For the first time, trustees of the International Mission Board (IMB), the overseas mission wing of the Southern Baptist Convention, have censured a fellow trustee. Oklahoma pastor Wade Burleson has been suspended from involvement in their next four meetings, starting with the January 28-30 session in Gainesville, Florida.
Burleson plans to travel to the next International Mission Board (IMB) trustees meeting anyway, but at his own expense. He has been at odds with trustees since joining the board in mid-2005 because of a blog (wadeburleson.com) where he reports on board business and conversations.
"Our desire was to bring about reconciliation efforts," trustee chairman John Floyd said after a private session on November 5, when trustees unsuccessfully asked Burleson to apologize for criticizing the board. "It is my great sorrow to report that those efforts have not met with success."
Though rare, the dispute has precedent in convention life. In 1990, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary faculty in Louisville, Kentucky, called for the firing of a trustee who criticized then-president Roy Honeycutt. An apology later diffused the crisis.
Burleson's blog is popular with news media and other SBC bloggers, but entries have stirred heated opposition from other trustees. In a letter prior to November's meeting, California missions director Jerry Corbaley labeled Burleson "an unrepentant slanderer and an unrepentant gossip."
In November, the Georgia Baptist Convention passed an anti-blogging resolution. "The messengers of this convention oppose blogging when it is used to cause division and disharmony among the members of our Southern Baptist family," the resolution read, in part. "We call upon bloggers to cease the critical second-guessing ...1