Southern Baptists were surprised on Tuesday when Dr. Frank Page, the president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) executive committee, announced his resignation.
But they were shocked when later in the day, news came that a "morally inappropriate relationship" had led to the announcement.
The Baptist Press reports that Florida pastor Stephen Rummage, the chair of the SBC executive committee, released a statement explaining that Page told him of the relationship on Tuesday, after announcing his retirement to the committee Monday night.
"I have shared with the executive committee officers what Dr. Page shared with me, including Dr. Page's repentance and deep regret that his actions have caused pain for others," Rummage explained in a statement to the Baptist Press. He was not available Wednesday for further comment.
Page also released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying he had changed his mind after initially not revealing his "personal indiscretion" in his retirement announcement. He withheld the information at first, he said, out of a desire to protect his family and others that he had hurt.
"After further wrestling," he said, "it became apparent to me that this situation must be acknowledged in a more forthright manner."
Page released few details other than calling the relationship a "personal failing" and said "I have embarrassed my family, my Lord, myself and the Kingdom." Going forward, Page said, he will work to "rebuild the fabric of trust with my wife and daughters."
It's not the first time the Page family has experienced profound grief and loss. In 2013, CBN News spoke with Frank and his wife Dayle about how their daughter Melissa took her life at the age of 32.
Southern Baptist leaders expressed sorrow around the Page announcement. Dr. Russell Moore, the president of the Southern Baptist's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) told CBN News Wednesday that he was shocked by the news. "It's a gut-wrenching thing to watch," he said, "his family is such a sweet family and there's a lot of people who are hurting."
Ed Stetzer, the executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College and the former president of LifeWay Research told Christianity Today that Southern Baptists have had a high regard for Page. "He is widely loved and appreciated and seen as a person of great character. So this is a shock to many of us."
Stetzer also tweeted late Tuesday "adultery is a trap. It's never worth it. Don't convince yourself it is."
J.D. Greear, the pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham and an expected nominee this year for SBC president, a 2-year elected position, tweeted early Wednesday "God is purifying his church. Humble yourself, let God search your heart and life and cling to his grace."
Rummage told the Baptist Press that the executive committee is working on a plan for an interim transition as well as for a search for the next president and CEO of the executive committee.
Page, 65, had a major role as the executive committee president in coordinating SBC's national ministries which includes two mission boards and six seminaries as well as a $200 million annual Cooperative Program budget.
Moore told CBN News that he had no information on the details of Page's self-admitted failing but expressed confidence in the decision-making ability of the SBC executive committee as it investigates what happened and moves forward with plans for new leadership.
"I think we need transparency and I think that's what the executive committee is committed to and so I fully expect total transparency in the process," Moore said.