I heard a story recently that infuriated me. A friend was speaking to a trustee of one of our institutions who told him that one of the things he liked about being a trustee was that he didn’t have to listen to anyone else but the other trustees. And, he said, his only job was to help the president of the entity enact his agenda. Wow.
I wrote an article the other day opposing the idea of publishing entity president’s salaries and advocating that we “trust the trustees.” Some people seem to have a very different idea of what it means to trust the trustees than I do, evidently. What I mean is most certainly not what that trustee thinks.
“Trust the Trustees” Does NOT Mean…
1. That trustees are always right.
I disagree with trustees often. I think they’ve made some serious mistakes. They are not always right.
2. That it is wrong to question or speak in opposition to trustees.
Anyone who tells you that speaking against the actions of the trustees of an institution is unChristian, unBaptist, or inappropriate is offbase. And the trustee who told my friend that since he was a trustee he didn’t have to listen to anyone else is so offbase that if my friend revealed his name I’d consider publicly humiliating him!
Now, the way I speak against the trustees may wrong. Reporting gossip is wrong. Speaking slanderously against their character is wrong. But stating my opposition to their actions is not only not wrong; it is right. It is the way our system works.
3. That there is no accountability for trustees.
Someone failed the trustee my friend spoke to above. He was not instructed on his duties. He is not being a good trustee when he refuses to listen to others.
There is accountability for trustees. They are not accountable to the shifting winds of popular opinion, but they should listen to what Baptists have to say. They are accountable to our confessional statement, the guiding documents of the convention and the institution, and to the purposes of our convention. They hold that institution in trust for us.
“Trust the Trustees” DOES mean…
1. That I recognize that trustees often have more information than I have about a situation.
When stuff happens at trustee meetings, we opine, as is our right and as is right. But we also need to realize that the men and women making those decisions have access to information that we do not. I have to admit that my judgment may be incomplete because my information is incomplete.
We should express our opinions, but trusting the trustees means having the humility to realize that our trustees often know things we don’t because they have information we don’t.
2. That I recognize that there’s a time for me to have my say and a time for me to join the team.
The last time there was a new IMB president being voted on, Bart Barber wrote an article here expressing his strong belief that David Platt was not the right man. It was a reasoned and thoughtful post that forcefully argued that the trustees should vote no on the Platt candidacy.
The next day (I think it was) the trustees approved Platt as president of the IMB and Bart followed up the first post with one that expressed his intent to fully support the new president. From my observation, he did that. When the financial troubles were revealed and Platt dealt with them, Bart did not second guess or snipe.
That should not be unusual.
I have expressed my strong conviction that the IMB president should be someone with field experience. From talking to missionaries, this is no small issue. I believe the IMB trustees will be making a serious mistake if they hire a president without field experience.
What if they do?
I will push my church to give generously to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, we will continue giving 10% to missions through the CP, and I will continue, when my health allows, my work with the UUPG in Senegal. I will not harp, rail, or seek to undercut the IMB president in any way.
Trusting the trustees means I have my say but I don’t always get my way. We aren’t good at that. We are often not content with voicing our opinions. We demand our voices be obeyed. It often doesn’t happen.
3. That I recognize that trustees are fallible, as am I.
They aren’t perfect. They make mistakes. So do I. Developing a spirit of grace and refraining from a critical spirit are important. They will make mistakes as I have.
4. That I recognize that honorable trustees can disagree with me.
Just because I disagree with the trustees does not make me right and them wrong. They may be right and I am wrong. Hard to imagine, right?
5. That weaponized criticism is out of bounds.
We have weaponized disagreement today. If you do not see things the way I see them, you must be a lowdown skunk. When we question the Christian commitment of someone who disagrees with us, we’ve crossed a line.
Trusting the trustees implies that I can still support an institution even if the trustees do something with which I disagree. I can still believe the best about men and women who take an action I would not take.
The kinds of personal attacks, ridicule, and vituperative words that some have resorted to is simply not acceptable.
1. There are trustees who evidently do not understand their work. A trustee does not work for the president, but for the convention. They are to hold the president accountable on behalf of the convention. They should support their presidents as possible, but they should also stand up to them and hold the line on fiscal matters, theological matters, and spiritual matters.
They need to be worthy of trust.
2. The secrecy that some trustee boards have come to operate under has gotten out of hand. I understand the need for confidentiality and, of course, argued that things like executive salaries being kept from publication is acceptable. But our boards are taking the secrecy thing too far.
Look, folks, the age when you could control information as you once could is over. Get over it. If you would be open and share with the people of the SBC the things that need to be shared they would care less about knowing the things that don’t need to be shared.
An informed people is a happy people. Stop acting like the minutes of your meetings are the gold reserves of Fort Knox!
3. I do not know what kind of trustee training goes on, but it should probably not be left up to the institution. They are not motivated to tell people how important accountability is!
4. Since trustee work is so important, it is also important that messengers do more than blindly pass the trustee slate at the convention. If you challenge the name of a trustee, some people react in horror and accuse you of awful things. But some people should not be trustees.
During the CR we made it hard to challenge trustees because of the tactics of the moderates. Now, we ought to consider changing some of those policies. The way they have it set up, there is not time to challenge more than two or three trustees.
If we are going to trust the trustees, it is also our duty to vet the trustees and to seek to replace trustees we find unacceptable – no matter how offended people are at that.
This topic may require some follow-up posts. This should be enough for now!