Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Letter to John Floyd

The eyes of the Southern Baptist Convention will be on the IMB Board of Trustees as they meet in Richmond, Virginia, next week. It seems to be a given that the issues relating to Wade Burleson will garner the most attention. The way that the board has handled these issues so far has resulted in a lack of confidence in the board on the part of many Southern Baptists, including myself. However, the IMB Board of Trustees has a new chairman, Dr. John Floyd of Tennessee, so there is a possibility that things may be handled differently. Today I sent the following email to Dr. Floyd suggesting some things that need to be done to restore our confidence in the IMB Board:

Dear Dr. Floyd,

My name is Tim Sweatman. I am pastor of Jackson Grove Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky, as well as the owner/editor of the blog The View from the Hill. As you may be aware, I have been highly critical of several decisions made by the IMB Board of Trustees over the past several months and of the leadership provided by former Chairman Tom Hatley. As the new chairman of the IMB Board, you are doubtlessly aware that many in the Southern Baptist Convention are watching closely to see the type of leadership you will bring to the board. It is my sincere prayer that God will give you wisdom to do what is right so that our work in worldwide missions can go on without the distractions posed by the aforementioned board decisions and the controversy surrounding them. I pray that the board meeting next week will begin the process of putting these distractions behind us. I believe that the following steps would do much to eliminate these distractions and controversies and restore the confidence of all Southern Baptists in the IMB Board of Trustees:

  1. The board needs to examine its doctrinal requirements and remove any that go beyond the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 so that no Southern Baptist who is in agreement with our common confessional statement is disqualified on doctrinal grounds. It is improper, albeit legal, for the IMB or any other SBC entity to establish doctrinal requirements or standards for its employees that go beyond the BFM. The BFM serves as our convention's common statement of faith. Any Southern Baptist whose doctrinal views are in alignment with this statement should be allowed to serve with any of our entities. Of course, there must be other standards such as character, previous church service, calling, education/experience, etc., but the BFM should be the doctrinal standard for employees of SBC entities (including missionaries). We have established our trustee boards to operate our entities, not to redefine our doctrinal views.
  2. Forums and executive sessions should be used only in cases where the security of our missionaries requires secrecy or when legally confidential matters are discussed. As the sole member of the IMB, the SBC has a right to know about what is happening within the IMB. With the exceptions noted above, all business of the IMB should be conducted in open plenary session.
  3. When accusations are made against an individual trustee, that trustee should be accorded the right to speak on his or her own behalf before the board. Also, no public accusation should be made before that trustee has been privately confronted. Furthermore, if there is a need for an accusation to be made public, the evidence for the accusation should also be made public at that time, and the accused should be allowed to present his or her own evidence.
  4. The prohibition against trustees expressing their disagreement with board approved actions needs to be repealed. Again, the SBC has a right to have our trustees speak to us openly and honestly. Of course, any disagreement should be expressed in a Christlike manner, but to be fully informed we need to hear all sides of an issue.
  5. Regarding the decision of the SBC to refer the Wade Burleson motion to the IMB Board of Trustees, I expect that you will bend over backward to make sure that no one can accuse the board of trying to sweep the matter under the rug. To be honest, I think it is unwise to have a body investigate itself, but that is what was decided. Your leadership on this particular issue could do much to give credibility to this process. I hope that you will seek to appoint to this committee trustees who are impartial and have not been directly involved in these matters. I also believe that you should give Wade the right to veto any selection. Only by the appointment of trustees who are acceptable to both sides can we have any degree of confidence in the committee's findings. Furthermore, if any of the parties involved disagrees with the findings of the committee, such disagreement should be incorporated into the final report.
The firestorm caused by the passage of the policies/guidelines on prayer language and baptism and the various issues related to Wade Burleson have cast the board in a poor light among many Southern Baptists. If there is anything positive about all of this, it would be that a number of Southern Baptists are for the first time really paying attention to the workings of the IMB. Of course, I'm sure that you join me in wishing that everyone was talking about reaching people groups and penetrating cultures of lostness instead of these controversies. I sincerely believe you are in a position to provide the necessary leadership to put these controversies behind us and help us focus on what really matters. I and many others are praying that you, Wade, and all the other trustees will speak and act with wisdom, courage, and grace as you deal with these issues. Thank you for your service, and may God bless you.

In Christ,
Tim Sweatman

P.S. I will be posting the body of this email on my blog. However, I will NOT post your response unless you give me your permission to do so. In that case, I will post your complete response so that nothing you write will be taken out of context.


IN HIS NAME said...


Thank you for taking a stand for TRUTH. I'm still praying for you and yours.

A Brother in CHRIST

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Brother Tim,

An excellent letter! Thanks for writing it.

Love in Christ,