Monday, November 26, 2007


Labels are telling. They tell you the amount of cotton to lycra ratio in a garment. They tell you how long you can trust the milk to last. They tell you what symptoms to watch for when taking a medicine. All this is good. Thank God for labels.

When labels are given to other people it may tell you as much about the one giving them as it does about the one to whom one is given. For me to call someone a liberal may reveal that I'm far to the right of where I percieve them to be in some area of thought. If someone were to call me a fundamentalist it may show they are far to the left of wherever they think I am in reference to whatever area they are talking about. On rare occasions labels may actually reflect reality about someone. But those occasions are probably few and far between if the truth were to be known.

Labels can be healthy or unhealthy in relationships depending, by and large, on the motivation of the label giver. For me to determine, in my own mind, someone is a racist because of their hatred for one of another ethnic, religious, or societal group, can be a healthy thing if my motivation is to help protect the one/ones judged or to avoid being like the one judging. That label gives me fair warning, as I said, in my own mind.

If I call another who disagrees with me a trouble maker [a label] because I don't like being disagreed with or I am fearful of rocking the boat of an appearance of unity [which isn't true unity at all] because of what someone on the outside looking in will think, it is an unfortunate, if not unfair, label I've assigned to another. That's REALLY unhealthy.

If I label one a friend because I have a warm relationship with them that is characterized by mutual respect it says a lot also. As I said, labels are telling. It is whatever they actually tell us that we have to eventually get to if we're going to be wise people in relationships.

With all this in mind, following the excellent post of Emily Hunter McGowin titled "Claiming the F-Word", dated November 24th, seen here, I want to tell you of a series of messages I've considered putting together for a return visit to some Church where I've been enough times that they are not afraid of me but, in fact, trust me to speak the truth about things. I call it a high trust/low fear factor instead of a high fear/lowtrust one. It would take high trust to anticipate this series I would entitle.."I Am...All Because of Him."

The series would include at least these messages------

"I Am...A Feminist"
"I Am...An Environmentalist"
"I Am...A communist" [notice the little c]
"I Am...A Hedonist"
"I Am...A Non-conformist"

The labels would need defining wouldn't they. They sure would be telling. I'll leave it to you to draw conclusions about what truth and passages of scripture each would be telling about. They might also draw a crowd. :)
What do you think? Just for fun.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


I wonder if Southern Baptist people realize the IMB/BOT rule adopted in March of 2006 states that a trustee must present an atmosphere of silence or say only words of agreement about a decision that has been made by the IMB BOT. But, the rest of that policy says or face the possibility of being censured for not doing so.

It would seem to me if one were to agree to abide by the first part of the rule but later come to realize that to do so violates a higher principle of one's life namely, that it makes one hypocritical, or worse a liar, [not every trustee would share this personal conviction obviously] such an one would then have two choices. First, to resign and effectively lose any ability to change a bad policy or, second, to graciously accept the censure which is in fact, in keeping with the policy after all. [Just the last part instead of the first part. No trustee could keep both parts unless they are voting on a censure.]

It would certainly not be the way those who passed it expected anyone to be willing to keep it. But were one to choose to violate the first part out of a desire for keeping that greater principle they would be choosing to keep the second part. [Or resign, as I said.]

Let me pause here... and offer a scenario. Suppose an embattled trustee [from here on known as ET] is
told to write out a
proposal which he has suggested to end the conflict.
It would include, among other things, a
statement of a potential of
resigning by the end of the year. Then, suppose that that
ET were asked
to meet with a small group to discuss it. So the small
group interupts him
in the writing of it but he tells them what is in the
proposal and they write it down for themselves. [Remember, this group is
supposed to report their findings.]
suppose that small group
leader is asked by the ET if
a censure is forthcoming and he says, while he can't
predict the future, he
didn't think so, which means the ET enters a meeting thinking he will do as he has proposed but has
no need to finish writing the
proposal that day because One..they wrote it down..Two..they will present it as
stated to them. But, suppose it is in THAT meeting that the censure is
presented and voted on. Then that ET later discovers
that the censure had
been drafted the night before in the presence
of the one who said "I don't
think so" when asked if a censure was coming.
Who would you say withdrew the
proposal that included the resignation? The three man group? The Executive group? [IF the Executive group was, in fact, reported to.] Or, the ET?

Finally, what if there were circumstances that had been
revealed to both the
Executive committee AND the small three-man group that
would cause any
person to know the proposal would be fulfilled
by the ET. Say an
influential, well-known
Church sincerely wanting the ET to be
their Pastor was a looming possibility. [From
another State no less,
requiring the ET to resign
from the board.] But ,
because of the censure surprisingly
being voted on, the ET, having no desire to spread the pain, chooses to
refuse to consider
any thing but to be
faithful to his being an elected
Trustee of the IMB
and Pastor of the great
Church who stands with him and has for many years. In this scenario--I again ask--who
failed to present the proposal?
What you would have is a trustee who decided too much attention is being focused on him instead of the mission field, particularly at the Christmas Lottie Moon offering time, hence the offer to resign. This, instead of the censure that would create turmoil even further for all. But it doesn't play out that way. What a scenario that would be. Take it to the bank.

But, the real problem we have is A BAD POLICY. This has been true from it's inception as are the policies of private prayer language and baptism wrongly defined by the IMB/BOT which are also CENSURING prospective missionaries.

No matter one's personal view of Wade as an individual or the IMB, would you not agree that he has chosen within the frame-work of the adopted policy and is only illustrating the terrible nature of such a bad policy? Far from not abiding by the policy...he has been faithful to the policy, albeit, the concluding aspect instead of the prohibition in it which would be a violation of his conscience. By the way, we might be wise to not focus on the BOT for the censure. They were only following policy. So was Wade. Let's focus on the wrongness of the establishment of such a policy in the first place.

So the point we must ponder is the policy itself. What it boils down to is that we have a policy adopted by one of our entities that is bad and has been from it's birth. Why? because it violates a Baptist principle that MUST NEVER BE LOST, namely, the right to dissent in Baptist life whether it be the people on boards, agencies, or even missionaries on the field.

There must be freedom to register a disagreement over policies and even share differing views of lesser doctrines without fear of loss of job, reputation or assignment. It must also be the job of those in charge to show the biblical basis or at least the wisdom involved in decisions being made by the directing body. Any wise Pastor would. I think any wise CEO of a company would. Even a husband/father giving leadership to a family had better be this wise.

When true Christian character is displayed unity will not be lost just because of differences. Someone says "you know human will never work." I know we possess a Divine nature and the power of the Holy Spirit will take a miracle for it to happen. But that is what HE'S ABOUT after all. We are not pragmatists. We are to be principled people.

The only other way to function is BEHIND CLOSED DOORS in an attempt to control things...but in our day those doors don't remain closed and I, for one, don't believe as Christians or Baptists they ought to ever be. Let's open our doors to the LIGHT and let's speak the truth IN LOVE over every issue and every disagreement.

Let's be Christian.... Let's be what Baptists have been historically.

Paul Burleson

As I stated at the beginning of my last post, I'm a member of both families in the dispute. That post spoke of my thoughts about the Burleson family..this one speaks of my Southern Baptist family.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


[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 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... :)