- Associated Press - Friday, August 28, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - The International Mission Board, the Richmond-based missionary agency of the Southern Baptist Convention, has revealed that it will reduce its staff in the U.S. and abroad by about 15 percent.

The organization announced Thursday that between 600 and 800 jobs will be cut, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports (https://bit.ly/1PWQ8Qf). The 170-year-old mission board’s budget this year is expected to have a $21 million deficit after falling short of the $175 million funding goal.

Mission board spokeswoman Wendy Norvelle says the organization’s Richmond office houses most of the 450 U.S.-based staff. Nearly 4,800 missionaries are abroad.

Organization president David Platt said during a telephone news conference that the board will first offer voluntary retirement incentive packages starting in September and then accept voluntary resignations in early 2016 before considering layoffs.

“The longer we wait, the less generous we can be,” Platt said of the retirement incentive. “We want to honor and affirm their future role in mission even beyond the IMB.”

Despite increased revenue in recent years from the organization’s main funding source, the Lottie Moon Christmas offering, Platt told staff that the mission board had spent $210 million more than the convention’s annual offering since 2010 and made up the difference through property sales and reserve funds.

Personnel spending makes up about 80 percent of the board’s expenditures. The group’s leadership hopes to balance its budget by the end of 2016 without dipping into reserves or selling property.

“We care more about keeping people on the field than buildings,” the agency’s Executive Vice President Sebastian Traeger said. “But that (plan) was no longer sustainable.”

The announcement came as Platt, a Christian author and former pastor of an Alabama megachurch, completes his first year as president of the International Mission Board.

“There are no ideal steps at this point,” Platt said. “I cannot describe how difficult it is to communicate this to our IMB family.”


Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, https://www.timesdispatch.com



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