http://www.abpnews.com/www/1728.article Did the IMB 'investigate' charges? Wade Burleson, IMB say no By Robert Marus Published: February 16, 2007 RICHMOND, Va. (ABP) -- Wade Burleson says there was no "investigation" by the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board into his allegations of trustee improprieties -- despite the insistence of some trustees that there was. "What idiot told Mr. Burleson there was no trustee investigative committee?" asked trustee Jerry Corbaley recently on his blog. That "idiot" was IMB president Jerry Rankin, according to Burleson. The IMB trustees recently responded to Burleson's call for an investigation, issuing a statement Jan. 29-31 that said, among other things, that the agency has policies in place to prevent or correct some of the improprieties Burleson alleged and that other allegations were outside the IMB's scope and authority. The Southern Baptist Convention will act on the IMB's response next June. The response initially was described by Associated Baptist Press and several other news outlets as an "internal investigation." But Burleson told ABP that Rankin told him that was not the case; no investigation was conducted. Instead the response reportedly was drafted by the staff. And an IMB spokesperson did not dispute that characterization Feb. 16. Burleson, an Oklahoma pastor who is an IMB trustee, made his motion during the SBC annual meeting last June. The motion called for the SBC Executive Committee to conduct an investigation into several areas of IMB business for which the board had recently come under criticism. At the time, then-SBC President Bobby Welch referred the motion to the IMB itself rather than the Executive Committee -- a common practice for motions made at convention meetings that deal with SBC entities. Burleson did not formally object to the referral. The allegations included internal suppression of dissent among trustees over board policies and improper use of closed-door trustee "forums" to conduct policymaking business. Burleson also requested an investigation into the propriety of the board making policies for missionaries that go beyond the doctrinal parameters of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statement -- the SBC's confession of faith. The board replied that it retains "the prerogative and responsibility of further defining the parameters of doctrinal beliefs and practices of its missionaries." Burleson also accused IMB trustees of bending to undue influence from SBC leaders outside the board, and alleged that members of the convention's nominating committee had attempted to elect people with hidden agendas as IMB trustees. In response to those aspects of Burleson's motion, the IMB said the board had no authority to investigate actions by other SBC bodies -- in this case, the convention's nominating committee and other SBC agencies or officers. On Feb. 2, Burleson -- who operates a popular blog (kerussocharis.blogspot.com) that he has used to criticize some actions by his fellow trustees -- posted a blog entry titled "There was no trustee investigative committee." He said an administrator at the board had told him that the term "investigation committee" in his initial post about the response was inaccurate. Burleson affirmed the board's response, with the caveat that he was uncomfortable with moving beyond the doctrinal parameters of the Baptist Faith and Message without explicit SBC approval. He noted that he was aware the board couldn't investigate the actions of other SBC leaders and agencies -- which, Burleson said, is exactly why his SBC motion called for an external investigation into the IMB's affairs. Then, on Feb. 8, fellow IMB trustee Jerry Corbaley of California used his own blog (sbcglossolalia.blogspot.com) to criticize Burleson's description of the response. "Since July of 2005 the IMB [board of trustees] has increasingly tracked, searched into, inquired systematically, examined in detail, expressing care and seeking accuracy, regarding the myriad accusations of Mr. Burleson," he said. Burleson's earlier critiques of his fellow trustees proved so controversial the trustees made an unsuccessful attempt to remove him from the board. Corbaley, the director of a local Baptist association, continued: "What idiot told Mr. Burleson there was no trustee investigative committee? Or were such words twisted out of context?" He said Burleson's description discounts the work of both trustees and staffers at the Richmond, Va.-based agency, given their long exposure to the controversies that led to the motion. "Such a statement disparages the integrity of the International Mission Board trustees (again) and the Richmond staff," Corbaley wrote. Soon after, Burleson responded. "The report speaks to IMB policy, and it is quite accurate on all counts, but there was no 'investigation' conducted into the major concerns I had expressed in the recommendation itself," he said. It is not clear how the SBC will respond to the IMB report. Burleson is hoping the convention will call for an external investigation. "If an investigation is needed, and it may or may not be determined at the SBC that one is, then an outside ad hoc committee will be created by the president of the convention in consultation with the … Executive Committee -- the very thing I asked at last year's convention," Burleson said on his blog. "The IMB Board of Trustees should not waste their time in these matters, just as the IMB report affirmed." Rankin himself wrote Corbaley to note that he was the "idiot" who asked Burleson not to use the term "trustee investigation committee" to describe the response. Corbaley countered that Burleson had improperly characterized Rankin's description of the board's response. "While I regret Mr. Burleson making Dr. Rankin an issue, I assert that whatever Mr. Burleson was told was twisted out of context by the time it was posted on Mr. Burleson's blog," he wrote on Feb. 12. On Feb. 14, Burleson replied that he "most assuredly did not" take Rankin's words out of context. "Dr. Rankin, in his usual forthright and gracious style, told me that I should remove the phrase. He said that the report to my motion was an honest and cooperative effort to answer policy questions raised by my motion, to not spend any more time dealing with my recommendation than necessary, to attempt to be as non-controversial as possible in the response, and to get back to focusing on the missions and purpose of the board." Burleson said he affirmed the rationale for the perfunctory nature of the board's response, but asked why no one from the board ever asked to look at the evidence and documentation he had amassed to buttress his charges about impropriety surrounding IMB business. "Again, he responded by saying, 'There was no investigation committee,' and suggested that I remove the phrase from my blog," Burleson wrote. An IMB spokesman said Feb. 15 that Rankin was traveling and unavailable for comment before press time for this story. But another board spokesperson, Wendy Norvelle, declined Feb. 16 to dispute Burleson's description of events. "Our leadership has conversations with individuals -- trustee leadership and other individuals -- all day, every day," she said. "Individuals certainly have the right and freedom -- no problem with us -- to report that. We just don't see any merit in trying to move into 'he said, she said' kind of things." When asked if Burleson's description of the board's reply to his motion was actually an investigation, she said simply, "It is a response."