Gag Order

March 28, 2006

Tony Cartledge offers some great thoughts at his blog about a recent action taken by the trustees of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. The IMB trustees had previously voted to remove a fellow trustee, Wade Burleson, because he blogged about IMB issues. They now have decided not to do so, but adopted new rules that require trustees to always speak favorably of trustee policies. Even if a trustee voted against a policy they are now required to publicly support it, thus placing a gag rule on what Burleson can blog about.

Such a policy limits public dialogue and severely hampers open communication between trustees and the churches and people they serve. Here are a few highlights of Cartledge's great take on the new policy:

Facing an avalanche of public criticism, board leaders backed down and have withdrawn their request for Burleson's removal, but they did something even more troublesome, adopting new policies that put a gag on trustees and force them to either lie or say nothing at all about board matters that trouble them, supposedly for the sake of Jesus.

... How can one "speak the truth in love" when the policy specifically prohibits being truthful about one's disagreement with other policies?

... You just have to wonder what Jesus would think of the idea that God's people should just go with the flow and not stir the waters because they need to support the majority view.

Was Jesus exercising such constraint when He overturned the money-changers' tables and routed merchants from the Jerusalem temple, even though their presence was endorsed by the religious authorities?

If John the Baptist had been a trustee of the IMB, do you think he would have gone quietly home after learning that none of the people he baptized would meet current baptism standards for missionary candidates?

... Building and then hiding behind a wall of policies designed to prevent public dissent not only denies basic rights to board members, but generates increased suspicion of the board and of all who are associated with it, including the missionaries.

As I see it, if IMB trustees truly want to honor Christ and support the missionaries, they need to honor the freedom that Christ grants and that Baptists cherish.
Amen! Cartledge is rightly troubled by the new policy. It is time to take the muzzle off and quit being scared of dialogue between trustees and those they serve. Attempts to control communication will likely hurt not only the open exchange of ideas but also the excitement for missions that is desperately needed.