MINNEAPOLIS — Former Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page said he doesn’t expect much to result from the work of advisers to the White House’s office dealing with faith-based and community groups.
“I believe that the policy recommendations that will come forth will be relatively innocuous, good, helpful,” said Page, a member of the panel, on Sept. 10 at the annual meeting of the Religion Newswriters Association. He expects results to be not much more than “low-hanging fruit.”
“There will be good things, but nothing of great substance.”
While Page has publicly disagreed with Obama on some issues, notably abortion, he nonetheless praised the president for his “responsible fatherhood” and poverty initiatives, as well as his commitment not to fund abortion under his proposed health care reforms.
The South Carolina pastor called himself the “resident fundamentalist” on the 25-member advisory panel that includes Christians, Jews, Muslims and a Hindu as well as representatives of secular organizations. Despite “some serious disagreements” with Obama, Page said he prays for the president daily and is honored to be a member of the advisory council.
“I am shocked that I am a part of such an esteemed group,” Page told the newswriters. “I … consider myself to be a Baptist Forrest Gump. And if you remember that old movie … this poor fella showed up in places that he never imagined he would be and found himself in the midst of world-changing events. Well, that’s the way I feel about me.”
The White House did not immediately comment on Page’s remarks; the director of the faith-based office, Joshua DuBois, had earlier canceled his scheduled appearance at the Minneapolis conference.
Peg Chemberlin, president-elect of the National Council of Churches and also a member of the advisory panel, said she thinks the work of the council is more than political expediency for the White House.
“I don’t think that this is primarily about political cover, but I think this is about affirming that the faith community’s got something to offer,” she said. “The nonprofit community is a huge and important sector in building the common good.”
Asked if they saw any potential common ground being reached on abortion, both Page and Chemberlin expressed hopes that the White House might succeed in its work to reduce the need for abortion.
“That’s probably the only common ground that I can see coming forth on that issue,” Page said.