SBC to Hold First Contested Presidential Race in 12 Years

South Carolina pastor Frank Page has confirmed that he will join the Southern Baptist Convention’s presidential race, marking the first contested election in 12 years for the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

“It is so,” he told the SBC’s news service Baptist Press. “I can certainly confirm that I am going to allow my name to be recommended in Greensboro,” where the SBC’s June 13-14 annual meeting will be held.

In confirming his nomination on Friday, Page joins Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd in the race for the top goodwill position in the 16-million-member church. Since 1994, the presidency was handed to one nominee without contest, and delegates had only to vote to affirm the contestant.

According to Baptist Press, Page’s reasons for entering the race are twofold: “I have a peace from the Lord about it” and “I think it is healthy for our convention to have a choice.”

“It is [a choice] about methodology,” Page said. “I just believe that it’s time for people to not only say they support the work of Southern Baptists, but to show it. And I hope that my candidacy will bring that discussion to light.”

Both Page and Floyd are known to be conservative theologically.

“I want it to be very clear that it’s not about theology – we’re both conservatives,” Page told Baptist Press. “It’s not about personalities. I love Ronnie Floyd and think he’s a wonderful man.”

Prior to Page’s commitment, there was much speculation over who – if any – would challenge Floyd’s nomination. On the top of that list was Wade Burleson, an Oklahoma pastor and International Mission Board Trustee, who had received “at least twenty-five requests from individuals” to join the race.

Last week, Burleson announced that he may accept the nomination, but only if no other candidates are named before the annual meeting.

“Who will the other candidate be? I'm not yet sure, but this one thing I know – there will be another one,” Burleson wrote on his internet-blog last Tuesday.

On Friday he confirmed that he will not be running and that he gives his support for Page and any other nominee who believes the SBC must change on two critical aspects: broadening the definition of what it means to be a Southern Baptist and breaking the “chokehold on the appointment process of trustees and nominees for national office.”

“I have discussed [these issues] with Frank and find him to be on the same page as I,” Burleson wrote.

Page has served as First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C. for the past five and a half years, and his church has given over 12 percent of its annual income to the national denomination each year.

The election of officers will be part of the June 13-14 SBC annual meeting in North Carolina. The current SBC president, Florida pastor Bobby Welch, will be completing two one-year terms of service.