Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Great Advice on Wisdom in Electronic Communication

Don't miss the latest thoughtful piece by Gary Ledbetter: "Think Twice, Send Once." Gary knows whereof he speaks, and the effectiveness of your ministry may someday hinge on precisely the subjects that Gary is addressing.

Particularly useful is Gary's reminder about the unknown reach of communiques that you might regard as private. There are some people in Southern Baptist life who are entirely without honor as it pertains to the "personal" correspondence that you might conduct with them. I've regretfully found that to be true in my personal experience, as have others. So be wise out there; be careful. Take Gary's words to heart.


Tim G said...

A day fitting for this post!

selahV said...

I think IP services ought to eliminate the forward button. I don't know what's going on really, and by the sounds of it, I don't think I want to. Sorry some folks have not learned the lesson of keeping private things private. Can any of us stand before the Lord dressed in white gowns stiched with threads of transparency? blameless? without ire or err? whew. I think I need to go scrub behind my ears and wash out my mouth with Dove. :) selahV

Joe Blackmon said...

Anyone who would take a personal correspondance and make it public (i.e. on a blog) have no class, no honor, and no sense.

There. I said it.

chadwick said...

I read Ledbetter's article. It was thought-provoking. The article gives me the impression that we pastors are to be 'muzzled' concerning political issues.

Example: Ledbetter wrote,"Is the outcome of the healthcare debate or immigration reform more important to you than your relationship with those church members who voted for Barack Obama in 2008?"

I agree with Ledbetter wholeheartedly on the non-essential political matters.I understand that health care and immigration reform are irrelevant when it comes to the Gospel. However, I believe that opposition to abortion is relevant to the Gospel.Obama is PRO-ABORTION.

Here is my question:
Abortion is a political/moral issue. Are we supposed to refrain or 'softpedal' our opinions and stances on abortion since there are 'some church members who voted for Obama in 2008?'


Bart Barber said...


I did not take Ledbetter's article to be a call for utter silence. Rather, I took it as a call for utter civility. Most people who disagree with me will nonetheless respect the thoughtful, careful, respectful things that I write. If what you are saying about Hillary Clinton is that you disagree with her politics, that's one thing. If you're forwarding around an email suggesting that she was sleeping with Vince Foster and that the Clintons had him murdered, then I think you've transgressed Ledbetter's guidelines.

I also think that our priorities are reflected not only in every thing that we say online, but also in the proportion of online voice given to each respective topic. I have some things to say about abortion online, and I have not hesitated to say them. I ought not to be prevented from giving the (true) impression that I have firm convictions about abortion, but I ought to be careful not to give the (false) impression that pro-life is the most important adjective that I could use to describe myself.

ben said...

Hi Bart -

I was in your neck of the woods last weekend but didn;t have time to call on you. Next time through I'll give you a heads up. Lunch is on me.

Ben Macklin

chadwick said...


TMI about Hillary! :^€

Well said about everything else!

Tom Parker said...

Joe B:

You said:"Anyone who would take a personal correspondance and make it public (i.e. on a blog) have no class, no honor, and no sense.

There. I said it."

Once again you do everything but name the person you are referencing. Be bold enough to name this unknown person.

BTW are you for the two professors being fired because they do not teach "storehouse tithing."

Just wanting to give you a chance to go on the record.

Joe Blackmon said...


You know exactly who I'm talking about so why do you need me to name the person.

I haven't called for anyone to be fired. Neither did Les.

On the record.

volfan007 said...

Les is being abused and being treated in a very unChristian manner in the ordeal that's taking place between "you know who"...that one's for Tom :) ...and Les. Everyone who knows what's going on should go to Les' blog and read what he says about this issue. It's sad and pathetic that Les is being treated like this.

I have not always agreed with Les, but I dont like what's happening to him right now. Les does not deserve that.


chadwick said...



volfan007 said...




Anonymous said...


I do not believe that I agree with Les Puryear on tithing and such, but I had seen some of the stuff on the other blog earlier in the week.

With your link, I have now read Pastor Puryear's entire account.

I cannot vouch for any telling of this story because I was not in the middle of it.

But 3 things appear to be clear:

1. An email was written from Puryear to another person.

2. Somehow the email ended up in the hands of a third person.

3. The email was reprint, in part, in a blog post.

Here are my take aways:

First, unless one is the intended recipient of an email or the matter is in the public domain it is best not to read it. Even if one has higher goal he thinks will be served by reading it.

FBI and Department of Homeland Security are excepted.

"Gentlemen don't read other people's mail." A wise, old addage.

It is a serious ethical breach for lawyers (which I am) to receive mail from other people like this.

Ah, if only you preachers would live up to the standards set by the bar associations!

Second, if one does read the correspondence, don't use it for some advantage against the author.

Third, if one does read the correspondence, and decides to use it, the best thing to do is to make sure of the context and help readers to get the entire context. Otherwise, a false impression might be left.

That may not only hurt the author's reputation, but the person who uses it, as well.

Those are good rules to live by. I hope to live by them.

I think that Chrisitan forgiveness and charity should now reign. I believe that all of these guys are really good guys.

But remember, the blog world is just like the newspaper business. Sometimes a story can get messed up accidently or on purpose. That's why it's usually best to stay away from correspondence that doesn't belong in your hand to begin with.


Tom Parker said...


Les P. started this firestorm by attempting to have 2 professors fired.

Had this not come to the light of day, they probably would have been fired.

Do you agree with Les. P's actions?

It appears many are trying to blame ?? and I just do not see him as the blame for all this.

Personally, I think ?? helped save two professors their jobs and hopefully open up some people's eyes in the SBC as to how some try to do their dirty deeds in the dark.

r. grannemann said...

Many years ago, when I was in my twenties, I had a very close relationship with the former president of the Missionary Baptist Seminary in Little Rock (a Landmark Baptist school). I won't go into how I knew the man, but we spent many hours together drinking ice tea in a cafe near the church he then pastored.

One thing he told me was about all the charges that came to him (when he was seminary president) from pastors claiming the seminary was teaching heresy. This was/is a conservative/fundamentalist school by most measures, but even this fundamentalist Landmarker school was bombarded with charges of heresy. I suspect every seminary president gets lots of letters intimating this kind of thing.

The religious life is a journey. We all have difficulty figuring it out and knowing how to act. Pray for those in leadership roles to handle such questions/charges wisely, and grant other lots of grace.

Anonymous said...


I cannot tell what Puryear intended.

Pastor Puryear denies it.

Others claim it.

I am not good at getting into people's heads - especially over the internet.

I suppose if Dr. Akin weighed in and confirmed they had he conversation that Puryear claims, that would clarify that Akin did not believe Puryear was trying to have them fired.

Assuming that's what Puryear was trying to do when he sent the letter back in January, it doesn't appear to me that a blog post during the week of Feb 1 saved these profs' jobs.

I would be surprised if Danny Akin (or whomever is in charge of the seminary at Liberty) would fire someone over the contents of a published academic paper on a topic such as this because one guy (and I don't know anything about his church or his influence etc.) wrote or called to complain.

I don't think we would have anyone teaching in any of our seminaries if that were the case!

I can't conclude that the jobs were saved by any of this.

If one is going to claim that the jobs were saved, one would have to believe that Akin was getting ready to drop the hammer - until the blog post came up. I find that highly unlikely.

So, I can't see any objective basis to claim 2 professors' jobs were saved here.

And don't get me wrong. I do not think that tithing is mandated by the NT or that to claim so is a negation of the OT. So I completely disagree with Puryear.

If I thought a person were really teahing something that was unscriptural at a seminary, I suppose that I would write the administration of the seminary.

Interestingly, I had a friend who took a seminary extension course from a professor at Southern many years ago. He was a practicing surgeon, but wanted further theological education.

He could not believe what he was being taught during that class.

He took the class and moved on. Never took another one.

However, when that professor left Southern some time later, he took the opportunity to write the President and congratulate him on the move.

So, on blanance I think it is appropriate for Baptist people to take their complaints to their schools, if they have a problem.

I don't like the tone of Puryear's letter, which even he said could be read by some other person as requesting that the person be fired. That's why context is so important. And you can't get that from someone else's letter.

I suppose at the end of the day that I believe the current Presidents of our seminaries may take a call or a letter, as did Dr. Akin in this case. But I also believe that they would not fire a professor, or even begin to fire a professor, just because of one letter like this.

However, I would like to return to the points I made in my earlier comment.

I believe they are good principles to live by.

I have answered your questions, and would be interested to know what you think.

You are a thoughtful person though we often disagree on various things.

Do you disagree with my principles as stated earlier?

Or do you think that Christians in general, and Pastors, specfically, should traffic in the leaked or stolen correspondence of other people?


Anonymous said...

R. Granneman:

You are right. Convictional people can be the most insufferable, and will often hound and hound over nothing.

Your friend probably never acted on those complaints, but had a good way of filing them in a special place.

If what Puryear reports is accurate, I commend Dr. Akin for the communication that he had with him.

Regardless, I have a really hard time believing that Danny Akin was about to fire a prof until the plan was exposed.

Your story and experience confirms that his is probably a constant in seminary life.


Anonymous said...


Of course my last question assumes that this correspondence was not sent out by the recipient. Dr. Akin says he did not send it. I don't know who got it at Liberty.

I think that the story could have been told and the point made, even more clearly, with a summary than the correspondence of others.


greg.w.h said...

If your rules of civility become a screen for unethical behavior, then they are a ruse, not civility. It is unethical to request, no matter how indirectly, that a person's theological position be scrutinized from the viewpoint of being "unhelpful". That's a code word for "liberal" and everyone in this thread knows it.

Les has a legitimate gripe about how the information got to Wade. Wade has given up on anything less than a scorched earth approach with respect to using civility as a ruse. Those who do not realize his willingness to scorch the earth simply haven't been paying attention.

The only reason he gets so much press over doing that is because people talk about what he posts. I like Les. I appreciate his empathy for the small church pastor and his willingness to act to get attention from the Convention for small churches and small church pastors.

The person who revealed the email to Wade is, indeed, playing a political game and using anonymity as an additional ruse. But it's symmetric to Les's ruse. Or as some wag once said: "Politics ain't beanbag: 'tis a man's game, and women, children 'n' pro-hy-bitionists had best stay out of it."

Greg Harvey

word verification: 'cisox' as in the 1919 Black Sox???

Steve said...

To this layman, the question underlying all of this is whether such small issues as storehouse tithing truly merit such interventions as the original e-mail involved. We're not talking about great questions like basic salvation or the life of the saved sinner.

To elevate minor questions like this reminds me of recurring battles in tiny churches over carpet color or clocks in the sanctuary. People get mad and leave churches over these tiny things.

The other burr in my side is lying between pastors over what smells like politics. However Wade got aholt of the info, once L.P. said one thing about the e-mail and said something else IN the e-mail, he knew the privacy aspect of e-mail messages was gone because there they were talking about it. Les had to know Wade would catch the apparent lie & call him on it.

The privacy deal would be worth remarking about if Wade hadn't directly asked Les about it, had just blindly printed the e-mail as soon as he got it, or had gotten a law enforcement agency to make the e-mail service release information about it.

But then, I ain't in Florida.