The organization traditionally recognizes an evangelical leader for significant achievement with a "Layperson of the Year Award," but this year chose to recognize Bright for service over the course of his lifetime.
"Words cannot express the impact that ... Bill Bright has had on not just the evangelical communities in America and around the world but on the face of the church as a whole around the world," said Bishop Kevin Mannoia, president of the evangelical umbrella organization.
Bright, who is ill with pulmonary fibrosis, was unable to attend the ceremony, held on the closing night of the NAE meeting. Crawford Loritts, associate director of Campus Crusade's U.S. ministries, accepted the award on Bright's behalf.
Bright and his wife, Vonette, began the Orlando, Fla.-based ministry 50 years ago. Since then it has expanded to include 68 specialized ministries with targets ranging from executives and athletes to inner cities.
The evangelical organization also honored Bishop George McKinney, pastor of St. Stephen's Church of God in Christ in San Diego, with its Racial Reconciliation Award. McKinney's church has developed numerous urban ministries and cooperates with churches of other denominations and racial/ethnic makeups to help the needy.
"He tirelessly challenges others to rethink their definitions of justice and forgiveness," said Mannoia, bishop emeritus of the Free Methodist Church of North America.
Leaders in the evangelical organization, whose meeting was attended by about 500 people, plan to have a national summit on marriage in October and have begun a new effort to develop a public statement and other resources regarding the role of evangelicals in addressing public policy issues.