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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Dr. Frank Wright Announces His Intention to Step Down as NRB President & CEO
He guided NRB through difficult times

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

MANASSAS, VA (ANS) -- National Religious Broadcasts (NRB) President & CEO Dr. Frank Wright, who has led the association for the past 10 years, made a surprise statement on Monday when he announced his intention to step down this coming October from its leadership.

Dr. Frank Wright

He did so shortly after presiding over NRB 2013, where thousands of communicators from around the world congregated March 2-5, 2013, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee for its 70th Annual Convention & Exposition.

An NRB ( ) release stated that, after a decade of service and leadership as NRB’s President and CEO, Dr. Wright had shared his decision in a letter to NRB Chairman Rich Bott, saying that he has “prayerfully concluded that my season of service at NRB is drawing to a close.”

Dr. Wright, added, referring to his wife of 32 years, “Ruth and I have counted this as a special season of blessing in our lives. We have felt our time in your service to be fruitful and fulfilling, yet we now have a clear sense that the Lord is leading us to another area of service.”

From now until October 4, 2013, Wright will continue to lead the association of Christian broadcasters and communicators.

Chairman Bott, meanwhile, will be appointing a search committee comprising members of the NRB Board of Directors and Executive Committee to begin the process of recruiting and vetting qualified candidates for the leadership position.

Dr. Frank Wright with Joni Eareckson Tada, her husband Ken, and Rich Bott, at NRB 2012 after Joni was inducted into the NRB Hall of Fame

“We appreciate Frank’s dedicated service and stellar performance as NRB’s President & CEO,” noted Bott. “We especially appreciate the top-notch team of dedicated professionals he has assembled to do the work of NRB, serve our membership and protect religious free speech on Capitol Hill. I trust that the Lord will bless us and guide our efforts as He so clearly did ten years ago with the selection and acceptance of Dr. Frank Wright.”

Dr. Wright was appointed to try and steady the ship after the previous leader of NRB, Wayne Pederson, had been forced out in February 2002 following a rather messy politics-religion controversy.

Pederson, now President of HCJB Global in Colorado Springs, Colorado, had already been appointed as the NRB President, when he gave an interview with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in which he suggested to that the NRB should be known more for its evangelical theology than its conservative stance on political and public policy issues. Pederson also said that people automatically associate Christian broadcasters with the Religious Right.

Shortly after the article was published, several prominent members of the then 1,300-member organization, publicly called for his resignation, and the incident threatened to split the NRB wide open.

But this gentle man, rather than see a huge split in the organization and after a month of escalating controversy over his choice of words, the executive committee of the National Religious Broadcasters voted 7-1 to accept the resignation of Pederson, effective February 16, 2002.

I was at that year’s convention when and was deeply shocked with the way Wayne Pederson had been treated for stating something, that for me, was fair comment. He had been voted in to succeed E. Brandt Gustavson, who died at the age of 64 on May 14, 2001, less than two months after being diagnosed with cancer of the liver and pancreas.

Dr. Gustavson had taken over the reins of NRB from Dr. Ben Armstrong, who served at the helm of the group from 1966 to 1990, and saw it grow in a large organization at which U.S. presidents like Ronald Regan and George Bush Sr. would come to speak at the convention when it was held in Washington, D.C. Ben Armstrong, died at the age of 87 his home in Sellersville, PA on Sunday, December 12, 2010. He was suffering from cancer and had been under hospice care.

Dan Wooding meets with George and Barbara Bush after being introduced to them
by Dr. Ben Armstrong

I got to know Dr. Armstrong very well and even travelled with him to both Israel and El Salvador, where we narrowly escaped from being killed when rebels shot at us. He even asked me to be the assistant press office at two NRB conventions in D.C. During one of them, he even arranged for me to meet with George and Barbara Bush at the start of one of them.

But back to Wayne Pederson, who had left his position as executive vice president at Northwestern Radio in St. Paul, Minnesota, to take the NRB position. After he had been “forced” out, he bravely addressed members briefly about his disappointment in the decision and hope for the unity of the organization.

“We're sad to leave, but [my wife Norma and I] would even be sadder still if this breaks NRB apart,” he said, referring to some members' suggestion that they might leave the association. “However you may feel about the issues, as they've been reported and greatly exaggerated, I trust that you will unite around a common cause.

“Preaching the gospel is our highest priority. And in doing that, and adopting a biblical standard, we will impact the culture. Setting our spiritual priorities in such a way, we will impact our culture with the gospel.”

Wayne Pederson and his wife Norma celebrating Christmas in their home

Pederson also encouraged the members to work at reaching the postmodern culture and to use new technologies, and after his remarks, he was given a standing ovation. I was one of those who joined in!

During an interview with Christianity Today, Wayne Pederson said, “If the National Religious Broadcasters is perceived by the public as the National Conservative Broadcasters, then our fortunes will rise and fall with the conservative movement in this country.

“I would much rather put my faith and my hope in Christ, and him alone, not Christ and something else, even if it is something as important as my conservative [beliefs] … That's a weakness that we as Christians have. We should transcend politics. We should point to Christ and to Him alone.”

During a later interview at a later NRB Convention, Pederson told me, “I quit my job in the Twin Cities area after thirty-four years and actually moved to Washington D.C. area and bought a home. I was voted, unanimously approved, by the board of directors to be the new president. And just prior to moving I did an interview with a Minneapolis newspaper.

“They actually interviewed some friends of ours -- Leith Anderson, who was moving to become the president of National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), Doug Trouten who was moving from Minneapolis to the Evangelical Press Association -- three people from Minneapolis moving to national positions.

“They interviewed us, and when the reporter was done the photographer was taking pictures and she said ‘how about the politics?’ I said, ‘Well, I’d like us to be focused more on evangelism than politics because I felt we were marginalizing our effectiveness in the religious world by being associated with the Christian right.”

After hearing this, he said, “Some of that group got very upset, they said this man shouldn’t be president and starting calling on the executive committee for me to resign… So the very night I was supposed to be inaugurated I got up in front of the convention and made this speech -- not sour grapes -- but we need to unite around what we’re called to do and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world and I want to reunite…

“I got a four minute standing ovation from the membership: they believed in where I was and some of the people who had made the decision to fire me were sitting on the dais behind me. I think there were kind of embarrassed. But you know, from your experience God takes even the negative things in our lives and uses it to mold us, shape us and humble us so that we can serve God more effectively. So even though it was incredibly painful and embarrassing, God used it to do some things in my life that prepared me for what I’m doing now.”

How did Pederson sort that out in his mind?

Wayne Pederson speaking
(Courtesy: HCJB Global)

“Well, first you wonder, ‘Did I hear God right?’ because it seemed so plain that He was leading me to this. Honestly, it took a few months to recover from that; I was kind of in a daze, saying to myself, ‘What on earth happened?’ I thought I was being obedient to the Lord, and then this happens. But I kept busy and did some consulting. I worked with Paul Cedar of Mission America, the Lausanne Committee, and helped start another organization for radio the Christian music broadcasters that exists to this day focusing on ministry-oriented music, non-commercial stations. But I just found ways that God could continue to use me.”

Then Pederson moved to Chicago to work at Moody Broadcasting. “I had the privilege of serving with Moody for five years in Chicago,” he said.

Pederson was manager of WMBI in Chicago and then became vice president of broadcasting his last three years there.

“Moody’s a great place with wonderful people; very historic and focused on presenting God’s word in a way that people can understand and accept. They turn out wonderful students that serve God around the world. That was a great period of time. I didn’t leave for any reason that I was unhappy -- I left because God was calling me to the global ministry of HCJB, but I have a deep, deep tender spot in my heart for Moody.”

So at a time when NRB could have easily split apart, the directors found Dr. Frank Wright, and he was installed as president of NRB, during the 60th Annual NRB Convention & Exposition (Feb. 7-11, 2003, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Conference Center in Nashville, Tenn.

Wright, who earned a Ph.D. in Business Administration (finance) from Florida Atlantic University, is the former founding executive director of The D. James Kennedy Center for Christian Statesmanship, based in Washington. He officially began his presidential duties Feb. 3, 2003.

He quickly and skillfully set about calming the trouble waters of the broadcasters association. In an interview with me in Nashville at NRB 2008, I asked him if he thought, at that difficult time, that he could have brought the different parties together to achieve unity.

“Well, unity in the Body of Christ is very important and there are times where we, as Christians, get into disagreements with one another that lead to unpleasantries, but those days are behind us,” he said. “God has poured oil on troubled waters and the members of NRB have looked around the world and saw that there are billions rushing off to an eternity without Christ and that we need to be unified so that we can effectively communicate the Gospel to the world.”

I wondered if he, initially, had been tempted to not take the job because of all the controversy swirling around at that time.

Dan Wooding interviewing Dr. Frank Wright
for television

“No, I was not,” Wright said firmly. “I would not say that was the case at all. When I was first contacted about becoming president of NRB, I said that I was not interested because I didn’t think it was the will of God, but after praying through about it during an eight or nine month period of time, the Lord showed me that there are times that you need to put your career in His hands, and you need to put decisions in His hands and so, after a lot of prayer and lots of meetings, I felt it was God’s will to come and God has been very kind to me here.”

Dr. Wright has done an excellent job in bringing together all the divergent views that make up the NRB membership, and especially has encouraged the overseas broadcasters to feel welcome at the annual conventions.

Frank Wright will be sorely missed by its members (and by me). He was also a real diplomat and he never once refused me an interview, even though he knew I would probably bring up the troubles he had inherited.

I am sorry to see him go, and I wish him God’s richest blessings in the next season of his life. Let’s hope that the new leader of NRB can continue the fine work that Frank Wright has done over his ten-year tenure.

Dan Wooding, 72, who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for 49 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and he hosts the weekly “Front Page Radio” show on the KWVE Radio Network in Southern California and which is also carried throughout the United States and around the world. Besides this, Wooding is a host for His Channel Live, which is carried via the Internet to some 192 countries. Dan recently received two top media awards -- the “Passion for the Persecuted” award from Open Doors US, and as one of the top “Newsmakers of 2011” from Plain Truth magazine. He is the author of some 45 books, the latest of which is “Caped Crusader: Rick Wakeman in the 1970s.” To order a copy, go to: Caped Crusader - Amazon

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