News out of Florida indicates the IMB Trustees determined a way to quell dissent. On my way to visit folks in a couple of hospitals a friend called who has observed the IMB developments as an “outsider.” [read, not Southern Baptist] Many would care little what an outsider thought but since our actions do not take place in a vacuum and the SBC represents the largest “baptist” denomination in the world we should pay careful attention to the way in which our actions are perceived by observers. He commented to me wondering why the Board of Trustees would flaunt their “authority” in everyone’s face. (He did not state is so diplomatically.) I admit to expecting something interesting but it never occurred to me a denomination with dissent in its history would shy away from such as we look for ways to grow and participate in the declaration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Many people dismiss the observations of Bill J. Leonard in his little book, God’s Last and Only Hope. It is too easy to label him a liberal. Too easy to consider him to be a person whose team did not win so he will “cast stones.” However, his assertion the SBC may one day splinter out of existence may well come to pass. The actions of the IMB, as reported by Marty (Pt 1,Pt 2,Pt 3,Pt 4) and noted by Wade (here [prior to the new communication policy] , here, and here) indicate the decision to maintain unity by coercion. I realize Wade could resign and so talk and write as much as he cares to regarding his brief tenure on the IMB Board. He notes well his consistent intent to comply with policies. I do not expect anything different as he has maintained his integrity throughout this unpleasant experience. But, the new policies do not allow for disagreement to be aired in any public way.
The irony lies in Marty’s post indicating the introduction of the new trustee policies replacing, “The Blue Book.” The way to keep discussion from the public arena is to quickly present actions for decision without time for healthy discussion – which may require more than a “sleeping on it.” When decisions are thrust on Trustees in this manner it plays well into the attempt to keep discussion in the public arena from taking place. Look for any major decisions to become public formalities. Caucus groups were not addressed and so will continue to operate. They will work to entrench themselves and move decisions to “Executive Session” and look for something of a public “rubber stamping” to occur quickly so Trustees will then be required to speak only positively.
We are left with no apology to Wade for the manner in which the board acted with haste and subjected him to charge without substantiation. We are left with a Board expressing an apparent impulsiveness to ensure its own power. I have not begun to express my thoughts about the treatment of Dr. Rankin as described by Marty and Wade. Suffice it to say, this too should not be surprising. If the level of integrity cannot rise to an apology for false accusations how could we expect this same group to do anything less than chase after Rankin because one person did not get his way. Why if the leadership in our local churches experienced this same thing we would find more looking to sell shoes, cars and insurance. We cannot abide the whims of one when the picture is much larger than that one person.
The correspondence with Trustee leadership at least implied a more forthcoming atmosphere. The only thing forthcoming is the solidification that nothing will be forthcoming that is not first spun to the liking of a coerced unanimity.
I did not see this coming. Carp on Bill Leonard all you want, he may well have been on target. Time will tell – if you have the time and care to tell.