Meaning of Fred Luter’s presidency to Southern Baptists

Several thousand Southern Baptist pastors, church workers, laymen and their wives, most of them elected representatives (“messengers”) from their local … Continued

Several thousand Southern Baptist pastors, church workers, laymen and their wives, most of them elected representatives (“messengers”) from their local churches, witnessed history being made Tuesday in the New Orleans convention center.

With overwhelming affirmation, sustained applause and no verbal opposition, the Rev. Fred Luter, Jr., pastor of Franklin Ave. Baptist Church in New Orleans, was elected as the first African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, paraphrasing the abolitionist Theodore Parker, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Those in attendance at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual session witnessed a significant bend toward that justice.

The Southern Baptist Convention, born in 1845 over the slavery controversy (the refusal of the national Convention of Baptists to appoint a slaveholder as a missionary to Native Americans), and in large measure defensive of Jim Crow and segregation through at least the middle of the 20th century, elected an African American as president. I’m certain that the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. is smiling down with delight that such an event has taken place.

View Photo Gallery: New Orleans pastor Fred Luter Jr. became the first African American president of the 167-year-old Southern Baptist Convention, whose members are meeting this week in Luter’s home town.

The Southern Baptist Convention has gone from being virtually an all-white domination as late as 1970 to being one of the most ethnically diverse denominations. Approximately 22 percent of Southern Baptists are non-Anglo. Of the approximately 45,000 local congregations of Southern Baptists in the United States, 10 percent are now African American in their membership. Hundreds of others are Hispanic-American, Asian-American and Native-American. In fact, virtually all growth in Southern Baptist membership in the last decade has been ethnic.

A tremendously significant step was taken at the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Southern Baptist Convention when, in 1995, the convention passed a resolution apologizing to African Americans for having supported slavery and racism and asked for the forgiveness of their African American brothers and sisters. The convention had passed numerous resolutions between 1946 and 1995 condemning racism, but had never accepted responsibility for its own participation in the evil of human bondage and racial discrimination. This apology led to a significant upsurge in African Americans feeling welcome in the Southern Baptist Convention. Luter’s election as president (not an honorific office, but a position of real power) is another giant step in the Southern Baptist Convention achieving its stated goal of having a membership that reflects the demographic makeup of the country.

Millions of Southern Baptists of every ethnicity are praying that God will use them and their convention to lead the way to the fulfillment of King’s dream of a nation where people, “Will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Richard Land is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission



    It means that about 80% of the membership and 90% of their affiliated churches will pull out. That IS the church of degenerate racists and bigots, after all.


    Re biggot/hypocrite: There’s room for one more!


    So much for the racist claim! Well done Christians-loving God and loving others really does work!

  • OZ in OK

    The tragedy here is that Southern Baptist Convention has merely refocused their bigotry – now their ire, animus and selective scriptural interpretations targets LGBT Americans. Will it be another 50 years before they start trying to rewrite history, saying they were never *really* against CIVIL equality for LGBT Americans?

  • mammyyel

    A by-line for Richard Land. Maybe the’re slack to police their own — and themselves — but is there a contract by WaPo to maintain pandering?

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

Read More Articles

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.