Wade Burleson may be the last Baptist standing on the International Mission Board who truly understands the Baptist heritage of allowing (indeed, cherishing) freedom to dissent as well as cooperation.

Fellow trustee Jerry Corbaley is trying his best to topple Burleson from his position on the Southern Baptist Convention‘s flagship mission agency.

Californian Corbaley, whose personal blog consists mainly of solicited endorsements for a book he’s written, recently e-mailed other IMB trustees to call for Burleson’s dismissal at the board’s Nov. 5-7 meeting, to be held in Springfield, Ill.

In his efforts to incriminate Burleson, Corbaley attached an amorphous collection of documents that amount to 153 pages if printed. He charges Burleson, perhaps the SBC’s most popular blogger, with promoting “slander” and “gossip” on his blogs, and characterizes these sins as being so egregious that Burleson should not only be removed from the IMB, but openly shunned, a practice he attributes to 1 Corinthians 5:11 and Titus 3:10.

In a measured response to Corbaley’s charges, Burleson details ways in which Corbaley has shunned him, refused to eat at the same table, and hung up when he tried to call.

To support his charges of slander and gossip, Corbaley’s attachment begins with a copy of a conveniently timed August 2007 article on slander by SBC Life editor John Revell (SBC Life is the official public relations magazine for the SBC).

In addition, Corbaley includes “A list of comments by God on what he thinks about slander and gossip,” a copy of a previous motion (in January 2006) to dismiss Burleson, excerpts from the IMB trustee policies, and a lengthy assortment of blogs, including hundreds of comments posted by others.

Anyone who knows Wade Burleson or who has read his posts understands that he is willing to say what he thinks and to stand up for those who have been mistreated (like Sheri Klouda, a Hebrew professor fired by Paige Patterson for being a woman in a man’s world). Burleson is bold, but always in a kind and gentle-spirited way, and with enough humility to admit that he might sometimes be wrong. It is true that some of the comments posted to his blog have a meaner streak, but those cannot be attributed to Burleson.

Burleson dares to say he believes the SBC has gone far enough in narrowing doctrinal parameters for cooperation and service, and has stood against the efforts of Landmarkist and other ultra-right trustees who would disqualify potential missionaries who weren’t baptized in an acceptable church or who utilize a “private prayer language” in private prayer.

Corbaley’s efforts to remove Burleson are an obvious symptom of what’s wrong with the more radical elements of the so-called “conservative resurgence.”

Here’s hoping that the IMB trustees will recognize Corbaley’s tome (and tone) of intolerance for what it is, and stand with the one who understands what it means to be Baptist. If they remove anyone from the board, it should be the one who has already cut himself off from his brother.

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