The president of the International Mission Board announced Wednesday his intention to retire after serving at the helm for nearly 17 years – the second-longest tenure of any IMB president in the last century.
During the IMB trustees meeting in Jacksonville, Fla., Jerry Rankin said he had decided to retire after prolonged and intensive times of praying, fasting, and seeking confirmation of God's will.
"With conflicting emotions that are running rampant – but with absolute confidence this decision comes from God, whom I've always aspired to follow and serve faithfully – the time has come for me to reveal my plans for retirement, effective July 31, 2010," Rankin announced.
"I am confident that God has a significant role of ministry and influence for me in the years to come, but I believe the appropriate time has come for a new, younger generation of leadership to guide our global mission efforts into the future," he added.
Having already informed the chairman of IMB's board of trustees, Paul Chitwood, of his intention to retire, Rankin said a committee will be appointed to search for his successor, whom he hopes will be identified before his tenure lapses next summer.
Specifically, Rankin expressed his desire to see a new president named within the time he plans to spend overseeing IMB's new structure and organization to help bring stability to the "radical changes" being implemented.
"It would be my desire that there be a time of overlap and transition with the new president so that a change can be implemented without disruption and loss of momentum," Rankin stated.
As an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, IMB serves in virtually every nation in the world, except the United States and Canada, which are serviced by SBC's North American Mission Board. With more than 5,000 missionaries on the field, IMB seeks to make disciples of all peoples - 1.6 billion of which still live with little or no access to the Gospel.
The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest evangelical denomination, claims more than 40,000 churches with nearly 16 million members.
Although he has no specific plans yet to announce regarding his activities after retirement, Rankin said he expects to be used by God in a number of significant roles for many years to come. Among the possible activities he suggested were speaking, writing, ministry, and mission work.
In closing, Rankin said, "I do not consider the course of my life in God's purpose complete, but at this stage of the journey, it is time to press forward in the calling of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Rankin has served as president of the IMB since June 14, 1993.