Fred Luter Has the Right Stuff to Lead the Southern Baptist Convention
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"It's a new day in the Southern Baptist Convention," Luter told the PBS program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly. "Our doors are open to each and everybody."
Luter, 55, has been pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans more than 25 years. Under his leadership, Franklin Avenue has become one of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the state, with nearly 5,000 members. At one time, it was an all-white Southern Baptist congregation. But in the 1970s, whites moved out of the neighborhood, and the congregation became mostly African-American.
A New Orleans native, Luter grew up in a black Baptist denomination. When he arrived at Franklin Avenue in 1986, there was debate about leaving the SBC. Luter convinced the congregation to stay affiliated with the denomination.
"I knew this convention had a heart for evangelism, had a heart for discipleship and had a heart for reaching people in difficult times, and I felt this is the right place for us," he said.
Luter is currently the SBC's first African-American first vice president. He is the only declared candidate for president, although additional nominations may be made from the floor of the SBC's annual convention, which will be held June 19-20 in Luter's hometown.
The SBC is about 80 percent white. In recent years, the denomination has adopted resolutions of apology for its previous stands on racial issues.
"I have a past, you have a past, everybody has a past. This convention, unfortunately, has a past that we're trying to move forward from, and that's how I look at it," Luter said. "There was apology made, and so it's now time to move on."
Still, Luter acknowledged that racism is an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed, in the denomination and across the nation. While he doesn't agree with all of President Obama's policies, he has been troubled by what he sees as a lack of respect for the president in many quarters.
Source: Black Voices - Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly | Kim Lawton
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