FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Thomas (Tom) D. Elliff, alumnus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was unanimously chosen to serve as the president of the International Mission Board by IMB trustees meeting in Dallas, March 16.
Elliff’s election follows the retirement, last July, of Jerry Rankin, who served as IMB president for 17 years. As the new IMB president, Elliff will lead this Southern Baptist agency, which has sent and sustains 5,000 missionaries around the world.
“Tom Elliff is a man of God,” Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Seminary, said. “He will bring to the task a vision for and an example of what a family should be under God.
“He will tie our mission enterprise to biblical theology in a way that will please the Lord and substantially brighten the mission future for Southern Baptists. Being Baptist will count and asserting New Testament Christianity will be placed at the point of the arrow. I warmly commend the search committee and the IMB for doing the finest thing for Southern Baptists that in my estimation could have been done.”
Elliff earned his Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Seminary in 1971, after completing his bachelor’s degree at Ouachita Baptist University in 1966. In 2007, he also completed a doctoral degree at Southern Seminary. In 2008, Elliff received Southwestern Seminary’s distinguished alumnus award. At this time, Patterson commended Elliff for his faithful service to the Lord and for representing Southwestern Seminary well throughout his ministry.
As a student in college and seminary, Elliff served as a pastor at several churches. For 30 years following his graduation from Southwestern Seminary, he served as a pastor in Oklahoma and Colorado and as a missionary to Zimbabwe. He and his wife, Jeannie, returned to the United States in 1983 after their daughter, Beth, was injured in a car accident on the mission field.
During the late 1990s, Elliff served two terms as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and he later served as chairman for the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life. In 2005, he became founder of a writing and speaking ministry, Living in the Word Publications, as well as senior vice president for spiritual nurture and church relations for the IMB. In this role, he encouraged missionaries and equipped Southern Baptist churches to advance the Great Commission.
Elliff’s ties with Southwestern remain today, especially through other family members who have attended and invested in the seminary: His grandsons Joel and Carter Cox are enrolled in the College at Southwestern; Joshua Elliff, a Master of Divinity student, is his nephew—the son of Elliff’s brother, Bill Elliff, who also attended Southwestern; Steven Smith, dean of the College at Southwestern, and his brother, Doctor of Ministry student Josh Smith, are also Elliff’s nephews.