Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Measured Action by the IMB

I've heard many dissimilar rumors as to what would happen at the Springfield IMB meeting. In fact, I've heard similar rumors surrounding every trustee meeting at the IMB for the past year. Today we learn that the trustees of the IMB have censured Wade Burleson and have further restricted his participation in board functions for violations of trustee guidelines. I analyze these events as follows: First, for the past year I've heard many rumors as to what the trustees were planning to do at this meeting or that meeting to "deal with" the Burleson issue. The action taken by the trustees yesterday was far from the most severe remedy that I have heard. I have even heard people suggest that the trustees could unilaterally remove Burleson from their body. At one point, I even drafted a post decrying Burleson's removal as a violation of our polity, holding the post in waiting should the unthinkable ever occur. Having witnessed the tone of Burleson's recent posts, and suspecting that the climax of this drama might lie within this act and scene, I had that response ready to go today. I am so thankful that I did not have to post it. Only the Southern Baptist Convention can select our entity trustees. Thank you, IMB trustees, for respecting that important distinction and working within it. I appreciate the measured nature of your response. Second, I do not see how the Indianapolis convention can fail to take note of a formal censure adopted against a sitting trustee from one of our boards. This thing is coming to the floor in Indianapolis—they might as well go ahead and draw up a time-slot for it in the convention program. The trustees have taken what is (in my opinion) the strongest step that is within their power to express their dissatisfaction with Burleson's tenure on the board. Third, I have to wonder "Why now?" Criticism of IMB policies has been somewhat less strident on the Internet of late. I predict that phenomenon to reverse itself now. Was Burleson's recent criticism of the idea of life beginning at conception (and consequently, his next potential step away from yet another article of the Baptist Faith & Message) some sort of precipitating problem leading into this meeting of the board? Fourth, I predict that this event will initiate a spike in activity by all involved parties in the blogosphere. Fifth, I'm not nearly as interested in Wade Burleson's status as trustee on the IMB than the current status of the Camel method. I hope that we will have some opportunity in the near future (maybe the next meeting?) to hear that trustees have reviewed the contents of Kevin Greeson's book and are prepared to propose solutions to a problem that strikes to the heart of the gospel.


Anonymous said...

Bro. Bart,

There are many less than charitable responses to the question "Why Now?" As you note, the whole debate of the 2 new qualifiers added in Nov 2005 has essentially died down. Why pour gas on a "fire" that was just smoking embers?

I don't think it had anything to do with Burleson's recent postings.

As I know you like cold hard facts and little speculation on the hearts of men, I'll keep my answers to myself.

But I'd speculate I was right. ;)


Bart Barber said...


I'm not suggesting that there is no good answer to the "Why now" question—I'm just saying that I don't know what it is. The "life doesn't begin at conception" post was a shocker for a lot of people, I think.

Of course, it may be that it just takes a really long time to try and try to negotiate, see negotiations fail, and then come to the end of the rope.

Bennett Willis said...

Does anyone have a good recipe for crow? I thought the IMB would go on about their business without addressing their perceived problems with Wade.

Since you have been hearing rumors about things, Bart, apparently someone else has been "talking out of school"?

This might have roots running to a number of sources of nourishment. The Garner motion might be being responded to in a fashion--there has not been much discussion on that lately and no indication of a response. This might be a slap at Ben (can't get to him so I'll slap the kid next to him). It would have been so easy just to move on that it seems that there is more going on below the eruption than is public.

The life/soul discussion seems a bit recent to have had any impact on this. This took about as long as Jerry's letter (more actually) to come to fruition. If Jerry's letter were not so irrational I might think it was a part of the censure plan. Or maybe he knew that was coming and wrote the letter to appropriate some "look what I did" responsibility. Even if you were a fly on a lot of walls, you might not be able to tell.

They did something and now I have to decide what I am going to do. I really did not want to do that.


Anonymous said...

Bro Bart
If this was about someone in "your camp" or a trustee that you were sympathetic to, would you be up in arms about their decision?
I think I already know the answer and I wonder if you've thought about it. If so, what are you going to do?
Thanks for your consideration.

Bart Barber said...


Let me be clear: No IMB trustee has ever told me anything—not one thing—about trustee plans regarding Wade Burleson. I do not cultivate sources or encourage leaks. I want everyone to uphold their duties and to keep confidences that they have promised.

Wait…I'll have to offer one salient correction…I have read Wade's blog and I hear reports about what is going on internally at the IMB there. Otherwise, not at all.

Where did I first hear that Hillary Clinton planned to run for president? Where did I first hear that B. H. Carroll's portrait at SWBTS had a cigar painted out of it? Where did I first hear that IMB trustees might be planning to try to remove Wade Burleson from their ranks? Frankly, I don't know the answer to any of those questions, Bennett.

The fact that the rumors proved to be wrong argues against the idea that they originated from some inner-circle source.

Bart Barber said...


"Up in arms" how, precisely? Are you asking whether, if someone in "my camp" were censured, I would consider that action a loss and a move in the wrong direction? Yes, I would. Would I grieve it? Yes, I would.

Are you asking whether I would decry the procedure as improper? Not at all. As I have already stated in the OP, I was prepared to criticize sharply the procedure even for "my camp" if it had been improper. I am supporting the action not because it is favorable to my view, but because I find it, unlike some courses of actions I have heard proposed in conversation, compatible with our structure.

Also, I imagine that, if I had a camp, and if someone were clearly at the forefront of it, I would strongly encourage him to abide by the policies very carefully in order to be unimpeachable in his conduct as a trustee.

Thus, it is possible to be "up in arms" about something without allocating perfect unstained innocence to one's own side of things—to regret that something has happened while also regretting what one has himself done to bring it about.

I know that I have indeed felt that way sometimes about some of the things done by some of the folks in "my camp" so-to-speak. There have been actions taken that have seemed to me, at times, not carefully thought-through.

And sometimes the person in "my camp" guilty of that sort of thing is…me.

Bennett Willis said...

Bart, I should not have put in that sentence and did not intend what it seemed like I might have.

Please regard "Since you have been hearing rumors about things, Bart, apparently someone else has been "talking out of school"? " as removed from my comment. This is the best I can do from here. I recognize that others like to speculate just as I do and that is much more likely to be the source of any rumors.

Bennett Willis


Tim G said...

I too am curious as to the changes in the Camel method. Do you think we will hear about this sooner or later?

Anonymous said...

Bart -

What parameters would define your camp, if you had one? :)

Who would you invite in?


Bart Barber said...


Sometimes a camp is simply where you have pitched your tent, and those in the camp with you are those who have chosen the same location to pitch theirs. There is no gate or fence; just geography.

Luke said...

You asked back in October in your post Blogging Doldrums, "Southern Baptist blogging isn't over, but it seems to be groping along trying to figure out what is next. So what do you think? What's next?"

I do not think this was on the horizon for many of us or we will have been using Peter's post title, "Calm Before The Storm".

I think this recent action will kick blogging into overdrive, especially as we near Indy.

Luke said...

I apologize. "we will have been using" should be, "we would have been using". I think it is too early today for me to be using grammar.

volfan007 said...


where did you tell me to pitch the tent? i'm ready to start driving the stakes for the ropes. :)


Anonymous said...


I agree wholeheartedly with your post. I also like the fact that you had a post prepared to defend a removal of Wade as well. I believe if that action had been taken it would have been a wrong move.

I was also wondering something. Being the historical idiot that I am, I was wondering if there were any such dissenting actions during the Conservative Resurgence. If so, how do they compare to the actions of Wade?

I have heard others saying that if this had happened during the CR we would have been upset. My question is simple...Was there anything like this?

Could you shed some light on this for me.


(I've been reading but I've decided to not comment on blogs too much as of late)

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Dougald,

The closest I can remember to any action such as the one taken by the IMB concerning Brother Wade was at SBTS. It seems that Dr. Jerry Johnson questioned the writings of the then President's writings. He pretty much said that you could tell by the material the President wrote that he did not believe the Bible was without error. As I remember the trustees tried, but could not find a way to censure him. It seems that they were void of evidence to dispute Dr. Johnson.

Brother Bart,

Do you know of any other items? I seem to recall that Brother CB was cautioned by some trustees over his stand for life beginning at conception.


Bart Barber said...


Gotcha. Thanks for the clarification, brother.


I can't recall. What was the procedure followed when that trustee was removed from the ERLC a few years back?

Anonymous said...

It appears that the trustees did make a statement on the Camel (or matters pertaining to the Camel). In Mark Kelly's article, 600,000 baptisms, $304.8 million budget frame challenge for IMB trustees, SBC churches, he states:

In other matters, the trustees also:
– adopted a five-point statement of principles for contextualizing the Gospel in other cultural settings. The statement affirms the use of “bridges” from elements of host cultures to communicate Gospel truth and encouraged missionary vigilance that unbiblical concepts in a culture do not compromise “the whole unvarnished truth of the Gospel.”

I would love to see the five-point statement of principles for contextualizing the Gospel in other cultural settings.

A Simple Student @ SWBTS

Bart Barber said...

Simple Student,

I like the sound of the phrase "the whole unvarnished truth of the Gospel."

to-obey-is-better said...

I'm just curious as to what your response is now, knowing that Wade had offered to resign and bow out?

Why would this not have been presented to the full BoT before the censure was voted upon? (per Wade's description of what happened)

Would the final result (censure) have been the same?

I have to think that the two people from the BoT Exec. Committee who talked with Wade in a hallway (and thus the Ex. Comm. itself) had their own plan of what to do with Wade, otherwise why not just let him quietly go away?

Frankly, I'm sick of the lack of integrity that I see on the BoT. I'm tired of email responses that sound "holier than thou" from some trustees (yes, I have first hand knowledge). Why can't they just let things go and get on with the important work?

IMHO, Wade was resigning, he was going to be gone. They, the BoT chose to have this become a huge, blown up mess. Now, it all rests on them.

IMB M in Asia

Bart Barber said...

If Wade's story is a complete and accurate depiction of what has happened, then I can say without reservation that I would have taken him up on his offer.

Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight. To be a true SBC type Baptist you have to be converted in a SBC church, be baptized in a SBC church, be a member of a SBC church, graduate from a SBC college or U., graduate from a SBC Seminary, (pastor, staff, missionary, etc) a SBC Church or one of its cousins... to serve in the SBC.

Did I leave anything out? It seems to me that we have returned to the closed communion days! Only SBC folks can sit at the Lord's table.

Golly gee, I have done all of that, but I am not sure I understand what SBC stands for anymore.