On Wednesday, January 10, 2006, the Board of Trustees of the International Mission Board accused fellow trustee, Wade Burleson, of "slander and gossip". The IMB BoT requested that Burleson be removed from the BoT by a vote of the messengers at the next SBC Convention in June of this year. Later, the official press release stated the reasons for seeking dismissal revolved around "issues involving broken trust and resistance to accountability". Now, last week, the chairman of the BoT, Tom Hatley, has announced that executive committee of the IMB BoT is "recommending that the board withdraw its . . . request to the [SBC] to remove . . . Wade Burleson, as a trustee." This recommendation will be presented at the next BoT meeting March 20-21 in Tampa, FL.
There is a very high probability that the BoT will agree to the executive committee's request to rescind the removal of Burleson. This, then, begs the question: What was it that Burleson did wrong? If the trustees do, in fact, rescind their proposal to the Convention to have Burleson removed, what then? Does this story just 'go away'? I can hardly imagine so. The BoT have accused Burleson, publicly, of very serious matters. Whether you take Burleson's terms (slander and gossip) or the BoT official press release ("broken trust and resistance to accountability"), such charges cannot, and for the sake of Christian integrity, must not be swept under the rug. The trustees, whether they like it or not, have made this a public issue. They should not be allowed to pull it back 'in-house', as if local churches and members of the SBC have no need to bother with such matters of accountability and discipline.
As a Southern Baptist, and as a Christian, I am requesting that the BoT make public the facts that substantiate their claims against Burleson. If you are going to accuse him in public, then present your evidence in public. If he is guilty of slander, gossip, broken trust, or resistance to accountability, then he should be dealt with. However, if there is no evidence of wrong doing on his part, then there should be a public apology by the BoT.
There will be a decision made at some point during the next trustee meeting. The IMB trustees will either decide to press on with their charges against Burleson or they will drop them. If they press forward with their charges against him, then they are obligated to inform the entire convention of the justification for their accusations. If they decide to drop the charges, than anything less than a public apology should be grounds for an investigation into the integrity of the BoT.
It is unconscionable for a person, much less a Christian, much less trustees in our denomination, to make slanderous claims against a fellow Christian and trustee and, if then dropping those charges, do not provide a sincere apology for their actions against his character and his name. What will it be? Will you press on with your charges against Burleson or will you drop them? If you press on, when will you inform us of his sins? If you drop them, will you act with integrity and give him the apology he deserves as your brother in Christ?
posted by Jason Sampler at 4:46 PM