“… the election of Luter will not be, at least primarily, about fixing the sins of the past. Rather, it will be about the future of an organization that has seen declining membership for five straight years.”
The Washington Post
June 19, 2012 will go down in history as a monumental day for the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC, which was founded in 1845 because of a split over slavery, has taken a giant step away from its discriminatory past. Messengers met in New Orleans for the Annual Meeting and elected Fred Luter – the first ever black president of the convention. Luter, who serves as pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, received a standing ovation after the ballots were cast.
Wade Burleson and his son Logan documented the historic event. Take a look . . .
This news has been disseminated far and wide, as evidenced by this excerpt from The Washington Post.
“Luter’s election marks a watershed moment for the SBC. The organization was founded in a split over slavery before the Civil War and for decades was a largely segregated, all-white denomination. It was not until 1995 that the organization adopted a resolution of racial reconciliation; it has come under scrutiny for racial insensitivity as recently as the Trayvon Martin case, when the president of its policy arm made racially charged comments about the case.
But the election of Luter will not be, at least primarily, about fixing the sins of the past. Rather, it will be about the future of an organization that has seen declining membership for five straight years. The denomination—the largest Protestant body in the United States—will need to seek new growth from urban centers and minority groups, or at the very least, maintain its size by helping struggling churches find ways to stay afloat. “I think they thought racial diversity would happen,” Ed Stetzer, the president of the SBC’s research organization, told the Associated Press. “Now they realize they have to make it happen,” he said.”
The Baptist Press featured an interesting article entitled: Fred Luter’s trailblazing life rich with trials, blessings. It includes some interesting biographical information, along with the following:
‘The first African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention is amazed at how God has blessed his ministry, opening doors previously closed to those from Luter’s side of town.
“I’ve been with Southern Baptists for 25 years as pastor,” he said, “and I have a really, really good relationship with a lot of pastors across the convention, a lot of the directors of missions across the country, a lot of state execs, evangelism directors. I’ve preached for most of them, if not all of them.”
Luter was unopposed for the SBC presidency. A trailblazer in the SBC, the pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church was the first African American to preach the convention sermon at the annual meeting in 2001, also held in New Orleans, and in 2011 was the first black elected as SBC first vice president.
Luter got the SBC’s attention in the early 1990s when the church led the Louisiana Baptist Convention in baptisms. Wayne Jenkins, LBC director of evangelism and church growth, contacted Luter while attending a New Orleans meeting, when Luter graciously invited Jenkins to preach, having just met him.”
I watched the proceedings of the SBC Annual Meeting yesterday morning, and when they broke for lunch, I ran some errands. I had an interesting conversation with a Christian woman who is working toward a degree at Liberty University (primarily through online study). She works for and attends a predominantly black church, and I explained to her that the Southern Baptist Convention was about to elect its first ever black president. She was shocked! I then explained to her that perhaps a black president is the best thing that could happen to the SBC because Luter, more than any of his predecessors, understands the phrase “separate but equal” all too well.
As our conversation continued, I explained to her that some women in the SBC feel as though they are separate but equal. From my vantage point, it certainly appears that women are not ‘allowed’ to utilize their gifting for the body of Christ. It seems that the SBC just gives lip service to equality as they stress masculine and feminine roles. The black community by and large doesn’t view the limitations of women and their “gender roles” as Biblical.
She expressed her concern that the restrictions the SBC places on women will not be embraced by black Christians for the most part. As Luter works to bring back the glory to the Southern Baptist Convention, it will be interesting to see whether he advocates for women who appear to have been marginalized through “gender roles”. We will be watching to see how Luter works to reverse the declining trends in the Southern Baptist Convention. Finally, we will be praying for Fred Luter and the daunting task he faces in the years ahead.
It is extremely significant that Fred Luter was elected the first black president of the Southern Baptist Convention on June 19th, also known as Juneteenth Day.
Here is some background information on Juneteenth.
Thanks to an astute reader, Sergius Martin-George, who made this important connection between Luter’s election as SBC president and Juneteenth.
Lydia’s Corner: Hosea 4:1-5:15 2 John 1:1-13 Psalm 125:1-5 Proverbs 29:9-11