IMB cuts 61 home office jobs
in response to $10 million shortfall
By Robert Dilday
Associated Baptist Press
RICHMOND, Va. (ABP)–The Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board eliminated 61 home office job June 10, displacing 37 employees in an attempt to address a financial shortfall of at least $10 million in the current fiscal year.
The cuts included 24 vacant positions that will not be filled and impacted both full- and part-time workers. The 61 positions eliminated represent a little more than 10 percent of the board's 500 Richmond, Va., employees.
Within the last month, IMB leaders have moved to resolve a thorny financial situation caused by declining investment income and a $10 million shortfall in the 2002 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering's $125 million goal.
Funding has not kept up with the record numbers of missionaries the board has continued to appoint in recent years. The IMB's missionary count grew 8.7 percent from 2000 to 2002, while combined income from the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Offering increased only 1.5 percent. Overseas personnel now total about 5,000.
Earlier this month, the board announced it would restrict the number of new missionaries for the first time since the 1930s.
An earlier IMB news release quoted Lloyd Atkinson, vice president for missionary personnel, saying new long-term missionary appointments would be limited to 400 this year and 300 in 2004. That compares to 412 new long-term workers appointed in 2002 and 387 appointed in 2001. The board had planned to appointed about 500 new long-term workers this year, meaning 100 candidates have been deferred to next year or put on hold.
IMB officials also said the number of short-term personnel appointed this year will be reduced by 30 percent.
While the Lottie Moon Offering's $10 million shortfall is the only figure so far released by the IMB, the total deficit is almost certain to be considerably larger. Like many Baptist agencies and institutions during the stock market's boom years, the IMB relied heavily on investment income and was hit hard by the downturn in the economy.
"The $10 million figure is the one we're working on because the books are closed on the offering and that's a hard figure," said IMB President Jerry Rankin. "We won't know until the end of the fiscal year how much investments will bring us." The IMB's fiscal year ends Dec. 31.
IMB spokesman Mark Kelly said the IMB will not release the names of the 37 people who lost their jobs "to respect their privacy," although he added the dismissed employees are not prohibited from releasing that information themselves. The employees will receive outplacement assistance and severance packages.
Rankin said the board does not anticipate a second round of layoffs in what he called a "strategic realignment." But he added, "You can never absolutely eliminate that possibility for the future.
"We're doing what we have to do to be fiscally accountable," he said.
"Just as with the Baptist Faith & Message statement we had to be doctrinally accountable to Southern Baptists, so we have to be financially accountable with Southern Baptists," he said.
In April, the IMB fired 13 missionaries who refused to sign the Southern Baptist Convention's revised confession of faith. At least 64 other missionaries are known to have resigned or taken early retirement rather than sign the statement.
The layoffs announced June 10 have no apparent connection to the missionary terminations over the Baptist Faith & Message.
All the employees who lost their jobs in the fiscal cuts were employed in the board's Richmond headquarters, and Rankin said he couldn't imagine a financial crisis of such magnitude that would require eliminating the jobs of overseas personnel.
"I would never anticipate an economic situation that would necessitate reducing the number of missionaries already serving," he said.
However, one casualty of the current financial cuts is the IMB's flagship magazine, "The Commission," which highlights the ministries of overseas personnel. Publication of the award-winning magazine, along with other board products and resources, will be suspended, although an online version of the magazine will continue to be published.