By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
In the Jan. 27 issue I wrote a column expressing concern about the lack of information coming out of the International Mission Board. The IMB had made some major decisions about needing to cut between 600 and 800 missionary/staff positions due to overspending by $210 million over the past five years or so.
In addition, the IMB announced it was eliminating its Communications Center in Richmond with 30 of the 40 employees losing their jobs. Ten were reassigned to other areas.
I was critical of the IMB for their lack of information. President David Platt was not available to the media. I stand by what I wrote at the time. It was valid and needed to be brought out.
By the same token, I will give credit to Dr. Platt. Since then, he has been more available. He spoke to Baptist state editors and answered questions at our annual meeting in February. He held a press conference following the trustee meeting, again for Baptist editors unable to attend the trustee session. Also, last week, Platt hosted a live-streamed question and answer session, responding to questions submitted by Twitter. See story.
In addition, while I was in Richmond for the trustee meeting, Dr. Platt took time from a busy schedule to meet with me and one other editor. He was gracious and answered our questions “on the record.”
However, the major meeting I wanted to attend was the trustee forum that is closed to everyone but trustees. And to be forthright, this has been a custom of the IMB for decades. It is not something just established by current administration.
While trustees could not tell me what was said in that session, most indicated that concerns and questions were voiced and dealt with. But those concerns were never revealed in an open meeting. Even some of the committees went into “executive session,” meaning media and others could not attend. It would have been nice to have gotten more clarification on some issues.
In SBC life, meetings should be open unless it is for a specific personnel or legal issue.
Still, I am glad I attended the meeting held on the campus of the International Learning Center near Richmond. It’s an incredible facility that Southern Baptists operate to help train and educate our missionaries before they go to the missions field.
As Tennessee Baptists we need to pray diligently for the work of the IMB now more than ever. Leaders have gotten its finances in order, but the IMB has lost a wealth of experience and a number of quality relationships established over decades.
Those relationships will take years for others to build. Trust built over decades of ministry together overseas cannot be easily transferred to others who follow those faithful missionaries. Trust must be earned, not transferred.
We must hold on to our hope that God is in control and His Word will be spread worldwide to the millions upon millions of people who do not know Him as Lord and Savior.