Activist in Howard elected president of Baptist convention

May 18, 1994|By Frank P. L. Somerville | Frank P. L. Somerville,Sun Staff Writer

An activist Howard County pastor -- a leader of a black ministers' group that campaigned successfully to defeat the gay rights bill in the Baltimore City Council this month -- was elected last night as president of a statewide convention of Baptists.

The Rev. John L. Wright, who will soon step down as Maryland president of the NAACP, was elected head of the United Baptist Missionary Convention and Auxiliaries by a nearly unanimous voice vote of the clergy and lay delegates meeting at West Baltimore's Concord Baptist Church.

He was the unanimous choice of a nominating committee headed by the Rev. Montague Brackett.

Mr. Wright succeeds the Rev. Nathaniel Higgs, an East Baltimore pastor, as president of the organization, which in Mr. Higgs' words has "65 membership churches and 35 backsliding churches."

Mr. Wright said that together the churches have more than 100,000 members, mostly in the city. The United Baptist Missionary group is one of several large Baptist associations active in Maryland.

The new president said he had already decided not to run for another term with the 24-branch state National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which he has headed for seven years, in anticipation of being elected last night to the leadership role in the United Baptist group.

The 57-year-old civil rights leader and doctrinally conservative Christian is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Guilford, on Oakland Mills Road in the Columbia area of Howard County. He said his 2,000-member congregation had 120 members when he took it over in 1972.

Concerning efforts by a coalition of clergy who pressured the City Council to reject the controversial domestic partnership bill, Mr. Wright said he saw both its intent and its chief backers in the homosexual community as "hostile" to marriage and the traditional family.

At the height of the political fight over the bill in March, Mr. Wright declared, "What we have here is an abomination. The city government endorsing these partnerships is sending out the wrong signal."

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