IMB President Paul Chitwood addresses IMB trustees during the plenary session Jan. 30. IMB/Special
Also establishes day to honor first Baptist missionary, former Georgia slave
By Ann Lovell
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — IMB President Paul Chitwood announced IMB’s five-year plan during meetings with trustees Jan. 29-30 in Riverside, California. IMB trustees also elected Charles Clark as vice president of mobilization and Price Jett as vice president of finance, logistics and technology; appointed 21 new missionaries for service around the globe; and recognized 78 former IMB personnel in memoriam.
Seth Polk, who serves as IMB trustee chairman, presided over the meeting. Polk is lead pastor of Cross Lanes Baptist Church in Cross Lanes, West Virginia.
“It is an honor to serve on a spiritually unified and focused board,” Polk said. “The Holy Spirit is working among us. … We are grateful for the leadership of Dr. Paul Chitwood and the staff and missionaries who make up the IMB family.”
To “press toward the fulfillment of the Revelation 7:9 vision,” Chitwood announced five targets built around IMB’s vision and mission to engage unreached people and places over the next five years. The targets are based on the organization’s core convictions, which includes proclaiming the Gospel to those who have yet to hear it.
- Mobilize 75% of Southern Baptist churches prayerfully and financially supporting the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® by 2025. “With less than half of Southern Baptist churches reporting on the Annual Church Profile that they gave to the Lottie offering last year, we have lots of opportunity to grow the support needed by our missionaries,” Chitwood said.
- Send an additional 500 fully funded missionaries by 2025. This number came to IMB leadership directly as a request from the field, Chitwood said.
- Mobilize 500 global partner missionaries on IMB teams. While IMB will not fund these missionaries, they will be embedded on IMB teams and an essential part of IMB strategy, Chitwood said.
- Engage 75 global cities in comprehensive strategies. Demographers project that 80% of the world’s population will be in the urban centers by the end of this century, Chitwood said.
- Increase LMCO receipts 6% annually to sustain the 500 additional missionaries, or $10 million per year, for the next five years. “While that seems like a lot of money, it will only require that every one of the 16 million Southern Baptists increase their Lottie Offering by $0.63 per year,” Chitwood said. “Dividing by the number of Southern Baptist churches, every church needs to give an additional $200 per year. No matter how you do that math, the point is, it can be done.”
New missionaries and celebration of service
Trustees approved the appointment of 21 new full-time, fully funded missionaries, who were honored during a Sending Celebration on Wednesday, Jan. 29, at Magnolia Church in Riverside, Calif.
Todd Lafferty, IMB’s executive vice president, recognized the lives of 78 former colleagues – including 10 retired staff members, three current missionaries, and 65 emeritus missionaries – who died in the past year. The field personnel’s lives totaled 1,780 years of service through the IMB, with an average age of 85 and an average of 26 years of service.
Former staff who were recognized in memoriam included Don Kammerdiener, who served 39 years as a missionary to Colombia, Argentina, and Paraguay, area director for Middle America and Caribbean, and executive vice president and interim president of the IMB.
Lafferty also recognized three missionaries who died in active service. Gena Wilson, 51, served 22 years in Europe. She died of cancer May 13, 2019. LaVerne Brown, 48, served 15 years with Sub-Saharan African Peoples. She died of cancer Aug. 25, 2019. Andy Leininger, 56, served 22 years in Europe. He died of cancer Oct. 13, 2019.
Emeritus missionaries included, among many others who served around the globe: Martha Brady, 86, who served 43 years in the Bahamas, Guyana, Belize, and the Caribbean Regional Office; Emanetta Qualls, 101, who served 20 years in Brazil; and Thurman Braughton, 87, who served 28 years in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Pakistan.
175 years of work began with a Georgia slave
In response to a motion made during the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention in Birmingham, Ala., IMB trustees also voted to recommend to the SBC “that the IMB sponsor the addition to the SBC calendar of an annual George Liele Missions and Evangelism Day, to be held on the first Sunday of February of each year,” beginning in 2021.
George Liele was a Georgia slave who came to faith in 1773 at age 23, was given his freedom to pursue God’s call on his life, became the first ordained African American Baptist preacher in America, and planted the Gospel in Jamaica as the first missionary from America. (Read the remarkable story of Liele’s life and legacy here.)
“As we seek to educate Southern Baptists on our own history, we are grateful for the prospect of being able to promote an annual George Liele Missions and Evangelism Day,” Chitwood said.
Chitwood also announced the celebration of 175 years of Southern Baptist work among the nations. Acknowledging that Baptist churches in the South separated from northern churches over the issue of slavery, Chitwood acknowledged that the SBC and the IMB began in sin. Chitwood invited Nate Bishop, an African American trustee from Kentucky, to share his perspective on the issue.
Bishop encouraged trustees when addressing the beginnings of the Southern Baptist Convention and the IMB “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”
“Our convention was birthed in sin,” Bishop said. “There is no way to get around it. You can’t put lipstick on a pig. You have to call it what it is. But here is the beauty of being a Southern Baptist: When we repent and confess our sin, we don’t have to be defensive. … We celebrate this 175th anniversary because Christ has freed us [from that sin].
“There is a new ethnicity birthed by the blood of Jesus, and that [ethnicity] is the Church,” Bishop continued. “We will tell the truth [about our history], not because we are ashamed, but because we want to glory in Christ. What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
New vice presidents elected
International Mission Board trustees also elected Charles Clark as vice president of mobilization and Price Jett as vice president of finance, logistics and technology. Clark most recently served with the IMB as affinity group leader for the Americas and has more than 15 years’ experience with IMB.
Jett has served as chief information officer of IMB since July 2019. Prior to work at IMB, he founded The Care Group, using technology to help families navigate the complex world of elder care.
California hosts report on church starts
Bill Agee, executive director of California Southern Baptist Convention, participated in the missionary Sending Celebration and brought partnership greetings during trustees’ plenary session.
“We see God doing great things, and He continues to do great things,” Agee said, noting that California led the SBC in baptisms last year. He also reported that California Baptists started 70 churches last year, but “it will take 70,000 churches to reach unchurched Californians,” Agee said. “We are encouraging all of our churches to step up” to fulfill their missional responsibility.
Mobilization changes look to bring missionaries from different ethnic groups
Chitwood also announced the selection of several new staff members, including a renewed emphasis on mobilization, a new general counsel, and a newly created prevention and response administrator.
“In an effort to better serve and more effectively mobilize the diverse family of Southern Baptists here at home, we have diversified IMB’s mobilization team with team members representing and assigned to African American Southern Baptist churches, Hispanic Southern Baptist churches, and Asian American Southern Baptist churches,” Chitwood said. “We have also added mobilization personnel specifically assigned to engage more students and local Baptist associations. We have a long way to go, but the early returns on this extra investment in mobilization are encouraging.”
The goal of these positions is to continue to grow the number of candidates for missionary service, Chitwood said.
“Our missionary pipeline is growing again,” Chitwood said. “In just over a year, we’ve been able to increase the number of candidates in the career pipeline by more than 400% and the number of combined long-term, mid-term, and team associate candidates by nearly 300%. We’ve also been blessed to receive this year the largest Lottie Moon Christmas Offering from a church in IMB history.”
Steps toward prevention and reporting sexual abuse
Chitwood also announced that Richard Salamy has been named as IMB’s General Counsel and Somer Nowak will serve in the newly created role of prevention and response administrator.
“The prevention and response administrator position is evidence that IMB absolutely remains committed to making changes necessary to better prevent instances of child abuse and sexual harassment (including sexual assault) and to better care for victims while holding perpetrators accountable,” Chitwood said.
“IMB leadership is implementing every recommendation presented by Gray Plant Mooty, diligently moving toward the highest standards in abuse prevention and response, including providing compassionate care. The prevention and response administrator position is another vital step of implementation.” (See related story here.)
Financial report brings ‘highest level of assurance’
Chitwood also shared the results of the annual financial audit. IMB again received an “unmodified opinion,” the highest level of assurance available. Chitwood reported that no property sales were used for operations, reserves were funded at the appropriate levels, and 100% of receipts to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering were spent on the field.
“We are thankful for the generosity of Southern Baptists in their faithful giving to the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions. The IMB would not exist without them,” Chitwood said. “We are also thankful for the IMB finance team, both abroad and in Richmond. We have men and women with high integrity, love for our Lord, and a desire to see the Gospel proclaimed to the ends of the earth.”
The next IMB board of trustees meeting is scheduled for May 13-14 in Richmond. The next missionary Sending Celebration is scheduled during the June 9-10, 2020, annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Orlando.
The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering® is a registered trademark of Woman’s Missionary Union.
Ann Lovell is editorial design manager for IMB.