Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Frank Page: another side

In a closed session on June 14, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee elected former SBC president Frank Page as its next president and CEO.

This is a powerful position that was once described as “the most important in all of Christendom.”

Though that description may be a bit lofty, there is no doubt that the president and CEO of the SBC’s Executive Committee holds a very important position. Norman Jameson, editor of the Biblical Recorder and longtime follower of Baptist life, explains it this way: “The Executive Committee functions as the Southern Baptist Convention between annual sessions of the SBC.”

What this means is that, for about 363 days a year, the Executive Committee is where the power resides for the largest Protestant denomination in the land.

So what sort of man did Southern Baptists place in such a powerful position?

Jameson describes Frank Page as “a man of integrity, vision, achievement and leadership.”

That’s the Frank Page whom Norman Jameson has apparently encountered, and no doubt there are many more in Baptist life who share a similar view.

But clergy abuse survivors have seen another side.

Frank Page is the man who publicly castigated clergy rape and molestation survivors as being “nothing more than opportunistic persons.”

It would be bad enough if it were just some off-the-cuff remark. But it was more than that.

Frank Page said those hateful words in his official role as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and he published them in a news journal funded by offering plate dollars – the Florida Baptist Witness. It was a news journal in which he could write whatever he wanted . . . and look what he chose to write.

Just after Page’s words made print, I remember hearing from one Baptist clergy abuse survivor who told me that she could scarcely breathe upon seeing them. That’s how hurtful Page’s words were.

With such caustic rhetoric, Frank Page helped to foster a climate of hostility and victim-blaming toward Baptist clergy abuse survivors. Many have felt the brunt of it.

Yet, Page has never apologized.

Wouldn’t “a man of integrity” realize the horrible hurt in his words and offer up some sort of apology?

Wouldn’t you expect to hear some expression of remorse, particularly from one who is deemed to be such a high religious leader?

A journalist like Helen Thomas loses her job after a callous public comment. But a high Southern Baptist leader gets promoted.

And though Jameson describes Page as a man of “leadership,” I can’t help but wonder why that “leadership” was so lackluster when it came to addressing clergy sex abuse.

This is the man who, in his prior role as SBC president, repeatedly minimized the problem by saying that there have been only “several reported cases” of clergy sex abuse in Baptist churches . . . when in reality there have been hundreds.

Wouldn’t a true leader have at least acknowledged the truth about the extent of the problem?

This is the man who, when more cases started coming to light, lashed out at the media, instead of doing something about the problem.

Wouldn’t a true leader have implemented action rather than blindly blaming others?

This is the man who was told by a 20/20 correspondent that the SBC’s ministerial registry showed convicted sex offenders as apparent “preachers in good standing.” Yet, weeks later, when the 20/20 show actually aired, the names were still on the registry. Frank Page had done nothing about the problem even when he was told about it directly to his face.

Wouldn’t a true leader have done something?

But in all of this, here’s the part I struggle with the most. Why aren’t there a great many other Southern Baptist leaders who will hold Frank Page accountable for his callousness and do-nothingness toward clergy abuse survivors?

Yet, rather than holding him accountable, other Southern Baptist leaders promote him.

It’s as though we’re all just supposed to pretend that Frank Page never said such ugly things.

It’s as though we’re all just supposed to pretend that it never happened.

But it did happen.

Frank Page, the new president and CEO of the SBC’s Executive Committee, publicly castigated clergy abuse survivors as “nothing more than opportunistic persons.”

It’s a shame that so many other Southern Baptist leaders are so willing to turn a blind eye to such cold-hearted callousness from the mouth of one of their own high religious leaders.

But of course, that’s a big part of the problem in Baptistland. Cronies don’t hold cronies accountable.

Frank Page's 4/17/2007 column in the Florida Baptist Witness.

6/17/10: Baptist Planet, "More of the SBC same on clerical sexual predators."
5/27/14: ABP News, "SBC official stands by criticism of SNAP."


TexasPastor said...

Not only is Frank Page abusive in his public comments, but in his private correspondence as well. When I wrote to him, as president of the SBC,he refused to answer my questions and referred to me as mean spirited. This is yet another example of how power is at work inside the SBC. I am so grieved to see what is happening. My anger is so colored with sadness that I find it hard to contemplate how much longer I might be a part of such a denomination. Our church is certainly not active, but we bear the name, none the less.

Christa Brown said...

Texas Pastor: Thanks for sharing your story about Frank Page's correspondence. I've heard similar stories from others. They're stories that tell of zero compassion.

Anonymous said...

They always use terms like mean spirited, bitter, unforgiving, etc. These terms allow them to dismiss hard questions they do not want to answer.

Someday you figure out there is no nice way to ask them a question or disagree with them. THEY get to decide if it was asked "right" or not.

This is why people should never follow men. Follow Christ, instead. You could be supporting evil.

Christa Brown said...

"Follow Christ, instead."

I think what many people don't realize is that this is exactly what many clergy abuse survivors thought they were doing. That profound desire to "follow Christ" no matter where He leads is eactly what makes a lot of adolescent kids vulnerable to sexual abuse by clergy. "Following Christ" and trying to do "God's will" are exactly what led them into a pit of hell so dark and deep that, often, they still can't see the end of it many years later.