IMB’s President Tom Elliff to step down

Former missionary attributes his decision to leave the presidency after three years to ‘the Lord’s leading.’

By Robert Dilday

Tom Elliff announced Feb. 26 he will step down as president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board after a newly-appointed search committee finds his successor.

ElliffElliff, a former missionary who was elected president three years ago, made the announcement during a regular meeting of IMB trustees in Austin, Texas.

In an open letter distributed by IMB staff, Elliff, 70, attributed his decision to “the Lord’s clear leading.”

“Based on what we believe to be the Lord’s clear leading, today I am asking our chairman to appoint a search team to seek my successor,” he wrote in the open letter. “I pledge my eager and devoted service as your president until my successor is chosen and in office. But I am urging the search team to act with utmost expediency — not with careless haste or abandon, but with all prayerful and tireless deliberation. We must work and pray together, just as we have these past years, to make this transition as seamless and effective as possible.”

In a conference call with reporters this afternoon, Elliff characterized his leaving as neither resigning nor retiring. Asked if God was directing him to ensure a smooth leadership transition or simply to leave, he replied, “Both.”

“To comply with God is my obligation,” Elliff said.

Elliff and his wife, Jeannie, served as missionaries to Zimbabwe in the early 1980s. He was president of the Southern Baptist Convention 1996-1997 and pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, Okla., from 1985 to 2005.