Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Outrageous! (Updated)

The Board of Trustees of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist convention has wrapped up its meeting in Tampa. Thank God! There's no telling what other outrageous actions the board would have taken if the meeting had not adjourned. The best firsthand summaries of what happened can be found on the following blogs:

SBC Outpost (Marty Duren)
Big Brother--Tampa, Part 1
Smoke and Mirrors--Tampa, Part 2
Merry Go Round--Tampa, Part 3
This Is Dedicated to the Ones I Love--Tampa, Part 4

Grace and Truth to You (Wade Burleson)
Wise Heads and Warm Hearts
My Last Post as an International Mission Board Trustee?
Decisions
Ten Terrific Things Tied to Tampa

The Road We Travel (Rick Thompson)
Reflections on Our IMB Meeting (Everyone Stay Calm)
Resolutions I Am Making Coming Out of Our Last IMB Meeting

I cannot understand how anyone can read about what transpired at the IMB Board meeting and not be outraged. The board has declared that once they have made a decision that no trustee can express public disagreement with that decision. Apparently the board wants to make sure that all of us ignorant Southern Baptists are never again tipped off about some bonehead decision made by the board so that we will never again have the audacity to dare express our opposition to such a decision. It would not surprise me if the board's next move would be to attempt to move all matters of substantive business to executive session so that independent observers (whom the board cannot silence) would have nothing to report on. That way the board could exercise absolute control over all information about its proceedings, which seems to be the direction it wants to move toward.

I can't figure out for certain whether the primary force behind this new policy is arrogance or ignorance. Arrogance in the sense that the trustees are saying, "This is our board! We don't have to answer to anyone except ourselves!" Ignorance in the sense that the board seems not to realize that this action will erode what's left of any trust that a number of Southern Baptists, especially us younger ones (but many others as well), might have had in the board. It appears that the majority of trustees can't get it through their heads that this push to enforce conformity is one factor that is causing a number of younger people to reevaluate whether or not the SBC is the place for us. We value transparency, openness, and the free exchange of ideas. We understand that there is a difference between uniformity and unity. We are more interested in right being done than in procedure being followed. We are willing to fellowship with and cooperate with others with whom we disagree on certain issues. And we don't see the recent actions of the board as reflective of these values.

After reading about this new policy, my first instinct was to advise Wade and other likeminded trustees to resign as a matter of principle. But upon further reflection, and after reading a comment from one of our missionaries asking who would be their voice, I concluded that these trustees need to remain on the board so that someone on the board can be a voice for our missionaries. Sadly, it seems that too many of our trustees really don't care what our missionaries think about policies and strategy; at least that is the perception of many current and former missionaries, and it seems to be a valid perception. Even more disturbing is the fact that there is such an atmosphere in the IMB that many missionaries feel that they cannot openly share their views without suffering some sort of reprisal. Why doesn't the Board of Trustees work on creating an environment where our missionaries feel free to speak out on issues that directly affect them instead of imposing policies to shut the mouths of those trustees who would speak out about many of the concerns our missionaries have?

Another appalling aspect about this meeting was the way that some of the trustees attacked IMB President Jerry Rankin. One trustee engaged in a petty squabble because Rankin had not given him a copy of a video that he asked for, even though Rankin showed the video to the entire board. Others accused Rankin of trying to undermine the authority of the trustees. (Hmmm, what about trying to undermine the authority of the president?) And at least one trustee basically accused Rankin of lying. Such actions only confirm suspicions that some of the trustees are seeking after power and control.

In spite of all of this, Wade and Rick both gave a generally positive assessment of the meeting. Of course, the new policy does not allow for any other type of assessment. But still, their positive remarks are genuine; had they not truly believed that some good things happened, they would have remained silent. Both of them pointed to the unanimous vote to rescind the motion to remove Wade and the adoption of a new policy that prohibits trustees from publicly disparaging other trustees or IMB staff. Rick talked about the overall positive demeanor of the meeting as a good sign. Wade had quite a bit to say about the increased interest in the work of the IMB and its board as evidenced by the attendance of about 20 young SBCers and the volume of correspondence the board has received in the past few months. Both are optimistic about how this situation will ultimately turn out. I wish I could share that optimism, but at this moment I simply cannot be optimistic. It is hard to be optimistic about the IMB when any trust I had in its board has been wiped away by that board's actions. I can only hope that their position as insiders gives them some real cause for optimism that we on the outside cannot see.

UPDATE! Marty has also indicated that some good things happened at the meeting but has not had the opportunity to discuss this in detail. He was very complimentary of Tom Hatley's leadership of the meeting. Hopefully he will say something that will generate a little optimism. I would love for someone to prove me wrong (and I don't say that very often).

15 comments:

A voice in the wilderness said...

Tim,

If this is what the BoT does to its own, what do you think would happen to any missionary who happened to be critical of anything that the trustees did (notable exceptions being those with "magic" last names)?

David Rogers said...

Voice in the wilderness,

Are you an "m"?

I imagine I may be one of the ones you may be referring to regarding the "magic" last name. I would hope that I would not get preferential treatment, just because of who my father was. It is also my hope that by speaking up about what I believe, I might be able to serve somehow as an advocate for those who don't feel the luxury to be able to speak out so openly.

Wouldn't it be interesting if there were some way to poll all the m's out there, and get an honest answer (no fear of reprisals) about what they think of all this?

Grace,

David

steve w said...

Tim,
Have you seen the revised trustee conduct or communication policy that was actually adopted? I have not. I feel you brother, believe me. But we may not yet have a complete and accurate picture of what transpired in Tampa yesterday.

As I said on Art Roger's blog (link)

I'm willing to take a breather until I get more information. No one is saying we have accomplished all that needs to be done. I just want to make sure I'm not reacting to miscommunication or acting on my own misunderstanding. If the trustees have just patched up some tears in their cloak of secrecy, we'll know very soon. If they're just trying to restore some civility among their ranks, we'll know that too.

GuyMuse said...

David,

You ask, "Wouldn't it be interesting if there were some way to poll all the m's out there, and get an honest answer (no fear of reprisals) about what they think of all this?"

Wouldn't it be indeed?

There does seem to be some good coming of all this in that lostness seems to be regaining center stage. I wish more Southern Baptists could experience what some of those present in Tampa experienced to rekindle the flame of missions in peoples hearts.

As an "m" I can tolerate the side shows as long as the main attraction--the Kingdom of Christ--remains the main thing. Our energy must be focused on the task, not the side issues. Hopefully that is what may have begun to happen in Tampa.

I went to a prayer meeting last night with a heavy heart and my head spinning from everything going on. I was in no mood to pray. It was pouring rain and I knew nobody would even show up on such a terrible night.

But God needed to speak to me and He did so by actually sending two brand new week-old believers who showed up dripping wet. They had been prayed for just the previous week. Both shared openly the miracle of how Christ had transformed their life, how their marriage had been saved, how happy they were. They delightfully participated in the song singing time, even making a song request. Both were encouraged to pray out loud along with the other handfull of people who eventually showed up. Their prayers were so simple yet so beautiful in their gratitude for Christ saving them.

It was if God himself was saying, "this is where my heart is, this is what matters, as long as you keep doing the right things that are in your power to control, I will continue to bless."

It dawned on me that nothing decided in IMB BoT meetings is going to be able to stop the mounting tidal wave of God preparing for himself a bride around the world. I believe Jesus Himself answered my question posted yesterday on Marty's blog. I do appreciate Tim's response to my fearful question (nice try!), but God's personal answer last night trumped Tim's!

David Rogers said...

Guy,

Awesome!!!

From some things I am picking up here and there, I am starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel as well. And, as you say, in the long run, it's all in God's hands.

David

Tim Sweatman said...

Guy,

I'm used to being trumped by God! It's wonderful how God will speak to us at just the right moment!


David,

I may try to rig up some sort of poll in a future post. Since M's can comment anonymously, it might just work.


Steve,

I'm willing to change my perspective if the information warrants it. I would love to be proved wrong.


Voice in the Wilderness,

That's one of the greatest issues we have to deal with. Based on the comments of several current and former M's, that seems to be the most significant challenge to morale on the mission field.

Kevin Bussey said...

Tim,

I am concerned about the new policies. I'm glad for the postive spin but it is the same old back room politics to me.

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Tim,

Yes, I am outraged, as well. This is a very transparent attempt to exert control over the board. What makes me even madder is that it is working! We're dealing with veteran politicians who have a 25-year head start on us. I don't see how we can get anywere against them, but I'm going to be part of trying!

Love in Christ,

Jeff

steve w said...

Jeff,
There are people who have 25+ years of "battle experience" that are well trained in navigating the SBC political maze, and are ready to jump in with a younger generation to tackle whatever issues need to be tackled. You see some of them on various blogs calling us to Greensboro. I'm guessing there are things happening behind the scenes in preparation for Greensboro. Don't lose hope brother.

In light of the North Carolina Biblical Recorder article (link), I say march on O fearless ones!

Villa Rica said...

Brother Jeff,
Hold fast and listen to the words of Brother Steve W. There are good folks that know the opposition as they know the backs of their hands.

The opposition is aware of these people and are deeply concerned. For this reason they chose to show the strongest hand possible in Tampa. If they could have gotten by with more they would have.

An early show of force is one of their oldest tactics. It is possible that they have over played their hand this time.

Therefore, it is very needful for you and all with hearts like yours to see this thing through.

Come to Greensboro. Speak the truth in love and without fear. Pray with passion for God to do a mighty work among Southern Baptist like He did in 1954. If we cleanse our hearts and hands the world will see us again as a people of THE BOOK with hearts on fire for God and the salvation of the lost.

On to Greensboro. Lets help Ben, Marty, Art, and Wade and whomever The Lord raises up to bring us together in that place to do the right thing in the right time and the right way.

To Greensboro,Brother,To Greensboro.

Villa Rica

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Steve and VR,

I cannot see anything happening in the annual meeting except someone moving for something good that will reverse some of the damage and it getting defeated 7,750 to 250. O, I'm going to be there, and be one of the 250. But do we have any realistic chance of accomplishing anything?

Love in Christ,

Jeff

Anonymous said...

As an M serving in a level 3 security region, I have been especially interested in the blog comments from M's on the field on all the blog sites dealing with the IMB trustee issues over the past several months.

The majority of the M's blogging, including this M are opposed to the policy changes voted on last November. We had no idea that this was coming down the pike until after it was voted on. This M is also outraged by the decision to muzzle Dr. Wade and other trustees who expresss disagreement.

However, I do want to make an observation and distinction concerning the M's who have been blogging. There are those former M's who still have an axe to grind over having to sign the BF&M2000 who have used your blog sites as a place to vent their criticisms and sling mud and those of us who were in total agreement with BF&M2000 but disagree with the policies concerning private prayer languages and baptism.

Those former M's need a place to vent their frustrations, but PLEASE do not lump all of us into one group. Many of those former M's needed to leave the field because their theological convictions exceeded the parameters defined by the BF&M2000.

There are the rest of us who whole-heartedly agree with the BF&M2000 but now have to work under a BOT whose theological convictions exceed the paramaters set by the BF&M2000.

I am disappointed in our BOTs. I have more respect for those liberal M's who, out of conscience could not sign the BF&M2000 than I do for our trustees who have yet to give us a biblical rationale for their policy decisions.

Signed,
Bewildered M.

steve w said...

Good word Bewildered. Thanks for speaking up, and thanks for your ministry and dedication. But just to let you know, I think most of us can tell the difference on the blogs. And I think most of us can understand the concerns of both current M's and former M's. But thank you for saying what you've said. Hearing from M's has been one of the great blessings of this whole mess.

Anonymous said...

Bewildered...

You spoke well. I am another bewildered M.

We have been pouring out our lives to win people to Christ, to teach them to follow the Word of God, and now it looks like our very own BoT, dominated by Landmarkists, are going to insist that Ms teach extra-biblical tradition (albeit Baptist tradition to new believers?

I am totally confused. I genuinely thought the Conservative Resurgence was about sole commitment to God's Word. Now it seems that it is (was?) about control and power.

A 10-40 window worker said...

A 10-40 window worker,

To Bewildered M...You said, "I am disappointed in our BOTs. I have more respect for those liberal M's who, out of conscience could not sign the BF&M2000 than I do for our trustees who have yet to give us a biblical rationale for their policy decisions."

While I agree with most of your post, I have a problem with you categorically labeling any former M who would not sign the BF&M2K as a "liberal." By lumping everyone who, for whatever their reasoning, could not/would not sign a statement that they had been assured they would not need to sign, you are doing a disservice to many faithful missionaries. We continue to hear the perjorative, LIBERAL, thrown about with abandon. I personally know several who would not sign that creed, and not one would come close to being a liberal.