Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What is Doctrinal Integrity?

“What is Doctrinal Integrity?”

In seeking to answer this question, it is helpful first, to examine each word separately; because while the first term is easily understood, the second word requires a bit of analysis. The term doctrine basically means teaching and refers primarily to content, that is, what is taught, rather than methodology or how to teach. For us, National Baptists, the term is used here, to refer to those ideas and beliefs that are considered essential to the Christian faith. In the Old Testament, the idea of doctrine was conveyed by the term law and referred to the divine will of God as expressed by the prophets. In the New Testament the term was used to express the divine truths that were taught by the apostles and the Lord Jesus Christ.
A number of variations of the Hebrew root, Tom, are translated “integrity.” The meaning is completeness, fullness (Job 21:23), wholeness, perfection. (Gen. 20:5), soundness, simplicity, innocence (Ps. 26:1), uprightness (Job 21:23). It is the opposite of mischief or guile (2 Sam. 15:11). The plural form describes the Thummim, the precious stones of Aaron’s breastplate; which among other ideas represents holiness. The basic idea here is that of consistency and steadfastness as opposed to hypocrisy and unreliability. The term is used especially in the poetic wisdom literature, and is contrasted with perverseness; “Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool” (Prov. 19:1). The integrous person here is contrasted with the perverse person. The basic meaning of “perverse” is “to turn away, to change, to distort,” thus a perverse person changes from one day to another; while a person of integrity remains consistent. It is used frequently to describe godly men as Noah, Abraham, and David.
The term occurs only once in the New Testament although the idea is quite frequent. It is used in the RSV of Titus 2:7 and means “incorruption” or “soundness.”
It is important to note that the term when used in the Bible is almost always accompanied by a possessive adjective “my, mine, his, thine” (Job 2:3; 31:6; Prov. 19:1) ascribing ownership. Thus David submits himself to God inviting Him to “Judge me, O lord; for I have walked in mine integrity” (Ps. 26:1). In other words, he invites God to examine him based upon his understanding of what is right and see whether or not he has been true to his integrity; has he been consistent, steadfast and honest to his understanding and convictions. We may conclude from this then, that integrity is a character trait. An integrous person is one who holds to what they believe because they are convinced that what they believe is right. Moreover, their behavior is consistent with their beliefs. David maintained that an examination of his life will reveal him to have “walked in his integrity.”
Essential to an understanding of this idea of integrity, however, is the recognition that it is ultimately a virtue of God, and therefore, His integrity, is the standard for evaluation. Whether or not an individual may be considered integrous rests not upon his idea of what is right; but rather, upon how his idea conforms to that of Gods’. In other words, a person may be considered to be behaving integrous in his own eyes, but perverse in the eyes of God. This is precisely what is meant by the behavior of the people during the time of the Judges when “every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).
Doctrinal integrity refers to someone who is willing, as was David, to submit his beliefs and his behavior to the discerning eye of God’s Word; to see if his standard for integrity conforms to God’s standard. How can an individual discern whether or not they are integrous? Inasmuch as the character of God, the will of God is revealed in His Word then the Word becomes the only standard of evaluation. A doctrinally integrous person is one who is open to the teachings of the Scriptures. A doctrinally integrous person is one who makes God’s Word the standard for all beliefs and behaviors. A doctrinally integrous person is one who when confronted with doctrinal error, humbly submits to the Word and seeks to change. A doctrinally integrous leader is one who strivers earnestly and honestly to know God’s Word, His Will and to lead those over whom God has placed them in the Way. A doctrinally integrous leader is one who believes the Bible’s teaching on stewardship; recognizing that they shall be judged by a stricter standard (James 3:1).

Friday, July 13, 2007

National Baptists Concerned about Doctrinal Integrity

A purview of the history of co-operative movements within the more than ten million National Baptists reveals a surprisingly absence of concern about doctrine. Dr. Leroy Fitts in his acclaimed book, A History of Black Baptists (Broadman Press, 1985) notes, “..the Black Baptist denomination was spared the turbulent ordeals of doctrinal struggles that so often characterized denominational development among white Americans. White Americans inherited the bitter strife of doctrinal issues from their European background. However, the black slave experience sheltered black Christians from exposure and participation in doctrinal battles from Europe.” As such, black Baptist cooperative organizations, though they have endured several splits, have never split over doctrinal differences. Rather, the splits that have occurred, have always revolved around financial issues, issues of tenure, and those of power and control.
This historical preoccupation with secular matters to the neglect of doctrine has left an embarrassing, crippling legacy; that has now grown to crisis proportion. Of the four national Baptist conventions, none of them to date, have developed a doctrinal statement. Each of them, claiming respect for, and adherence to the polity of “autonomy” has left doctrinal interpretations to the local church; and therein have abdicated the responsibility to provide doctrinal leadership to its’ constituents. This practice has gone largely ignored perhaps, because as Dr. Fitts notes above, the black slave experience sheltered black Baptists from exposure and participation in the doctrinal controversies of their European counterparts. This however, is no longer the case; as black Baptists like all Americans are not only exposed to, but are bombarded by other religious groups, advocating doctrines that are strange and antithetical to the historic Christian tradition.
The rising influence of the mass media coupled with the American tradition of tolerance has ushered in a new era of religion in this country. America is now acclaimed as the most religiously diverse country in the entire world. Consequently, the homogeneity which existed among blacks in the past, has given way to a wide range of religious beliefs. Large numbers of black people can now be found among such diverse groups as Religious Science, Bhuddism, Muslims, Science of the Mind, and the Ba’hai, as well as allegedly Christian groups of Roman Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists,
Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, etc., etc., ad infinitum.
The increasing number of black professional athletes, movie stars, and entertainers publicly declaring their allegiance to these various religious groups, is having a profound effect upon the traditional black Baptist church. More often than not, as the traditionally most visible church in the black community, the black Baptist church has become the target of the criticism of these new emerging groups. Whether they are New Age cults or Full Gospel---they all take the black Baptist church as their point of divergence. All of them talk about how they differ from the traditional black Baptist church; showing it to be deficient, and their group to be superior.
All of this is made easier by the failure of the local black Baptist church---following the examples of the leadership of the National Baptist conventions---to outline doctrinal statements that “contend earnestly for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Thus, this failure, which has always been a national embarrassment, has now risen to crisis proportions, threatening to dissolve the black Baptist church into an ecumenical group, that is undeserving of the name of Jesus Christ.
I am planning on organizing a rally in Philadelphia during the convention to support this cause, if you are interested in attending, please let me know.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Burwell Ousted From Conference

Burwell Ousted From SSPB December Conference
The departure and homegoing of Dr. Earl Thomas has ushered in a new era at the Sunday School Publishing Board; one which will be characterized by a "new direction." Though it is unclear just what this "new direction" is, it includes a change at the SSPB December conference, and this change meant dropping me, Bill Burwell, from this year's program.

I received a telphone call from one of my friends who had just been handed a brochure advertising the December conference and he noticed that my picture had been removed. He called me to inquire if I was aware of the change. I told him that though I had not received any information from anyone, I assumed that I was still on program as per my discussion with Dr. Thomas earlier this year, prior to his passing. I then began telephoning the SSPB, contacting Dr. Tom McKinley whom I was told was acting as director and coordinator of the conference. After several telephone calls, Dr. McKinley returned my call and confirmed the fact, that I had indeed been removed from the program.

When I asked Dr. McKinley what was the reason for my removal, inasmuch as I have been the longest serving lecturer at the conference, serving for the past six years. Moreover, I was assured by Dr. Thomas that my service would continue in recognition for the role that I have played in growing the conference increasing its attendence threefold since coming there. He said to me that the conference, at the behest of Dr. Shaw and Dr. Holmes was taking a "new direction" and that this new direction did not include me. Inasmuch as I was never able to gain a clear indication just what this meant; I am left to speculate.

When I was first invited to lecture at the conference in 2000 by Dr. Thomas, I was asked to address the doctrinal issues and distinctions of the Full Gospel Movement. Along with that, I was asked to specifically address the issue of the role of women in ministry--what does the Bible have to say about women serving as preachers and pastors? That presentation, in which I concluded that the Bible teaches male leadership and thus prohibits "women from exercising authority over men", has has earned me a reputation as the "national spokesman against women preachers." Though I never set out to do this and though I try to address the unending reservoir of other doctrines in the Bible; I am constantly beseeched by others to address this volatile issue. As such, I have raised the ire of women preachers across the country; and as well, I have been scorned, ridiculed, ostracized and rejected by liberals "who have crept into the church unawares."

Dr. Earl Thomas, rebuffed those critics, who have for the entirety of my tenure at the December conference demanded "my head." His response was steadfastly "As long as Burwell sticks with the Bible, I am sticking with him!" He reassured me over and over again, "Unless I receive a direct order from President Shaw to the contrary; you will always be on program at this conference." So, since he has gone to be with the Lord, I am not surprised to hear that I have been dropped from the program. To wit, I can only conclude that the "new direction" means an endorsement of women preachers and a suppression of any discussion to the contrary.

What bothers me most about my dismissal, is what it signals about the direction of the conference and the convention about doctrinal differences. The December conference was the only place where doctrinal differences were aired. Moreover, it was the only place within the entire convention where the issue of women in ministry was allowed to be discussed. Whenever the issue was raised with President Shaw, it was silenced, or sent to die in committee. I have been told that the issue is much too volatile and discussion of such, could lead to a convention split; something that no one wants to risk. In spite of the fact that every other major denomination in the country and elsewhere have met the issue head-on and survived; we are not willing to take that chance.

The refusal to deal with this admittedly, hot potato, sadly reflects our unwillingness as a convention to take serously the issue of "doctrinal integrity." Our convention's image was badly damaged by headline news of our financial indiscretions and the eventual imprisonment of our convention president, Dr. Henry Lyons. We elceted our new president who ran on a platform of VISA with the "I" standing for "Integrity." Unfortunately, that integrity did not extend to doctrine; but meant only financial integrity. I maintain, that if we have no integrity doctrinally, it matters little that we have financial integrity. For it is doctrine that tells us what the money is to spent on! Doctrine determines duty! Beliefs dictate behavior! If we are unwilling, as the old phrase says, "to stand for something, then we will fall for anything." Doctrine is the foundation upon which the church stands. It is our "beliefs" that we preach and teach, sing and shout about. If we are content to use our standing as being "autonomous" to evade and avoid taking doctrinal stances; I fear that we may have "governed ourselves" from under the authority of God and His Word.

As perhaps, the only one, of two or possibly three, true evangelists in this convention; I have been charged by the Chief Shepherd to carry the banner of doctrinal integrity. I do not have a church that can dismiss me; nor am I on staff of the convention or congress, who can fire me. And inasmuch as both the convention and the congress have snubbed me--never inviting me to speak at either--and now the conference has silenced me; I have no fear of what will be done to me. I am determined "to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" at whatever cost. If you would like to join me in this effort, please see my article, "National Baptist Committee for Doctrinal Integrity."

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Tribute to My Dad: A Man of Integrity

Of the many, many things that I have tried or done;
Writing poetry, I must admit, simply is not one.
What then, you may ask, brings me to this at this time?
It’s certainly not my ability to choose words that rhyme.

Rather, it is the passing of my father,
who has completed his earthly sojourn;
and has now gone to heaven,
and has left me here to mourn.
I wanted to honor him, for what he has meant to me,
But being fearful of trying to preach, I am trying poetry.

His lifelong lesson to me,
is summed up in the word “integrity”.
Integrity they say, is something deep down within;
It tells not only what a man thinks is righteous,
But also, what he thinks is sin.

Now there are some men in life, who are known by their talk.
But a man of integrity is known by his walk.
The thing that makes them different from most other men,
Is that what you see on the outside,
is consistent with that which is within.

My dad was a man of integrity, true to what he felt in his heart,
God had given to him, the great gift of art.
Therefore, neither the circumstances of his life’s condition;
Nor even his father’s stern admonition,
Could keep him from pursuing his true ambition.

He bore the responsibility of being both a husband and a father;
Fulfilling his duties, seemingly, without a bother.
He was not the kind of man, to fuss and complain,
He simply did what was needed, time and time again.

But if you really wanted to see what was inside this man,
You had to see his face, with a palette or paintbrush in his hand.
You had to see him donning his artist’s smock,
With a beret on his head, turning with a slight cock.

You had to see him staring at the canvas and mixing the paint,
trying to create a color that ain’t!
“God has painted the earth”; he would tell me,
Of different colors that the common eye does not see,

I keep mixing my paint over and over again
Frustrated with my limitations, as a mere mortal man.
Hurrying and scurrying to capture what I see today,
Knowing that the Master will never do it again this same way.

It integrity however, was on full display,
When a would-be collector offered him so little pay.
He would look them straight in the eye,
And with an artist’s conviction reply.

This is not a photograph, that takes but a minute to take,
This is an original which has taken a lifetime to make!
And before I let you degrade my work or me,
I would rather sweep floors, from here to eternity!

Then long after the would-be collector had gone,
And he and I would make the long drive home.
He would turn to me and say,
Billy Jr.—you too, will face this someday.

And remember to stick to you what you believe, no matter the cost,
For if you abandon it, your entire soul will be lost.
It’s far better to live as a man of poverty,
Than to be known as one with no integrity.

And when life’s journey has come to an end,
Men will not mind calling you their friend,
So, I salute my Dad for the lesson he taught me,
To live and to die as a man of integrity.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Schedule for 2007

July 29-August 3 Greater Mt. Olive Baptist Church Oklahoma City, OK.

August 20-23 Blessed Hope Baptist Church Cleveland, Ohio

August 26-31 New Hope Temple Baptist Church Philadelphia, PA.

September 3-6 National Baptist Convention Philadelphia, PA.

September 22, 23 Mt. Sinai Baptist Church Los Angeles, CA.

October 10-12 Oakland Avenue Baptist Church Detroit, MI.

October 14-17 Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church Kansas City, Mo.

November 4-9 New Genesis Baptist Church Chicago, Ill.

November 11-14 Marsalis Avenue Baptist Church Dallas, Tx.


William David Burwell, Jr.
P.O. Box 326
Palm Springs, California 92264

DOB: January 9, 1942 in Birmingham, Alabama
Married to Kathy Maria Cooper
Eight Children & Ten Grandchildren

Talbot Theological Seminary
La Mirada, California
Awarded Master of Divinity Degree
Practical Theology, 1983

University of Southern California
Los Angeles, California
Awarded Doctor of Philosophy Degree
Speech Communication, 1977

California State University
Northridge, California
Awarded Master of Arts Degree
Speech Communication, 1973

San Fernando Valley State College
Northridge, California
Awarded Bachelor of Arts Degree
Sociology, 1970

Los Angeles Valley College
Van Nuys, California
Awarded Associate in Arts Degree, 1967

Professional Employment
San Fernando Valley State College
Lecturer, 1969-1971

California State University, Northridge
Associate Professor of African American Studies, 1972-1987
Department Chairman, 1983-1985

Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA)
Lecturer, Department of Sociology, 1987-1989

Talbot Theological Seminary
Minority Ministers Masters Program, 1989-1990

Capital Community College
Hartford, Connecticut
Lecturer, Department of Sociology, 1992-1994

Professional Christian Experience
Burwell Ministries; Palm Springs, California
Organizer-CEO; Evangelist-Teacher, 1991-Present

Sunday School Publishing Board
National Baptist Convention, USA Inc.
Commentary Writer, 2004-Present

First Berean Christian Church
Organizer, Pastor-Teacher, 1983-1991

First Baptist Church, Hartford Connecticut
Christian Education Consultant, 1991-1993

Bethany Baptist Bible Training Institute
Los Angeles, California
Director of Christian Education, 1979-1982

Bethany Baptist Church of West Los Angeles,
Director of Vacation Bible School, 1978-1979

I have served as lecturer, workshop coordinator, and preacher to several hundred local churches, districts, associations, Christian leadership schools, and state conventions. I have also served as lecturer to the Minister’s Division of the National Baptist Convention of America, and as well, as a regular lecturer at the National Baptist Convention, USA, Sunday School Publishing Board, Conference of Christian Educators.

References Available Upon Request