It is not surprising that IMB trustees elected Dr. Paul Chitwood as their next President yesterday. It is somewhat remarkable, I think, that he was elected unanimously. Every single trustee at the IMB supported his election. I looked back at previous articles announcing the election of David Platt from 2014 and they did not mention a unanimous vote. I assume they would if the vote was unanimous (I have been informed by an authoritative source that Platt had ONE no vote). I do not know of a search committee recommendation failing but I do know of some that engendered significant resistance among trustees.
That the IMB trustees are united behind Dr. Paul Chitwood is a good sign from the start.
Here is a link to Dr. Chitwood’s statement after his election. He makes five significant statements about his philosophy of ministry as IMB president.
Another link to the IMB article about the election.
Addressing Field Experience
He has addressed one of my chief concerns already (a concern shared by many, of course), that he did not have field experience as a missionary. He’s been on many short-term missions trips but never served. He’s been on the IMB board, of course, and served as chair, but that is not the same as serving as a full-time missionary. He has stated that it is his intention to hire an Executive Vice-President who is an experienced field missionary to assist with that side of things. The word that was circulating before Dr. Chitwood’s announcement was that such a man had already been chosen and would be announced at the same time as Dr. Chitwood’s name was announced, but that did not prove to be the case. But we assume the announcement of the EVP will be forthcoming soon.
Perhaps the president, an able administrator and a committed Southern Baptist statesman, working in close partnership with a career missionary who understands life in the trenches, will be the best of both worlds. Our hope and prayer is that our missionaries, many of whom felt their needs were neglected and ignored in the past, will feel that the IMB is, as Dr. Chitwood put it, “washing their feet,” and serving them as they serve the Kingdom of God.
The IMB Policy Controversy
My second concern has not been addressed to the best of my knowledge. Dr. Chitwood was on the board and involved in the crafting of the policies that were so divisive in the SBC during the late 2000s. They were policies that were seen as an attack on the sitting IMB president and went beyond the BF&M in setting up doctrinal parameters for our missionaries. Candidates from fully cooperating Southern Baptist church who adhered fully to the Baptist Faith & Message would be excluded from candidacy because of these policies.
It led to an ugly time in the SBC, blog wars where there were few heroes and a lot of sin committed. I was ashamed of the behavior of the side I supported as much as the behavior of the side I opposed! I have no desire to reopen those wounds or refight the Battle of Baptist Identity. Actually, some of the guys I used to wage warfare with back then are close friends of mine now. I do not think that being on “my side” made you a good guy or being on “their side” made you a villain. There was plenty of sin on both sides.
But I have a few questions I hope will be answered by Dr. Chitwood at some point. He may have hinted at an answer in his open letter yesterday when he said, “I will enthusiastically support and implement the policies adopted by this board and will count on the support of the board.” David Platt got the policies reversed during his term and perhaps Dr. Chitwood was signaling that he was willing to abide by the new policy and not attempt to reinstitute the policies of days gone by. His first point was that he would not seek to bring a new vision and his second was that he would work under the authority of and in partnership with the board. These are hopeful signs. I would like more specific answers to these questions.
Dr Chitwood: are you planning to continue the board’s policies on PPL that Dr. Platt established that reversed the policies established when you were on the board, or will you seek to reinstitute the more restrictive policies?
Dr. Chitwood: are you content with the Baptist Faith & Message as the doctrinal confession for IMB missionaries or will you establish policies and selection procedures based on doctrinal parameters that go beyond our common confession?
Dr. Chitwood is entitled to his beliefs on Private Prayer Language and on tertiary issues related to baptism and in churches he pastors or is a member of to advocate for policies that are in line with those beliefs. But I would like to know what he plans to do in terms of these policies. A simple statement from him that he intends to work with the policies that exist is all I need.
Let me make my view clear. If Dr. Chitwood seeks to reinstitute the policies (I do not think he will, but this is hypothetical), I will speak against it strongly. I will attempt to express my opinions better than I did the last time and avoid some of the strife that arose. But I will speak. I will continue to support the IMB and Dr. Chitwood regardless of any disagreement that might arise on a matter such as that, will continue to work in Africa (as my health allows), will continue to support Lottie Moon and CP. I will fight the policies but my support of cooperative missions will not change.
I would just like to know what his views are.
Endorsing Dr. Chitwood
When Dr. Chitwood’s name began to circulate as the primary candidate at IMB about 6 weeks ago, many of us were a little baffled. Perhaps we’d considered him a frontrunner for one of the other open jobs, but the IMB search team picking him was a total shock. I have never met him but many of my friends have and I’ve received testimonials from several sources. Throughout the years I’ve heard nothing but great things about his work at the Kentucky Baptist Convention and I heard from pastors in Kentucky that he is the best executive they’ve ever had in any state convention.
My initial tepidity has turned to optimism about Dr. Paul Chitwood at the IMB, especially as he partners with an experienced missionary as Executive VP.
- He is a Southern Baptist statesman – a no-doubt SBC Cooperative Program-supporting leader.
- He is an able administrator.
- This is personal, but I’ve asked several people privately if he’s a Calvinist and no one seems to know. To me, that is high praise. He’s not a Reformed soldier nor an anti-Calvinist crusader. To me, that is a plus.
- He realized that his lack of field experience is an issue and is hiring an EVP to assist him. That demonstrates a lack of hubris that will be helpful.
- He seems to care genuinely and appreciate the work of missionaries.
I said this often privately, that the IMB needs to hit a home run with this hire. I am cautiously optimistic that they have done so. Time will tell. For what it is worth, Dr. Paul Chitwood has my support.