of our wonderful Savior.

“Please note that in the near future I also intend to clarify the recently adopted guideline on baptism and the policy concerning tongues and private prayer language for missionary candidates by addressing the historical and theological framework in which those decisions were made.”

The last sentence of the statement refers to two measures adopted by IMB trustees at their Nov. 14-17 meeting last year in Huntsville, Ala. The trustees approved a policy stating that a missionary candidate eliminates himself or herself from IMB service if he or she has the practice of tongues or a “private prayer language” as an ongoing part of his or her conviction or practice. They also adopted a baptism guideline stating that future missionary candidates must have been baptized in a church that: practices believer’s baptism by immersion alone; does not view baptism as sacramental or regenerative; and that embraces the doctrine of the security of the believer. Exception clauses were included in both the guideline and the policy for special situations. Neither the guideline nor the policy is retroactive and neither will be applied to anyone already in the appointment process.

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