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Mission board trustees seek removal of trustee Burleson

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Trustees of the International Mission Board have initiated an action to ask the Southern Baptist Convention to remove one of their members.

The board’s chairman, Tom Hatley, issued a three-paragraph statement Jan. 11 following a trustee vote the previous night in executive session, or closed session, to terminate the term of Wade Burleson, senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Okla., who served as president of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma from 2003-05.

The full statement reported:

“The trustees of the International Mission Board voted to recommend to the Southern Baptist Convention that Wade Burleson of Oklahoma, be removed by the convention as a trustee of the International Mission Board.

“This difficult measure was not taken without due deliberation and exploration of other ways to handle an impasse between Wade Burleson and the Board. In taking this action, trustees addressed issues involving broken trust and resistance to accountability, not Burleson’s opposition to policies recently enacted by the board.

“The trustees consider this a rare and grievous action but one that was absolutely necessary for the board to move forward in its duties as prescribed by the SBC.”

The mission board’s move to ask the Southern Baptist Convention to act follows the IMB charter’s process for removing a trustee.

Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention will meet June 13-14 in Greensboro, N.C. Hatley, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Rogers, Ark., has been the IMB trustee chairman since May 2004.

Messengers elected Burleson to a four-year IMB trustee term during the SBC’s 2005 annual meeting in Nashville. He and nine other trustees elected to four-year terms last year would be eligible for re-nomination in 2009 for another four-year term.

Burleson was reporting on his encounters with trustees during the board’s Jan. 9-11 meeting in Richmond, Va., via his online weblog, or “blog,” kerussocharis.blogspot.com. A blog is a type of Internet journal that is frequently updated with personal views intended for public consumption.

Burleson posted entries on his blog after the trustee action Jan. 11, and, earlier, on Monday and Tuesday of the board meeting. Two men who also have blogs but are not IMB trustees gave Internet reports of the meeting, too.

The impetus for the meeting reports by Burleson and the other two men was their opposition to missionary personnel policies, which the trustees adopted during their Nov. 14-17 meeting in Huntsville, Ala. The policies involved believer’s baptism by immersion and the use of a “private prayer language,” which also was described as “glossolalia (speaking in tongues).”

Burleson, on his blog, has contended that the policies are overly restrictive, even among some Baptists who hold to the inerrancy of Scripture.

The afternoon of Jan. 11, Burleson released a statement to Baptist Press expressing his dissatisfaction with the IMB trustees’ move to dismiss him. His full statement:

“I am greatly saddened by the action taken by the IMB board of trustees. I have yet to be presented with specific allegations but I am willing to respond to the particulars of these allegations should they materialize.

“In recent days I have expressed deep concern with a precedent set by certain IMB Board members who voted to establish IMB missionary policies that reach beyond the guidelines of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

“Secondly, I have also questioned and brought to the attention of the full board the inappropriateness of certain IMB board members, who in violation of IMB board guidelines, have held private caucuses to develop and craft IMB motions and policy.

“Seeing the issue had become increasingly personal, political and overreached into the matters of the local church, I chose to express my concerns to a broader Baptist constituency for further discussion and dialogue.

“At risk is the appointment of Southern Baptist Missionaries who have a heart for the lost and value doctrinal integrity as expressed in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.

“We must move beyond personal attacks and political power plays. It is my desire to continue serving as a trustee of the IMB, while working in openness and humility with fellow board members as we uphold the integrity of the greatest missionary sending organization in the history of the world.”

A check of SBC records shows that in recent history there has been no action to remove a trustee of an SBC entity.

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