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Wright to be nominated for SBC president

REVISED, 7:12 p.m., March 12

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Georgia pastor Bryant Wright will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention, a Florida pastor announced March 12.

The nomination of Bryant Wright, senior pastor of the Atlanta-area Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, will be made by David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, according to a March 12 report by the Florida Baptist Witness.

No other nominees for SBC offices have been announced to date; the SBC annual meeting will be June 15-16 in Orlando.

Johnny Hunt is completing his service as SBC president, having been elected to a second one-year term at last year’s SBC annual meeting in Louisville, Ky. Hunt is pastor of the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Woodstock.

Wright is the founding pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, which began in 1981 and now reports average weekly worship attendance of 4,383 and a resident membership of 6,121. The church reported 459 baptisms in 2009. Wright was president of the SBC Pastors’ Conference in 2006 in Greensboro, N.C.

The church gave $638,992, or 3.9 percent, of its undesignated receipts through the Cooperative Program in 2009, according to the Georgia Baptist Convention’s Annual Church Profile, a decrease from 4.9 percent of undesignated giving in 2008 and 5.1 percent in 2007, The Christian Index of Georgia reported March 12.

Wright, in comments to Index editor Gerald Harris March 12, said he wants to see “a greater percentage of our dollars [going] to the IMB, NAMB [North American Mission Board] and our seminaries.”

From 1982 to 1997, Johnson Ferry gave 10 percent of church receipts through the Cooperative Program, The Index reported, noting that in 1997 the 10 percent given to CP “causes” entailed 7 percent to the Georgia convention, which forwards 40.35 percent of its receipts to SBC missions and ministries, and 3 percent directly to the IMB through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

Beginning in December 2003, The Index reported, that figure went to 5 percent GBC/SBC, 5 percent IMB. In April 2009 the church gave 7 percent to CP causes, with a 3.5 percent split between the GBC/SBC and IMB, The Index reported.

Joe Shadden, Johnson Ferry’s finance manager, told the Florida Baptist Witness that the church reduced CP and IMB gifts from 5 percent to 3.5 percent each in its 2009 budget as part of an overall budget reduction in response to the economic recession.

David Uth, the Orlando pastor who announced his intention to nominate Wright for SBC president, told the Florida Baptist Witness that Wright is “uniquely positioned to continue the much-needed focus on the Great Commission as set forth by Johnny Hunt and the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.”

“Bryant has been a consistent leader among Southern Baptists who acknowledges and appreciates our traditional heritage while embracing some of the creative and innovative methods of reaching today’s generation for Christ,” the Florida paper quoted Uth as saying. Uth described Wright as an “example of a missional mindset in leading his church to not only aggressively support the Cooperative Program, but to give generously to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and to other mission causes beyond his own church.”

Uth said Johnson Ferry “has had a strong missional emphasis from the beginning.” Uth said the Georgia church gave 17 percent of budgeted receipts to mission causes in 2009 and “last year alone more than 1,500 members went on 70 mission trips to 27 nations around the world.” Uth said the church has started seven mission churches in Cobb County and north Atlanta and co-sponsored five other church plants.

Johnson Ferry’s overall undesignated receipts for 2009 were $16,074,014, according to its ACP data, with overall missions giving listed at $3,015,335. An amount is not listed specifically for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.

Wright, in a Nov. 5, 2009 column in The Index, called for “a radical reprioritizing of Cooperative Program (CP) funds through our state conventions,” affirming SBC President Johnny Hunt’s call “for a resurgent focus on fulfilling Christ’s Great Commission.”

Wright proposed that each state convention keep no more than 25-30 percent of CP funds in-state so that 50 percent can go to international missions.

“[A]s our lay volunteers began to go in great numbers on mission trips and to partner with ministries around the world, they were absolutely appalled to find how high a percentage of our CP dollars stayed in the state and how little actually wound up on the international mission field,” Wright wrote. “So several years ago, we began to dramatically shift the funding to Southern Baptist mission causes by giving 5 percent of the church budget to the CP and 5 percent directly to the IMB in what is considered a monthly gift to the Lottie Moon offering.”

“We’d prefer that the full amount we give to Southern Baptist mission causes go through the CP,” Wright continued, “but until the formulas change dramatically and most of the dollars go to international missions, we’ll keep giving directly to international mission causes, and that percentage may even increase in the days ahead. Our lay leaders in missions are ‘chomping at the bit’ to do so today.”

Wright also called for an increase in funding for the North American Mission Board “to help us reach our nation for Christ, with a primary focus on church planting — especially in unreached areas.” Funding for the SBC’s six seminaries also should “dramatically increase,” he wrote, to support the training of “thousands of men and women who will lead the way in carrying out the Great Commission.”

“This is a major change that would need to be implemented over 3-5 years to allow the state conventions to adjust in their planning,” Wright wrote. “But implementation toward this goal needs to begin immediately with the state CP budgets that will be planned in 2010.”

Wright, a native of the Atlanta area, holds a master of divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and a bachelor of arts in English from the University of South Carolina. After graduating from college, he worked for Puritan Chemical Co. for two and a half years before enrolling at Southern Seminary. After earning his M.Div., he was minister to single adults at Second Baptist Church in Houston before accepting the pastorate of the fledgling Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in December 1981.

Wright and his wife Anne have three children and three grandchildren.
Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston from reports by James A. Smith Sr., executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, and Scott Barkley, production editor of The Christian Index of Georgia.

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