GREENSBORO, N.C.–A Texas pastor has offered to produce evidence of efforts to collect information on political enemies if the Southern Baptist Convention decides this week to investigate causes of controversy that has beset the International Mission Board.
Benjamin S. Cole, pastor of Parkview Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, said Thursday he has documents that show attempts by Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, to interfere in IMB business.
Wade Burleson–a trustee under fire for blogging about disagreement with new IMB policies on baptism and private prayer language and caucusing by fellow trustees opposed to the agency’s president–has said he plans to introduce a motion calling for an outside investigation into the conflict.
If passed during the June 13-14 convention in Greensboro, N.C., Burleson’s motion would authorize a special committee to investigate possible manipulation of trustee elections, coercion, improper executive sessions, excessive doctrinal requirements and suppression of dissent among IMB trustees.
Cole offered two examples of “efforts to collect information on political ‘enemies'” that he said go on in denominational life “with little conflict of conscience.”
In July 2003, Cole said, a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary sent an e-mail to students preparing for six weeks of orientation at the Missionary Learning Center in Rockville, Va., asking them to document “problems” related to “the ordinances” and “the role of ladies in places of house-church leadership.”
Keith Eitel, who now is a dean at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, warned students to expect to be made to feel “like a second-rate candidate for having ‘wasted time’ attending seminary” and that asking doctrinal questions might create suspicion they would be “divisive” on the field.
Eitel urged the missionary candidates not to question or argue, but rather to log their experiences in a daily journal and provide their comments to him at the end of the training experience.
Eitel told the students he was working with Bill Sanderson, an IMB trustee “that is also concerned about all these situations and issues.”
“Your log will help document the problems, and help solidify the basis for dealing with these things,” Eitel said.
Within a few months, Cole said, Patterson was circulating to all IMB trustees a “white paper” written by Eitel that included strong criticism of the administration of IMB President Jerry Rankin.
“During the time, I myself was involved in several conference calls with a caucus of trustees at the International Mission Board where plans were discussed to bring an end to Jerry Rankin’s tenure,” Cole said.
“Moreover, I was personally offered a job working at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in February 2004 to listen to multiple hours of audio-recordings of Jerry Rankin, collected by the seminary president’s office, and cull them for suspicious theology, potential instances of charismatic teaching, or questionable statements that could be interpreted as contrary to the [2000 Baptist Faith & Message.]”
“Of course, I refused to accept the job or the payment of Cooperative Program dollars that came with it,” Cole continued.
Patterson, Eitel and Sanderson did not respond to e-mails from EthicsDaily.com seeking comment.
Last November, IMB trustees passed new policies requiring missionary candidates to be baptized “in a church that practices believer’s baptism by immersion alone, does not view baptism as sacramental or regenerative, and a church that embraces the doctrine of the security of the believer.”
“A candidate who has not been baptized in a Southern Baptist church or in a church which meets the standards listed above is expected to request baptism in his/her Southern Baptist church as a testimony of identification with the system of belief held by Southern Baptist churches.”
At the same time trustees placed a ban on appointing missionaries who use a “private prayer language,” a practice that Rankin admits is part of his own devotional life.
Cole said he also has “stacks of e-mails,” mostly from Russell Kaemmerling, a former IMB trustee from Texas who resigned from the board after he was convicted of fraud in 2001, which “detail a strategy to block candidates for top IMB administrative posts and replace Rankin’s choice with Patterson’s stalking horses.”
Kaemmerling, who is Patterson’s brother-in-law, was elected to the IMB in 2000, while Patterson was SBC president. From 1980 to 1985 he was editor of the Southern Baptist Advocate, an independent magazine that helped advance the fundamentalist agenda and undermine confidence in the SBC’s old moderate leadership.
Cole has been a vocal supporter of Burleson, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Enid, Okla. Early on, when Burleson was threatened with removal from the IMB, Cole said he would counter with a motion calling for the entire board of trustees to be vacated.
Later, after the motion to fire Burleson from the board was dropped but criticism continued for comments on his blog, Cole submitted a resolution affirming “principled dissent,” which, if it clears a committee, will be discussed at this week’s convention.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.
Managing editor at EthicsDaily.com from 2003-2009, Allen wrote more than 1,500 news stories during his tenure.