After publishing my most recent post, I completed a revival that I was preaching and then swung by to see my surviving grandparents-in-law in far rural Missouri. For the past forty-eight hours I have been blissfully oblivious to the ongoing discussion generated by that post. As I pen these words tonight, I still have not read any of the comments that took place after my latest comment in the thread.
I have, however, received numerous telephone calls and emails, some of which I have read. Through these conversations I have learned something of a summary of what has ensued in that thread. I will read it when I have opportunity (but not before I preach tomorrow…priorities always), but there are well over 100 comments, and it may take a while.
I apologize for contributing to this imbroglio. A couple of telephone calls before clicking "Publish Post" and I could have helped to right a misunderstanding of someone else's making rather than becoming an unwitting accomplice. I candidly offer an explanation of why I did not do so, not as an excuse, but in an effort to allow others to learn from my mistake:
Because the source of the information was credible.
The direct source of my information is immaterial. I did not go out of my way to publish this story. I was asked to put it up, and I was willing to do so. The essential data of my previous post was part of the information presented by the staff of the International Mission Board as it hosted its most recent trustee gathering. The exception, as I understand it, is that the BGCT was not identified by name in that presentation as being one of the three conventions. The BGCT's explanation makes it clear that it was indeed one of the conventions in question, even if the entire scenario was a misunderstanding. In discussing presentations at the trustee meeting, I am not talking about secret Executive Session data, but about information presented at a meeting that any of us could have attended had we wished to do so. I took that fact as all of the confirmation that I needed. Call it naivete on my part: I presumed that the IMB both knew what it was talking about and was prepared to stand behind whatever it told its trustees. At least one of these presumptions was demonstrably false.
I still think that the International Mission Board is a credible source, just not an infallible one. As I was driving home today, I considered the location not far from my route where the I-40 bridge over the Arkansas River collapsed in Oklahoma. I still believe that our Interstate highway system is well-constructed and safe. I trust it well enough to drive over it without any apprehension that it might collapse under me. But we all now know that it happens on rare occasions.
Likewise, the International Mission Board is staffed by good people trying to accomplish an important task—the important task. I will continue to trust what they say to their trustees and to the public. I consider this episode, inflammatory as it has been, to have been a fluke. Somebody either misunderstood something or made something up. It wasn't me. It wasn't anyone with whom I spoke. We bought it. And with the weight of the IMB behind it, I wasn't in "verify" mode; I was in "publish" mode. I should have verified.
And then I repeated it, although I did so in a careful manner that remains factually accurate. I accurately reported someone else's inaccurate information, and in doing so was careful to represent the information as someone else's data and not as my own first-hand knowledge. Nevertheless, I threw some measure of my credibility behind it. If you believed it because I reported it, then I have done you a disservice. And for that I apologize.
And if you ever write or speak in public as I am doing, then perhaps you can learn from this situation that you can never fact-check a story too much, no matter how good your sources are.
Because the scenario was believable to me.
I imagine that some portion of the comments on the previous post questioned my motivation in reporting about the Baptist General Convention of Texas. I could write that I meant the BGCT no harm and was just dispassionately reporting what I heard from others.
You wouldn't believe me, nor should you.
Whatever the comment thread says, it would be unlikely for anyone to have placed into my mouth a lower opinion than I actually hold regarding the BGCT. Because they forward as little CP to the SBC as they can possibly get away with (they keep 80% and forward 20%), because of their ongoing animosity and hostility toward the SBC, and because they are reportedly struggling financially, the scenario seemed to me to be precisely the sort of thing that the BGCT would do. My opinion about the BGCT long predates the events of the past two days and arises from air-tight, publicly declared, verified data. Some of you will hold a different opinion of the BGCT. I have not shown you the disrespect of pretending that I don't hold regarding the BGCT precisely the opinion that you think I hold. My church's opinion of the BGCT was expressed in our actions when we determined not to cooperate with the BGCT any longer.
That being said, I am in no way obsessed with the BGCT. Out of 537 posts on this blog, I only find 10 (now 11) that have to do with the BGCT, and of those 10, some actually say positive things about the liberal SBC denomination in Texas. I'm no Math major, but that constitutes less than 2% of my posts. I'm hardly playing Ahab to the BGCT's Moby Dick.
But the lesson here deals with our human tendencies, when we see exactly what we expect to see, not to look too closely. Magicians depend upon this strongly ingrained feature of human intelligence. The story not only came from a credible source, but it matched up precisely to the reality that I could imagine to be most likely. Thus I posted without performing more research.
And the entire situation puts me in the bitter-tasting situation of having somewhat wronged an institution that I dislike and owing it an apology. So, to the BGCT, I apologize for not taking greater care in reporting damaging information about you. I will endeavor, whenever criticizing you in the future, to exercise greater caution to stick to the many publicly verifiable items on which we disagree.
And, although I believed the story, I am glad to learn that this is merely a situation of lackadaisical inattentiveness toward Lottie Moon money on your part rather than deliberate withholding of these much-needed funds from our missionaries. While we were still affiliated with BGCT, we designated around the convention budget for several years. We never had any reason to suspect that the BGCT did anything other than honor our wishes for our donations.
Because the subject matter was very important in my estimation.
This, I think, is the reason why the trustee meeting was reportedly abuzz about this topic long before I posted my little blog entry. The slow pace of CP and LMCO funds coming to the IMB is reportedly jeopardizing our board's ability to appoint missionaries. I was in a hurry to report what I found to be a credible and disturbing story because I did not want our convention to fail in the funding of a single qualified missionary candidate.
On this question, I hope that we all agree. The large number of comments is evidence that we all consider this to be a very important question. What I hear about the inflammatory tone of some of the comments is, if accurate, further evidence. We all care about this subject a great deal. Faced with a credible story of such magnitude and importance, I published it in a careful manner that remains to this moment generally factually accurate.
But, I only achieved that level of enduring accuracy by employing weasel words to cover my limited research into the matter. As a result, I have contributed to a scandalous forty-eight hours that have accomplished precisely the opposite of my intentions—I have brought to the convention's attention a discredited story that will not motivate any Southern Baptist to do anything with regard to missions. And now the fact that our International Mission Board needs a renewed commitment among Southern Baptists to fund this ministry of paramount importance—that story has been lost in the shuffle. The story that I presented, if it had been true, would have been more important in my estimation. As a discredited story, it is obviously of much lesser importance.
And because of the importance of the topic, I owe it to our missionaries to close out this episode and do my part in moving us all forward to the verifiable and pressing matters of the day. Toward that end, and to contribute to a speedy resolution, I will try to reply promptly to any person with questions to present on this post. I have closed the comments on the other post, not to stifle conversation, but to allow us all to have one place rather than two places to submit comments and to look for replies. I am not going to reply to any of the comments on the other post, but will make a good faith effort to converse in this thread with each and every person who wishes to inaugurate a conversation in this thread. I do not commit to an unlimited conversation with any individual, but I promise to try not to leave anyone out entirely.
I'm a bit embarrassed for whoever got this wrong to begin with, although I hold no ill will toward whoever that was. Furthermore, no matter what caution I exhibited before, I'm a bit embarrassed to have been at the center of it all. A blogger contacted me shortly after I posted my last article rueing the fact that I put it up before he did. Nobody has expressed that regret today!
Nevertheless, as a strong believer in Romans 8:28, I'm glad to do my part to try to bring something good out of it all. As I see those opportunities in this comment thread, I will try to avail myself of them.