Individual trustees must refrain from public criticism of Board approved actions . . . trustees are to speak in positive and supportive terms as they interpret and report on actions by the Board, regardless of whether they personally support the action.While this might look like it came straight from the National People's Congress in China or some other Communist organization, it ironically came straight from the top of one of the most well-funded and influential Christian missions councils in the world.
While I don't have the time, willpower or desire to give a full account of these events, the Pasty Quail, an Athens-based blog, recently cited the censuring of a Southern Baptist crusader who, however gracefully and tactfully, violated the above guidelines in blog posts that "reflected poorly" on his fellow trustees.
Wade Burleson, a pastor in Oklahoma who himself is a member of the Board of Trustees of the International Mission Board, has become known throughout Southern Baptist circles for his "Robinhood" style of blogging: With delicate words, he takes esoteric knowledge from the rich, the Board of Trustees, and he passes it on to the poor, the common Southern Baptist who attends church every Sunday but knows nothing of the highly bureaucratic entity that oversees his denomination's overseas ministry.
Basically, the story goes that Mr. Burleson was censured at a recent convention for failing to retract comments that he made on his blog. Instead of focusing on positives--like the fact that the IMB budgeted $305 million this year to reach the lost abroad--issues surrounding Mr. Burleson were put on display at the convention. What's more, the censure (which I'm pretty sure is like a rhetorical slap on the wrist) was done in private, behind closed doors, after Mr. Burleson was under the impression that an agreement had been reached.
You can read the full story (at least Mr. Burleson's side) on his blog if you want, but it will suffice to say that this type of mess is what keeps the Church from reaching its full potential as an institution, and it brings up the question: Why has the church become so institutionalized? For me, someone who grew up giving to Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong, the Christmas and Easter missions campaigns of the Southern Baptist Convention such news is particularly disheartening. And the worst part about it is the negative press coverage it brings. While Jesus said that we'll be known for our love, it seems that Christians in America attract attention for too many other reasons.
Just as a bad tree bears bad fruit, sinful people, though washed in the blood, can never make a perfect institution. Though I'm sure many are motivated by their desire to see God's renown increase in this world, it seems that form has replaced substance and reverence for certain rules or traditions has supplanted the desire for relevance in a changing and lost world.
The key to keep from going insane as a Christian in this context, as a Baptist pastor once told me, is to recognize the flaws in the system without becoming blind to its potential. We must identify those who believe in the system and are working to please God in it. Concentrate our energies there, and we can see spiritual returns on our investments.
I still have many friends who are serving as missionaries in the System. Like Americans who are patriotic despite their distrust of the government, these warriors continue to fight for the cause of Christ though their leadership betrays them with petty and sometimes unbiblical regulations. Let's pray that the SBC, despite its flaws, can be used miraculously for the glory of God. When bickering ceases and the trumpet sounds, he'll be the one issuing the censures.