[My view on the IMB censure of Wade]
I've had several [and I mean several] friends ask me how Mary and I feel about the thing that has happened to Wade. I don't speak for Mary but told her what I was basically going to say and she gave me permission to speak for her on this issue. So I can, with due respect, now say "Mary and I" and really mean both of us.
For obvious reasons I'm going to be very personal here. It really is a family matter. But remember I'm part of the two families in this dispute, the Burleson one and the Baptist [SBC] one. I trust I will also be honest and factual without judgment on anyone's character as that is never a legitimate option for one wanting to share with others the same Grace God has shared with us. I'm also going to approach it from a three-fold aspect. You will see what I mean as I go along.
The first thing... is the path that led to the censure itself. Wade has done a masterful job of giving the chronology of the events and issues on his blog. Read his blog entitled "Stifling Dissent is not Baptist and is not Good" dated Monday, November 12 here. You will be blessed and enlightened.
I will only say that, as one who walked with him through those events as they happened, I can attest to the veracity of everything written on his post. It happened as you read it there. I'll leave it at that.
A second thing...is the major point of the controversy that resulted in the censure. It must not be forgotten that the policies presented at his first IMB meeting were that major point. Those policies forbade a candidate or spouse having a private prayer language being appointed. Then baptism... defined in a way that elevates the IMB's view of baptismal correctness theologically above that of the local churches that have sent the candidates in the first place and... even beyond the BF@M itself... became grounds for denied appointment also. That was the launching pad for what ultimately resulted in censure. Wade's question at that meeting, as he describes it was, "what policies?" He asked because he was told that day the new policies described above would prevent those people from being appointed. Remember, the two policies were being presented for the first time that day to all the trustees for approval.
Wade began a journey of questioning the biblical basis for those particular doctrinal policies being a hinderance to appointment. Bloggers have questioned those policies since. I question those policies too. In fact, the 2007 Convention [perhaps the 2006 Convention as well with the election of Frank Page] questioned those policies. Wade has been the only one censured. The rest of us were just ignored.
But in my opinion the questioning of policies should not be offensive nor should a trustee questioning those policies be. It is THAT questioning that led ultimately to a policy adopted in March of 2006 that forbade a trustee to speak against a policy once it has been adopted by the Board which has, in fact, wound up being the stated grounds for censure. [The policies were officially adopted in November of 2005.] Wade reveals on his blog the struggle he went through with the ethical dilemma he faced because of that muzzling of dissent policy adopted after the fact. At first he was willing to live by the policy and stated so, but came to see ethically he could not. As he says on his blog, he would be either pretending at best or lying at worse.
Someone in a comment on Wade's blog asked..."Don't you require deacons to present a united front when your Church is voting on something?" My answer to that question, as a former Pastor for forty years, is "absolutely not." The only thing our deacon policies DID require was that no deacon could speak against it at the adoption meeting of the Church if he wasn't there to speak against it at the deacon's meeting when it was discussed. After the adoption meeting was over and the Church decision was made anyone could speak about their like or dislike of it. We certain didn't force them into a position of pretending to NOT be opposed by remaining silent.
We did, however, require in our by-laws ALL MEMBERS refrain from being strife genderers by being obnoxious about anyone's character in disagreements or differing opinions of a direction taken. But that is another thing entirely from dissenting graciously. Obnoxiousness was not defined as refusing to be quiet about the issue afterwards. It was refusing to be gracious about it afterward. You could violate our Church policy by being obnoxious even if you had WON the vote and we would have dealt with that obnoxious spirit as well.
To make a policy that one cannot speak what they believe about anything accepted by the Church but must, instead, pretend they are in agreement with it is beyond me as a Pastor. I know the IMB BOT is not a Church as the Denomination is not, but certain principles should guide all Christians in any work we do. Muzzling dissent is not one of those principles. Speaking the truth in love is one of them however.
From my perspective of walking with Wade through this whole thing, he did not ring the obnoxious bell at all. He certainly didn't attack anyone's character which any fair reading of ALL his blogs will evidence. [Though for some he rang the irritation bell frequently.] To define disagreement with a policy and asking questions about it... then refusing to pretend to be in unity over it... as an obnoxious person or lack of character... would be unthinkable to me. There IS a higher principle at play here and Wade kept it in his mind and heart. He has chosen to accept the consequences of that choice and has done exactly that. So be it.
Finally...a word about the person who was censured. Mary and I could fill volumns about all four of our kids and bore everyone to death... as truthful as we would be in the telling of it all. When it is about someone else's kids, it's boring or borders on the boring for most people. I'll spare you that and stick to the one censured.
In context, I must speak to the thoughts Mary and I have in seeing Wade face this kind of unprecendented historical event in Southern Baptist life. It has never been done to a sitting trustee before in our 150 or so years of existence as a Convention that I know of.
We've known since Wade was a child that he was a crusader. You violate someone's person or rights' or integrity... and Wade was around... you had a tiger by the tail. He has always been willing to stand alone when necessary on important issues. He won the Scholar-Athlete award his senior year in high-school as well as being on the scholastic honor roll and was asked to pray at the opening of his graduation excercises. Dr. Roy Fish, Professor of Evangelism at SWBTS in Ft. Worth, who was there, told me it was as fine a presentation of the gospel [in a prayer remember] as he had ever heard. Wade knew it would not be well received. You can tell the fear of rejection keeps him from doing what he believes he's suppose to...right? :)
In Tulsa, his Minister of Music told me of the time the Street Department of Tulsa paved the parking lot of a tavern for free after paving the entire street in front and Wade, after going in to talk to the owner to get his facts straight, appeared before the City Commission appealing for fair and equitable treatment of the other businesses along that road.
As President of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma he faced some activities that were, in his mind, unethical if not deceptive, that will remain unnamed. [I walked with him there too.] The outcome is also unnecessary to articulate but, suffice it to say, those in leadership in the BGCO love him.
Mary and I are satisfied that it is a calling on his life and the end results of being faithful to that calling are in the hands of a Sovereign God. It is enough for us to know that his family, Church family and friends are all better because of who he is in character and ministry. And I believe ultimately the Southern Baptist Convention will be better also.
What do I think about his reputation being lost in the minds of some, or opportunities to pastor some churches being lost as I was asked by one? Someone has said..."Reputation is what people think about you..character is what God knows about you." Mary and I will rest in the knowledge of God.
As to pastoring other churches...he's at the best one now. Besides that, a Church that wouldn't call him because of what he has been faithful in doing on principle were they to know the facts, is not one that would match his gifts and calling anyway. We'll just leave all that, as well as the controversy in the SBC, in the hands of the One who in in charge of it all. I have a sneaking suspicion the outcome of ALL things will be a surprise to most of us as it is.
So...that's our story...and we're sticking to it. A bit personal, but thanks for asking. We'll admit to the normal prejudices but I would suggest you read ALL his post when time permits so you can judge for yourself. I will simply say that what I've given is just my humble... but accurate opinion... :)