Elliff made the request during his report at IMB's Feb. 25-26 trustee meeting in Austin, Texas, and said he will remain president until a new leader is in place.
A 15-member committee was named for the search.
"Based on what (my wife Jeannie and I) believe to be the Lord's clear leading, today I am asking our chairman to appoint a search team to seek my successor," he said in an open letter to International Mission Board personnel, trustees and the Southern Baptist community.
Elliff did not set a departure date, but asked the search team to immediately begin and complete their work as soon as possible.
"I pledge my eager and devoted service as your president until my successor is chosen and in office," he said. "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. The cause of our Savior and the welfare of our personnel deserve nothing less than our best."
Elliff was elected IMB president on March 16, 2011 after a lifetime of service as a missionary, denominational leader and pastor.
He and Jeannie served as missionaries to Zimbabwe in the early 1980s. He led the Southern Baptist Convention as president from 1996-1997 and served as pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Del City, Okla., from 1985 to 2005. Elliff was IMB's senior vice president for spiritual nurture and church relations from 2005 to 2009.
"It has been a humbling privilege to serve as your eleventh IMB president in our storied 168-year history," he wrote. "You may rest assured that we will run through the finish line of this course the Lord has set before us with whole-hearted resolve and our eyes focused on Christ."
The full text of Elliff's letter includes the following:
Dear IMB Personnel, both overseas and stateside, members of IMB's Board of Trustees, and members of our Southern Baptist family,
Please permit me a few moments to reminisce.
Three years ago you invited Jeannie and me into what is proving to be one of the most humbling and challenging assignments of our lifetime. The privilege of serving the Lord and Southern Baptists by serving our missionary family is at once exciting and sobering. We have often found ourselves on our knees in prayer, seeking God's vision, power and guidance for these days. And He has never failed!
No IMB president could be blessed with a finer staff and leadership team, both in Richmond and around the world. No president could be encouraged and prayerfully undergirded by a more supportive Board of Trustees. You could look the world over and never find better qualified, skilled, passionate-hearted and sacrificial missionaries than those we are privileged to serve. And it is sheer joy to walk and work among the incredible family of believers called Southern Baptists.
Years ago, Jeannie and I developed what has become a purpose statement for our family. Our guiding purpose is to serve as living illustrations of the faithfulness of God to any person who will take Him at His word. You see, we believe that the plans of God are revealed to the man or woman of God, by the Spirit of God and through the Word of God. Once God's will becomes clear, our responsibility is to step out in faithful obedience.
Now, that simple truth by which we strive to live brings me to another matter.
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. 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. The cause of our Savior and the welfare of our personnel deserve nothing less than our best!
In some ways, as I look at the many initiatives we have put in place by working together over these years, both the pace and ease of implementation has been almost breathtaking. This can only be accounted for by the grace of God, the foresight and harmonious spirit of our trustee board, coupled with the diligence and spiritual maturity of our personnel, both in Richmond and across the globe.
We are, indeed, "chasers after darkness," looking for the black holes of sin in our world and thrusting into that darkness the Light of the glorious gospel of Christ. With such urgent need, I am content to believe that God is already at work, preparing both the heart and mind of our next president to lead IMB into its most effective years of service ever.
It has been a humbling privilege to serve as your eleventh IMB president in our storied 168-year history. Now, Jeannie and I joyfully anticipate the privilege of joining ranks with those who, like you, will prayerfully support our next president, faithfully holding up his hands in this great battle for the souls of the unsaved billions scattered across the globe.
You may rest assured that we will run through the finish line of this course the Lord has set before us with whole-hearted resolve and our eyes focused on Christ. We have the command of the Lord, and we hear the cry of the lost. Along with you, we must go together … to the ends of the earth!
For the Vision!
2 Tim 1:12
Our vision is a multitude from every language, people, tribe and nation knowing and worshipping our Lord Jesus Christ.
Compiled from a report by International Mission Board staff. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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