ORLANDO, Fla. (ABP) – The Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist
Convention voted in a closed session June 14 to elect former SBC
president Frank Page as the organization’s next president and CEO,
replacing Morris Chapman, who retires Sept. 30 after 18 years.
Page, 57, becomes president/CEO-elect July 1 and takes office Oct. 1. He currently serves as vice president of evangelization for the SBC North American Mission Board, a post he took in October 2009 after serving as a local-church pastor for more than 30 years.
Randall James, chairman of the Executive Committee, requested deliberation about Page’s election be discussed in executive session as a “personnel matter.” He said that several members of the committee expressed a desire to close the session. One member, Stephen Wilson of Kentucky, objected that the Executive Committee should conduct its business in the open, but a large majority supported the recommendation to ask observers of the meeting, including media, to leave.
Executive Committee members questioned Page, who as SBC president in 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 was an ex-officio member of the committee, in private for more than an hour before dismissing him for prayer and the vote.
Outside the meeting, rumors spread that some Executive Committee members objected to the process used to select Chapman’s replacement and questioned Page’s involvement as a member of the SBC's Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Task Force. The blue-ribbon panel is bringing recommendations to the SBC's annual meeting that include reducing the Executive Committee’s budget by nearly a third.
Page told reporters outside the meeting room that various members of the Executive Committee saw his involvement on the task force as both a positive and a negative. “Some said I wasn’t supportive enough of the GCR,” he said. “Others said ‘I can’t believe you support any of it.’”
Page also said he believes both his brief tenure at NAMB, after eight years as pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., and appointment to the Great Commission Task Force were providential.
“I think God gave me that time to see the inside of a denomination better than I would have as a pastor,” he said. “I think he let me go to NAMB to see some of the inside. I like some of it. Some of it I don’t, as I’ve looked on the inside of the denomination.
“Secondly, I think being part of the GCR at the same time helped me to provide a perspective to say NAMB has a unique missiological need. I think that was an encouragement to some on the committee to see that NAMB does have a place separately than the International Mission Board.”
Page said he believes the biggest reason God brought him to NAMB was to draw attention to a 10-year effort nicknamed GPS, short for “God’s Plan for Sharing” the gospel message.
“God brought that to my heart when I was president of the SBC in 2006,” Page said.” So I was just delighted that I got to kick it off, because in 2010 is when the kickoff occurred, and we saw over 15,000 Southern Baptist churches involved in soul winning. We saw between 37 and 38 million people touched with the gospel through GPS. As some have said, my coming there helped in some small way to motivate and encourage and legitimize the GPS process. Even though I may not be there to see it come to fruition as long term, if I were at the Executive Committee, I would be one of the greatest supporters of GPS you could ever see.”
A native of Robbins, N.C., Page is a 1973 graduate of Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, N.C. He earned the M.Div. in 1976 and Ph.D. in 1980 from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
His previous pastorates include Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, Ga., 1991-2001; Gambrell Street Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, 1987-1991; LaFayette Baptist Church in Fayetteville, N.C., 1981-1987; and Live Oak Baptist Church in Gatesville, Texas, 1979-1981.
He is the author of books including The Nehemiah Factor and The Incredible Shrinking Church, published in 2008; and Trouble With the TULIP, a critique of Calvinism published in 2000 and reprinted in 2006.
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.