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Page announces Executive Committee staffing consolidation, reductions

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Citing unprecedented economic challenges facing the Executive Committee, Frank Page, president and chief executive officer of the EC since Oct. 1, announced structural and staffing changes on the Executive Committee staff in two memos sent to Executive Committee members on Nov. 17 and Nov. 29.

Page informed the Executive Committee that he has reduced the EC staff from five divisions to three, combining the duties of two divisions and bringing another into the president’s office. The office of news services and the office of convention relations, separated into two offices since 1991, have been combined back into one office and will become the office of convention communications and relations. Given the economic situation the Executive Committee is facing, Page said he thought it “wise to return to this arrangement, at least for the immediate future.”

Roger S. (Sing) Oldham, current vice president of convention relations since 2007, will assume oversight of the new office. The position of vice president of news services, filled by Will Hall since 2000, has been eliminated. Hall’s last day of service is Dec. 3, 2010.

Baptist Press will conduct its work through the new office of convention communications and relations. Art Toalston, editor of Baptist Press since 1992, “will continue to oversee the daily operations of this vital news service to Southern Baptists,” Page wrote.

Reflecting on Hall’s 10 years of service to the EC, Page affirmed his effective leadership in expanding the reach of BP through multiple venues. “Will has been a faithful employee of the Executive Committee for over ten years,” Page wrote. “His desire to serve the Lord and Southern Baptists has been manifest in many ways over the years that have revealed a life-style of integrity and competence. This has been accompanied by a kindness which is deeply profound. He will be personally missed.”

Hall responded, “It’s been a blessing to serve on the Executive Committee staff and to lead Baptist Press for more than a decade. Baptist Press has been a rewarding ministry, not just for what has been achieved, but especially for the friendships, fellowship and professional relationships that define the Baptist Press staff and the rest of the team which includes so many contributors around the nation who help make Baptist Press a news service of distinction.”

He added, “Catherine and I and our family cherish the special relationships which have marked this portion of our lives, and we pray for His blessings on the Executive Committee leadership, staff and trustees, and on the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Under Hall’s leadership, Baptist Press initiated a sports news service and launched a Spanish weekly edition. Baptist Press also developed such special projects as TruthQuest California (a Christian teen travelogue later developed by FamilyNet into a television series). The Library of Congress selected Baptist Press’ war coverage by a team embedded on the USS Harry S. Truman, and later deployed on the ground in Iraq, for a historical collection of the 2003 War on Iraq that will provide access to researchers worldwide. In the past three years, Baptist Press has won 35 first, second or third place awards from four professional organizations, including recognition as “Best in Class” as a news service. Hall’s personal awards include top honors for editorials and news writing.

In his Nov. 29 memo, Page also indicated that, “beginning immediately,” the responsibility for Cooperative Program promotion will be housed in his office. He wrote, “I hope Southern Baptists will see in this my desire to give a heightened sense of priority to Cooperative Program promotion by making it a direct responsibility of the president’s office.”

A separate office of Cooperative Program was created in 1997. It was expanded to include stewardship education in 2006. With the duties of Cooperative Program promotion being brought directly into the president’s office, the vice presidential role filled by Bob Rodgers since 2005 will come to an end on Dec. 10.

Page told Baptist Press that Rodgers had provided invaluable service to the EC by reigniting a passion for biblical stewardship at a time when it seemed to be languishing in denominational life. He wrote in the memo, “Bob is a layman who has a passion for the things of God. Having served the Executive Committee since 2005, he is a man who has served faithfully and brought to our Convention a deep desire to see individual believers as well as churches fulfill the commands of our Lord. He is a delightful human being whose presence will be sorely missed.”

Rodgers, speaking of his five years of service on the Executive Committee, said, “There is nothing in my professional life that has given me greater joy than serving God and the Southern Baptist Convention as part of the Executive Committee staff. My constant prayer is for the Christians in our churches to practice biblical stewardship. Practicing biblical stewardship will free our convention from the [financial] bondage that gets in the way of reaching a lost world for Christ.”

The EC bylaws empower the president to “classify, title, and direct the members of the [EC] staff in their work.” The bylaws also empower the president, with a concurrence of the officers of the EC, to employ interim executive staff. The personnel manual empowers the president to terminate employment of executive staff with the concurrence of the EC officers and requires that he inform the EC’s administrative subcommittee “no later than” the next scheduled Executive Committee meeting.

“It is never an easy thing to let staff go from an organization,” Page wrote in his Nov. 29 memo. “This has been an agonizing set of decisions for me to make. Bob and Will have both made significant contributions to Kingdom work.”

In other action, Page changed the name of the office of convention policy to the office of convention policy and operations. D. August (Augie) Boto, an EC staff member since 1998, will oversee the office and will continue his duties as executive vice president. Page also renamed the office of business and finance to the office of convention finance. This position, vacant for the past 17 months, will be filled by William (Bill) Townes, who will serve as interim vice president of convention finance until his formal election at the February Executive Committee meeting.

In his Nov. 17 memo, Page wrote, “Bill comes to this role with a strong resume of denominational service. He is currently the director of development at the North American Mission Board, where he has been serving since 2007. He has previously served as the chief financial officer of the Georgia Baptist Convention from 1992 to 2006.” Page added, “Among Bill’s credentials include his licensure as a CPA. He also holds an MBA degree.” Townes will assume his office on Dec. 1, 2010.

Noting that the EC had to operate well below anticipated budget receipts in the fiscal year just ended (Sept. 30, 2010) and is facing the likelihood of even greater budgetary shortfalls in the current year, Page wrote in his Nov. 29 memo, “we must make serious decisions because these are serious times.” He also stated that the staff reductions “will not be the only ones we will need to make in the days ahead.” He asked the EC members to “pray diligently” for him, for the EC staff and “for the work of the entire Executive Committee.”

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