Dr. Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He ran unopposed.
Dr. Luter is well qualified. Franklin Avenue has gone from being a lifeless, aging, dying congregation to the largest Southern Baptist church in Louisiana under his leadership. He leads a church in the middle of what has become, through many factors, not the least of which was Hurricane Katrina, one of the most difficult mission fields in the country. He is articulate, hard working, yet gentle and graceful. He is certainly well liked. The convention does not always pick highly qualified individuals for its officers, many times choosing someone because of the influence they wield, or who they know. But that isn’t the case with Dr. Luter. This time, the Southern Baptist Convention picked a winner.
They also picked an African American.
For a denomination that has never done that before, that’s remarkable. For a denomination that was birthed as the result of a split over a controversy about whether slaveowners could be sent as missionaires, it is mind boggling.
Though it comes at a time when I am no longer Southern Baptist, I am very happy for everything that this officer election means. I have a number of African American friends and aquaintances who are Southern Baptist, and I am happy for what this means to them. I am happy for the chairman of deacons in the last SBC church where I served, a gracious and gifted African American man who was color blind when it came to race relationsh. I’m happy for godly pastors like Dwight McKissic, whose personal struggles and difficulties as an African American member of the Southwestern Seminary trustee board have now been, at least in part, rewarded and given new meaning as a result of Dr. Luter’s election. I hope that, someday, Dr. McKissic will also experience the affirmation of being elected to a national level office in the Southern Baptist Convention, perhaps even the presidency.
Sometimes, the news coming out of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting highlights something they’ve done to embarrass themselves or the whole constituency. This is good news. Congratulations to Dr. Luter, and to the convention. Ya done good.