Tuesday, January 29, 2008


What follows is the exact document read before the entire Board of Trustees of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention today by Wade Burleson at the IMB/BOT meeting in Florida in an effort to go on with the work of missions and wait for the Convention to speak in session in June 0f 2008.

It was deemed unacceptable by the Executive Committee of that Board. It is the same letter that was presented in December of 2007.

I will briefly comment at the conclusion of the letter.

January 29, 2008

My fellow trustees, I want to briefly share with you what a great privilege it is to serve with you as a trustee. It is my belief that God has uniquely gifted and called each one of us to this role so that we can work together to advance the IMB’s mission. My earnest desire is to be a working member of our team so that we can accomplish that mission together. While I understand that some of you may harbor doubts about my ability to actually be a “team player”, I want you to know that I am committed to being a team player and that perhaps you have not yet seen or understood a full picture of me. Accordingly, as we move forward into a new year of serving the IMB together, I would like to say a few words to clear the air of past events, express my commitment to working with you within our internal standards, and then once I’ve spoken, let the proof of my verbal commitment be seen in my future actions.
To begin with, I do admit that I have in the past I intentionally violated our newly revised (Spring 2006) internal standards of conduct. In particular, I publicly disagreed with certain actions taken by this board, rather than speaking in supportive terms or staying silent on matters about which I disagreed. The new standards of trustee conduct, adopted in the spring of 2006, state that a trustee must publicly affirm a board approved action even if he cannot privately support it. I want you to know that I never expressed my dissent out of a desire to harm the work of the IMB or any of you, my fellow trustees and brothers and sisters in Christ. Instead, I did so out of an exercise of my conscience. Simply put, I believed in my conscience that it was the right thing to do to further our mutual goal of supporting the IMB’s purpose of cooperatively taking the gospel to all peoples of the world. I recognize that many of you may have been upset by my decision to express my disagreement and feel that it has hurt the work of the IMB. Scripture teaches us that sometimes we can exercise our conscience in a way that offends others. I am sorry that this seems to be the case here.
Therefore, it is my goal going forward, to the extent it rests in my power to do so, to live at peace with all of you and not cause you offense. It is also my goal to have a greater focus on the work of the IMB than on me. Accordingly, I commit to you this day that I will no longer violate, intentionally or otherwise, our new trustee standards of conduct. If I find myself in disagreement with a policy or proposed policy of the Board, I will express my disagreement using the channels that are available—for example, plenary forum sessions, trustee forum sessions, and private communication with fellow trustees—but will not take my disagreement outside of those confines to the blogosphere or world at large. In fact, if this statement is accepted, I intend to shut my blog down immediately after this board meeting. I should add that it is possible, however unlikely, that an occasion might arise where I believed that we had enacted a policy that violate Scripture or conscience. If that were to happen, I would resign and express my disagreement outside the structure of the IMB or understand I will be censured. I do, however, consider such a future occasion to be unlikely. It is my belief that God has blessed the work of the IMB because it is carrying out a mission close to his heart and that so long as we collectively continue to seek him in prayer, he will guard us from error and bless our work.
I do look forward to working with you as a fellow servant this year and in the years to come.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

As a result of this action [finding the apology unacceptable] by the Executive Committee.. Wade has finally deemed it best to resign from the Board. To read his statement go to http://kerussocharis.blogspot.com/.

Now from me.....

My personal thoughts are few and simple. Religious institutions and systems can become a mechanical process by which we are called upon to agree to and abide by religious laws, rules, or whims established by the powers that be to achieve certain goals at the cost of thought, convictions or conscience personally. By doing so, those institutions and systems establish themselves, unfortunately, as exactly that. Religion. Christianity is, and is to remain, far different.

One of the tragedies of some cultures is that many, if not most, of their systems foster dependency. Anytime they demand cookie-cutter lookalikes and demand people function without personal conscience and choices they are creating mechanical followers who are robbed of initiative, giftedness, and responsibility. That is a culture that devalues people as unique and sacred. That culture CAN invade religious systems as well. Just some of my personal thoughts. I'm sure more will be coming later.

Paul B.

UPDATE on my thoughts..

I thought of writing this to you privately as I normally do, but decided to do it publically after reading the comment to your post by David.

Courage of convictions is so lacking among leaders in our nation [including religious leaders] that many will never understand the decisions you've made now or in the past.
Detractors will see this as a victory for their side or a lack of character on your part. [This simply shows they neither understand character nor the issues from my personal perspective...but that is another issue in itself.] Friends will perhaps see this with some relief that you won't have to continue to face the pressure that has been on your person, family, or Church any longer and rejoice. Or..some of those friends may see it as a setback for what is right and needed and may even wonder if you have capitulated to that pressure.
But people who REALLY know you and know you well realize that it is the same guiding principle of conscience and openness to counsel that you've excercised from the outset in dealing with the effort you discovered to use an SBC organization to hamstring, if not remove, a duly elected leader in Southern Baptist life.
You have sought out, fought for, and taught what the issues really are. That has been a troublesome and costly journey for you at a price you've been willing to pay. Again, I say...I'm proud of you.
Now you will face the cost of another decision based on principle first. The greater problem of becoming the issue has awakened you to the need for this action. You have chosen your course of action.
Some will not understand. You, however, have NEVER wanted to become the issue. You've never allowed anyone else to be the issue and when you did feel that slipping you quickly corrected it. You're now being consistent in this as you have in all things.
To stop short of a calling...because of fear or of pain... is a lack of character. Mark Twain said "Courage is the mastery of fear, not the absence of it." You've never stopped short of your calling.
To go beyond a calling...because of an agenda or cause...is pride. A.W. Tozer said "Nothing that comes from God will minister to my pride or self-congratulations." You've chosen to not go beyond your calling.
As always with you, it is, again, based on principle and is for the good of people, and will not be understood or acepted by all as the right thing. But, praise God, you have been are still being true to your calling.

You said..."I deem it better to be censured by men than to be condemned by conscience." That says it all.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Racist or racism?

Being a "racist" has to do with intentionality it seems to me. It is the demeaning or discriminatory actions or words used against those of a different ethnic origin BECAUSE of a belief that the offending ethnic group is truly inferior. I've known a few genuine "racists" in my time. One I remember did not believe African-Americans had souls. He believed they were just an animal. A different level of animal than the garden variety..but just animal nonetheless. This was a family member of mine. He's been gone a long time and is missed. However, his influence in this regards, is not missed at all.

But "racism" can be words said or actions done unintentionally that offend because of their historical/geographical connectedness to words or actions that have been used by racists. It could be as simple as a failure to comprehend what is/ has been viewed as a demeaning word/action toward a particular minority group. Therefore it may be that only an African-American can truly say what is racism from their perspective. The same is true of the American Indian, Asians, and even Caucasians who have the misfortune of being viewed as inferior and tabbed as "White Trailer Trash." It is something like the old statement.."You would just have to have been there" to fully comprehend.

The human race is truly fallen and racism will always be an issue in that fallenness. But when Grace is real we become sensitive to what is demeaning and offensive to others, not because they demand it, but because we "must needs go through Samaria" to relate to all people as surely as Jesus did.

I'm aware there is..and should be..a consensus that free speech values take precedent over limiting the harm caused by use of words that may be offensive. Thus, we tolerate certain kinds of people, even racists, who cannot be Graced-people if I understand scripture and loving the brethren thing, because of our cherished freedom of speech. Too many Americans have died to protect that freedom of speech to give it up because someone is offended by another's words. There are limits to be sure..no shouting 'fire' in a theatre..but free speech is our heritage at a great price.

But as citizens of "another country," graced people will be more concerned than most with what is offensive to others. Again..not controlled by others.. but controlled by a desire to life out the reality of Christ to our fallen world. It is with this in mind that I write what I am writing. I'm not speaking about any single person's failure or defending another though I will perhaps be thought of as doing both. I'm doing neither. I understand that thinking, but, I write personal e-mails to anyone that I might have a personal offense with over any blog controversy and I've done that several times in the past few months.

I'm addressing my thoughts about a bigger issue we all must give thought to it would seem to me. We are not "racists" but "racism" can creep into our words or actions unintentionally but creep in nonetheless. It is with this in mind that I am going to point out how some words can be seen as a slip into "racism" though I might argue as to my intention. I'll give that list in a moment.

To illustrate. A few years back..one of our deacons who is African-American and loves me deeply and I him.. asked to speak with me after a Sunday morning message. That morning in the message I had told of witnessing to a young African-American woman who was a groupie with a Pro-football team and was with them as they departed an airport where I was awaiting my flight. I moved to the young lady and began sharing the gospel. It was a profitable sharing time. I told the story. The deacon suggested there might be a bit of racism involved in the telling of my story. I disagreed. I'm not a "racist" I said. He agreed. "You're not" he said. That's why he was speaking with me. The deacon asked me if I would have said she was Caucasian had she, in fact, been white. I knew immediately what he was saying. I apologized. Two college students had stopped to listen [one African-American one Anglo] and the white student took up my cause with passion mentioning that were one to hear a police report the race would be mentioned. The deacon quietly said to the African-American student.."tell him." The young student said.."you can argue all you want but to me it was racism." Did I mean racism to be present? Absolutely not. Was it? An African-American said it was. I learned that day the lesson I'm attempting to pass on in this post.

I'm not debating whether those were innocent words of mine and I meant nothing racial by them. Of course they were innocent. To me. But to someone else? It is much like when I went to Indonesia for the IMB and was instructed to never cross my legs with the sole of my shoe facing someone. It is an extreme offense to that ethnic group. So I refrained from what is thought of differently by me. If we are to minister to people or just to live out the Christian life in certain areas of our society we had better become sensitive to certain words that carry an atmosphere with them of which we may not be fully aware. Now that list. I will limit myself to food words for this post. [I admit to a slight difference here. The leg crossing was simply cultural..the mentioning of the race of the girl was implicit racism meaning I associated her with color though I do not think of Caucasians in like manner.]

On second thought..I have chosen to NOT present
the list. No one is involved in this decision except
me. I trust the post will make sense anyway. Use
your imagination if you can. [though I don't think
that is adequate at all] I will simply say a sample of
those words would be...
wheat thin/cornbread/marshmallow/bean dip
and the corresponding meaning given to them by
bigoted people that we don't relate to at all.

We can argue all day as to what we meant when we used them, but, to the one they have been used against, my intended meaning will never pass muster. It is this sensitivity that we must never lose. And, I must say, this list is NOT exhaustive. [One site addressing such matters has a list of over 350 words and meanings.] my list is simply to illustrate my point. I think it does that. Also, my desire is NOT make a list at all, but, to open us up to the possibility that our intention may not be the overriding issue in communication. It may be that what someone hears us say is what real communication is all about.

This is not a pretty world we live in but as salt and light we can change things and preserve a modicum of respect when we reveal an openness to others and their hurts. This certainly enhances our gospel message and casts a bright light on our Christ in whom there is "neither Jew not Gentile, male nor female, bond nor free." Just people.

Paul Burleson

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


This is my one hundredth post. Not major on the scale of important things that are news worthy except to me and a handful of others that are close to me.

On this one hundredth post I had intended to continue with the idea of the baggage we tend to bring into relationships but will do that on my one hundredth and one post. On this occasion I wish to suggest you check out Mary's new blog here... http://rebel4reality.blogspot.com/.

It appears the Burlesons are making an assault on the blogosphere with our sites. [We haven't told you of the other three kids sites which are personal in nature.] In fact, I had a thought that you might wish to, assuming a desire to stay up with any of our blogs, simply put a link entitled "Burleson Blathers" and list any you desire to read regularly under that heading. :)

Seriously, someone might wonder why we each are free to do this. [Speaking here of the more public blogs] Isn't one Burleson blog enough? It may depend on who you ask since some might say one is one too many, but, if you ask me,[thanks for asking] it will be a neat way of getting different perspectives on issues and even differing emphasis. One Burleson blog might be considered the theological and denominational emphasis while another is the practical pastoral ministry direction. Yet another might be seen as a personal and relational emphasis. I'll leave it to you to decide which is which. :)

It will also enable a gender perspective to be presented on some issues, whether those are relational OR theological that is not often heard/read. [Mary knows as much theology as I do.] In a lot of marriages and families, the husband, father, man, seems to be the source of the thoughts, insights, and opinions on whatever is being discussed. This is particularly true among preachers and their families it seems. I realize this may only be a public perception and that privately much more communication and diverse opinions are shared, but, what we will do is just be open and publically present the different ideas that may exist in a family. This seems to us, [Mary and me] as we discussed this on our two-mile walk this morning, to be the healthy and even profitable way of doing it.

I will admit that Mary asked me if her hosting a blog would bother my doing so in any way. I will also admit I had to think about it. But, without having to think too long, [one lap around the mall/we do four] we mutually agreed on the value in it in the ways I've already indicated. And if you heard in what I just said that I gave... or she was asking permission... to do what she's doing... you are one of those I trust will be helped by what I/she will have to say especially about marriage relationships in coming posts. You need it.

So, I welcome "Reality Check" to the blogwaves and will tell you that the author of that blog and I have a thing going. We're more than friends...though we are that.. even best friends...and what we have going with each other will be left unsaid so my one hundredth post will not be banned with an R rating. :)