An Open Letter to Southern Baptists

Southern Baptists do you know what is happening with the finances at IMB?

This post is for Southern Baptists. There are many of those here in Alabama and around the SEC. We may be fans of different teams, but we share something and this post discusses some information and concerns with brothers. So, if you are not a Southern Baptist, skip this post. If you are, I’d like to share some information and ask a few important questions…

Did you know that the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention is downsizing its missionary force? The new IMB President Dr. David Platt has begun a plan offering voluntary retirement to missionaries and staff. The goal is to reduce missionaries from the current about 4,800 to about 4,200.

Did you know that the IMB and Dr. Platt are targeting the most experienced missionaries for this retirement plan? All the while continuing to add new, younger and less experienced missionaries at the rate of 300 this year and 300 next year? These new missionaries require substantial investment in training including language, etc. While the experienced missionaries are the ones most likely to be effective on the field because of their experience with the people and culture.

Does this seem like good management? It might pass for good planning at a Fortune 500 company trying to make its next quarterly stock price target. Is this the right way to run a church entity? Is this how Christ manages His workforce? Replace the old and costly with the younger and cheaper?

Do you know what Dr. Platt earns as president of the IMB? If you do, will you tell me? Unfortunately, the salaries of top SBC entity heads aren’t disclosed on the websites and seems to be held confidential. This is unfortunate. It impairs the ability of a typical church member to hold bureaucracy accountable!

Did you know that the massive downsizing of our missionary force was not voted on by the board of trustees? Check out this very important blog post from Dr. Rick Patrick over at SBC Today. (If you are a Southern Baptist in need of news and information, I’d strongly recommend you follow that blog.)

Did you know that there are real financial issues with how the IMB has operated over the last decade? Former trustee Wade Burleson has raised serious issues in a blog post. The key highlight: “Let me say that again to let it sink in. For years the IMB has been selling hard assets to fund annual operating expenses. There is an important caveat to the preceding statement. For tax and legal reasons, the revenue the IMB gleaned from the sale of hard assets in a foreign country would never show up as ‘revenue’ for annual operational expenses in the United States. What would happen is that the money would be placed in ‘slush funds,’ similar to what Congress does with money used for ‘black operations’ or for covert agencies that they wish to keep out of public scrutiny.”

Yikes.

Does this sound like needed reforms to the IMB? Or does this sound like more of the same insider dominated governance that got the IMB into the current financial mess?

Southern Baptists should demand more openness from its entities. This is a critical reform that will help the Convention and all its work. Some in the Convention good-old-boy network don’t want to address these hard questions, but for the SBC to move forward, it must abandon its old way of doing things and embrace greater transparency—and that transparency begins with financial accountability by revealing the salaries of its top employees.