RICHMOND, Va.—Unity, fellowship and promises of mutual support characterized the installation of International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood and the Sending Celebration of 19 newly appointed international missionaries Feb. 6.
International Mission Board trustees also unanimously elected Todd Lafferty as executive vice president and affirmed Roger Alford as vice president of communication during their Feb. 6-7 meeting in Richmond, Va.
Chitwood is the 13th president of the Southern Baptist Convention's 173-year-old International Mission Board. The special service took place at Grove Avenue Baptist Church, in Richmond, Va.
Southern Baptist leaders from across the convention and a number of state conventions attended the event, which included worship led by The Summit Church from Raleigh-Durham N.C., remarks by SBC President J.D. Greear, a charge by former IMB President Tom Elliff, and a response by Chitwood. WMU Executive Director Sandy Wisdom-Martin and IMB President Emeritus Jerry Rankin also participated in the service, which featured testimonies from the 19 new missionaries.
New executive VP
Lafferty, 59, most recently has served as pastor of mobilization for Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. He and his wife Susan previously served with the IMB for nearly 29 years.
IMB President Paul Chitwood described Lafferty as a strong leader, humble servant, and sincere Christ-follower with a burning passion for the lost. "The Lord is kind to bring him back to the IMB," Chitwood said.
Lafferty said he was honored and humbled to be considered as the candidate for EVP.
"It is my desire to work alongside Dr. Paul Chitwood and the other vice presidents to do all that we can to have the most visionary and strategic missionary force on the face of the earth," he said. "And we need to make sure they have the resources they need to get the job done.
"I believe that God calls missionaries to the cross-cultural task of reaching the nations, but he also calls others to serve alongside and enhance all that we are doing to reach the nations," Lafferty noted. "So we call on our Southern Baptist churches to partner with us in reaching the nations, and we call on our international partners to lock arms with us in the greatest endeavor on the planet—to take the good news to the ends of the Earth."
New communications VP
Trustees also affirmed Chitwood's selection of Roger Alford to fill a newly created role of vice president for communications. The role is designed to build and maintain an optimum communications approach, operation and staff to best serve the needs of IMB and the SBC. Alford will begin serving alongside the existing senior leadership team in March.
"I'm thrilled that Dr. Chitwood and trustees have entrusted me with the privilege of telling the stories of IMB missionaries," said Alford, who has been the Kentucky Baptist Convention's communications director for the past five years. "These are truly modern-day heroes of the faith who have committed their lives to working in difficult and often dangerous places around the world."
After more than three decades as a newspaperman and an Associated Press correspondent, Alford joined the Kentucky Baptist Convention in January 2014. In that role, Alford, 56, created the online newspaper Kentucky Today, owned by the KBC. The initiative was intended to expand KBC's ability to communicate with its 2,400 churches and 750,000 members.
Alford has broad experience in managing all aspects of communications, including writing and editing, all aspects of traditional and social media, web development, marketing strategies, media relations, graphic design and mass mailings. He and his wife Susan are members of First Baptist Church in Owenton, Ky. They have three grown children.
In his first presidential report to trustees, Chitwood stated he has a growing gratitude to Southern Baptists for their faithful giving and support of their International Mission Board.
"Just shy of three months since I was elected president by the trustees, I am even more in awe of the place that God has given this remarkable organization in His kingdom work around the world," Chitwood said. "And I am even more appreciative of the commitment that Southern Baptists long ago made, and still keep, to cooperate together that Christ is proclaimed among the nations."
"Cooperating churches with 10 members to those with more than 10,000 members, local associations of a handful of churches to those with hundreds of churches, state conventions with 100 churches and those with thousands of churches, and SBC entities with budgets of a few million to those with budgets of hundreds of millions: this is the beauty and the brilliance of the Southern Baptist system of cooperative missions," he said. "It is a system that today maintains an overseas force of more than 3,600 missionaries serving in more than 100 countries. The Gospel will be heard today where it would not have been heard if it weren't for Southern Baptists making and keeping a commitment to cooperate together."
Chitwood reported a strong commitment by IMB's overseas personnel and staff to see the entity's vision fulfilled.
"As grateful as we are for the financial resources that Southern Baptists and their Lord have provided to support the work of the IMB, by far the greatest resource that Southern Baptists and their Lord have provided is their sons and daughters, their grandchildren, their mothers and fathers and even their grandparents," he said. "Whether on staff in Richmond or overseas in a far and distant land, Southern Baptists have sent us their very best.... As Michelle and I have now answered the call upon our lives to once again serve and help lead this organization, we stand in awe of the quality of servants whom God has brought to the IMB and sent out through the IMB."
Linda Cooper, president of National Woman's Missionary Union, from Bowling Green, Ky., brought partnership greetings to the trustees during their plenary session. She reported how WMU has partnered with IMB, such as providing missions education materials to local believers in East Asia, working through Southern Baptist personnel, and by continued promotion of the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions.
"This is such an exciting time in the IMB," said Rick Dunbar, IMB trustee chairman. "Last night we saw the Southern Baptist Convention coming together as represented by many key leaders of the SBC in support of God's new missionaries who are being sent out, and also in celebrating the inauguration of our 13th president, Paul Chitwood."
"We thank the SBC for their support of the IMB and trust that to who much is given, much is expected," Dunbar noted. "We take that trust seriously and commit ourselves to being good stewards of that trust. We are optimistic for the future and feel good things are ahead. We feel a tremendous responsibility to our Lord and the SBC and seek to glorify Him though our work through the IMB." (BP)