The new guidelines require trustees to "refrain from public criticism"

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by gb93433, Mar 23, 2006.

  1. gb93433

    gb93433
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    http://www.abpnews.com/www/891.article

    Associated Baptist Press

    IMB won't remove blogging trustee but prohibits dissent in future actions

    By Greg Warner

    Published: March 22, 2006

    TAMPA, Fla. (ABP) -- Trustees of the International Mission Board decided not to seek the removal of one of their own for criticizing trustee actions, but they adopted new guidelines to prohibit and punish such criticism in the future.

    After a closed-door executive session March 22, trustees of the Southern Baptist agency announced they had voted unanimously to rescind their January action against Oklahoma trustee Wade Burleson, who published statements on his weblog criticizing two trustee decisions from November.

    The new guidelines require trustees to "refrain from public criticism" of not only trustee policies -- like the November decisions defining a proper baptism and prohibiting use of a "private prayer language" by missionary candidates -- but all "board-approved actions."

    Likewise, the new guidelines require trustees "to refrain from speaking in disparaging terms" not only of fellow trustees but -- after an amendment -- of all IMB personnel.

    Board members who spoke to Associated Baptist Press after the meeting said the guidelines could have prevented the showdown with Burleson and now will give trustees other options besides removal for dealing with conflict among board members.

    One such alternative apparently already was enacted -- Burleson said on his blog after the vote that he will not be allowed to serve on any trustee committees until the board or its chairman allows it.

    Burleson, who insists he did not violate any IMB trustee policies and was never confronted with specific charges, told ABP March 22 he is pleased with the guidelines and will abide by them.

    "I've said all along, the authority over trustees is guidelines," said Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Okla., who did not speak during the open portion of the trustee meeting. "I can assure them there will be no one more faithful to the new guidelines, and to hold other trustees faithful to the guidelines."

    Trustee Mike Smith, chair of the trustee orientation committee, said the guidelines, drafted jointly with the trustee administration committee, were in the works for two years, before Burleson was elected to the board. "We knew that it would be seen as a Wade Burleson document, but that wasn't our intention," said Smith, a director of missions for the Dogwood Trails Area in East Texas.

    Several trustees said the guidelines are not retroactive and won't be used against Burleson, who was accused of “broken trust and resistance to accountability” for allegedly disclosing trustee deliberations on his blog.

    Burleson's removal, if it had been approved by SBC messengers in June, would have been the first time a trustee had been removed from an SBC agency, historians said.

    Trustee chairman Tom Hatley said the Burleson controversy and the problems it created were "a small price to pay" for the significant improvements that had resulted. Trustees have improved their accountability procedures and discovered the need for "better and faster ways to communicate with Southern Baptists," said Hatley, pastor Immanuel Baptist Church in Rogers, Ark.

    Hatley said IMB trustees are now more aware of the younger generation of Southern Baptist pastors and leaders who rallied to Burleson's defense. "This high-tech generation is fearless," he said, adding their fearlessness is often taken for insolence.

    While the vote to rescind may defuse the growing controversy over the trustees' treatment of Burleson, it may also trigger further unrest among SBC conservatives who fear the new guidelines are evidence of a convention-wide effort to silence dissent, even among loyal SBC supporters.

    In his blog the day before the vote, Burleson wrote: "Frankly, if criticism of boards was not allowed by minority dissenters in the 1970s and 1980s, the conservative resurgence would have never occurred."

    Marty Duren, a conservative Georgia pastor whose blog, sbcoutpost.com, has followed the IMB controversy and criticized trustees, said he too is doubtful the 27-year "conservative resurgence" could have succeeded if the new IMB policy had been in place in SBC agencies when moderate Baptists were in control.

    Duren, pastor of New Bethany Baptist Church in Buford, Ga., was among a handful of young pastors who attended the IMB meeting in Tampa.

    Several said the guidelines signal a narrowing of dissent within the SBC.

    "It is unconscionable that Baptists would move away from our cherished distinctives" of individual freedom and the right of dissent, said Benjamin Cole, pastor of Parkview Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. In January, Cole threatened to ask the Southern Baptist Convention to remove all of the IMB trustees, saying their action against Burleson had done "irreparable harm" to Southern Baptists' confidence in them.

    While rescinding the action against Burleson was a good move, Cole said, the issue that is energizing the opposition to the SBC's conservative leadership "has nothing to do with Wade Burleson" but everything to do with Baptist freedom.

    The four-page "Trustee Responsibilities" document, approved overwhelmingly with only three votes against, replaces the 47-page 1987 booklet, "Ordered by God," which trustee leaders said most trustees had not read.

    The new document details rules for trustee attendance, advocacy, responsibilities, accountability and discipline. When discipline of a trustee is necessary, the document says, a number of options are available, including investigation, censure, suspension for a period of time, or removal by the Southern Baptist Convention, which appoints all denominational trustees.

    The guidelines call on the trustees to employ biblical principles to seek resolution of individual differences that could damage trust. They are prohibited from "participation in any unauthorized caucus … on a recurring basis to advance a specific agenda." And trustees are instructed not to share "non-public information" with anyone other than trustees and senior IMB staffers.

    "…[T]rustees are to speak in positive and supportive terms as they interpret and report on actions by the board, regardless of whether they personally support the action," the document says.

    "Trustees are to exemplify what it means to be Christ-like in decorum and sincerely committed to the Southern Baptist cooperative missions tasks," says another section. "In this respect, trustees are to speak the truth in love. Trustees are to refrain from speaking in disparaging terms about IMB personnel and fellow trustees."

    "Individual IMB trustees must refrain from public criticism of board-approved actions," notes the section on trustee conduct. "Experience has shown that it is not possible to draw fine lines in this area. Freedom of expression must give way to the imperative that the work of the Kingdom not be placed at risk by publicly airing differences within the board."

    Smith, introducing the document, said, "Certainly in here it's alright to have disagreement. [But] when we leave here we ought to be positive."

    But other trustees said they were troubled if the policy will prevent them from explaining their disagreement to their constituents.

    Several trustees offered amendments, which were discussed at length until it was decided to postpone action until the next morning. In the meantime, the two committees who brought the recommendation reworked the document, incorporating several changes requested by trustees.

    Debate on the revised document resumed the next morning.

    "I believe my trusteeship is primarily to the Southern Baptist Convention," said Allen McWhite, director of world missions at North Greenville University in Tigerville, S.C.

    Any trustee should be able to express "honest disagreement" with a board action he or she feels is "not in the best interest of the Southern Baptist constituency," he said. "No trustee should ever be put in the position where he or she could not do that." Under the new policy, the "only alternative" for a trustee in that position is to resign, McWhite said.

    "When we become trustees, we give up some things," including the freedom to speak against the board, responded Ken Cademartori, pastor of Mason-Dixon Baptist Church in New Freedom, Penn. If a trustee wants to speak publicly against an IMB action, he or she can resign, he said.

    Other provisions in the guidelines include a requirement that trustees "are to covenant with the Southern Baptist Convention by wholeheartedly affirming the current edition of the Baptist Faith and Message," the SBC's doctrinal statement.

    That requirement was first adopted by IMB trustees in 2001. The new document adds, however: "Annually new trustees will be given the opportunity to express this covenant by signing a statement affirming the BF&M at orientation."

    Trustees previously required all missionaries to affirm in writing their agreement with the doctrinal statement. Several trustees said they should not ask the missionaries to do something they had not also done.

    The new trustee guidelines also note: "Trusteees who are interested in any aspect of the operations of the board or the IMB are encouraged to use all available channels and opportunities for securing all relevant information from within the board and IMB structures."

    The board debated at length a policy to require IMB staffers to provide trustees with any requested information. But Hatley referred the motion to the administration committee for review.

    Burleson declined to predict what will happen at the SBC meeting in June. Although he has been invited to participate in various upcoming meetings informing Southern Baptists of the dissatisfaction in the convention, Burleson said he has not decided if he will attend. "I've learned over the last 20 years I don't like politics."

    Trustee Rick Thompson, pastor of Council Road Baptist Church, who had spoken in favor of Burleson's position, called the decision to rescind "a good move." Asked if the new guidelines would have prevented Burleson's earlier criticisms of the board, Thompson told ABP, "They're very specific, and Wade is a man who abides by policy."

    California trustee Jerry Corbaley, a member of the administrative committee, likewise said he was pleased with the guidelines, which provide trustees with several ways to deal with "personal conflicts."

    Corbaley, director of missions for the North Coast Baptist Association, said the guidelines are not retroactive and so would not be applied to Burleson's earlier blogging. But he added, there might be some earlier materials still available on Burleson's blog site that would not comply with the new guidelines.

    Nonetheless, he said, "let the people of God start fresh."
     
  2. gb93433

    gb93433
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    "Those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing."
     
  3. go2church

    go2church
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    When we all think alike, we fail to think
     
  4. jshurley04

    jshurley04
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    Denominational control runamuk. Glad I'm an Indy Funny
     
  5. donnA

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    We have the same rule here on the BB, you can not critize admins or mods publically.
     
  6. All about Grace

    All about Grace
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    I wish I could have adopted a similar policy when I was pastoring "traditional" SBC churches. :D
     
  7. donnA

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    Does this mean you go around publically critizing your church, or it's leaders? A bad idea no matter what denom you are. Would your pastor let your church members go around and treat each other like this? Probably not.
     
  8. PastorSBC1303

    PastorSBC1303
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    I am not sure this is going to matter much. Enough has been stirred up that other people besides the trustees are going to be watching the boards and speaking out when needed.
     
  9. Joshua Rhodes

    Joshua Rhodes
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    True SBC!
     
  10. preachinjesus

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    I blogged about this earlier today

    It is a direct departure from historical Baptist distinctives. It grieves my heart.

    It should also be noted that the decision isn't just limited to criticizing person on the board (something that should be done tenderly and only after sufficient attempts to recompense shortfallings) but extends also to criticizing IMB decisions and policy.

    Therefore trustees and employees can't criticize policies of the board such as their revision of the private prayer language and baptism certification.
     
  11. Grasshopper

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    There lies the problem that is not going away.

    www.wadeburleson.org
     
  12. Tom Butler

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    It seems to me as if the policy is aimed at muzzling Wade Burleson.

    But as a general principle, I think DonnA has a point. When a congregation votes to do something, those on the losing side have three choices: support the action, shut up about it or leave.

    Even Wade Burleson understand that. On his blog, he has pledged to support the trustee action, follow the policy, refuse to comment on issues he disagrees with. If he feels he cannot remain silent he will resign.

    Some church members who stir up trouble could take a lesson from Bro. Wade.

    Tom B.
     
  13. gb93433

    gb93433
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    The leaders in the SBC have openly criticized other leaders for years. Now it is not okay? Could it be that the shoe is now on the other foot.
     
  14. gb93433

    gb93433
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    Seems that the RCC felt the same way when Luther came along. If he had listened to them where would that have relegated God?
     
  15. Tom Butler

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    GP, Wade Burleson is hardly Martin Luther and the IMB is not an apostate church.

    I am not in complete agreement with the new policy on criticism of trustee action, etc., principally because it appears to be aimed at one man.

    As a matter of fact, I agree with the IMB's new policy on tongues and baptism. But I wish they hadn't passed it, because the Convention, the IMB, the NAMB and other SBC agencies now do not speak with one voice. And so Wade Burleson and I disagree, but it is an honest difference of opinion. Dr. Burleson is eloquent and passionate in expressing his views.

    But this thing has gone on now for five months. Dr. Burleson's views are well known and widely supported. His supporters may continue to speak out. But he has done the right thing by shutting up from this point on.
     
  16. rsr

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    The first comment was spot on.

    As to the second: The IMB Board of Trustees is not a church. There is supposed to be a semblance of representative democracy at the convention level. Burleson was elected by messengers, who chose him to represent them, and his allegiance should be to them.

    I thought it was refreshing to see a glint of dissent within the new SBC, but it remains to be seen how long it can last. Burleson has pledged to obey the new rules, but he plans to make sure that major changes in policy are well-publicized before decisions are made. I doubt the IMB will like that any better.

    The more interesting aspect of the blogosphere explosion by Burleson and others is that younger SBC leaders may just decide they don't need to deal with this hidebound bureaucracy and go on to create something else.
     
  17. Tom Butler

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    rsr said:
    No problem with that. That's the way it ought to be.
     
  18. rsr

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    That's the way it ought to be, but I don't think it will be welcome.
     
  19. gb93433

    gb93433
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    Those who lack integrity and want to hide something will not like it and ought to be removed.
     
  20. gb93433

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    http://kerussocharis.blogspot.com/

    Saturday, March 25, 2006
    Why Does It Not End?

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette ran an article yesterday where the reporter quotes Chairman Hatley talking about the unanimous action of the Board to rescind the recommendation for my removal. The reporter writes:

    "Burleson is in a 'status pending' and cannot serve on any International Mission Board committees until issues between him and other board members are reconciled, Hatley said. "We're going to deal with some of those problems we've had in relationships with him under these new guidelines." Burleson disagreed with two policies passed by the board in 2005. One prevents people who speak in tongues or have a "private prayer language" from becoming missionaries, and the other requires that missionary candidates be baptized again in a Southern Baptist church if their baptism doesn't meet certain criteria.

    Burleson began a blog - a sort of Internet journal - in December and wrote about the (baptism and tongues) policies online. Hatley said the blog itself was not a problem, but some content on it was. Hatley said Burleson aired "information and criticism that is not proper for a trustee to engage in a public forum" and (Hatley) acknowledged that the blog is one such forum."

    I have four observations and corresponding questions about Chairman Hatley's statement given to the Gazette. I offer these as genuine, heartfelt questions, and would like either answers or correction to my thinking.

    (1). I am quite certain that there has been no public distribution of the basis for the charge that my blog contains information and criticism that is not proper. I am certain of this because nothing has even been given to me in private to substantiate that claim. In fact, even though I have asked anyone and everyone who is offended at the content of my blog to show me the offending content, I have yet to receive anything hand written, via electronic mail, or via post that shows the offending material.

    Giving to me the offending material is easily done. Someone could email me the text. Someone could write me a letter. Someone could simply print my blog and highlight with a yellow marker the offensive material (this is what I have suggested). I have repeatedly, consistently, and doggedly stated I am ready to defend what I have written, or if it can be proven to be false, to repent. But I must first SEE what I must defend.

    The new policy on trustee accountability states under the section General Responsibilities "Trustees are to refrain from speaking in disparaging terms about IMB personnel and fellow trustees."

    Definition of disparage: 1. To speak of in a slighting or disrespectful way; belittle. 2.To reduce in esteem or rank.

    Question 1: "Is Chairman Hatley's statement disparaging of a fellow trustee?"

    My judgement may be clouded on this issue, so it is very possible that his remark is not disparaging of a fellow trustee. Since he made it publicly I think it is appropriate to ask the above question publicly. The new policy on trustee accountability forbids disparaging statements of fellow trustees. I am sure Dr. Hatley does not intend to violate the policy and I give him the benefit of a doubt, but I guess I am wondering why Dr. Tom felt that statement needed to be made in public.

    (2). The Board voted unanimously to rescind the recommendation for my removal. This is a Board approved action. To rescind means to make void, to repeal or annul.

    I would love to quote the official recommendation for my removal that was rescinded, but I am unsure what will be released to the public regarding the minutes of the January meeting. The approval of January minutes, which contained the actual text of the motion, was on the agenda of the public meeting in Tampa, but we went into Executive Session (closed door meeting) to approve the minutes, and I do not recall the (amended) minutes ever being released publicly.

    I do think it is fair to say that the words "gossip and slander" were a part of the motion. I can say this because I heard these words read into the official public record in January. Since the "content" of the blog is the issue, I'm quite sure the trustee who made the original motion meant "gossip and libel" (since the blog is written, not spoken), but I would agree with Dr. Tom --- the content of the blog was the issue, but rather than give specific examples, the charge was always the very nebulous "gossip" and "slander" because as Dr. Hatley told the Gazette in January, "We are not going to mudsling publicly. It's not Biblical."

    It sure feels like mudslinging when "gossip and slander" are charged publicly with no written substantiation privately. Matthew 18 demands a private encounter where the offense is clearly revealed. I am very comfortable with those words that offend people being made public, because as anyone who thinks through this should know --- THE BLOG IS ALREADY PUBLIC! Show me the improper content and I will vigorously defend it according to policy and documentation or I will "repent" if I can be shown I am wrong.

    Question 2: If the content of my blog was the basis for the original recommendation for my removal for "gossip and slander," but that motion has been now rescinded unanimously, is it not a criticism of the Board approved action to continue saying that the content of my blog was the problem?

    If any trustee ever publicly criticizes the unanimous Board action to rescind the motion to remove, then he is in violation of the new policies on trustee accountability. In the section entitled Trustee Standards of Conduct the policy states: Individual IMB trustees must refrain from public criticism of Board approved actions

    (3). I followed the old trustee manual, called "The Blue Book," very meticulously as I blogged beginning in December and through the middle of March. I followed all policies that were in effect at that time. Therefore, any criticism and information on my blog about Board approved actions or Board approved policies was perfectly legitimate and proper. Of course the new policies that forbid criticism of Board approved actions make my old posts improper, but the new policies are not retroactive. So it is difficult for me to understand how Chairman Hatley could say that on my blog there was "information and criticism that is not proper for a trustee to engage in a public forum."

    Question 3: If I am bound by policies in my IMB service, and the content of my blog falls within the adopted trustee manual (i.e "The Blue Book), then what makes the content of my blog "not proper?"

    I think this is the heart of the issue. I believed I was fulfilling my duty according to policy. Even more, I felt COMPELLED to write my blog because of what the Blue Book demanded of IMB trustees. Trustee leadership wanted me to stop. I said no. This is what became "resistance to accountability" and "loss of trust."

    Trustee leadership said, "Wade won't do what we say." Wade said, "I will do what the policy demands." Impasse.

    New policies solve the impasse. But how can it continue to be said the content of my blog was "improper" if I was abiding by the old policies that were in effect while I blogged?

    (4). I have repeatedly asked that every issue that involves me be dealt with in public. I have blogged this request. I have emailed every trustee this request. I have told trustee leadership on several occasions.

    I am willing to let this issue go away, but when I read statements like I read today in a PUBLIC newspaper, then I go back to saying, "Please, please, please, let's make this public. If we are going to continue making disparaging allegations publicly, let's resolve this publicly."

    Question 4: Why is there a resistance by trustee leadership to make the specific charges (the actual content of my blog that is offensive) public?

    Please understand I am simply asking questions. I respect the fact that Chairman Hatley may be under a great deal of pressure. I frankly compliment him, very sincerely, on his demeanor and spirit toward me this past Board meeting. I enjoyed our conversations.

    If there are no answers, so be it. I at least thought the questions were worth asking.


    In His Grace,


    Wade Burleson
     

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