(Photo: Baptist Press / Kent Harville)
Bryant Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., was re-elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention at its annual meeting Tuesday. He defeated California pastor Wiley Drake, who nominated himself, 95.39 percent to 4.26 percent.
Wright was nominated by David Platt, senior pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala. Platt traveled with Wright to the Middle East recently and said he saw Wright care for pastors by praying for them and weeping with them.
“Amidst all of our talk about the Great Commission, this is a brother who is doing it,” Platt said. “He pastors a church full of people who are passionate about spreading the Gospel both locally and globally. This is not an ‘either or’ for them. This is a ‘both and.’ The people of Johnson Ferry are active in sharing Christ all across Atlanta, baptizing hundreds of new believers this last year, ministering to urgent spiritual and physical need all across their community. And then they are directly involved in ministries to more than 30 different countries around the world.”
In a historic vote, the Convention also elected its first African-American first vice president – the Rev. Fred Luter, who pastors Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.
According to Baptist Press, Luter received 1,558 votes (77 percent) and his challenger, Rick Ong, a deacon at First Chinese Baptist Church in Phoenix, received 441 votes (22 percent). Thirteen votes were disallowed.
According to The Associated Press, Luter said it doesn’t make him uncomfortable that people want to see this as a milestone for African-Americans.
“There’s no way we can get around it,” Luter said. “Here’s a convention that started on slavery. Years later you have an African-American one step away from the presidency. I can’t deny that.”
Luter is not the first African-American to hold an executive position with the SBC. In 1994, the Convention elected Rev. Gary Frost as its second vice president. The following year, the Convention issued an apology to African-Americas for supporting slavery.
“It took us 150 years to come to our senses … and seek the forgiveness of God and to apologize with our African-American friends and to ask their forgiveness for the strain of racism all through our history,” SBC President Bryant Wright said after the vote.
“But there’s a noble reason for which we were founded and that is for the propagation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he added.
Virginia pastor Eric Thomas was elected as the second vice president.
The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the country with over 16 million members.