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IMB eliminates 61 jobs to keep expenses in line with income

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Thirty-seven home office staff members of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board were notified June 10 that their jobs were being eliminated in order to keep the agency’s 2003 expenditures in line with anticipated income.

Both management and support positions were affected by the reduction. A total of 61 full-time and part-time positions were eliminated. Some were vacancies that will not be filled.

The staff reduction was the second step taken by board leadership in the past week to reduce expenses and prevent deficit spending. On June 5, IMB leaders announced limits on the number of new workers that will be sent overseas in 2003 and 2004.

Both steps were taken after the 2002 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering fell almost $10 million short of its $125 million goal, complicating a financial situation already stressed by declining investment income and a rapidly increasing missionary force.

“The decisions to reduce staff and hold back new missionaries were extremely difficult to make,” said IMB President Jerry Rankin. “This has been a painful process, and every effort had been made to minimize the impact of budget reductions. Many of the stateside employees who are leaving have given many years of devoted service to the IMB.

“It hurts to lose people who are not only colleagues and co-workers, but friends with bills to pay and families to feed. We are like family, every one passionately committed to the cause of reaching our world for Jesus Christ.”

Since 78 percent of the IMB’s $268.8 million basic operating budget provides support and benefits for missionaries and staff, there was no way to avoid an impact on stateside staffing in reducing expenses, Rankin said.

Employees losing jobs will receive outplacement assistance and severance packages. Prior to the action, the board had just over 500 positions on its job register.

In order to continue to give priority to its overseas ministries and support of missionaries, a number of products, resources and services also are being suspended.

Perhaps the most significant action to reduce products and services will be suspending publication of the IMB’s flagship magazine, “The Commission.”
Printing and postage costs for the publication totaled $800,000 in the 2003 budget. The board will continue to publish the online version of the magazine.

“As much as it hurts, we must remain fiscally responsible and keep expenses within the bounds of the income the churches provide,” Rankin said. “Support from the churches has continued to increase every year, but gifts have not kept pace with a spectacular rate of growth in the number of missionary personnel.”

In each of the past two years, the International Mission Board has sent out more than 1,000 new missionaries. The board currently has 5,545 fully supported workers serving among 1,497 people groups worldwide.

While the board’s missionary count grew 8.7 percent from 2000 to 2002, combined income from the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon offering increased 1.5 percent during the same period.

In addition to reducing the number of staff in its Richmond headquarters, the IMB also has imposed limits on the number of new workers that will be sent out this year and next.

Approximately 100 candidates who hoped to begin long-term missionary careers this year have been deferred to next year or put on hold. The number of new short-term personnel also will be reduced by 30 percent this year.

“It is painful to be reducing staff and holding back missionaries when there are so many missions opportunities around the world and God is moving in such dramatic ways, Rankin said.

“We will seek to use this challenge to assess those ministries and services that are most essential to our task,” Rankin said. “Lack of funding will help us refine overseas strategies and methodologies, practice better stewardship and give more emphasis to ensuring that new missionaries are going to the most strategic assignments.

“But we also are praying this will be a wake-up call to Southern Baptists to give a higher priority to our missions task and impact a world beyond our local budgeted programs,” he said. “This should challenge us to rethink our church budgets, evaluate our lifestyles and give more sacrificially to things of eternal value.”

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  • Mark Kelly