La. Minister Positioned to Become First Black President of Mostly White Southern Baptist Convention
Description: The Southern Baptist Convention could make history during its annual meeting at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans next week. The delegation could elect the first black president in the history of the 167-year-old organization, the Rev. Fred Luter, the 55-year-old pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. The Southern Baptist Convention is comprised of 48,500 churches, making it the largest protestant group in the United States. Only 3,500 of those churches, or 7-percent are black. Almost all black baptists are members of the National Baptist Convention, not the Southern Baptist Convention. So far, Luter is the only candidate for the job. In a recent poll of ministers making up the Southern Baptist Convention, 86-percent said it would be good to elect a black president. While Luter is African-American, colleagues say his rise has nothing to do with his race, and everything to do with his talent and management skills. Between 13,000 and 15,000 baptists are expected to be in New Orleans for the meeting.
When Rev. Luter became pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, he says it only had about 50 members. The congregation swelled to more than 7,000 before Hurricane Katrina forced many people to leave the city. According to Luter, the church currently has more than 5,000 parishioners, still making it the largest church in Louisiana.
Should Luter be elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, he says it will be a great opportunity to let people of every ethnicity know they are welcome to join the organizations. It is no longer "their grandfather's Southern Baptist Convention," an organization that broke from northern baptist to help keep slavery in place. Luter says he will also have more opportunities to spread the gospel and increase the reaches of the church. He says the opportunity to preach in white churches will not be new. He has done that for two decades. Luter says whites generally appreciate the passion exuded by black preachers and choirs. He says the only difference he notices is fewer "amens."
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