Wednesday, November 14, 2007

PERSONAL WORDS ON A FAMILY MATTER

[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... :)

Paul

18 comments:

Wayne Smith said...

Paul and Mary,

You can be very proud of Wade and the witness for Jesus Christ that he has exhibited on His Blog Grace and Truth to You. I started reading Blogs because of my Love for Missions and hearing of the IMB of Trustees trying to Quench the Holy Spirit. I know from experience that when the Holy Spirit convicts a person’s Heart to go to the Missions Field,, if you are a Christian you would not want to stand in their way. This whole Thing has been Sad from the beginning and I can see God’s Hand in Purging and Purifying the SBC because of the Unchristian Way this and other things that have happened in the SBC.
I don’t always agree with everything Wade posts and I let him know what it is that I agree to disagree. God Word is always the final Authority on all things, Don’t add to or take Away from it. Funny how Baptist like to Add to God’s Word, and Fail to see or Preach the Full Gospel.
You and all the Burleson’s are in our Prayers as well as the SBC.
In His Name

Paul Burleson said...

Wayne,

Thanks for stopping by. I know this is a very personal post, but as I've indicated, so many have asked me how we're feeling about it I thought I'd risk it and say.

Honestly, feeling wise, we have very few other than the normal ones. Pride in Wade, pity for those who are in the dark about things, regret for those who will be hurt by it including those who will, for less than good reasons, NOT be appointed and those to whom we will fail to properly minister because of failure to appoint some who should serve as missionaries.

I'm just glad the One who is the Lord of the harvest is still in charge.

Debbie Kaufman said...

As you know Paul, Merrill and I feel that same pride toward Wade but in a different capacity as parishioners. The rest of your comment to Wayne however caught my eye because it describes better than I could word it the rest of what I feel. Pity for those in the dark and regret for those who have and will be hurt. I think it's the ones who eventually will that bothers me the most.

Paul Burleson said...

Debbie,

I'm always grateful when my favorite female blogger [second to Mary of course] stops by. You and Merrill ARE two who know nearly as much as I do about Wade personally. Your opinions carry weight with me.

The person who holds to the idea [as some seem to] that you would be blinded by him, or anyone else, because of loyalty, hasn't a clue as to who you guys REALLY are. You've faced enough bad behavior in ministers of the past as you've well documented and WILL NOT make that mistake again. Good for you. Keep transparancy going with the one who is now your Pastor as I know you will. He wants and needs it from all you who serve the Lord at Emmanuel.

Alycelee said...

Paul, A wonderful and real commentary of Wade and your family.
I loved the way your phrased it... 'a crusader'
This is exactly what Mackey and I connected to when we met Wade. How can one stop being what they are gifted and called to do?
I recently looked at Peter Lumpkins blog about the censure. He had a cartoon character singing 'the lion sleeps tonight', my immediate thought was how very little Peter really knows Wade. Yes he is a lion, but some wish he would sleep. I know he will not.
We love you and all your family.

Bob Cleveland said...

Paul,

I recall another Paul who wrote some really personal stuff on his "blog" a couple thousand years ago. That was some good stuff, too.

Maybe BLOG can also stand for Biblical Life Of Giving.

Or Grace.

AS-I-SEE-IT said...

Thanks!

Paul and Mary ...you ... have every right to proud of a son who in his day will blessing millions.

My wife and I are praying for Wade, his family, and his ministry.

Troy

Paul Burleson said...

Alyce,

You saw that crusader thing in action in a cafe if I'm not mistaken. It's also amazing how gracious he can be while doing it. [Unless one has an agenda against him they would see his gracious spirit in my opinion at least.]


Bob,

What a great acronym. I'm going to remember that one.

Troy,

Thanks for weighing in AND praying.

Anonymous said...

Paul,

You don't kow me. You emailed me once, but that is all.

I can't imagine how difficult it must be to stand aside and let others attack your son as they have. As a father myself, I would have that anger problem you spoke of in another blog. I would probably even call it rightous anger.

I will pray for you and Wade. I have to tell you that for years I have been bitter about the convention and have quite frankly written her off. I didn't see anyone who was willing to take any kind of stand to change things at all.

Wade's willingness to take a stand is refreshing and encoruaging to many of us.

I will pray for you and your family and will pray that God will lead men like me to what He would have me do as well. I pray I can do it with the same grace as Wade.

Curtis Clark

Paul Burleson said...

Curtis,

You are very kind to comment. I have to be honest and say that I've felt marginalized for many years but not because of the so-called "resurgence" of the past few years. It was before that even.

Several years ago when the Spirit began to do a work in our lives my wife and I found ourselves in kind of a no-man's land with regards to our denomination. We were NOT part of.. and were not pleased with.. all going on with the conservatives though we were.. and are.. conservative in theology in a manner of speaking. Meaning we hold to the integrity of the text of scriptures but read them differently than did most people in the CR movement in regards to Spiritual gifts, Elders, the ordinances, the doctrines of Grace and other things.

But we were also held in suspicion by the people now refered to as moderates because of free praise and worship and the use of any and all kinds of literature even non-baptist. [I was on the originating board of a magazine called "Fulness" with many others who were like-minded.]

In fact, Dr. Dilday, when President of SWBTS, whom I know and love very much, was so suspicious of me that he told a pulpit committee that they didn't want me because I was too charismatic in theology and methods. I was [by his definition]...and they did. [they called me]...I got a laugh out of it at the time and still do. He was being honest with them as you would expect him to be. The difference was I was as baptist then as I am now theologically, just free in methods and different in interpretation of some lesser doctrines and not viewed with acceptance by either side.

So...what I see Wade willing to do has encouraged me about the possibilities for our convention in a fresh way as it has you. I have to admit that anger is not one of my emotions at the present as I observe what is happening to him. That's a miracle because of the grip it has had on so much of my life in the past. My hope is that there will be a freedom in understanding truth with a full confidence in the integrity of the text AND a willingness to truly be Baptist is fellowship without thinking we're the ONLY part of the true Bride of Christ. That's my hope. Guys like you help fuel it. Thanks for commenting.

Lee said...

One of the reasons I have remained Baptist and sought to serve through ministry in a Baptist context is the foundational principle of soul freedom, which teaches us to search the scriptures under the illuminating power of the Holy Spirit, and be guided by how God speaks to us through them. That principle cannot exist if there is no way to respectfully dissent.

For a trustee board of a Baptist entity to pass a policy against a doctrine that is scriptural, and then change the rules to make it impossible to challenge the policy is not Baptist. I am glad that Wade was willing to stand up say so, and I am even more encouraged by the fact that so many people have supported his stand. I have, and will continue to do so. He could have saved himself a lot of trouble, as well as his seat on the board, by just staying quiet. I think he did the right thing, and I think the time will come, fairly soon, when his decision, and the gracious and respectful manner in which he has handled his disagreement, will be upheld and confirmed by many good people in the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.

After meeting you, and getting to know you personally, and through your writing, I cannot imagine what kind of church would not want to call you as their pastor.

Paul Burleson said...

Lee,

I think you are correct in your assessment of the future concerning the Convention speaking. I do know if it speaks to the loss of what you've described as your reasons for remaining Baptist, with which I totally agree, it will have left you and me NOT the other way aound. Good thoughts, thanks.

Bob Cleveland said...

Paul,

I think the Continental Divide is moving to central Indiana for a few days, oh, about the first week of June next year. Best reason I've had in a couple years to go back home for a week or 10 days.

You like Italian? I know a great place out on the North side.....

Paul Burleson said...

Bob,

I will be there, love Italian food and WILL NOT miss that meal with you guys this time around.

Chuck Andrews said...

Paul

Thanks for sharing yours and Mary’s insights into the Burleson household. What a great example of being relationally healthy. Not taking up another’s offense. Not triangulating trying to fix the situation. Not intercepting someone else’s struggles, yet, still taking a position of support for the person and a personal stance on the issues.

I agree, if a church refused to look at Wade because of how he has chosen to deal with this issue or, for that matter, if they looked at him because of how he has chosen to deal with this issue, that church may be much more political than what Wade is or desires to be. Those of us who know Wade we know that it’s his heart not his future that drives him.

Chuck

Paul Burleson said...

Chuck,

You've written several comments on several blogs I've read, including my own, and all of those comments have rung the bell. This one is included in the ringing of that bell.

But your last sentence is perhaps one of the best and, I believe, for those of us who know him well, more insightful statements about Wade that anyone has spoken. How right you are and thanks for seeing it and saying it.

Steve Miller said...

Brother Paul and Mary,

It is very evident over the last few months that Wade learned long ago how to take a stand on conviction, even if it meant being alone. What is right in character and conviction is far more precious than being right with the crowd. In the long run the crowd will dissipate and the efforts of the one with conviction and character, done with humility as in this case, will know the favor of the Father. You taught him to stand and stand alone when required. Wade witnessed this in his parents. Even more he knows their love and support will not be diminished even in the midst of pain and the temptation to want to make it right. All you can continue to do is humbly make this struggle yours in prayer and we'll leave the results to God. It's a long journey, I don't see Wade wilting or fading at the finish line. He comes from too good of stock to not end well.

Thanks for having the liberty to share. I certainly appreciate your candor, your knowledge of the issues, and above all your desire to not lower the standard of good will toward those we disagree. This is what needs to become contagious in our convention.

Steve Miller

Paul Burleson said...

Steve,

Thanks for commenting. Mary and I sure are enjoying the three CDs of Kenny Rogers. They are 1 2 @ 3 on my pick-up CD changer. They are listen to often and enjoyed completely. Great stuff.