The Rev. William Harrell, 64, the pastor of Abilene Baptist Church in Martinez, was elected Monday to one of the top posts in the 16 million-member Southern Baptist Convention - chairman of the 81-member executive committee.
His election by acclamation preceded today's opening of the annual meeting in Greensboro, N.C., where 13,000 to 14,000 Baptist messengers will elect a new president.
Another pastor with ties to Augusta could get that post.
The Rev. Frank Page, 53, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Taylors, S.C., and the former pastor of Warren Baptist Church in Augusta, is one of three candidates for the job. The Rev. Jerry Sutton, 54, the pastor of Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., and the Rev. Ronnie Floyd, 50, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark., are also running.
Last year's messengers numbered about 9,000 people, but only one name was put in nomination for president and there were fewer issues.
Dr. Page and Dr. Harrell ran into each other at the convention hotel Sunday, Dr. Harrell said during a telephone interview from Greensboro.
Convention officers are elected to one-year terms with the possibility of serving a second year. Dr. Harrell served as vice chairman of the executive committee for the 2004 and 2005 terms.
During the months between meetings, the executive committee has fiduciary responsibility and provides news services for the convention.
The president is the face of the convention. He also plays an indirect role in filling vacancies among trustees or other leadership positions. The meeting will end Wednesday.
For more information, see its Web site, www.sbc.net.
Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.