Dr. Aidsand Wright-Riggins III, who led the American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) for nearly a quarter century, retired in November as the longest serving employee in the history of organizations affiliated with American Baptist Churches USA. In addition to being executive director of ABHMS, he also served as the chief executive officer of Judson Press, which is the publishing arm of American Baptist Churches USA.
Dr. Wright-Riggins is well-known for his work on racial and social justice issues. During his career, he has served as a pastor, civil rights leader, educational administrator and ABHMS leader. As a denominational leader, he led the charge in many ways for reconciliation and transformation. It was his belief that the full scope of American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ mission included “evangelism and emancipation, spiritual formation and social justice, church planting and community transformation.” This vision was evident in the many successes he had while at the helm of ABHMS.
“Throughout his ministry Dr. Wright-Riggins has been a champion for the cause of justice. It was a deep pleasure to participate in his retirement celebration and honor his ministry. Dr. Wright-Riggins has shown generations of ministers what it means to stand up for the gospel of Jesus Christ and to do it with flare. He has made us proud to be Baptist and I am grateful for his continued ministry,” said NBC National Coordinator Hannah McMahan.
To help mark this milestone in Dr. Wright-Riggins’ life, the Space for Grace Conference was held Nov. 4-7 in Los Angeles where Baptist leaders gathered to discuss issues of race, class, religion and culture and how to invite God’s healing grace to be a guide along the journey for justice. It was a fitting tribute to a leader who dedicated his career to working on behalf of marginalized people and social justice. He once described his commitment to the work in no uncertain terms:
“I am unapologetically evangelical, unashamedly ecumenical and unabashedly committed to the emancipation of all people from personal and public sin and selfishness. If we can walk in the reality that we are found, free, full and forgiven,” Wright-Riggins says, “faithfulness and fruitfulness will be the legacy of our lives and ministry.”
More than 500 participants attended workshops, plenary sessions and other events to discover new ways to engage with one another and embrace rather than avoid diversity. A photo essay of this event can be found here.
In addition to his retirement, 2015 also marks 40 years as an ordained American Baptist minister as well as 55 years as a licensed gospel preacher. He will now carry the title of Executive Director Emeritus for ABHMS. Dr. Wright-Riggins has been a staunch supporter of the work of the New Baptist Covenant and plans to continue to do so in his retirement.
Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, who also has been engaged in the work of the New Baptist Covenant movement, was called to serve as the new executive director for ABHMS. Dr. Haggray has a wealth of experience in denominational life, having been the executive director/minister of the D.C. Baptist Convention where he was highly regarded for his work in creating a sustainable model of collaborative ministry that helped congregations to convert their passions into mission action. He has extensive experience in Baptist life having served on the board of the Baptist World Alliance and the Baptist Joint Committee on Religious Liberty. He has also served as pastor for Baptist churches in New Jersey, Washington, D.C. and Georgia. For New Baptist Covenant, Dr. Haggray has been a co-chair of the national planning team.
“I am so pleased to see Dr. Jeffrey Haggray stepping into this leadership position. He has proved to be a leader with great courage and insight. I am eager to see what American Baptist Home Mission Societies will do under his leadership,” said McMahan.
Moving forward into this new era, Dr. Haggray is committed to strengthening ABCUSA as a foremost Christian movement that empowers congregations, develops disciples and transformational leaders, and promotes a gospel of reconciliation, unconditional love, mercy and justice. At ABHMS, that commitment translates, in part, to his goal of ensuring that staff members continue to provide the highest quality support to congregations, regions and institutional partners to advance God’s mission.