Popular Georgia evangelical pastor criticizes anti-refugee politics

A prominent Southern Baptist minister says Christians have a biblical duty to assist Syrian refugees, despite concerns over terrorism.

“We know there’s risk,” said Bryant Wright, senior pastor at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in suburban Atlanta. “But as Christians, we’re called to live by faith versus fear.”

Wright’s 8,000 member church is helping a small family of Syrian Muslims resettle in Georgia. The couple and their four-year-old son stayed with a church family until they were able to move into their own apartment.

The church has pledged to assist the refugees with clothing, food and shelter — even if the State of Georgia refuses to help out.

On Nov. 16, Republican Gov. Nathan Deal issued an executive order blocking state agencies from assisting in the resettlement of Syrian refugees until the federal government reevaluates its screening guidelines. The order came just three days after a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in France.

“In light of the Paris events, it just goes to show that you can’t be too careful,” Deal said shortly after signing the order.

A spokeswoman for Deal told Fox News the governor’s office is waiting for Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens to issue a formal legal opinion on the executive order.

Pastor Wright, who had already committed to helping the refugee family long before the executive order, said he respectfully disagrees with the Georgia governor.

“I recognize his calling as the governor is for the security of the citizens, to administer justice, to punish evil,” Wright said. “He has a different role in the role of governance. But our calling as Christians is to reach out to our neighbor — whoever that may be, from all around the world — just as Jesus teaches in the story of the Good Samaritan.”

Wright had stronger criticism for GOP presidential contender Donald Trump, who has called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.

“It makes me very sad that there are a good number of conservative Christians that have bought in to this rhetoric,” Wright said. “I think, sadly though, it’s a reaction because of fear rather than responding, as we’re called to respond, in faith as followers of Jesus Christ.”