(ABP) — A Dallas-area pastor says he will introduce a resolution “on Baptist dissent” — apparently aimed at controversial actions by some Southern Baptist Convention agency trustees — during this summer's SBC annual meeting.
Benjamin Cole, a leading critic of recent actions by the SBC's International Mission Board, acknowledged April 17 he is the author of a resolution published April 14 on IMB trustee Wade Burleson's weblog.
The resolution says Southern Baptists “recognize majorities are not always right, and it is necessary for the voice of dissent — the minority voice — to be welcomed and heard if we are not to become authoritarian in our doctrinal confession or tyrannical in our denominational governance.”
The resolution posted by Burleson — who did not name its source — says that “all attempts by those who call themselves Baptist to silence the principled dissent of fellow Baptists within our denomination, or of other believers in our nation, or of any person in any other country, are both a compromise of our cherished Baptist witness and a disservice to the Kingdom of God.”
Cole, pastor of Parkview Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, earlier wrote an open letter suggesting Southern Baptists should vote during their meeting June 13-14 in Greensboro, N.C. to dismiss all the trustees of the IMB. Cole's ire was raised by the board's January vote to ask messengers to the convention to dismiss Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Okla., from his trustee post.
At the time, IMB trustee leaders had accused Burleson of “gossip and slander” for blogging about his opposition to restrictive new policies approved for IMB missionaries. Trustees later voted to rescind their request to remove Burleson, but they also approved a new policy that bars dissenting trustees from criticizing actions of the board.
That policy has proven as controversial as the original move to dismiss Burleson, particularly among younger pastors and laypeople who populate the SBC-related “blogosphere.”
Cole, reached by telephone at his home April 17, told an Associated Baptist Press reporter he is the author of the resolution. He said it wasn't necessarily aimed solely at the IMB but at SBC agencies and leaders in general.
“I really do think the cherished principle of dissent has been subverted in certain quarters of our denomination,” he said.
Cole several other SBC members had run proposals for other resolutions and motions by him.
Some of those may involve a motion to force the IMB to re-think its controversial policy changes and report back to the convention before the June meeting is over. Normally, motions made from the floor of SBC meetings are referred to the agency that they concern, and the agency's trustees report back at the following year's annual meeting. However, a two-thirds majority of the convention can vote to require that the agency report back on the motion before the meeting is over.
The moves could be part of the stormiest SBC annual meeting since the decades-long battle between moderates and fundamentalists for control of the denomination reached its apex in 1990. The moderates, who lost, largely stopped attending SBC meetings and went on to form their own missionary-sending agencies and other institutions.