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TRUSTEES: NAMB search committee formed; Page to lead evangelism

DENVER (BP)–The appointment of an eight-member presidential search committee and the unanimous approval of former Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page as vice president of evangelization topped news from the North American Mission Board’s Oct. 7 trustee meeting in Denver.

Tim Patterson, chairman of NAMB’s trustee board, appointed Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., as the committee’s chairman.

Also on the committee: Larry Gipson, pastor of First Baptist Oneonta, Ala.; Doug Dieterly, executive pastor, Plymouth Baptist Church, Plymouth, Ind.; Lisa Knutsen, member of Green Valley Baptist Church, Henderson, Nev.; Ryan Palmer, pastor, Seventh Metro Church, Baltimore, Md.; Chuck Herring, pastor, Collierville First Baptist Church, Collierville, Tenn.; Tim Dowdy, pastor, Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church, McDonough, Ga. Patterson, who pastors Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., will serve as an ex officio member of the committee.

Appointment of the search committee comes two months after the Aug. 11 resignation of Geoff Hammond, who had led NAMB since May 2007.

Patterson acknowledged that he did not appoint a search team as quickly as the International Mission Board or the SBC Executive Committee, whose leaders both announced their pending retirements in recent weeks.

“If you look at the other entities that immediately selected their search teams, they have not gone through what we’ve gone through,” Patterson told fellow trustees. “We needed some time for healing. We needed some time for realigning. We just needed some time to take a breath and wait a bit before we did this.

“They will begin their work immediately,” Patterson said of the committee. “Please pray for that team as we seek God’s will and God’s direction.”

Appointment of the search team comes as the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force examines NAMB’s role in helping Southern Baptists reach North America for Christ. Traylor, the search committee chairman, is a GCR Task Force member. The GCR Task Force was appointed by SBC President Johnny Hunt after being approved by messengers to the June 2009 SBC annual meeting in Louisville, Ky.

Hammond’s resignation preceded retirement announcements in September by Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board, and Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC Executive Committee.

After those entities quickly named search committees, GCR Task Force chairman Ronnie Floyd urged presidential search committees for the three SBC entities to be “very prayerful and watchful” of the GCR Task Force’s work. Floyd made his comments in an interview with the Florida Baptist Witness.

Patterson, in speaking to NAMB trustees, said the search committee will conduct its work independent from outside pressure.

“We will find God’s man and I can promise you it will be without political influence and direction from the outside,” said Patterson.

“This is the North American Mission Board. Not another mission board. Not another entity or task force,” Patterson told trustees Oct. 7. “And we are going to do what God and Southern Baptists have charged us to do.”

In May, Patterson sparked controversy when he called for NAMB’s merger with the IMB. Later that month at a scheduled trustee meeting, he joined NAMB trustees in subsequently affirming the mission board’s continued ministry, and the leadership of Geoff Hammond. In August, Patterson called for a special NAMB executive board meeting to discuss Hammond’s leadership, but when details were learned by other trustees, a meeting of the full membership was held.

Signaling their intention to strengthen NAMB and move the entity forward, trustees unanimously approved Frank Page to the top evangelism post.

“If you’ll approve this recommendation,” NAMB’s interim president, Richard Harris, told trustees, “I believe it will take Southern Baptists to a new level in emphasis on evangelism and impact for the Kingdom and, most importantly, in fulfilling the Great Commission. I believe he is God’s man for the hour to lead Southern Baptists forward.”

After the unanimous vote, Page, pastor of Taylors First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., addressed the trustees, saying in part, “Thank you and I will pledge to you what I have pledged to every church to which I have ever gone. I will work with all my mind and love this work with all my heart. And I will lift up the name of our Lord Jesus wherever I go and whatever I do.” (For the BP story on Page’s election Oct. 7, go to http://bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=31408.)

In other action NAMB’s trustees:

-— Named Harris as the mission board’s interim president, to remain in the role until a president is chosen. Harris has been serving as acting interim president since Aug. 12.

— Approved a $126 million operating budget for 2010. The budget is a 5.8 percent reduction compared to 2009’s approved budget of $133.8 million. NAMB’s evangelism initiative, God’s Plan for Sharing (GPS), will not be impacted by the budget cuts. It will receive $2.1 million in funding in 2010, including $1.2 million for media buys to be used by state convention partners.

— Heard a report from Southern Baptist U.S. Army Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Jeff Houston who recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. Houston thanked trustees for the role NAMB plays in reviewing, endorsing, training and supporting Southern Baptist military chaplains.

“Thank you for sending outstanding individuals to us,” Houston said. “Check very closely on their commitment and their calling, because as we put more responsibility on them and call them away from their families, it is tough work. It is their calling to their Lord Jesus Christ and their commitment that sees them through.”

Earlier in the week, trustees participated in a vision tour of the greater Denver area. Bob Ryan, director of missions for Denver’s Mile High Baptist Association, recounted to trustees the critical role played by NAMB funding and assistance in last year’s ministry and outreach to Denver police, and some 5,000 law enforcement personnel total, in charge of security during the Democratic National Convention in late August.

“We had 600 hundred volunteers and served 45,000 hot meals,” Ryan said. “But this was more than a humanitarian effort. Law enforcement officers were prayed for. They received Bibles. They heard the Gospel. ICE [Intentional Community Evangelism] teams shared throughout the city. And people came to Christ.”

Denver Police Captain Sylvia Sich told trustees, “This was a life-changing event for these officers. The Peacemaker Bibles made such an impact. I cannot say enough about the impact that week made on the Denver Police Department.” Sich said she already has heard from other police departments interested in partnering with churches when large events take place in their cities.

At a commissioning service for 120 North American Mission Board missionaries, Mark Edlund, executive director of the Colorado Baptist General Convention, told the audience, “If it weren’t for NAMB, our state office would consist of me, a business manager and some administrative assistants. All of the other six ministers who serve at the state level are NAMB missionaries. In addition to those, we have another 19 fully supported missionaries working in our state. In addition to that, another 24 church planters are receiving partial funding.”

Edlund said 18 new churches were started in 2008 as a result of NAMB partnerships and 17 so far in 2009.

In closing remarks to the trustees, Harris addressed the GCR and current discussion over restructuring the SBC. “The North American Mission Board staff welcomes any scrutiny, any help that would cause us to be more effective and more efficient,” Harris said, urging trustees to pray for members of the GCR Task Force.

“I want to say to you without apology, I think Southern Baptists need two mission boards,” Harris said. “We do need the North American Mission Board. We do need the International Mission Board. And if I walked out the door of NAMB today, I would still wave that flag. The missiology for reaching North America today is different than the missiology for reaching Third world countries.”

Looking to the future, Harris spoke of the successes in this year’s GPS pilots and projected ahead to the 2010 GPS evangelistic initiative nationwide.

“If we can get the same percent of churches participating in just half of our associations, next year we will touch 32 million homes with the Gospel,” Harris said.
Based on reporting by Mike Ebert, the North American Mission Board’s communications team leader, with additional reporting by Baptist Press staff.

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