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Page announces staffing consolidation, reductions

 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) — Citing unprecedented economic challenges facing the Executive Committee, Frank Page, president and chief executive officer of the EC since Oct. 1, announced structural and staffing changes on the Executive Committee staff in two memos sent to Executive Committee members on Nov. 17 and Nov. 29.

Page informed the Executive Committee that he has reduced the EC staff from five divisions to three, combining the duties of two divisions and bringing another into the president’s office. The office of news services and the office of convention relations, separated into two offices since 1991, have been combined back into one office and will become the office of convention communications and relations. Given the economic situation the Executive Committee is facing, Page said he thought it “wise to return to this arrangement, at least for the immediate future.”

Roger S. (Sing) Oldham, current vice president of convention relations since 2007, will assume oversight of the new office. The position of vice president of news services, filled by Will Hall since 2000, has been eliminated. Hall’s last day of service was Dec. 3.

Baptist Press will conduct its work through the new office of convention communications and relations. Art Toalston, editor of Baptist Press since 1992, “will continue to oversee the daily operations of this vital news service to Southern Baptists,” Page wrote.

Under Hall’s leadership, Baptist Press initiated a sports news service and launched a Spanish weekly edition. Baptist Press also developed such special projects as TruthQuest California (a Christian teen travelogue later developed by FamilyNet into a television series). The Library of Congress selected Baptist Press’ war coverage by a team embedded on the USS Harry S. Truman, and later deployed on the ground in Iraq, for a historical collection of the 2003 War on Iraq that will provide access to researchers worldwide.

In the past three years, Baptist Press has won 35 first, second or third place awards from four professional organizations, including recognition as “Best in Class” as a news service. Hall’s personal awards include top honors for editorials and news writing.

In his Nov. 29 memo, Page also indicated that, “beginning immediately,” the responsibility for Cooperative Program promotion will be housed in his office. He wrote, “I hope Southern Baptists will see in this my desire to give a heightened sense of priority to Cooperative Program promotion by making it a direct responsibility of the president’s office.”

A separate office of Cooperative Program was created in 1997. It was expanded to include stewardship education in 2006. With the duties of Cooperative Program promotion being brought directly into the president’s office, the vice presidential role filled by Bob Rodgers since 2005 will come to an end on Dec. 10.

The EC bylaws empower the president to “classify, title, and direct the members of the [EC] staff in their work.” The bylaws also empower the president, with a concurrence of the officers of the EC, to employ interim executive staff. The personnel manual empowers the president to terminate employment of executive staff with the concurrence of the EC officers and requires that he inform the EC’s administrative subcommittee “no later than” the next scheduled Executive Committee meeting.

“It is never an easy thing to let staff go from an organization,” Page wrote in his Nov. 29 memo. “This has been an agonizing set of decisions for me to make. Bob and Will have both made significant contributions to Kingdom work.”

In other action, Page changed the name of the office of convention policy to the office of convention policy and operations. D. August (Augie) Boto, an EC staff member since 1998, will oversee the office and will continue his duties as executive vice president. Page also renamed the office of business and finance to the office of convention finance. This position, vacant for the past 17 months, will be filled by William (Bill) Townes, who will serve as interim vice president of convention finance until his formal election at the February Executive Committee meeting.

Townes served as the chief financial officer of the Georgia Baptist Convention from 1992-2006 before joining the North American Mission Board in 2007 as director of development. He began his new post Dec. 1.

Noting that the EC had to operate well below anticipated budget receipts in the fiscal year just ended (Sept. 30, 2010) and is facing the likelihood of even greater budgetary shortfalls in the current year, Page wrote in his Nov. 29 memo, “we must make serious decisions because these are serious times.” He also stated that the staff reductions “will not be the only ones we will need to make in the days ahead.” He asked the EC members to “pray diligently” for him, for the EC staff and “for the work of the entire Executive Committee.”