International Mission Board Trustees Hears Update on Abuse Prevention

New IMB trustee Cory Gonyo, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Bettendorf, Iowa, prays during the board of trustees’ plenary session Sept. 26. Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, called trustees to pray fervently for the spread of the gospel among the nations. Photo by Chris Carter/IMB

International Mission Board trustees approved the appointment of 24 new fulltime, fully funded personnel to take the Gospel to unreached people and places during their Sept. 25-26 meeting near Richmond, Va.

The meeting also included an update on an external report regarding IMB’s prevention and response to abuse and harassment; the approval of a balanced budget for 2019-20; and orientation for 23 new trustees. Seth Polk, trustee chairman and senior pastor of Cross Lanes Baptist Church in Cross Lanes, W.Va., presided over the meeting.

The 24 new missionaries were appointed during a special Sending Celebration, which recognized both the new personnel and the churches sending them to take the Gospel to the nations. The celebration, hosted by Swift Creek Baptist Church in Midlothian, Va., featured testimonies from each of the appointees. Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, gave the new missionaries a Scriptural charge, and he brought greetings to the trustees during the plenary session.

‘Committed to making changes’

In May, the board received recommendations from Gray Plant Mooty concerning the IMB’s handling of past matters and current policies and practices related to the prevention of and response to allegations of child abuse and sexual harassment (including sexual assault). Chitwood reported to trustees that GPM’s work has continued in conjunction with senior leadership and a trustee officer. See related Baptist Press report.

“Let me assure you, as I stated in May, that IMB absolutely remains committed to making changes necessary to better prevent instances of child abuse and sexual harassment (including sexual assault), and to do all we can to better care for victims while holding perpetrators accountable,” he said.

Chitwood said IMB leadership is methodically implementing every recommendation presented by Gray Plant Mooty, diligently moving toward the highest standards in abuse prevention and response, including providing compassionate care.

Chitwood’s update noted that:

— IMB has reported every known incident of alleged child abuse by IMB personnel or others affiliated with IMB that had not previously been reported. In addition, IMB has taken steps to encourage people to notify authorities and the IMB of incidents of abuse.

— IMB has adopted protocols for consistently reporting allegations of child abuse committed by IMB personnel or others affiliated with IMB to U.S. government authorities, even when there is not a legal duty to do so. IMB has also adopted protocols for reporting allegations of child abuse to foreign government authorities.

— IMB finalized a job description for a full-time, senior-level position to oversee prevention and response efforts of the IMB in relation to child abuse and sexual harassment. Throughout the summer, IMB has actively sought to fill the critical role, committed to finding the best candidate “who can lead us toward excellence in this area,” he said. “We welcome any candidates to apply who can lead us toward excellence in this area. If you think this is you or someone you know, we encourage you to review the job description posted on IMB.org.” See related report.

Chitwood reported that IMB continues to work closely with GPM to implement the recommendations they have provided and values their independent expertise. Since providing an update in May, GPM has continued their examination, including reviewing individual past cases involving allegations of child abuse or sexual harassment and determining whether any additional actions are needed in regard to those individual matters. Out of respect for victims’ privacy, GPM will not be providing updates on individual cases. In addition, GPM has informed IMB that they do not have any additional recommendations for changes to IMB’s current policies and practices to share at this time. If GPM later has additional recommendations beyond those discussed in the detailed public statement they provided in May, GPM will provide an updated statement.

“We are fully committed to the ongoing nature of this task as a part of IMB’s work now and in the future,” Chitwood said. “We will report progress to IMB’s full board of trustees on implementing GPM’s recommendations, as applicable, during future regularly scheduled board meetings.”

IMB encourages anyone who has been a victim of abuse by IMB personnel to report it to authorities. In addition, IMB invites any victims to contact its confidential hotline at (866) 292-0181 or email advocate@imb.org so IMB can provide care to that victim and take appropriate steps to ensure the safety of others.

IMB noted it is committed to providing accurate, informed references on every former IMB employee. The organization encourages any church, entity, or other employer who is considering working or partnering with a former IMB personnel to contact IMB to obtain a reference on that individual. IMB asks people to email references@imb.org “so we can do our part to help you make wise and informed hiring decisions.”

‘Unprecedented opportunities’

In his plenary address, IMB President Paul Chitwood reported he has spent significant time in recent weeks meeting with the board’s Affinity Group Leaders (AGLs) from around the world.

“These couples represent a good blend of seasoned veterans and new, energetic leaders,” Chitwood said. “They are also incredibly gifted missiologists, highly effective administrators, and deeply passionate soul winners. They are leading their teams to meet the challenges of urbanization and globalization head on. And they have not lost courage even in the face of staggering lostness, growing persecution or dwindling resources.”

“I’ve been especially pleased to see how they have embraced the growing need of every member of the IMB family, including our field missionaries, to do all that we can to help mobilize Southern Baptists to pray, give, go and send,” he said. “These leaders know best of all the unprecedented opportunities that are before us around the world, opportunities that will require more laborers for the harvest.”

Chitwood said that over the past 10 months, he has met with approximately 2,300 of IMB’s overseas personnel and more than 1,600 of their missionary kids.

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Source: Baptist Press