By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
ONTARIO, Calif. – David Platt, president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board issued an apology to Southern Baptists Feb. 15 for the IMB’s involvement in an amicus brief last summer.
Platt apologized during a meeting of the Association of State Baptist Publications held in Ontario, Calif. He also apologized to Baptist state convention executive directors during their session on the same day.
In May of 2016 the IMB, along with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, signed an amicus brief in support of a mosque to be built in New Jersey.
The action, which was done without the knowledge of IMB trustees, led Tennessee pastor Dean Haun of First Baptist Church, Morristown, to resign as a trustee. In addition, First Baptist has been escrowing Cooperative Program funds to the Southern Baptist Convention in response to the action. The church has, however, continued to send funds to the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board for missions and ministries in the state.
“I grieve how the amicus brief in the recent mosque case has been so divisive and distracting,” Platt told editors, adding that his purpose in bringing it up “is not to debate religious liberty” but to say he wants the IMB to remain focused on its mission.
Platt said the IMB has been filing amicus briefs related to religious liberty since at least 2010, “far before I even stepped into this role.
“All of these matters have been handled by our legal department. This case, however, has brought to the surface our need for a process that will involve my office as well as trustees in the future.
“All this to say, in short, I apologize to Southern Baptists for how distracting and divisive this has been. I am confident that in the days ahead, the IMB will have better processes in place to keep us focused on our primary mission: partnering with churches to empower limitless missionary teams who are evangelizing, discipling, planting and multiplying healthy churches, and training leaders among unreached peoples and places for the glory of God.”
Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, expressed appreciation for the IMB leader’s apology.
“I am very comfortable from having spent some time with Dr. Platt that this will not be an issue moving forward and that it certainly will be with some level of involvement by IMB trustees.”
Davis said he does not expect the IMB to “consider anything that is not clearly tied to their ministry assignment, such as the amicus brief in New Jersey.
“I greatly appreciate the directness and humility that the leader of our flagship missions organization demonstrated in meeting with Baptist state convention executive directors. I saw the same spirit in one on one conversations with Dr. Platt,” Davis added.
As of Feb. 15, Haun was unavailable for comment on the IMB apology.