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Page: ‘rest’ & ‘comfort’ in following God’s call

NASHVILLE (BP) — Promoting the Cooperative Program, building relationships with leaders at all levels of Baptist life and working to increase the involvement of ethnic minorities in the Southern Baptist Convention were among the activities of Frank S. Page in 2014, he reported to the SBC’s Executive Committee Feb. 16.

“Once in a while people ask me how I feel about this role,” Page, the EC’s president and CEO, said. “‘Do you want to do something else?’ sometimes people say to me. ‘Don’t you want to be a pastor again?’ And I will tell them, in all honesty, I miss being a pastor. I do miss it. But listen to me: I am where I am by the call of God. And when you know you’re where you ought to be in the call of God, there is a great rest and comfort that comes with that.”

Page outlined the work accomplished during the past year by each of the EC staff’s six divisions, beginning with the office of the president.

“I have done a lot of travelling,” Page said, noting that he visited annual meetings of Baptist state conventions and local associations last fall.

Page conducted “pastor listening sessions” across the country in 2014 attended by hundreds of Baptist leaders. To date he has hosted 18 such meetings with some 450 pastors, his accompanying written report stated. In 2015, Page said he has shifted his focus to “individual meetings with as many pastors” as possible.

“Everywhere I go, I meet with those I might call game-changer pastors,” Page said. “And I’ve already been meeting with a number and have several scheduled throughout 2015 from coast to coast.”

Working with the Asian American, Multiethnic, Mental Health and Small Church/Bivocational Church Advisory Councils continues to be a significant part of Page’s work, he said. The Hispanic Advisory Council and the African American Advisory Council each have completed their work, and Page is attempting to implement their recommendations.

The EC staff’s Cooperative Program division, led by vice president Ashley Clayton, encourages churches “in Cooperative Program understanding and development and stewardship development as well,” Page said.

The average CP gift hit an all-time low in 2012 of 5.41 percent of a church’s undesignated receipts but has increased to 5.50 percent, Page said.

Beginning in 2015, Page will launch a 10-year CP promotion campaign called Great Commission Advance that will emphasize the importance of CP at every level of Southern Baptist life and conclude with the 100th anniversary of CP in 2025.

Among the work of the EC staff’s other four divisions:

— The office of convention advancement, led by vice president Ken Weathersby, “has been developing and implementing strategies for the involvement and participation of various ethnic groups and subset groups in our convention,” Page said.

In 1998, there were only 6,044 non-Anglo congregations cooperating with the SBC, Page said. But in 2013, there were 10,103.

— The office of convention finance, led by vice president Bill Townes, manages the CP Allocation Budget and the SBC Operating Budget among other responsibilities. For 2014-15, receipts came in at 97.42 percent of the CP Allocation Budget. Receipts for December 2014 and January 2015 indicate an increase in personal and church giving, Page said.

— The convention communications and relations office, led by vice president Roger S. Oldham, fields inquiries from the media, builds relationships with SBC entities and publishes both SBC LIFE and Baptist Press among other duties. BP published more than 2,200 news stories and first-person articles last year, Page said.

— The convention policy and operations office, led by executive vice president D. August Boto, oversees the EC’s computer systems, provides legal and policy assistance to state conventions and SBC entities and manages litigation related to the SBC.

“I work with a small but very capable staff,” Page said. “And I thank God for each and every one of them.”