NASHVILLE (BP)—A Rockwall pastor and an East Texas laywoman are on the six-member search committee charged with nominating the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee.
The Executive Committee elected the presidential search committee during a special called meeting in Nashville April 17. The meeting was prompted by the March 27 departure of former President Frank S. Page, who stepped down as president and chief executive officer March 27 citing a “personal failing.”
Search committee members are Joe Knott, an attorney from Raleigh, N.C.; Adron Robinson, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills, Ill.; Stephen Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., and chair of the Executive Committee; Rolland Slade, pastor of Meridian Baptist Church in El Cajon, Calif.; Steve Swofford, pastor of First Baptist Church in Rockwall; and Carol Yarber, a retired medical administrator from Athens.
Eighteen Executive Committee members were nominated from the floor to serve on the search committee. Following nominations, each member present was permitted, in accordance with bylaws, to vote for as many as six nominees.
The Executive Committee bylaws permit a seven-member search committee, which would include six elected members plus service by the Executive Committee chairman in an ex officio capacity.
However, some committee members expressed a desire for Rummage to continue serving on the committee after his term as chair expires in June. Rummage’s election to the search committee will allow him to continue serving on that body until its work is completed.
If the search committee is still working in June when a new Executive Committee chairman is elected, that person will become an ex officio member.
The search committee held its first meeting immediately following the conclusion of the Executive Committee’s afternoon plenary session.
‘Very difficult weeks for all of us’
In his report to the Executive Committee, Rummage thanked committee members “for praying for me, for our Executive Committee and certainly for the family of Dr. Page in these last several weeks.”
“These have been very difficult weeks for all of us, and yet we have seen the Lord show himself strong on our behalf and known his presence with us throughout this time,” Rummage said.
Augie Boto, interim president of the Executive Committee, said staff will be “aiming for normalcy” during his time at the helm, including preparations for June’s SBC annual meeting in Dallas and “performing our duties each week until then and thereafter in the manner that our churches and our entities have grown to expect and depend on.”
Boto added he is “declining in advance if anyone were to suggest that the search committee consider me” as the permanent president.
A key aspect of his interim leadership will be the assistance of Jimmy Draper as presidential ambassador, he noted. Draper will represent the Executive Committee through preaching assignments and with SBC entity presidents.
Call for unity
At Boto’s invitation, Draper made his first remarks before the Executive Committee since his April 9 appointment, reminding the group of the heaviness of its tasks and encouraging members to act in unity.
“Many of your meetings are very routine and predictable. This is not one of them,” said Draper, former president of LifeWay Christian Resources.
“You’re starting the process today to elect the seventh president of the Executive Committee, who will be the most visible face for Southern Baptists across the country. I want to just remind you, this is not a popularity contest when you elect this committee.”
The search committee should exemplify leadership, wisdom and diversity, Draper said. He pointed to the unity Jesus prayed for in John 17 as a model for the Executive Committee in electing a search committee.
“I’m not talking about uniformity,” Draper said. “Differences of opinion are not a threat to unity. Lack of trust and suspicions are a threat. So we need to pay attention to what Jesus prayed for … as you carefully select those that will be on this committee.”
The full Executive Committee should stand behind any decisions made by the body, Draper said, despite any differences of opinion that might arise during internal deliberations.
“It’s not about us. It’s about a sovereign Creator God who brought about the redemption of mankind through the death of his Son on the cross,” Draper said. “And he has assigned to us the gospel of reconciliation.”
Limited post-employment benefits approved for Page
In executive session, the Executive Committee voted to grant limited post-employment benefits to Page, which include money for marital counseling, five years of Medicare supplemental coverage and some computer equipment he had used in his home.
Page’s post-employment benefits approved by the Executive Committee included “an amount of money to pay for or substantially subsidize the cost of qualified, experienced, and well-regarded spiritual and marital counseling,” with “a like amount of money to provide counseling for any other persons that may have been immediately involved in the circumstances surrounding Dr. Page’s departure,” according to the recommendation approved in executive session.
The Executive Committee will fund the five years of Medicare supplemental coverage for the Pages at a cost not to exceed $3,900 per year per person, the recommendation stated. The computer equipment given to Page has a combined value of approximately $750.
Page also will receive an unpaid portion of his salary for the last three days of March.
Fighting back tears as the meeting closed, Rummage received a standing ovation for his leadership.
“I know for all of you this has been a difficult day,” he said. “It’s been a difficult day for me. I am sorry we’ve had to deal with what we’ve had to deal with today.”