By David Roach
NASHVILLE (BP) —The Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee commemorated its 100th year of existence with what EC President Frank S. Page called “a little happy-birthday party” intended to reflect the EC’s behind-the-scenes ministry of helping other SBC entities succeed.
“Some people ask, ‘Why haven’t you [made] a bigger deal about the 100th anniversary of the Executive Committee?'” Page said at the EC’s Sept. 18-19 meeting in Nashville. “The bottom line is that we don’t exist to promote ourselves. We exist to make sure missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention succeed.
“That’s why we’re here. So we don’t need to have much attention to ourselves.”
The EC was formed in 1917 by a vote of messengers to the SBC annual meeting. Its lead assignment, reflected in SBC Bylaw 6 and unchanged for 100 years, was “to act for the Convention during the interim of its meetings on matters not otherwise provided for in its plans of work.”
Though the actual anniversary was marked by June’s SBC annual meeting in Phoenix, Page said at the time a “low-key” celebration would be deferred until the EC’s September meeting because there was already “so much going on” at the annual meeting.
The Sept. 18 celebration included a commemorative issue of SBC LIFE, unveiling of a framed portrait collection with paintings of the EC’s six chief executives, commemorative clocks for EC members and staff and, naturally, a birthday cake.
Included in the SBC LIFE issue were:
- Highlights from the tenure of each EC chief executive: Austin Crouch (1927-46), Duke McCall (1946-51), Porter Routh (1951-79), Harold Bennett (1979-92), Morris Chapman (1992-2010), and Page (2010-present).
- Articles chronicling the EC’s history, including its formation in 1917, reorganization in 1927, promotion of the Cooperative Program, and role in shepherding the convention through key junctures in its history.
- Explanations of the EC’s purpose and work, as defined by SBC governing documents.
- A chart illustrating the EC’s role in helping the convention conduct business.
BP published a story in June chronicling the EC’s first century. Among the EC work noted was averting a convention-wide financial crisis in the early 20th century, spurring the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message, and steadying the convention following the Conservative Resurgence.
“Why we exist”
Page told the committee its chief aim long has been “to help coordinate the work of the national convention as it encourages churches.”
“We seek to encourage the work of local churches,” Page said. “That’s why we exist. We are a top-down convention. The top is the local church. We don’t forget that.”
EC chairman Stephen Rummage called the committee’s history “an incredible story.”
“It’s an honor to be able to preside and to serve as chairman of the Executive Committee as we celebrate our 100th anniversary and … the track record the Executive Committee has developed helping Baptists work together and helping to promote the Cooperative Program,” Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, FL, told BP.
Rummage added, “I’m thankful for what’s going to happen in the future.”
Page, in his report to the EC, urged the SBC to keep focus amid “a time of national crisis” that has included hurricanes, political division in the country, and threats to fellowship within the convention.
“If there was ever a day we need a word from the Lord, it is now,” Page said.
Drawing from 2 Samuel 22:1-7, Page said believers must recognize that their stability comes from God and keep their focus on Him.
“It’s easy to start looking to other people for help and assistance,” Page said. “There are hurricanes of theological, methodological, and ecclesiological differences that seek to distract us, and they often do…. However, we must keep our focus singular. Don’t let anybody pull you away from that singular focus on the Lord.”