DULUTH — Marietta, Ga., pastor Bryant Wright will be nominated as president of the Southern Baptist Convention during the SBC’s annual meeting June 15-16 in Orlando, Fla.
David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church, Orlando, Fla., announced through the Florida Baptist Witness that Wright will be a candidate.
Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, is the first candidate to announce intentions to succeed current SBC president Johnny Hunt, who is ineligible for a third term.
Wright, the 2007 Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference president, 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,” Uth told the Witness.
Wright’s church, formerly a strong supporter of the Cooperative Program, the missions funding mechanism of the Southern Baptist Convention which he seeks to lead, has announced a significant decrease in CP support in favor of designating mission gifts to the International Mission Board.
Johnson Ferry reported 459 baptisms with an average weekly worship attendance of 4,383, according to the 2009 Annual Church Profile. The church also gave $638,992, or 3.9 percent of undesignated gifts, to the Cooperative Program for 2009, a decrease from 4.9 percent of undesignated giving in 2008 and 5.1 percent given in 2007.
Since 1982 Johnson Ferry had given 10 percent of church receipts to CP. In 1997 10 percent was still given to CP “causes,” with 7 percent going to the GBC and 3 percent going to the IMB through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Beginning in December 2003, that figure went to 5 percent GBC, 5 percent IMB. In April 2009 the church gave 7 percent to CP causes, with a 3.5 percent split between the GBC and IMB.
For the last ten years the church’s CP causes summary of $14,964,426 breaks down as follows:
• GBC $7,774,046
• IMB Lottie Moon $5,548,547
• Noonday Association (1 percent) $1,348,898
• Annie Armstrong Offering $109,249
• Georgia Baptist Children’s Home $135,278
• Truett-McConnell College $13,408
•New Orleans Seminary (Katrina Relief) $35,000
The church reported giving $1,420,441 through the Cooperative Program, the Witness stated. But half was given through the Georgia Baptist Convention and half given directly to the International Mission Board, according to Joe Shadden, Johnson Ferry’s finance manager.
In a guest commentary of the Nov. 5 issue of The Index, Wright proposed that each state convention keep no more than 25-30 percent of CP funds in-state so 50 percent can go to international missions. He went on to explain how after many years of Johnson Ferry giving 10 percent to the Cooperative Program, the church began to alter that number considerably.
“[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. 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,” Wright wrote.
“We’d prefer that the full amount we give to Southern Baptist mission causes go through the CP,” he 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.”
Shadden told the Witness during the 2009 budget year Johnson Ferry reduced CP and IMB gifts from 5 percent to 3.5 percent each as part of an overall budget reduction in response to the economic recession. With total undesignated receipts of $16,074,014 in 2009, the church gave 4.4 percent through CP and 4.4 percent to the IMB.
According to the 2009 ACP, the church gave a total of $3,048,759 in missions gifts, with $12,859 in designated gifts for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering in addition to the church’s budgeted LMCO gifts, $20,565 for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, and $160,740 for associational missions.
Wright is the founding pastor of Johnson Ferry, which began in 1981 with 20 families meeting in a doctor’s office.
Scott Barkley is production editor of the Georgia Baptist Index