The three-year ministry initiative was launched by Page and North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell in response to a request by Hispanic leaders and could be followed by additional ethnically-oriented advisory groups.
Page announced the creation of the council during his address to the Executive Committee Sept. 19 in Nashville, Tenn., noting that it would be chaired by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Daniel Sanchez and retired North American Mission Board staff member Bob Sena.
In a statement released to Baptist Press, Page said the council will assist the Executive Committee, NAMB and other SBC entity leaders in understanding and appreciating the perspectives Hispanic churches and church leaders bring to the common task of reaching the nation and the world with the Gospel.
"The council is representative of the regions of the country and reflects the cultural diversity of the Hispanic population," Page said. "Its purpose is that of consultation, communication and cooperation. It will neither launch nor execute ministries. Its role is to provide information, insight and counsel to NAMB and EC staff relative to the special needs and concerns of Hispanic churches and church leaders in the Southern Baptist family of churches."
The Hispanic Advisory Council, which is set to begin its work in October once members are finalized, will use surveys, phone conferences, online communication and personal meetings to gather and communicate information from Hispanic groups such as the presidents of state Hispanic fellowships, the National Hispanic Fellowship of Southern Baptist Churches, Hispanic leaders on state convention staffs, Hispanic pastors and laymen as well as the Hispanic Consortium, which is an annual gathering of Hispanic leaders serving on SBC entity staffs.
During his address, Page also introduced Ken Weathersby, who has been tapped to serve as presidential ambassador for ethnic church relations, working alongside Ezell at NAMB and Page at the Executive Committee.
"I worked with Ken Weathersby at the North American Mission Board and I can speak of his integrity, his passion, his deep connection across this entire convention, and I welcome the opportunity to work with him," Page said.
In his first year as president of the Executive Committee, Page said he has placed an emphasis on building relationships and, by year's end, will have visited with every state convention executive in their particular states -- except Hawaii. "And don't worry. My wife feels led of God to go with me to that one and I'll do that as soon as I can."
This fall, Page will travel to 22 of the 42 state convention annual meetings, and next year he and Weathersby will visit the presidents of every ethnic fellowship within the SBC, he told Executive Committee members.
Page placed his message to EC members in the context of the account of the woman at the well in John 4 as an example of Jesus engaging in cross-cultural ministry. The Samaritan woman, Page said, pointed out the obvious gender and ethnic differences between her and Jesus, but Jesus wasn't bothered by the differences.
"Jesus lived by the heart of God and not by the traditions of men," Page said. "He didn't bypass Samaria like others did. He just walked right through. He not only walked right through, He would stop and talk to people, even women.
"Fascinating. Jesus gives us an example here of cross-cultural evangelism and missions. He crosses all the lines. Friends, that's exciting to me. I love the way Jesus related to men and women. I love His honesty," Page said.
In the passage, Jesus did not respond to the woman's question about how He could associate with a person of her ethnicity and gender.
"It was silly. We waste a lot of time on silly things. Jesus didn't even deal with it," Page said. "He began a cross-cultural bridge with something that crossed all barriers, and that was the need for water."
Much has been said about Southern Baptists reaching across cultural boundaries, but Jesus demonstrated in the passage that it's time to stop talking about it and start doing it, Page said.
"People of all races, groups, cultures and genders respond when a person speaks the truth and does it in love. He spoke, some would say, harshly to this woman, but she was not repulsed by His censorious spirit. She was drawn to His loving heart," Page said. "Even though He knew everything and brought it up, she was still drawn to Him. Why? Because there was a motive in His heart that she responded to."
At the outset of his remarks, Page said John 4 leads him to believe that if Southern Baptists are going to "be a Jesus convention, we're going to be a theologically correct people."
Jesus communicates to the Samaritan woman the eternal security of the believer -- that anyone who drinks of the water He provides will never thirst again -- and the exclusivity of salvation -- that He is the only way to God.
"In a 21st century world, such views are woefully politically incorrect, described as intolerant in every way," Page said. "I believe we need to continue to be a Jesus people who speak the truth that the world needs living water and the only way they can find it is in Jesus.
"When culture pulls us in directions which call for compromise, let us always remember that theological correctness is not an option to be cherished only when culture approves. Let us continue to be a body of believers whose adherence to the inerrant Word of God is without question."
Page said the John 4 passage also indicates that followers of Christ should be a worshiping body. Jesus conveyed a powerful lesson about legitimate worship, Page said, telling the woman, "It's not about where you worship. It's about who and how you worship." God is seeking those who will worship in spirit and in truth, Page said.
Also, Southern Baptists must be a sharing convention, he said.
"A woman who had been the talk of the town -- you know she had -- now gets the town to talk about Jesus. A woman who had been a symbol of defeat now gets the town to see where they can find victory," Page said.
"... That woman came to get some water that day but she found far more than water at the well. She met with the Son of God. I want people in this 21st century world, whether it's here or over yonder, to hear about a Savior. Let's be a Jesus convention. Let's quit just talking about it and start doing it. I'm excited in these days ahead."
Erin Roach is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.
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