Bill Bright

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Bill Bright
Bill Bright.jpg
Bill Bright, 1981
Born (1921-10-19)October 19, 1921
Died July 19, 2003(2003-07-19) (aged 81)
Known for Campus Crusade for Christ now known in the US as CRU
Spouse(s) Vonette Zachary Bright

William R. "Bill" Bright (October 19, 1921 – July 19, 2003) was an American evangelist. In 1951 at the University of California, Los Angeles he founded Campus Crusade for Christ as a ministry for university students.[1] In 1952 he wrote The Four Spiritual Laws. In 1979 he produced the film Jesus.

In 1996 Bill Bright was awarded the $1.1 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, and donated the money to promote the spiritual benefits of fasting and prayer.[2] In 2001 he stepped down as leader of the organization and Rev. Steve Douglass became president.[1] He died in 2003.

Early life[edit]

Born in Coweta, Oklahoma, Bright described himself as being a "happy pagan" in his youth. He graduated from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma with an Economics degree. As a student at Northeastern State University, he was initiated into the Zeta Chapter of Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity, and has subsequently been granted honorable alumni status to Alpha Gamma Omega Christ-Centered Fraternity. While in his early 20s he moved to Los Angeles, California and founded a company called Bright's California Confections. In 1948 he married Vonette Zachary Bright.

Early ministry[edit]

In 1944, while attending the First Presbyterian Church, Hollywood, Bright became an Evangelical Christian. He immediately began intensive Biblical studies which led him to graduate studies at Princeton and Fuller Theological Seminaries (although he never completed a degree at either). It was while he was a student at Fuller that he felt what he regarded as the call of God to help fulfill Christ's Great Commission (Matthew 28:19) by sharing his faith, beginning with students at UCLA. This gave birth to the Campus Crusade for Christ movement.

During the decades to follow, Bill Bright and his wife, Vonette Bright, remained faithful to this work, and the ministry expanded greatly. In 2011 Campus Crusade for Christ had 25,000 missionaries in 191 countries.[3]

In 1952, he wrote The Four Spiritual Laws, an evangelistic Christian tract. In the booklet he outlines his view of the essentials of the Christian faith concerning salvation. It is summarized as four spiritual laws or principles that govern what he sees as human beings' relationship with God. The booklet ends with a prayer of repentance.


Bright held five honorary doctorate degrees: a Doctor of Laws from the Jeonbuk National University of Korea, a Doctor of Divinity from John Brown University, a Doctor of Letters from Houghton Seminary, a Doctor of Divinity from the Los Angeles Bible College and Seminary, and a Doctor of Laws from Pepperdine University.[4]

In 1983, he chaired the National Committee for the National Year of the Bible. He was named the 1996 recipient of the $1.1 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. He donated the prize money to causes promoting the spiritual benefits of fasting and prayer.

He wrote more than 100 books and booklets, and thousands of articles and pamphlets that have been distributed in most major languages by the millions. He endorsed the document Evangelicals and Catholics Together. Bright was a co-founder of the Alliance Defense Fund which funds high-profile litigation cases on behalf of Christians' First Amendment rights. He was also a co-signatory[5] of the Land letter of 2002 which outlined a just war rationale for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, providing a theological underpinning for the invasion being planned by President George W. Bush.

He produced the film Jesus in 1979, which was released by Warner Bros. in the United States. It was not a financial success, losing approximately $2 million. While praising its "meticulous attention to authenticity", critics panned Jesus for being "painfully monotonous". The Los Angeles Times called it a "...dull Sunday-School treatment of the life of Christ."

In 1988 he led the protest against the Martin Scorsese film The Last Temptation of Christ and he called the film "blasphemous".[6] He offered to buy the film's negative from Universal in order to destroy it.[7]


Bright died in 2003. He was survived by his wife Vonette, sons Zachary and Brad, and four grandchildren. His wife died in 2015.[8]

The Rev. Billy Graham released a statement on Bright's death: "He has carried a burden on his heart as few men that I've ever known - a burden for the evangelization of the world. He is a man whose sincerity and integrity and devotion to our Lord have been an inspiration and a blessing to me ever since the early days of my ministry."[9]

Further reading[edit]

  • Turner, John G. (2008). Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ : the renewal of evangelicalism in postwar America. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0-8078-3185-4. 


External links[edit]