Facing a $10 million budget shortfall in its 2002 Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, the Southern Baptist Convention's International Mission Board laid off 37 managerial and support staff at its home office in Richmond, Virginia. Another 24 open positions will not be filled.

The IMB also announced limits on the number of new missionaries this year and next. The agency has deferred or put on hold about 100 long-term missionary candidates. The agency will reduce the number of short-term workers (currently 1,500) by 30 percent this year. The largest Protestant missionary force in the world, the IMB has 5,545 missionaries working at least two years among 1,497 people groups.

"The decisions to reduce staff and hold back new missionaries were extremely difficult," IMB President Jerry Rankin told Baptist Press.

Although an increase of $1.3 million over the 2001 offering, the disappointing 2002 Lottie Moon offering ($115 million) could not keep up with the burgeoning missionary force, which grew 8.7 percent between 2000 and 2002. Disappointing investment income also hurt.

David Steverson, vice president for finance, told IMB trustees the agency has spent $50 million from operating reserves during the last two years.

Rankin said the budget crunch would force the agency to become more efficient. But he also said he hopes Southern Baptists "rethink our church budgets, evaluate our lifestyles, and give more sacrificially to things of eternal value."

Related Elsewhere:

Additional articles on the IMB cutbacks include:

IMB eliminates 61 jobs to keep expenses in line with incomeBaptist Press (June 10, 2003)

More information on the Southern Baptist Convention and the International Missions Board are available online.

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