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Former Home Mission Board President Bill Tanner dies at 77


BELTON, Texas (BP) — William G. “Bill” Tanner, who served as president of the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board from 1977-86 and in multiple leadership roles throughout the Southern Baptist Convention, died June 10 in Belton, Texas. He was 77.

Tanner’s leadership of the Home Mission Board (now the North American Mission Board) was marked by the beginning of the Mission Service Corps (MSC) volunteer missionary program as well as an increased emphasis on language missions and strengthened partnerships between the national missions entity and state Baptist convention partners.

Ernest Kelley, who served as a coordinator working with state Baptist conventions in the western United States during Tanner’s tenure, said Tanner’s commitment to the MSC program was essential to its strong beginning.

“Dr. Tanner immediately embraced the idea of Mission Service Corps and gave it the high-profile attention and funding it needed to get established and off the ground,” Kelley said. “He even insisted that the MSC office be located right next to his so he could give it the attention it needed.”

In addition to his service at the Home Mission Board, Tanner served as president of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor from 1967-71, president of Oklahoma Baptist University from 1971-76, and executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma from 1986-96. He served as pastor of several churches earlier in his ministry.

Kelley said Tanner was well-known for his ability to remember names and faces.

“He worked at it, though,” Kelley said. “He kept a staff directory on his desk and studied it. When he rode the elevator with a staff member, he knew them by name and probably their spouse and children too.”

Tanner is survived by his wife, Ellen.