Trustees for the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) International Mission Board (IMB) have asked the convention to remove one of its own. Meeting January 9-11, the trustees cited "broken trust and resistance to accountability" by trustee Wade Burleson.
The senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Oklahoma, Burleson has used his weblog to criticize two policy changes the IMB trustees approved in November. But the trustees denied that his opposition prompted their action.
"This difficult measure was not taken without due deliberation and exploration of other ways to handle an impasse between Wade Burleson and the board," chairman Thomas Hatley said in a statement. He told CT, "It's not about anything other than how one brother treats another. It's about Christian courtesy and the way Christians ought to interact. It has nothing to do with a theological or political issue."
IMB trustees voted 50-15 on November 15 to bar new missionary candidates who practice a "private prayer language" or tongues from serving on the mission field. The trustees also mandated that a candidate be baptized in a church that teaches believers' security and practices only baptism by immersion.
Burleson has been posting criticism of these two policy changes on his blog, wadeburleson.com, since early December. He contends that the new policies are overly restrictive. "We are continuing to narrow the parameters of fellowship and cooperation in the area of missions and evangelism by demanding conformity and agreement on nonessential doctrines," Burleson said in a January 18 post.
"I have said some very tough things," Burleson told CT, "but I have always said them with love in my heart for my fellow trustees."
Hatley told CT that trustees did not vote to remove Burleson because of his blog. But Burleson contends that IMB trustees have likened his blog to gossip and internet pornography.
"I really think if the trustees took time to hear my motives, communicate with me, and recognize that even though I am 'new,' effectual work could be accomplished," Burleson said in a January 12 blog posting.
Hatley told CT that no SBC board trustee has ever been removed for "being disruptive to the board." Burleson, elected in 2005 to a four-year trustee term, cannot be ousted from the board until the annual SBC meeting June 13-14, when the convention would vote on the IMB request.
But Hatley said he expects the board will resolve the matter before theneither through reconciliation or through Burleson resigning.
Burleson holds out hope for reconciliation, but said he will defend himself at the convention if necessary. He told CT, "There is a greater possibility that the pope will become president of the SBC than there is for me to resign."
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Christianity Today earlier covered the IMB's new tongues policy.
The Burleson case has attracted the attention of news sources beyond Baptist Press (which has published two articles on the Burleson dispute) and Associated Baptist Press (which has published three). Mainstream press coverage has appeared in the Associated Press, Dallas Morning News, and Burleson's local paper, the Enid News (which has published two stories).
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