Monday, June 19, 2006

Frank Page

By now everyone has pontificated and pundited to death the election of Frank Page, pastor of Taylors (SC) First Baptist as the new Southern Baptist Convention president. Now it's my turn.

I appreciated this
article in the Greenville (SC) News about the positive image he wants to put forward.

I'm not into Baptist politics, but because this past Convention was my first to attend and I wanted to be an informed voter, I have been reading the Baptist Press and the blogs regularly to try to keep up on the scuttlebutt.

Well, it turned out to be one of the most significant conventions in a number of years, because both establishment candidates (Ronnie Floyd who is on TV and Jerry Sutton, an old Baptist stalwart) were voted down 2 to 1 by a low-key, down-to-earth outsider who has quietly led his congregation from decline to growth and pastored them toward giving to missions including 12% of the church's income to the Cooperative Program.

During the official nominations and vote, there was the customary tension in the air, and everyone had to stay in their seats because they expected a runoff in the 3-man race. So there we sat until the presiding officer, Dr. Welch, who had been at the podium all day, announced that everyone should sit still because a major announcement was coming. We were all waiting for the runoff. I expected it to be between Ronnie Floyd and Frank Page. When, however, the president came to the podium and began to explain, "Now we traditionally think of a majority being 51% of the vote, but that's not true. Anything over 50% is a majority vote."

I thought to myself, something amazing has happened. Who is it? Who has won with less than 51% but more than 50% of the vote? First they gave the number of delegates, something above 11,000, then the number of ballots, over 9,000. Then they mentioned the first candidate's numbers, Ronnie Floyd at over 2,000 votes. I thought, "Wow! Floyd lost? How could this happen?" Then Sutton's over 2,000. I thought, "What in the world? This is going to be a major upset." Then they read Page's over 4,000 votes and 50.48% of the vote.

All the air seemed to be sucked out of the room as people gasped.

Frank Page had won on the first ballot outright. Dr. Welch said he had mentioned to Dr. Page the sensitive nature of being elected by such a slight margin, but I disagreed with that comment. Hey, Page had 2 votes to 1 over either candidate in a 3-man race. That is a strong mandate as I see it.

Later in the day after the vote, we walked out into the corridor headed home, and there sat the president-elect at a little table with his wife as he talked on his cell phone. No entourage. No one carrying his bag. No long line of young whipper-snappers following along like thirsty puppies. Just Dr. Page and his wife, just sitting there together.

I was impressed.