Convention President Comes Home to Preach
Frank Page, the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention, recently came home to Robbins to preach at his parents' home church, First Baptist, in a special evening service.
Afterward, members and visitors joined him and his family for a reception and a light supper.
Page's election last summer in Greensboro has been viewed as a whiff of hope at healing a breach in the country's largest Protes-tant denomination.
Since the mid-1960s, Southern Baptists have turned away from many historic stands: no creed or other rule imposed on individual Biblical interpretation, support for a wall of separation between church and state, local church autonomy, and so forth.
Support for the Cooperative Program that pays for denomination-supported missions dropped. For the first time, the number of Southern Baptists declined.
On Sunday, Oct. 22, he came back to Robbins to preach at the home church. His parents, two sisters and his wife Dayle Gibson Page came, too. Accepting the office of president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Page called on Southern Baptists to broaden the base of people involved in SBC affairs, bringing in more young people, and refocusing on the Cooperative Program and support for missions.
Page was born in Robbins in Dr. Vanore's office.
"I don't remember it very well," he told the congregation. "But I am sure it was a great occasion."
The family moved to Greensboro when he was 2. He grew up there, but visits to aunts, uncles and cousins kept him in touch with his birthplace.
He graduated from Gardner-Webb University with a bachelor's degree in psychology and minors in sociology and Greek.
By the age of 28, he had earned his master of divinity and a doctorate in Christian ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theolo-gical Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
The new office is taking him to many places far distant from his home pastorate at the First Baptist Church of Taylors, S.C. He said he had been in Columbia, S.C., and then St. Louis on Tuesday.
Wednesday would see him speaking in Nashville, Tenn. (where convention headquarters are located). The next day, he would go to Beaumont, Texas, and on Friday would speak in Virginia, Saturday in West Virginia.
"I will be home in time to preach Sunday morning," Page said. "That is my job. President (of the SBC) is not a paid position. I get no money from it at all. "
He does get a lot of calls from and meetings with political hopefuls, he said, naming a number of 2008 possible presidential contenders -- but somehow omitting John Edwards, whose parents were sitting in the congregation.
Edwards grew up and was baptized in the Robbins church.
"I met with Rudi Giuliani," Page said. "I asked him if he had received the Lord Jesus."
Giuliani is a Roman Catholic.
"He said, yes, he had in communion at Mass," Page said. "I told him, 'I want you to love him like I do. I want you to have a passionate love relationship with the Lord Jesus."
Page did not convert Giuliani, though he spent two hours in the attempt.
"He has heard the gospel," Page said. "It's now up to him to accept or reject."
Page does not seem to regard Roman Catholicism as a Christian acceptance of the gospel. He plans to take the same evangelistic approach to every meeting with national leaders.
"I like to talk about Jesus wherever I go," he said. "I look forward to meeting Mr. Romney. He is a Mormon."
Later, sitting at a table with Wallace Edwards, Page acknowledged the hopes of many that his turning the convention away from divisions and toward missions might offer a path toward healing the split.
"I will say I am 'cautiously optimistic' about it," he said. "I like Dr. Richard Land's approach in his book 'The Divided States of America? What Conservatives and Liberals are Missing in the God-and-Country Shouting Match.' I agree we do not need a state-mandated religion."
Land, a graduate of Princeton and Oxford, and a fan of Jane Austen novels, doesn't think Americans are as divided as some think. He serves as head of the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy arm.
Page -- though avowedly a "take the Bible literally" traditionalist -- is on the same page as Land. A shouting match between liberals and traditionalists turns Christians away from missions, he feels. But missions should instead claim their full commitment, he said.
John Chappell can be reached at 783-5841 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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