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TRUSTEES: Rankin retirement, new missionaries, tapping reserves top IMB meeting

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)–Word of International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin’s retirement and the prospect of appointing 25 additional missionaries in 2009 led the agenda at the IMB trustee meeting in Jacksonville, Fla., Sept. 15-16.

Rankin told trustees he will step down July 31, 2010, after 17 years of service in that role. Rankin said he has “absolute confidence” the decision to leave came from God, the same sense of conviction that prompted him and his wife Bobbye to be appointed as Southern Baptist missionaries in 1970.

“I believe the appropriate time has come for a new, younger generation of leadership to guide our global mission efforts into the future,” Rankin said. “You can be assured that this [decision] comes from prolonged and intensive times of prayer and fasting in seeking confirmation of God’s will.

“God has indicated that this is the appropriate time, and we dare not forfeit the future that He has prepared for the IMB and for us in the next stage of life.”

Trustee chairman Paul Chitwood announced the formation of a 15-member search committee to find Rankin’s replacement. Jimmy Pritchard, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Forney, Texas, was tapped to chair the committee.

Other members are Norman Coe (Kentucky) vice chairman and Stuart Bell and Joe Hewgley (Arkansas), Jana Brown (Georgia), Charles Fowler (Tennessee), Robert Jackson, Mike Penry and Tim Locher (North Carolina), Nathan Lino (Texas), Dick Landry and Kathy Towns (Louisiana), Ray Jones (Alabama) and Richard Powell (Florida). As trustee chairman, Chitwood also will serve on the committee.

“The task that falls now to us as trustees of this board is indeed a weighty task,” Chitwood said. “If we measure what is significant based upon the potential to impact the Kingdom of God, then choosing the next president of the United States would pale in comparison to choosing the next president of the International Mission Board.

“I say none of that to fill us with pride. I say it to drive us to our knees in prayer, asking that God’s will be revealed to us and that God’s will be done.”


On the heels of Rankin’s retirement announcement, IMB treasurer David Steverson told trustees that more missionaries will be sent this year than originally planned, thanks to special offerings collected by Southern Baptists.

In May, trustees were forced to reduce missionary appointments because of a shortfall in funding from the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. The appointment of 69 long-term candidates and some 350 short-term candidates waiting to serve on the mission field was delayed. Now, about 25 of those 69 long-term candidates will be added to a group of 37 already slated for appointment in November.

“While our Lottie Moon receipts have not yet increased substantially because of these efforts, we have received many, many anecdotal reports of churches taking special Lottie Moon offerings over the past few weeks,” Steverson explained. “We don’t yet know the total we will receive … but we are convinced these funds are in the pipeline.

“We are grateful to Southern Baptists for their response to this challenge by stepping up and giving above and beyond what they would normally do,” Steverson said.

But he stressed that one-time gifts aren’t a long-term solution — Southern Baptists must continue to give sacrificially to sustain these additional missionaries after they are sent, not to mention the more than 5,500 missionaries already serving around the world.

“It is inexcusable that 16 million Southern Baptists cannot support 5,600 missionaries,” said Gordon Fort, IMB vice president of global strategy. “May God help us to send out a clarion call to Southern Baptists to return to their first love, back to the priority which is on the heart of God, that every language, every people, every tribe and every nation would have their witness.”


Despite Southern Baptists’ generosity, Steverson cautioned trustees that IMB’s financial situation remains serious. Calling the budget shortfall a “crisis,” he said IMB would, for the first time in its history, be forced to dip into contingency funds in order to balance the budget.

“We have been able to cut out almost $19 million from the expenditure side of the budget we are currently drafting for 2010,” Steverson said. “Unfortunately … we are about $7.5 million away from a balanced budget.”

Steverson said IMB will close the budget gap by drawing the $7.5 million from its contingency funds. He acknowledged this is not a long-term solution to decreased giving, but said he believes the biggest economic crisis in U.S. history since the Great Depression warrants such action.

“Since we first established a contingency reserve some 60 years ago, this will be the first time we have used it for our benefit,” Steverson said. “We believe that demonstrates our commitment to living within our means but also to appropriately draw on our reserves in truly extraordinary circumstances.”

Trustees concluded their time in Florida with the appointment of 60 new missionaries at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville. The next trustee meeting will be Nov. 9-10 in Shreveport, La. A Nov. 10 missionary appointment service will be in conjunction with the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s annual meeting.
Don Graham is a writer for the International Mission Board.

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