The chairman of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) says the board’s trustees are not looking at a possible merger with the International Mission Board (IMB).
Tim Patterson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., said last month in a story reported by the Florida Baptist Witness that he believes the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) should have a “singular world mission agency.”
In a telephone interview with the Biblical Recorder, Patterson said he was asked a specific question about the issue and gave his personal perspective about it.
“I was not speaking for the trustees in any way,” he said. “I was not speaking for the North American Mission Board.”
NAMB president Geoff Hammond told the Recorder that Patterson did not talk with him before he made the statement about combining the two mission boards.
Patterson said the idea of merging the two mission boards has been talked about across the Convention for years. He said the issue was considered when NAMB was formed as a combination of the Home Mission Board, Brotherhood Commission and Radio and Television Commission as part of an SBC restructuring in 1997.
“I don’t know if this will work,” he said. “I don’t have any authority to make it happen.”
Patterson said he doesn’t expect the NAMB trustees to discuss a potential merger. The only way a merger would happen is if the SBC directed it to happen, he said.
“We’re not even considering that,” Patterson said. “We’re dealing with our own agency.”
During their meeting May 19-20 in Jackson, Miss., NAMB trustees unanimously approved a resolution describing the entity as “crucial to the weaving together of Southern Baptist partners to fulfill the Great Commission,” according to a NAMB statement.
Patterson said his response to a question about the merger was in the context of his signing of a “Great Commission Resurgence” declaration. The 10-point statement written by SBC president Johnny Hunt and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary president Danny Akin, has generated considerable discussion among Southern Baptists.
Hammond said Hunt spoke in chapel at NAMB June 4 and specifically said he did not have a combined mission board in mind when he put together the Great Commission Resurgence document.
“That was good for our people to hear,” Hammond said.
Hammond sees conversation about the declaration as “an opportunity to say how important it is to have a North American Mission Board and how the United States is a mission field.”
“It takes a North American mission board thinking about sending missionaries into this culture and thinking of missionary behaviors and patterns,” he said.
Hammond said he doesn’t believe his own commitment to the Great Commission and that of his staff is in question.
“The issue is what will it take to refocus and be even more effective and efficient to win the world for Christ,” he said.
Hammond talked to NAMB trustees about his call for a North American Great Commission Task Force. He said the task force would seriously study the actions and activities that will impact this continent for Christ in more effective ways. In a conversation with the Recorder acknowledging that has always been NAMB’s task, Hammond said, “From time to time it is good to get partners around the table to ask, ‘How are we doing?’”
When asked about his timing to name such a task force in the wake of the Great Commission Resurgence document and study committee sure to follow, Hammond said the timing was right because the Great Commission is suddenly at the top of many conversations.
It is an opportunity to “refocus” with our partners, working together, he said.