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IMB reviews ‘New Directions,’ breaks ground for MLC expansion

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–International Mission Board trustees received a positive evaluation of the board’s 1997 “New Directions” reorganization and heard reports of meetings with national Baptist leaders all over the world, during a May 18-20 meeting in Richmond, Va.

Groundbreaking ceremonies for the $23 million expansion at the board’s Missionary Learning Center also were part of the trustees’ packed agenda, in addition to electing new officers, honoring 67 retiring missionaries and appointing 43 new workers for overseas fields.

The report on New Directions, in its conclusion, notes: “Overall, New Directions has been successful. The board is focused on reaching all peoples through church-planting movements. The focus has shifted from countries to people groups, so deeper penetration of the world’s population is possible.

“The total number of churches, church membership, baptisms and other key indicators are up substantially. Field organization structure has been streamlined. Effective Cooperative Services International methodologies have been integrated into the overall board direction. At the same time, after the initial reaction, appreciation has grown as understanding has increased among field personnel.”

With 1997 as a baseline, roughly two years of data were available for the New Directions assessment. In some cases, less than two years of data were available.

The study “commends the board for its historic action in 1997 and endorses the course that has been set for the future.”

Trustees are expected to act on the report as early as their next meeting in July at Ridgecrest, a LifeWay Conference Center near Asheville, N.C.

Alongside the trustee meeting, the board conducted special emeritus week activities, honoring 67 missionaries who have retired in the last year and whose collective years of service total 1,932. Included in the group were Dub and Sally Fite, who were honored for 50 years of active service in Brazil. An appointment service for 43 new career and associate missionaries also was held May 21 in nearby Norfolk, Va.

The meeting included a groundbreaking ceremony for a $23 million expansion at the board’s Missionary Learning Center in Rockville, Va. IMB President Jerry Rankin said the fact the board has one of the lowest rates of missionary resignations can be linked directly to the training and preparation the agency provides new and returning missionaries at MLC.

The swelling ranks of new missionaries has caused shortages of housing, educational and parking space at the Missionary Learning Center, which opened in April 1984.

Studies show the number of IMB missionaries could grow above 7,000 over the next five years.

Trustees also unanimously approved an additional $3.25 million for completion of the board’s stateside office renovation in Richmond.

The increased renovation funds for the Richmond facility were needed to provide an appropriate work environment for a rapidly growing and changing organizational structure, including an Office of Global Information Systems, which was launched since the renovation began.

The additional $3.25 million appropriation will come from operating reserves. It brings the total cost for the renovation to more than $13 million.

Tim McCoy of Macon, Ga., was elected board chairman. Bob Claytor of South Carolina was elected first vice chairman; Steve McKown of Arizona was elected second vice chairman; Diane Reeder of Louisiana was named recording secretary.

In his report to the board, Rankin recounted recent Accelerating World Evangelization meetings with national Baptist convention leaders throughout the world. Rankin said Baptist leaders worldwide are expressing interest in creating or strengthening their own international missions efforts in order to participate more fully in presenting Jesus Christ to the world’s lost.

IMB Senior Vice President Avery Willis noted the meetings are an effort to enable “the receiving groups to become the sending groups.”

In other action, trustees:

— affirmed the recent decision of the Board of Founders of the University of Shanghai, Inc., in China to dissolve that corporation and distribute the net assets (about $800,000) equally between the IMB and the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society, and to use the IMB’s share of the funds like an endowment for current work.

— bid farewell to trustees whose terms of service are ending, including
Houston Judge Paul Pressler, chief architect of the Southern Baptist conservative resurgence.

Pressler’s election to the board eight years ago stirred controversy because of his leadership in shifting the Southern Baptist Convention in a more conservative direction. Noting he will be 70 next month, Pressler said this would be “the last time” he would serve on a Southern Baptist Convention trustee board.

Rankin praised Pressler for his courageous leadership in the conservative resurgence and thanked him for his willingness to speak his opinions at IMB meetings.

Also rotating off the IMB board were Glen Flowers of Evansville, Ind.; Phyllis Malcom of Camila, Ga.; Rob Martin of Auburn, Ala.; Bill Sutton of McAllen, Texas; David Taunton of Birmingham, Ala.; Larry Weaver of Jacksonville, Fla.; and Robert Williamson of Brandon, Miss.

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  • Louis Moore