The Southern Baptist Convention Tuesday evening turned down a request by an International Mission Board trustee for an outside investigation to determine sources of controversy dividing IMB trustees.

Wade Burleson, a trustee from Oklahoma elected last year to the IMB, made a motion during the convention’s opening session to authorize the SBC Executive Committee to appoint an ad hoc committee to investigate possible manipulation the nomination process to elect IMB trustees, efforts by trustees and heads of other entities to go around the IMB administration in attempts to influence or coerce staff or missionaries, excessive use of executive sessions, adding doctrinal requirements for missionaries that go beyond parameters of the Baptist Faith and Message and suppression of dissent.

Burleson, who earlier in his term of service was recommended for removal as a trustee because he aired disagreement with a board decision and exposed internal politicking in a blog, also questioned the propriety of a board chairman being allowed to exclude a trustee from serving on committees. IMB trustees reversed their original intent to remove Burleson, but he still is barred from committee assignments.

Convention messengers voted to uphold a recommendation to refer the matter first to the IMB board of trustees and ask them to report findings to the convention next year.

Burleson said he supported the decision to refer the motion to the IMB but noted that board had already reached an impasse about which trustees should serve on a committee investigating the controversy internally. He said he hoped fellow trustees would take formation of a committee seriously and not allow the members to be picked by the chairman.

Also on Tuesday night, messengers approved amendments recommended Monday by the SBC Executive Committee aimed at avoiding a “revolving door” of recycled trustees and nepotism in the form of more than one member of a family serving simultaneously in an SBC leadership position. Messengers deleted a key provision, however, that would have disqualified a person from serving as a trustee of an entity if that person or his/her spouse is a former employee.

Mike Hamlet, chairman of the Executive Committee’s administrative subcommittee, said the intent was to prevent people who leave an organization under adverse circumstances from returning as a trustee and create conflict for their old boss. “It has been an issue in the past,” Hamlet said.

But Bill Sanderson, an IMB trustee and senior pastor of Hephzibah Baptist Church in Wendell, N.C., said the change would prohibit a seminary student who works briefly in a LifeWay Christian Resources bookstore from ever serving as a LifeWay trustee later in ministry or a journeyman missionary who goes on to local church ministry from ever serving on the IMB. “It needs to be stricken,” Sanderson said.

At least three current members of the International Mission Board are former employees who held administrative-level jobs, including the current chairman.

Bob Allen is managing editor of

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