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Bryant Wright elected SBC president, seeks reprioritization of CPcomment (0)

June 17, 2010

By Jennifer Davis Rash

In a surprise move, Southern Baptists said no to two well-known presidential candidates and elected a church planter from Marietta, Ga., to lead them in the coming year.

Bryant Wright, senior pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., beat Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., in a run-off ballot 4,225 to 3,371. Bryant’s votes represented 55.11 percent of the 7,667 votes casts, while Traylor’s represented 43.97 percent. Seventy-one votes, or .93 percent, were disallowed.

Traylor and Jimmy Jackson, senior pastor of Whitesburg Baptist Church, Huntsville, entered the race as the frontrunners, particularly in what many labeled a pro/con Great Commission Resurgence report presidential race. Traylor served on the task force. Jackson was outspoken against the task force’s report that was approved by convention messengers just minutes before the presidential election results were announced.

Wright and Traylor garnered a combined 66.02 percent of the original vote against Jackson and Leo Endel, executive director, Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention.

In the original vote, Wright received 3,433 votes, or 36.84 percent of the vote, while Traylor received 2,719 votes, or 29.18 percent of the vote. Jackson received 2,482 votes, or 26.64 percent of the vote, and Endel received 589 votes, or 6.23 percent of the vote.

Of the registered 10,873 messengers at the time of the vote, 9,318 messengers cast ballots. Of those, 95 ballots, or 1.2 percent, were disallowed.

In nominating Wright, David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church, Orlando, Fla., said, “He’s not been on a lot of programs and you may not know his name,” Uth said. “He wasn’t waiting on a resurgence or a vote of a convention. He has been quietly leading his church … and doing the Great Commission.”

Wright started Johnson Ferry 28 years ago and has been the church’s only pastor. The church routinely leads Southern Baptist churches in giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and has a strong missions emphasis inside the church.

His Cooperative Program (CP) giving is not as strong (a planned 3.5 percent for 2010 — more than $600,000), but he said this is because his church is so missions-minded, key leaders of the church questioned why so much of the CP stays in the United States.

“We had a stewardship issue and had to make a decision,” Wright said during a news conference following his election June 15. “We wanted the majority of the money to wind up on the missions field where the witness for Christ is not as prevalent (as in the United States).”

Uth noted that Wright is among a new generation of pastors who are less interested in the status quo and are asking why more of the money given through the CP isn’t going to reach those who have little or no access to gospel.

“I don’t plan to encourage churches to bypass CP,” Wright said. “(But) I do think we need to reprioritize the CP as far as where the funding goes. … More people would be more passionate about the CP if that would happen.”

Wright acknowledged the autonomy of the state conventions, but he also noted, “I would encourage state conventions to move … [toward a] 50–50 (split of CP dollars). We could do such a greater work.

“I feel there will need to be more funding for NAMB (North American Mission Board) and the seminaries. They are vastly underfunded,” he said.

“We are at a crossroads … some major changes are going to have to occur,” Wright said. “I would like to see all kinds of practical implementations that will have to occur in moving the convention in the direction it is going to have to go (during my year as president). A lot will have to be done.”

Wright said his priorities as president will revolve around reprioritizing the funding structure of the CP, fulfilling the Great Commission, encouraging every church to experience a missions trip (especially the pastor) and urging Southern Baptists to “return to our first love for Christ.”

In the first vice president’s race, Ron Herrod, president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, was elected 1,653 to 1,117 over Jim Drake, pastor of Brush Fork Baptist Church in Blue Field, W. Va.

Eric Moffett, pastor of First Baptist Church, Sparkman, Ark., was elected second vice president 706 to 689 over Jim Goforth, pastor of New Life Baptist Church, Forsyth, Mo. Moffett and Goforth received 66.69 percent of the vote in the first ballot of four candidates.

In the first vote, Moffett received 436 votes while Goforth received 423 votes. Ray Newman, ethics and religious affairs specialist for the Georgia Baptist Convention, received 245 votes, and John Copeland, pastor of First Baptist Church, Fulton, Ala., received 171 votes.
Re-elected as recording secretary was John L. Yeats, director of communication, Louisiana Baptist Convention.

Re-elected as registration secretary was Jim Wills, director of missions, Tri County Baptist Association in Missouri.

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