I don’t know Dr. Frank Page personally. He was pastor at Gambrell Street Baptist Church in Ft. Worth when I was a student at Southwestern Seminary, and I’ve heard him preach on several occasions. If I’m hearing him right in this particular report from WKRN TV in Nashville, it seems that he thinks that the issue of women’s ordination might be up for discussion and negotiable within the ranks of the Southern Baptist Convention.
There will be those on the conservative side who will point to this as a sign that the “slippery slope” toward liberalism once again has a gate that’s been left open to the SBC, and they will insist that this is a sign that the current “Memphis Declaration” blogging movement are either closet moderates or liberals. Since Dr. Page’s election seems to be the direct result of blogging, that’s the direction the argument will likely go.
The other side of that argument is whether women’s ordination, for the diaconate, or even as a pastor, is an issue of liberal vs. conservative. Since I graduated from a Baptist college back in 1979, I’ve heard all kinds of debate on the issue. Back then, in Baptist circles, a woman serving as a pastor was unthinkable, but there were two female ministerial students at the college I attended, and both of them succeeded in getting a call to a pastorate upon their graduation from seminary. They went to churches in remote communities in the West, where there were struggles to get a pastor of any kind. Perhaps their call to service was an issue of conservative vs. liberal theology, though I saw it as a matter of practicality, but neither of those ladies was theologically liberal. Far from it, they were as conservative as anyone I knew. And the prognosticators on campus who predicted their early demise were wrong. About a decade after that time, I heard that they were both still pastors, one in the church in Nevada that originally called her, and had successful ministries.
I’m not really sure the SBC is ready for this debate now. As ugly as things have been over private prayer language, and to a lesser degree, Calvinist influence, I’m not sure that this will generate a civil discussion. There was a time in Dr. Page’s career when he was apparently favorable toward women being ordained as both deacons and elders, but he clearly backed away from that position at some point between his departure from Gambrell Street and his election to the SBC presidency. This particular news report is somewhat vague on his position at the present time, and focuses mainly on Dr. Jon Roebuck at Woodmont Baptist Church in Nashville. However, the reporter did apparently get a statement from Dr. Page that confirms the door to this discussion may be open.
I’m all for a civil discussion.
I’m guessing that the discussion related to Dr. Klouda’s dismissal has prompted the interest. Frankly, it is something that I’ve put on a back burner myself, and have delayed studying and researching on my own, simply because there are other matters that have consumed my time, and I am not in a church situation where it would ever come up.
I’d sure be interested in observations and comments on the news story from WKRN in particular.
The reporter gives a bit more information regarding Dr. Page’s comments at http://www.faithandethics.com . Thanks to Wes Kenney for that link. Dr. Page apparently clarified the discussion to be limited to women being ordained as deacons, and perhaps as associate staff members, but not senior pastors. This is still new ground for Southern Baptists. Are we ready for this?