The Southern Baptist Convention elected Frank Page president Tuesday, a pastor who had said that it would take a “miracle” for him to win and was seen as an outsider pick.
Page was the choice of a group of pastors, many from a younger generation than the current SBC leadership, who have complained that the denomination suppresses disagreements over styles of worship and doctrinal details.
Taking just over 50 percent of the vote on the first ballot, Page beat out Ronnie Floyd, a successful megachurch pastor from Springdale, Ark., and Jerry Sutton, pastor at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., and currently the SBC’s first vice president.
Page is pastor at First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C. He’ll serve for one year with an option to run for a second term.
During his campaign, Page emphasized the importance of giving to the Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program, in which autonomous congregations pool money to fund overseas and domestic missions. That seemed to strike a chord with delegates to the SBC’s annual meeting.
Page was on home turf for the vote; he is a Greensboro native who was ordained at one of the city’s Baptist churches. He may also have benefited from a strong “drive-in” vote by church delegates from North Carolina and South Carolina.
Another supporter of Page was Wade Burleson, a pastor from Enid, Okla., whose Internet blog postings about internal debates of the denomination’s powerful International Missions Board spurred an effort to remove him from the panel.
In outpolling Floyd and Sutton, Page upset two candidates with higher profiles in the SBC establishment.
Floyd announced his candidacy after the leadership’s initial choice, Johnny Hunt of Woodstock, Ga., bowed out of the race. He was supported by Hunt and other SBC leaders.
Sutton, a denominational leader with strong conservative credentials, jumped in the race last week, saying he wanted to offer an alternative to Page — seen by some as perhaps not conservative enough — and Floyd, who was criticized for his church’s relatively low level of giving to the Cooperative Program.
Many smaller Southern Baptist congregations see the Cooperative Program as a crucial collective effort for the denomination and the best way for them to carry out influential missionary and evangelistic work.
In his campaign, Page noted that his church runs its own mission programs while still contributing a large portion of otherwise undesignated offerings — 12 percent last year — to the Cooperative Program.