I am not in support of Hiram Smith's motion to remove Wade Burleson as an IMB Trustee. I will vote against it if it comes to the floor.
Reason One: Burleson and His Cause Thrive Off Of Such Actions. A thousand posts on his blog could not do for him what one stunt like this does to help him. My father-in-law likes to quote a movie about Gov. Huey Long in which the Governor purportedly says, "It's our enemies that make us and our friends that break us." Never has this statement been any more true. Burleson's affiliations with the Jimmy Carters and CBEs and CBFers of this world reveal his preferences and hurt his cause. For whatever my political analysis is worth (and I do not pretend that it is disinterested or objective), I think that Burleson has committed a large number of missteps that have hindered the movement that he has tried to birth. Were it not for his enemies, Burleson's movement would be dead and gone already. Burleson as a one-term trustee who loses every vote and then ends his trusteeship by natural causes—what's wrong with that? I'm quite satisfied with that resolution of things. But people discontent with that outcome continue to pack wadding for the Grace-and-Truth cannon at regular intervals. Burleson ought to put them on the payroll if he has room. They generate everything for his site that is worth reading.
Reason Two: Smith's Motion Gives All the Wrong Reasons to Remove Burleson. If I were inclined to see Burleson's tenure end prematurely, it would never be because he has differed with trustee actions or published his views on the Internet. Burleson has suggested that the Conservative Resurgence would not have taken place if people like him had been able to employ the Internet thirty years ago (a statement that shows clearly where he stands vis-à-vis conservatism, by the way). I believe that the Internet would only have hastened the Conservative Resurgence. Actions like Smith's motion, had they been employed during the Conservative Resurgence by the liberals who were in charge, would have worked against the greatest turnaround of a denominational structure in modern history (of course, the big difference is that CR trustees were elected BECAUSE of their agenda to change the institutions, while Burleson's agenda remained hidden from the Southern Baptist people until after his election to the board was secure). Public dissent on the Internet may someday very well be an important safeguard to prevent our institutions from settling back down into liberalism, and we ought not to act in some Draconian manner toward it now simply because it is being abused.
The situation reminds me of the novice hunter holding another man at gunpoint, trying to keep him from stealing the deer that he had just shot. The frightened target, hands high in the air, said, "You can have your deer! You can have your deer! Just let me get my saddle off of it first." The aim and discernment of this motion is no more accurate, and the ability, à la B. H. Carroll's advice to L. R. Scarborough, to take a case to the Southern Baptist people must not become an innocent casualty of this misguided action.
If I were inclined to press for Burleson's removal, I would do so on the grounds of Burleson's ever-growing list of public items of disdain toward the Baptist Faith & Message. To affirm Smith's motion would be to affirm the idea that a trustee could and should be removed simply for being a troublemaker. I cannot affirm that proposition. I could affirm the idea that a trustee is eligible for removal if he propounds changes in his personal theology after his election that put him at odds with the clearly expressed doctrinal will of the convention.
Other Miscellaneous Observations
It will be a cold day in El Azizia before I consult with the Executive Committee on anything I wish to keep confidential. Great people work there, I'm sure (and know from personal exposure), but this situation is Exhibit A for the case that someone in Nashville likes to let Burleson read his mail.
When Smith's motion loses, Wade Burleson will spin it as vindication of all that he has ever written or said. Instead, rather than the SBC saying that there is no Wade Burleson problem, it will merely be the SBC saying that Bro. Smith's motion represents the wrong remedy.
Historically speaking, Smith's motion is probably a predictable outcome. Southern Baptists went so far as to expel from the convention such scofflaws as S. A. Hayden and Ben M. Bogard. With J. R. Graves, the SBC was able to achieve reconciliation. The statistically likely outcome for people who stage insurrections in the SBC is either to vanquish or to be expelled. At the present juncture, such action toward Burleson is premature, and I don't know that it will ever be appropriate, but in the light of history it is not all that surprising.
A great host of bloggers will portray Smith's motion as the carefully orchestrated machinations of some SBC ruling clique. Rather, it is a demonstration of the fact that there is not now and never has been such a clique. Rather, there is a fragile consensus of independent Southern Baptists who have agreed upon enough things over the past three decades to accomplish remarkable and greatly needed change in our convention. The vast majority of conservatives in my acquaintance cringe at Smith's motion, yet ours is a convention in which Hiram Smith has the liberty to step up to a microphone in Indianapolis and move whatsoever he wishes. This is one of the great things about our fellowship, in my opinion.
My thanks to those of you who have wondered what has become of me. Tracy's maternal grandfather, Elwin Tracy (my wife was named after her mother's maiden name) passed away last week. I've made yet another trip to Missouri since my last post. The trip marked my fifth funeral to attend and fourth to serve (my brother-in-law preached and I led the singing) in the past three weeks. I've been a little busy. But thanks to all who wondered where I went.