Former IMB VP says fired communicators 'grossly undervalued and maligned'

by Joni B. Hannigan |

(Christian Examiner/iStock)

RICHMOND, Va. (Christian Examiner) – A former high ranking administrator at the International Mission Board cried "foul" in an online posting last week following a statement by IMB President David Platt that 30 communications missionaries let go last month were downsized as the result of their failure to keep current in the digital age.

Calling Platt's statement about the team "patently inaccurate," Ken Winter said the team's "stellar efforts have been grossly undervalued and maligned."

Winter, who a year ago stepped down as vice president of church and partner services, in a Feb. 19 blog entry in which he spoke fondly of about 200 "gifted and godly" men and women who accepted a "voluntary retirement incentive" offered by the IMB, nonetheless had choice words about the suggested deficiencies attributed to the 30 others who were involuntarily "removed."

"Purportedly 'our mobilization efforts ... have not kept up with our times' and [we] 'struggle with employing new methods for reaching a changing audience' and 'have been disconnected from our field strategy,'" Winter wrote.

This, too, is a team of gifted, godly, and passionate followers of Christ. [T]hey are some of the most gifted communicators in their respective crafts. They have been employing new methods for reaching a changing audience for years.
- Ken Winter, former IMB VP of church and partner services

Referencing a Feb. 17 Baptist Press release, Winter presumably was speaking of comments made by International Mission Board President David Platt, at a Feb. 16 meeting in Ponce, Puerto Rico, of Baptist state paper leaders.

In the release, Platt reportedley told leaders: "We are way behind in the development of a digital mindset that builds on customization and flexibility rather than predictability and uniformity. Our field and stateside communicators struggle with employing new methods for reaching a changing audience."

Referencing an earlier statement he made about the difference between God's perfect and God's permissive plan, Winters objected to Platt's assessment of the communication team's effectiveness.

"Again I experienced that same feeling that I wasn't witnessing God's perfect plan – but this time, every fiber of my being also cried 'foul'! Because I also know this team," said Winter, who served with the team nine years.

"This, too, is a team of gifted, godly, and passionate followers of Christ," Winter continued. "[T]hey are some of the most gifted communicators in their respective crafts. They have been employing new methods for reaching a changing audience for years."

Platt, in his explanation of why the mission agency closed the Richmond Communications Center at the IMB headquarters, cited a "stewardship of responsibility" to Southern Baptists who provide the resources used.

"[O]ur home office mobilization efforts have been disconnected from our field strategy," Platt told Baptist paper leaders. "[I]t's clear we're sorely missing a culture of growth in which silos are broken down, mobilization needs are adequately addressed and mobilization goals are actually accomplished."

Winter said it is ironic to him that it is the same team that has "championed the role of the local church in mission and brought other parts of the organization along sometimes 'kicking and screaming'" – that has been "jettisoned."

"They have led the charge for those new methods and have been the conscience of that changing audience within the organization – even when the organization didn't want to acknowledge the changes," Winter said. "'[T]he only field strategy they were disconnected from were the strategies that advocated that the church's role was simply to 'pay, pray and get out of the way.'"

Winter wrote that he believes it is the responsibility of leadership to make decisions for the organization, and while he does "not begrudge them that right," he will pray for them.

To the communications team, he wrote:

"So allow me – on behalf of the thousands of churches – and hundreds of thousands of Southern Baptists that God has used them to awaken and mobilize in mission – to say to them, 'well done, good and faithful servants! You have run the race well. You have run it with excellence. Continue to run it with head held high wherever the Lord leads you.'"