EthicsDaily.com has posted an article today outlining the fact that, according to Dr. Frank Page’s own doctoral thesis, the president of the SBC used to believe in the role of women as a Senior Pastor. This news is undoubtedly exciting for many within the more moderate edges of convention life because it gives the impression that many were right, and that we right-wing Southern Baptist’s were duped and have elected a liberal to be the leader of our denomination. The rumors were running rampant around the convention hall in Greensboro that Page is a liberal, and many will now point to this article as evidence that the rumors were true.
What’s wrong with that sentiment is that it appears to be patently false. It is no mistake that the author of the article, Mr. Bob Allen, spends the vast majority of his time outlining Page’s belief’s in 1980 and lightly glosses over the fact that Page has since changed his mind, and now holds to a more conventional SBC view of women in pastoral roles. EthicsDaily.com is known for consistently highlighting the more liberal wings of our convention and is very public about the fact that they are not a fan of the “conservative movement” within SBC life.
Dr. Al Mohler, of Southern Seminary, rightly discusses this revelation on his blog, ConventionalThinking.net. He states why this issue is important, but goes on to emphasize that a change of heart is certainly possible, and to be applauded. He reminds us that this is personal to him, since he once held the same views as Page’s 1980 dissertation espouses, and that he too has since changed his mind.
I agree with Dr. Mohler’s conclusions. So Dr. Page once believed in women in ministry? I used to believe in Santa Claus and the Easter bunny. That former belief doesn’t necessarily translate to mean that I still cling to foolish truths in my older, more mature state (though some might argue about the “more mature” part!) Page has since stated, on his SBC Presidential website, that he affirms the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 and it’s expression of the roles of women in ministry. It is notable that he picks that particular topic to explain. It seems to say, to me, that he is aware that questions will be forthcoming and that he, for one, is not afraid to affirm what he now believes, though it contradicts a former position. Would I like for him to further clarify his position on his belief, particularly in light of his prior thought…sure I would. However, until then his current statement is sufficient to satisfy my curiosity. His statement is as follows:
The issue of women in ministry is one of great contention and discussion. While some Southern Baptist churches have had women deacons for decades, some are violently opposed to such a practice.
I certainly affirm that God does call and utilize women in His service. My belief about women in ministry is consistent with that which is found in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, in Article VI, The Church. This document states, “that while both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of Pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.” I concur with that statement. This does not mean that women cannot serve in a variety of capacities and roles. I believe that all God’s people should affirm this with joy.
Since Dr. Page is, by all accounts, a man of integrity, it is my hope that we will take him at his word. I would hope that each of us would grant him the grace to change his mind that we have all needed at some point in our own lives when we’ve each espoused dubious positions and have desired to change course. It is funny how many within convention life have become altogether quick to label others as liberal, let’s hope this is NOT one of those times.