Wright calls for unity in SBC’s ‘new era’
Jerry Pierce & Tammi Ledbetter, Baptist Press
June 17, 2011

Wright calls for unity in SBC’s ‘new era’

Wright calls for unity in SBC’s ‘new era’
Jerry Pierce & Tammi Ledbetter, Baptist Press
June 17, 2011

PHOENIX — Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Bryant

Wright broke with tradition following his re-election to a second term June 14

as he asked SBC entity leaders Frank Page, Kevin Ezell and Tom Elliff to join

him in the customary president’s news conference.

Wright thanked “the people of the convention who felt led for me to serve in

this role another year” and noted that Page as Executive Committee president,

Elliff as International Mission Board president and Ezell as North American

Mission Board president all took office within the past year, marking a

historic change of leadership in the SBC.

Wright called for unified support of the three colleagues: “As your president,

I am asking Southern Baptists to join me in covering these men in prayer and

support as we enter a new era of leadership.”

The annual meeting in Phoenix marked an opportunity for renewed focus on unity

rooted in “love for the Lord and in carrying out His Great Commission together,”

Wright said.

“Unity is a byproduct of being in the will of God and on mission


Noting two crucial challenges before the convention — planting churches in

unreached North American areas and engaging unreached people groups

internationally — Wright called on Baptist Press and state papers to keep those

two issues in front of Southern Baptists.

Photo by Van Payne

Bryant Wright, re-elected to a second one-year term as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, answers questions during a news conference after the close of the first day of the two-day Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting June 14-15 at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Ariz.

Wright also asked churches to keep their state conventions informed of new

church plants and people groups they engage with the gospel, “so we can publish

reports about what God has accomplished through our churches as we work


Wright said: “The Spirit of the Lord is moving in a unique way in these days,

and we hope Southern Baptists will lead the way in building up the Kingdom of

God to fulfill our Great Commission.”

Rebekah Kim, who, with her husband Paul, ministers on the Harvard University

campus in Boston, asked Elliff about the increased cooperation between the

International and North American mission boards approved by messengers June 14.

Elliff said he and Ezell would have initiated a greater cooperation between the

two boards anyway because they are friends.

“Those of us at the International Mission Board cannot wait to receive the

benefit of the expertise the North American Mission Board will bring to our

table in terms of church planting,” Elliff said. “And I’m glad that when people

give their Cooperative Program dollars, they know they don’t have to separate

them up or worry about giving more to the one than to the other. They know they

can trust that these agencies are working together.”

In turn, Ezell said he was reading Elliff’s book on prayer last year as he was

finishing his tenure as Pastors’ Conference president. He walked off the stage

after the Orlando meeting, and checked the voice messages on his phone. The

first one was from Elliff.

“I consider him a mentor …,” Ezell said. “We would do this anyway.”

Asked how the four men’s peacemaking personalities would influence Southern

Baptists generally, Page replied: “We’re pastors. We’ve learned in church what

it takes to get along and what it takes to not get along. And we’re committed

to dialoging in the way Christ wants us to. We had enough of church members not

doing that, and we’ve seen what happens when disagreements or even differences

of opinion or differences of emphasis are dealt with in a Christlike way versus

a non-Christlike way. So I hope we are setting examples.”

Page also fielded two questions about the emphasis on ethnic diversity in the

SBC, noting that two decades ago Time magazine identified Southern Baptists as

the most ethnically diverse denomination. Even so, “we’ve got a long way to go,”

Page said.

Some ethnic Southern Baptists have been “reluctant to step up to the plate” in

leadership roles, Page added, while others have not participated heavily in the

Cooperative Program, and yet others have not felt like “full partners” in a

Anglo-dominant convention.

Calling the 2011 meeting a watershed time, Page said, “I think Southern

Baptists have taken a bold step to say we do care about every ethnicity, every

group, and we want to move past just saying nice things, to full involvement.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Pierce is managing editor and Tammi Ledbetter is news editor

of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas