VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 9/23/14)—Rev. Dr. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins III, executive director and chief executive officer of American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) and Judson Press, will retire October 30, 2015.
American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ Board of Directors received Wright-Riggins’ retirement notice with both sadness and celebration, says President Dr. Clifford I. Johnson. “Dr. Wright-Riggins is the type of leader who will be missed, for he has provided exemplary leadership to ABHMS,” Johnson said.” His role as executive director has never wavered; he has kept liberty and justice in the forefront of American Baptist ministry for our member churches for decades. His work has provided a strong foundation for a new leader to build upon.”
American Baptist Churches USA General Secretary Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley also lifted up Wright-Riggins’ unswerving focus on justice as a hallmark of his ministry: “Dr. Wright-Riggins has been a consistent voice for justice in American Baptist life and the life of the larger church. His uncompromising commitment to faith with its feet on the ground has caused us to more substantially minister to children in poverty, lead in the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina, challenge the underlying structures of racism in our country and proclaim hope to the oppressed. An outstanding preacher, he has the capacity to move hearts and minds to reflect and act upon our faith in Jesus in new ways that address pressing social issues. While he is retiring from his leadership role with American Baptist Home Mission Societies and American Baptist churches, we pray that he will not be retiring his voice of advocacy for a more just and inclusive world.”
Wright-Riggins will celebrate 40 years as an ordained American Baptist minister as well as 55 years as a licensed gospel preacher in 2015. Since his ordination, he has been serving as a pastor, civil rights leader, educational administrator and ABHMS leader. When he retires, Wright-Riggins will have completed almost a quarter century of ABHMS leadership, the longest consecutive tenure of any executive director or executive secretary in the organization’s 182-year history.
“When I was commissioned to ministry at the Home Mission Societies,” Wright-Riggins says, “my spiritual director counseled me to wear the role like a loose garment, never becoming too attached to it, nor finding my essential identity in it. After periods of discernment and prayer, I feel a strong call to make room for new executive leadership in ABHMS and ABCUSA and pass this particular mantle on to the next generation,” he says. “I hear God calling me to make room for a ‘Joshua’ or a ‘Deborah’ to take the Home Mission Societies to its next level of faithfulness and excellence.”
Johnson noted the significance of Wright-Riggins’ retirement during his 40th anniversary year of ordination. “The number 40 is often used in Christian and Jewish traditions to symbolize new beginnings. We claim Dr. Wright-Riggins’ announcement as a new beginning for Aidsand and his family and his next stage of ministry. We also know that, because of his faithful and fruitful service, ABHMS will continue its journey of discipleship, community and justice with steadfast hope and a bright future.”
In light of the impending organizational change, the ABHMS Board of Directors has declared October 2014 through October 2015 a time for “Celebrating and Charting the Continuing ABHMS Journey,” when ABHMS resources and activities will be dedicated toward self-consciously recalling and reconnecting to its history and values and prayerfully considering the present and future as Kairos opportunities. The board will celebrate the ministry and tenure of Dr. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins III during the ABHMS “Space for Grace” conference to be held November 3-7, 2015, in Los Angeles, Calif.
ABHMS—the domestic mission arm of American Baptist Churches USA—ministers as the caring heart and serving hands of Jesus Christ across the United States and Puerto Rico through a multitude of initiatives that focus on discipleship, community and justice.
ABCUSA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.