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Full text of Jan. 14 IMB press release

HEADLINE: IMB announces final phase of organizational reset

By Julie McGowan 

RICHMOND, Va. – The International Mission Board is in a position, financially, where no missionaries will be required to leave the field as the organization wraps up its two-phase reset, IMB President David Platt announced Thursday, Jan. 14.

In the second phase of the IMB’s plan to address revenue shortfalls and complete a reset of the organization, leadership also announced details of a Hand Raising Opportunity (HRO) during two town hall meetings. The HRO plan, leaders shared, offers missionaries and stateside staff members the opportunity to transition outside the IMB if they believe God is leading them to a new place of involvement in mission.

“While most will remain in their current roles, some may redeploy,” IMB President David Platt said. “I use that term ‘redeploy’ intentionally because no one is stepping onto the sidelines of mission in this process. These decisions are more about what place, role, responsibility or assignment people have in the mission of God.”

Sebastian Traeger, IMB executive vice president, presented specific details of the plan, which includes a package beyond the scope of a normal resignation. Personnel who elect the HRO will finalize their decisions by Feb. 22.

The HRO information was shared in two segments during the town hall meetings: first to missionary personnel, and then to staff, who are mostly based in Richmond, Virginia. Both groups attended in person or via Web conference and had information available online (after the meeting). The two meeting times allowed leadership to convey specific details that pertain to each group.

Active, long-term and short-term missionaries are eligible for the HRO. Missionaries can transition from the field over the next several months. All full-time and regular part-time staff are eligible for the HRO.

“These next two months put a responsibility in each one of our laps to seek the Lord concerning His will for our lives,” Platt said, reiterating two points to missionaries and staff. “First, on a biblical and theological level, IMB missionaries must each resolve to do all of our work around the world in glad, wholehearted alignment with the Baptist Faith and Message adopted by the 40,000 churches we represent.”

“Second, along these lines, those 40,000 churches expect each of us individually and all of us collectively to work diligently and wisely for the spread of the gospel around the world. In other words, they expect all of us to give the right effort that this mission requires, and this means we must hold one another to a high bar when it comes to our work.” 

Difficult decision

In the midst of this two-phase process, Platt shared last August that IMB leaders would be re-evaluating systems and structures across the IMB not only because of IMB’s financial realities, but also to be the best possible stewards of the resources that churches have entrusted to IMB to get the gospel to the nations. During that evaluation, leaders made the difficult decision to eliminate the Richmond Communications Center as it currently exists, effective April 29.

“These are some of the kindest servants and leaders in the Richmond office,” Platt said. “IMB is indebted to them on many levels. In the days to come, we want to express our honor and appreciation for the countless ways these brothers and sisters have served Christ through the IMB.”

Thirty stateside staff have options that allow them to remain as employees until the Center closes April 29; 10 staff are being transferred to other positions. The change does not affect any missionary positions. The functions of the Richmond Communications Center, including Lottie Moon Christmas Offering promotion, will continue to be performed by IMB’s existing global network of communication teams and other trusted partners.

IMB leaders will not be eliminating any other teams, groups or departments during this two-phase organizational reset.

Final numbers

The two-phase plan originally was announced during an Aug. 27, 2015, town hall meeting when IMB leaders laid out a strategy to address IMB’s revenue shortfalls and complete a reset of the organization. The first phase of the organizational reset was a Voluntary Retirement Incentive (VRI) that became final in December.

As the two-phase process has progressed, IMB leaders have sought to guard the integrity of the process to avoid swaying IMB personnel as they make their decisions. Leaders indicated they strongly desire personnel to receive clarity from God regarding His leadership in their lives.

In November 2015, IMB leaders communicated that based upon the results of the Voluntary Retirement Incentive, coupled with this second-phase Hand Raising Opportunity, they project IMB will meet its need to reduce the total number of personnel by at least 600 people. Leaders plan to share final and official numbers at the end of this two-phase process at the end of February. 

IMB will continue to post updates, including frequently asked questions and answers, online on IMB.org.

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United Methodist Church blacklists five banks from Israel

The pension board of the United Methodist Church — one of the largest Protestant denominations in the United States, with more than seven million members — has placed five Israeli banks on a list of companies that it will not invest in for human rights reasons, the board said in a statement on Tuesday, the New York Times reported.

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Arkansas pastor is SCBC search committee’s choice for new state executive director-treasurer

From the South Carolina Baptist Courier ...

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Gary L. Hollingsworth, senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark., is the choice of a search committee seeking a new SCBC executive director-treasurer.

South Carolina Baptist messengers will gather Thursday, Jan. 14, at 1:30 p.m. at Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia to consider electing Hollingsworth to the position vacated by the retirement of Jim Austin in October 2014.

Hollingsworth has served at Immanuel Church for eight years. Prior to that, he was senior director of cultural evangelism for the North American Mission Board.

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Renewed same-sex marriage ban in Alabama debated

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP) – A Southern Baptist judge in Alabama is among the supporters of state chief justice Roy Moore's renewed order that probate judges stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

"I absolutely agree with his reasoning behind why [Moore] is doing what he's doing," said Nick Williams, probate judge in rural Washington County and a former Southern Baptist pastor. Moore "has every right to issue administrative orders when the court system seems to be in chaos."

Moore issued an order Jan. 6 stating Alabama's 68 probate judges "have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to" the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

In his order, Moore implied the U.S. Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges ruling in June, which declared same-sex marriage bans unconstitutional, applied only to Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee -- the jurisdiction where the case originated. Moore cited federal court rulings since Obergefell finding the case did not "directly invalidate" same-sex marriage bans in Nebraska and Kansas.

"An elementary principle of federal jurisdiction," Moore wrote, is that "a judgment only binds the parties to the case before the court." Alabama's Supreme Court has yet to decide whether it will apply the U.S. Supreme Court's reasoning to Alabama, he wrote.

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LGBT K-12 school proposed for Georgia

DALTON, Ga. (BP) – A new school for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in grades K-12 is being established in Atlanta as a safe zone for such students being bullied in traditional schools. But a Georgia Baptist leader is asking if a 5-year-old kindergarten student can identify as being LGBT -- or even a first or second grader, for that matter.

The school, being called the first of its kind in Georgia, will also employ LGBT teachers at what will be known as Pride School Atlanta. It will serve as an alternative for LGBT students, though the school "is open to any student who believes they're not getting the support they need for 'being different,'" the Atlanta Journal-Constitution quoted founder Christian Zsilavetz. The paper reported the venture on Jan. 4.

Bob Bagley, chairman of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board's Public Affairs Committee, seemed confused by the concept behind the new school, which could appear to be a potential step backward for those who support the LGBT lifestyle.

"It seems to me that after many years of seeking to be accepted by the public, that this is a change of direction in the LGBT community's effort to be part of mainstream America," said Bagley, the committee spokesman who also serves as director of missions for Murray County/North Georgia Association in Dalton.

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