Southern Baptist Convention leader David Platt is stepping down Sept. 17 as president of the denomination’s International Mission Board to focus on being the pastor of a local church.
Platt, 39, announced seven months ago plans to transition out of the post when his replacement is found. In a statement released Sept. 14, however, Platt said leaders of the IMB board of trustees recently expressed concerns about him serving as pastor of McLean Bible Church in suburban Washington, D.C., while finishing up his time at the Richmond, Virginia,-based missions agency and asked him to reconsider.
Platt, pastor of an Alabama megachurch before accepting the IMB presidency in 2014, was installed last fall as teaching pastor at McLean Bible Church, a multi-site congregation with an average 13,000 worshippers each weekend. He said at the time he was “all in” as IMB president, and trustees agreed to let him work both jobs pending evaluation of the arrangement in coming months.
In February Platt told the board of trustees he came to a “sobering” realization it was “not viable long-term” for him to be IMB president while serving as a teaching pastor in a church and asked them to begin seeking his successor.
Board chairman Rick Dunbar, a member of First Baptist Church in Madison, Mississippi, who works as an emergency medicine physician, said after discussing it with Platt trustee officers decided to “release David from his commitment to the IMB in order to allow him to focus full time on his new role in gospel ministry at McLean Bible Church, and for the IMB to move forward into a transition period.”
At the same meeting, the board’s executive committee named Clyde Meador, a 42-year IMB employee who came out of retirement to serve as Platt’s executive adviser, as interim president, subject to approval by the full board of trustees later this month.
In just over four years at the International Mission Board, Platt oversaw a major downsizing to balance a long-term budget deficit and led the agency to drop a controversial policy instituted in 2005 that disqualified missionary candidates using a “private prayer language,” a form of speaking in tongues.
Last year he apologized for the agency’s decision to file a legal brief supporting Muslims seeking to build a mosque in New Jersey and revised policy to in the future file amicus briefs that “speak only into situations that are directly tied to our mission.”
In July Platt called for an independent investigation into the IMB’s handling of a former missionary investigated internally in 2007 for allegedly sexually abusing a teenage girl after his arrest over the same incident this summer.
Platt called it “extremely disturbing” that the man, Mark Aderholt, was allowed to resign instead of being fired and from there went on to serve on staff at Southern Baptist churches and as a high-level executive at an SBC affiliated Baptist state convention.
An IMB spokesperson told Richmond television station WRIC the outside probe “has absolutely nothing to do” with Platt’s resignation.