The IMB search committee is announcing its intention to nominate Dr. Paul Chitwood, the Executive Director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, as the next president of the International Mission Board. The official vote will be held Nov. 15.
I have never met Dr. Chitwood but several of my friends, some of them part of the SBC Voices team, have. Every one of them speaks of him in the highest terms, both as to his character and his competence. The Kentucky convention is a large convention and Dr. Chitwood has led it well. A friend told me privately that he was the best executive director he has worked with in his long experience in Baptist life. Dr. Chitwood has unquestioned credentials as a Baptist statesman, has a long-standing commitment to the SBC’s Cooperative Mission, and is an able administrator.
He seems well fit to lead the SBC’s flagship entity, but there are some questions that have come up in private discussions about this nomination over the last couple of weeks – questions I hope will be answered by Dr. Chitwood in his announcement or soon thereafter. I have contacted Dr. Chitwood privately to ask these questions but to this point have received no response. This is not exactly surprising. I am guessing that he is fairly busy. However, I hope to hear his response at some point.
First, I have written about the importance of the president of the IMB having field experience. Dr. Chitwood’s only IMB experience was as chairman of the IMB Board of Trustees several years ago. That certainly gives him some insight into the workings of the IMB but does not give him the insight into the lives of missionaries that is needed. I’ve spoken to missionaries (active and retired) and they often feel that their needs are not taken into account in decision-making by upper management in Richmond, especially in recent years. David Platt’s closest advisor, like Platt, had no field experience and missionaries were hoping this would change with a new president. There may be further information coming in the near future to address this issue.
Those of us who have been around a long time have questions about the IMB policies that Dr. Chitwood was involved in developing, according to reports. They became a source of great controversy for the SBC and were formative in the development of SBC blogging. David Platt reversed those policies – the ones on private prayer language – while he was at the IMB. It would be good to know if Dr. Chitwood intends to reinstitute more restrictive policies at the IMB or if he intends to live with the policy guidelines in place now. I am sure some would like to reignite those wars but I have no desire to see those battles resurrected!
Of course, the biggest question for the future of the IMB is what Dr. Chitwood’s missiological focus will be. David Platt made some changes in the direction and focus of the IMB. Are they being brought in to continue what Dr. Platt started or to undo it and return the IMB to its pre-Platt direction? Inquiring minds want to know. Time will tell, of course.
I am disappointed that the IMB Search Committee did not present someone with field experience as their presidential candidate, but every person I have spoken with who knows Dr. Chitwood tells me he is more than capable. If my friends who know him are correct, he may be precisely the man that the IMB needs at this point. That is certainly my prayer.