I sat and listened, a few years ago, as a couple of angry trustees of SWBTS tried to remove my friend Bart Barber and the rest of the officers of the SWBTS BoT after they courageously removed Paige Patterson from office for insubordination, misconduct, and other offenses. I was on Bart’s side of that issue and strongly opposed, with about 97% of the room, the removal motion.
Last year, I was discussing with a group of people the idea of a motion to remove at least one EC trustee, possibly more. I know that Bart disagreed with the actions, attitudes, and positions of these trustees, but when I talked to him about the idea, he said he would vote against it. His logic was solid. We elect trustees for four-year terms and unless they commit gross misconduct, they should be allowed to fulfill that term.
We should not remove trustees because we disagree with them. That is a dam we ought not to breach.
Since the fiasco in which EC trustees refused to follow the will of the messengers, and opposed the messengers’ vote to waive privilege, many of my friends, with whom I generally agree, have advocated for removing trustees who voted against waiving privilege. Many of those trustees resigned in pique when they were forced by public pressure and a majority of trustees to waive privilege, but a list is circulating of a dozen, perhaps 15 trustees who will not rotate off the EC this year, who opposed waiver.
It is likely that a motion or motions seeking the removal of these trustees will be made in Anaheim – I’d be surprised if they aren’t. If the motion is made, deep in my spirit there will be a part of me cheering the motion on, but I will oppose the motion and vote against it.
Let me set out my reasoning here.
1. I understand the passion and the desire.
It is clear that CBN-leaning trustees have hindered meaningful progress on sexual abuse issues and their obstructionism seems intentional. While voicing support for the fight against sexual abuse, they have opposed every initiative on the issue since long before Paige Patterson conceived of the network. I have no doubt they will continue to seek ways to hinder the implementation of the SATF report. These are facts. I can understand why people would want to get these people off the committee.
2. If the SBC is going to work, viewpoints, even unpopular ones, must be heard.
One of the keys to a healthy, functioning SBC is the way we treat minority opinions (Not speaking racially here. Minority opinions are held by small groups of people.) We must always be careful to allow dissenting voices, even those we find negative and annoying, within the SBC, as long as they are under the BF&M umbrella, and do not violate ethical, moral, or other rules of decency.
We need to give a seat at the table to people who aggravate us!
Yes, there’s a limit to this. See Titus 3:10. Still, God’s people should bend over backward to be kind and welcoming; to listen to those who disagree, who dissent.
3. Removal should be for just cause.
Trustees should be removed ONLY if they become ineligible to serve because of geographical, moral, ethical, theological reasons, or some other bylaw violation. The trustee we were considering removing last year attacked abuse survivors on Twitter. His obnoxious harassment approached the level of malfeasance necessary for removal. That bar should be very high.
While I disagree with the votes of these trustees, I am not convinced they have committed a removable offense.
4. Once we breach this dam, a flood may follow.
Once we remove a sitting trustee, we have breached the dam and a flood of such actions in years to come is likely to be the result. This trustee didn’t support this motion or that one has political views I find offensive. We may have to set aside a substantial time in the Order of Business for trustee removal actions. Absurd? Maybe this bit of hyperbole can make a point. Breaching this dam may be something we will regret.
5. Yes, defying the messengers is a serious matter.
Some have argued that they agree with my theory, that serious malfeasance is the standard for removal. They argue that when the trustees thumbed their noses at the will of the convention, they were committing just such malfeasance.
This is a compelling argument. Defying the will of the messengers was a serious thing. Is it the kind of malfeasance that justifies removal? I’m not convinced. If a majority of the convention is, I won’t be broken-hearted, but I am not there yet. I was more ready to move against a trustee attacking survivors on Twitter – that is a clear violation of biblical behavior.
This argument doesn’t convince me, but it will convince some.
6. There are other ways.
On the list I saw, almost all of the trustees who defied the convention will be gone by 2023 or 2024. Most of them resigned and are being replaced by people who will follow the will of the messengers – there is already a shift taking place at the EC, slowly but surely. These trustees can still be obstructions to the work of the EC, but they are now a minority and wield little power.
We can accomplish the same thing with a little patience and a lot less conflict.
7. Side point: A term is FOUR years. A second term is NOT guaranteed.
It has been customary to automatically renominate trustees for a second term. That is the norm, but it is not a right. You earn your second term by being a productive trustee in your first term. While it ought to be rare, it is totally acceptable for the nominating committee to decide that someone has not comported themselves in a way that deserves a second term. It does not take ethical, moral, or other malfeasance to be denied a second term.
Again, it is a norm, not a right.
8. The parliamentary procedures here are murky.
Obviously, you can remove a group of trustees at once – the motion to remove the SWBTS officers was considered in order and taken to the floor. However, there are a lot of questions here. Can a list of 14 trustees to be removed be presented to the messengers? Can a motion to remove everyone who voted no on a particular vote be made?
This motion is a parliamentary bog. Whoever makes it better talk to some folks in the know.
While I sympathize with the frustration of those who want to bring this motion, I think it is unnecessary and problematic.
- The problem is going to be solved in time anyway. If we elect a good president (hint – his name rhymes with Mart Marber) who will appoint committees who will nominate trustees, the problem will be solved in a couple of years anyway.
- Since the resignations of 20 or so trustees after the waiver of privilege, there will be a huge turnover on the EC and these people, no matter how recalcitrant they might decide to be, are only a minority. There is no need to remove them.
- The action to remove them may set a precedent that we will all regret in years. If this succeeds, the temptation to do this over and over, for lesser and lesser reasons, will be strong.
Does blatantly defying the expressed will of the messengers reach the level of offense required to remove trustees? It is a good discussion. However, there are other, less perilous ways to deal with this, and we should keep this gun in the holster for now.