Former IMB Missionary Vying for Southern Baptist Presidency

( [email protected] ) Sep 12, 2007 04:17 AM EDT

A former missionary of the International Mission Board is looking to become the president of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination – a feat that would surprisingly be the first of its kind, he says.

William L. (Bill) Wagner, who served as Southern Baptist missionary of 31 years, has announced that he will allow his name to be on presidential ballot at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting next year.

"It is hard to believe that the Southern Baptist Convention, historically and currently bound together in their desire to introduce others to the Gospel all over the world, have never had an International Mission Board missionary as their president, never had someone from a pioneer context (west of Texas or north of Maryland) as its president, never had a pastor of a small church as its president, and never had a trained missional strategist at its helm," Wagner told Baptist Press.

In addition to having served as SBC’s second vice president in 2003-2004, Wagner has also served as a professor of missions at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., north of San Francisco. And in his years of missionary work with the International Mission Board – the international missions agency of the SBC – the longtime Southern Baptist served as a regional consultant for evangelism and church growth for Europe and the Middle East and helped plant churches in three countries.

Today, Wagner is president of Olivet University International in San Francisco and chairman of The Christian Post’s Board of Directors. He also pastors Snyder Lane Baptist Church, a small church in the San Francisco Bay area.

As the author of How Islam Plans to Change the World, Wagner says he has a passion for reaching Muslims with the Gospel. He has worked with Muslims for nearly 50 years and engaged in dialogues on Christianity and Islam.

If elected as the next SBC president, Wagner says he would seek to:

• Help SBC churches become more missional in lifestyle and outreach and work to make the Cooperative Program a priority for Southern Baptists

• Create a more comprehensive Mega strategy which includes improved public relationships with the secular world

• Find a method to use SBC college students in world evangelism

• Work more closely with the minority churches

• Help strengthen SBC's relationships with leaders of Baptists Unions and Conventions worldwide

• Support the Conservative Resurgence and encourage SBC schools to teach biblical basics to students

• Enlarge the tent so that all conservative Southern Baptists will find a home in the SBC

• Create a program where Baptist schools will teach about denominational policies and explain why current practices exist within the SBC

• Help make Southern Baptists aware of current issues and religions that pose significant obstacles to the advancement of the Gospel

• Emphasize the importance of the small church

"I think that we really need to make some significant changes," Wagner stated.

The current SBC president is Frank Page who was elected in June to a second one-year term.