Wright addresses CP giving, women's roles, denominationalism
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) - In addition to sharing his vision as president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Bryant Wright dialogued with students and faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary during an afternoon Q-and-A session, Nov. 3. Wright, pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., answered questions on key topics, including his views on state conventions' distribution of Cooperative Program (CP) funds, women in ministry and how to engage younger pastors in a post-denominational world.
"The biggest passion of my life for our convention is that Christians and the local church return to their first love of Jesus," Wright said. He lamented the ever-present idols of materialism, hedonism, workaholism and technology obsession that pervade the culture, even among professing Christians.
"We have so allowed the culture to influence the church rather than the church being the transforming agent of the Gospel to the culture," Wright said.
In addition to his passion to see Southern Baptists completely devoted to Christ, Wright said his second desire is to see missions giving and involvement increase on personal, congregational and denominational levels. This includes, he said, Baptist state conventions reallocating CP funds to better support mission efforts outside of their state.
"I'm really convicted that our convention needs a passionately revised reprioritization of our denominational missions giving," Wright said. He noted the example of state conventions like the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, which sends 55 percent of CP funds to the SBC and only keeps 45 percent to support its own ministries.
"I really believe our state (convention) executives have the chance to be the heroes of our convention over the next few years. To be willing to make these kinds of changes in funding will be an incredibly unselfish act on their part.
"If there' s an unwillingness to do that, I just think younger pastors are going to ignore them, and I think you're already seeing it happen. It will just increase more. Giving for CP would rise dramatically if there were more states like Texas as far as seeking to give out more than what they keep."
When asked about his stance on the role of women in ministry, Wright said, "I feel like we have some very clear biblical guidance about the role of women in ministry leadership in the body of Christ." While women are created equal with men and there is no discrimination in spiritual gifts, Wright said, God chose to order roles in such a way that men are given spiritual leadership responsibility in the home as well as in the church as elders, pastors and deacons.
Wright was also asked how he hopes to engage younger pastors who have distanced themselves from the denomination.
"We have to realize it's not only a post-Christian but a post-denominational world. Once we accept that rather than moan and groan about that, then I think we begin to get on the right track of recognizing that unless it is something meaningful for the younger pastors to join with other pastors who are like-minded in our viewpoint as Southern Baptist churches, we're missing the boat.
"If, within our denomination, there's a passionate focus on fulfilling Christ's Great Commission and resources and tools to better do that together as churches, rather than independently, then I believe you're going to see a positive response."
Wright said that at Johnson Ferry they like to say they abhor denominationalism but are okay with denominations.
"We're willing to live with some of the negative stereotypes that all of us deal with as Southern Baptists in order to do more together."
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Keith Collier is director of news and information at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas (www.swbts.edu/campusnews).
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