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TRUSTEES: IMB pres. search continues

CHICAGO (BP)–International Mission Board trustees, meeting in Chicago, continued their search for a successor to IMB President Jerry Rankin and made arrangements for interim leadership if the search extends beyond Rankin’s July 31 retirement.

Should a new leader not be in place by the end of July, trustees tapped IMB Executive Vice President Clyde Meador as interim president, beginning Aug. 1, “to serve until a new president is elected and assumes his responsibilities.”

Meador, 65, from Albuquerque, N.M., has been executive vice president since July 2003, directing many of the board’s day-to-day operations. A veteran missionary and mission administrator, Meador and his wife Elaine served in multiple assignments in Asia for more than 25 years before he joined the IMB home office staff in 2001.

The trustee presidential search committee continues its work — and continues to ask Southern Baptists to pray it will find the right person for the job. Committee chairman Jimmy Pritchard, pastor of First Baptist Church in Forney, Texas, said there was no firm timetable for a selection.

“We are making progress but have not been able to arrive at a consensus at this point,” Pritchard during the trustees’ May 4-5 sessions in Chicago. “We will get there. We’re just not quite there yet. We are waiting and working and praying, and God in His time will give us a consensus.”


In their annual election of new officers, trustees elected Pritchard by acclamation as board chairman. He succeeds Paul Chitwood, pastor of First Baptist Church in Mt. Washington, Ky., who led the trustee board for two years as the IMB launched a major global reorganization. Pritchard will continue in his role as leader of the presidential search committee.

Also elected unanimously were Tim Locher, a retired airline pilot from Hendersonville, N.C., as first vice chairman; Joe Hewgley, a property manager from Rogers, Ark., second vice chairman; and Kathy Towns, a business owner from Arcadia, La., recording secretary.

The trustees also appointed 46 new missionaries recognized during services at Broadview (Ill.) Missionary Baptist Church in the Chicago area and First Baptist Church in Jackson, Miss.


David Steverson, vice president for finance, reviewed the IMB’s 2009 financial statements during his report. He also predicted the final 2009 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions will top the 2008 offering of $141 million — despite the ongoing economic difficulties faced by Southern Baptists.

“We do a projection the first couple of weeks in March, which we share with the finance committee, and we monitor the receipts on a weekly basis,” Steverson said. “The closer we get to the closing date, the more we are convinced that Southern Baptists are responding and we will see an increase when the books are closed on May 31.”

Investment income also has rebounded after the disastrous market nosedive of 2008-09. However, Steverson reminded trustees that the IMB has dipped into reserve funds to cover its 2010 budget and faces significant budget limitations for the foreseeable future.

“Cash contributions were down almost $8 million [for the calendar year],” he reported. “This is reflected in both Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon [receipts]. We were able to compensate for this by reducing overseas expenditures $13 million and [U.S.] expenditures $6 million.”


Meador briefed trustees on the IMB’s annual missionary personnel report. The board counted 5,441 missionaries at the end of 2009. Some significant numbers highlight who they are, where they serve and other key factors:

— 54 percent of IMB missionaries are women, 46 percent are men; 84 percent are married.

— More than 56 percent of all IMB workers now serve in restricted-access locations where most unreached peoples are found. Only 38 percent work in “open” areas — “a continually decreasing number, as more and more of our personnel serve in high-security places,” Meador said.

— More than 4,300 missionaries serve in long-term assignments. About 1,120 are short-termers (two to three years). The percentage of short-termers, already down somewhat from previous years, will continue to decrease as the IMB focuses limited resources on supporting long-term workers.

— The 2009 personnel attrition rate was 5 percent, in keeping with the average rate for the past 15 years.


In his report, Rankin expressed optimism that the just-released final report of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force “lays the foundation for a renewed impetus on … cooperative efforts to reach the lost throughout North America and the world.” However, he cautioned, the report and potential actions taken on it by the Southern Baptist Convention in June “are simply a start and incentive to much that must follow in subsequent years.”

In the meantime, he challenged IMB trustees to “not wait passively for these changes to take place, but to make decisions that will move us aggressively forward in engaging all peoples with the Gospel. Our primary focus is not just doing evangelism overseas. It is penetrating lostness and giving all peoples an opportunity to hear, understand and respond to the Gospel in their own cultural context.

“You have already affirmed that we are to be more than a missionary-sending agency. Just because we are having to limit the number of personnel we can send and support, we cannot just shrug our shoulders and apologetically excuse ourselves from pressing forward to finish the task of reaching all peoples. We have to recognize the vast potential of partnership with Southern Baptists, Great Commission Christians and the network of national Baptist partners around the world.”

Personal involvement and hands-on mission partnerships are the “desire of a new generation,” Rankin emphasized. “I am convinced a future generation will give and give generously, but they want to be involved, and they want ownership of what they do. They want to make a difference in the world. …

“If the IMB stays focused on the task, is driven by a compelling vision to fulfill the Great Commission and stays aligned with what God is doing around the world, the future is promising. But whether or not this makes a difference is contingent on adjusting our thinking to the demands of a changing world….

“Even with an improved economy, we will never have enough missionaries to reach the whole world, but 45,000 churches and 16 million Southern Baptists can do it. But we must radically change our thinking as a denominational entity if we are to successfully relate to our constituency and effectively mobilize them in a Great Commission Resurgence.

“If we don’t do it and lead the way, who will?”


Outgoing trustee chairman Chitwood urged his colleagues to explore “new and creative ways” to increase financial support for international missions in a day when God-called missionary candidates are being turned away for lack of funds.

“Estimates are that in the next 40 years somewhere between $40 trillion and $50 trillion will pass from the builders and boomers to their children and grandchildren — and to the causes they choose to support,” Chitwood said. “Legacy gifts to institutions may be down, but they are not out. Money is still changing hands. Worthy causes are still being funded. While we are still receiving an amazing amount of gifts through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, we could do more if we had more….

“The bottom line is this: I give more through the IMB than I did eight years ago, because I know more. We have to get the message out in new and creative ways, not only to our churches but to individual Southern Baptists who want to leave a legacy that impacts eternity. I know of no more worthy cause than the cause we champion.”

Chitwood also called upon the board to keep moving forward in the area of theological education.

“I want to commend President Rankin for being proactive in the employment of Dr. Chuck Lawless as an adviser in theological education,” Chitewood said, and for creating four positions for theological consultants during the recent reorganization.

Chitwood urged the trustees both to expect the next president to value the role of theological education and to continue to focus on creating a culture that recognizes the importance of well-trained missionaries.

“As we better equip our missionaries to train and equip those who are being reached, we are making an investment with exponential returns,” Chitwood said. “As Dr. Rankin often says, our missionaries will not reach the world. But if those whom our missionaries reach are trained to reach, reaching the world becomes possible.”

Also during the meeting, trustees paid tribute to Jeremiah Johnson, a 21-year-old student missionary killed April 12 in a motorcycle accident in the African nation of Mozambique. Johnson, a member of Royal Palms Baptist Church in Phoenix, was working with the IMB’s Hands On initiative, which enables college students to work on the mission field for a semester.

Trustees expressed “deep appreciation” for Johnson’s service to God and pledged special prayer support for his family in the days ahead.

The next meeting of IMB trustees will be July 20-21 in Rockville, Va., at the IMB’s International Learning Center.
Erich Bridges is a global correspondent for the IMB.

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