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NAMB trustees elect new VPs, change chaplaincy policy

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–North American Mission Board trustees on Feb. 4 approved changes in the board’s organizational structure — including the election of two new vice presidents — and a policy change that will end the endorsement of women as military chaplains.

Trustees also appointed 40 new missionaries, endorsed 27 new chaplains and heard an update from President Robert E. (Bob) Reccord on the board’s efforts to impact the United States and Canada with the Gospel.

Reccord presented a plan for restructuring several leadership areas that included promotion of two staff members to executive leadership positions and changes in assignments for two current vice presidents.

Chuck Allen was elected as NAMB’s chief operating officer (COO) and Carlos Ferrer as vice president of finance and organizational services. Meanwhile, Mike Day will direct strategic initiatives, while Randy Singer will become special assistant and chief counsel, a part-time position.

Allen, who previously served as chief of staff for Reccord, will coordinate the work of the board’s executive leadership team and handle administrative affairs. Those responsibilities previously were assigned to Singer as executive vice president. Reccord has eliminated the position Singer has held and divided its responsibilities between the new COO and Singer’s new position.

Allen came to NAMB in 1996 after serving as executive pastor of First Baptist Church in Snellville, Ga., and as a successful business leader.

Singer, a trial lawyer who came to the board five years ago, will continue to handle NAMB’s legal affairs as well as a number of external responsibilities — including his present roles with state partners, FamilyNet and trustees. Singer told the trustees he feels called to help reach the legal profession with the Gospel and has been invited by two law schools to serve as an adjunct professor. And, as an award-winning author with five books in publication, Singer will be able to devote more time to writing.

Reccord announced that Mike Day, currently vice president of organizational development, will assume the position of vice president of strategic initiatives being vacated by Gary Frost. Frost has accepted a call to serve as director of missions for the Metropolitan Baptist Association of New York City. Before joining NAMB in 1996, Day served as vice president of the former Southern Baptist Brotherhood Commission in Memphis, Tenn. His new responsibilities will include NAMB’s Strategic Focus Cities emphasis, associational missions services and NAMB’s leadership and training initiatives.

Trustees elected Ferrer, currently chief financial officer, to replace Day as vice president of finance and organizational services. Ferrer is a native of Cuba who fled the communist country with his family in the 1950s and was ministered to by Southern Baptist churches in Texas. He is a certified public accountant who joined the former Home Mission Board in 1992 after three years as vice president of business affairs of the Hispanic Baptist Theological School in San Antonio and 12 years in secular accounting positions.

Reccord emphasized that while the changes do not increase NAMB’s budget, they reflect the gifts, calling and passions of each team member and the strategic priorities of the mission board.

The change in NAMB’s chaplaincy policy will end endorsement of women to positions requiring a “fully qualified member of the clergy” or that have a “role or function similar to that of a pastor” — including, primarily, chaplains in the military and a few other federal institutions. Chaplains currently serving would not be affected unless they changed to a different category of service.

The change came at the recommendation of a special task force appointed by Reccord in response to a motion at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting last June. The motion was related to NAMB’s 2002 decision to stop endorsing all ordained women — while still endorsing women who are not ordained. Two senior U.S. Navy chaplains moved at the 2003 SBC that the board require all military chaplains seeking endorsement be ordained, based on a concern that NAMB’s refusal to endorse ordained women could result in unqualified military chaplains.

NAMB chairman Terry Fox, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita, Kan., said the Feb. 4 policy change was based on the realization that military chaplains — more than those in other categories of service — often function in the role of pastor. Consequently, he said, it is appropriate not only that they be ordained, but also that they be men — in accordance with the current Baptist Faith and Message statement of faith.

Currently 196 women are among approximately 2,500 chaplains endorsed by NAMB. Of those, 20 are military chaplains, and seven others serve the Federal Bureau of Prisons and Department of Veteran’s Affairs, which have policies requiring a “fully qualified member of the clergy.” Most women chaplains under NAMB endorsement serve in healthcare and counseling roles.

During his report to trustees, Reccord reiterated his concern for the nation’s 41 million young adults ages 18-29, a generation he said Southern Baptist churches and the denomination are in danger of losing in places of leadership.

“When 18- to 29-year-olds are asked, ‘What do you see in Southern Baptists?’ would they answer something like, ‘I see them as an inspiring visionary movement to penetrate the culture I live in for Christ,'” he said. “If they can’t say something like that, men and women, we are missing our mark.”

After outlining some of the unique characteristics of the emerging generations that make up the group, he said NAMB is making special efforts to design new initiatives to evangelize and mobilize them to respond to God’s call on their lives.

Reccord said he has been inspired by the response from participants in NAMB’s Elevate 2004 conference in Dallas in January. The conference, also slated for the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center Feb. 19-21, is designed to help young adults see their career as part of God’s call.

“It has been absolutely remarkable,” he said. “If we don’t unleash the workforce and understand that the church is more impactful Monday through Saturday than it is gathered on Sunday, we’re not going to change North America.”

But Reccord also said NAMB’s ability to send missionaries has been hampered by a lack of funds to respond to the needs that exist. He noted that the purchasing power of the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering has been flat since 1983.

As a result, the appointment of US/C-2 missionaries, who serve for two years, has been frozen until financial conditions improve — with candidates currently in the process given the option to wait or serve as a summer or semester missionary. The board also has 48 career missionaries approved with no place of service because of budget restraints both at NAMB and with state convention partners.

“The light that will always shine the farthest must shine the brightest at home,” he said. “Therefore it is essential that we as Southern Baptists step up to the need of unheard numbers of men and women who are saying, ‘I’ll go.’

“Pray with me that God would raise the passion of Southern Baptists for North America so we can be even stronger for worldwide missions,” he added.
Martin King contributed to this report.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: CHUCK ALLEN and CARLOS FERRER.

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  • James Dotson