Southern Baptists look toward election of Fred Luter, first black president

Louisiana pastor unopposed at annual meeting in New Orleans

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There’s no sign outside New Creation Christian Church that declares its Southern Baptist affiliation.

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Worshippers pray during services at New Creation Christian Church in Augusta on Sunday.      MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Worshippers pray during services at New Creation Christian Church in Augusta on Sunday.

But the Rev. Kenneth Clay isn’t shy about letting church members know to which denomination his Essex Drive church belongs.

“I understand the name Southern Baptist can be a roadblock for some people, especially for African Americans,” said Clay, pastor of New Creation, one of just a few predominantly black Southern Baptist churches in Augusta. “It’s a great organization. I’m proud to be a part of it, but a lot of African-American people are surprised.”

This week, many members of his denomination anticipate the historic election of the first black president in the 167-year history of the Southern Baptist Convention. The Rev. Fred Luter, a Louisiana pastor, is running unopposed as Baptists gather for an annual meeting in New Orleans, Luter’s hometown, this week.

“I’m hoping it’s going to be a major step toward tearing down the racial barriers that still exist here in Augusta,” Clay said.

He says it’s good news for a denomination born out of racial divides that predate the Civil War. The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, was founded in Augusta in 1845 when Baptists in the South split from their Northern counterparts over the issue of slavery.

A LifeWay Research poll in May found that more than six in 10 Southern Baptist pastors agreed that it would be good for the convention to have a black president. One in 10 disagreed.

The Rev. Brad Whitt of Abilene Baptist Church said he looks forward to casting his vote for Luter.

“I believe that his election as president will be an undeniable statement of the heart and hope of the SBC,” said Whitt, who was named co-pastor of Abilene in May as the church’s longtime pastor, the Rev. Bill Harrell, prepares to retire.

“As Southern Baptists, we exist to take the good news of the Gospel of Jesus to every person on the planet,” he said. “Dr. Luter has evidenced his commitment to the Gospel and love for people through his ministry in New Orleans, both before and in the wake of hurricane Katrina.”

Luter is the senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, a church he’s credited with growing from 65 members in 1986 to more than 7,000 by 2005.

The makeup of the Southern Baptist Convention has changed significantly over the past few decades, according to LifeWay Research president Ed Stetzer.

“In the last 20 years, the percentage of non-Anglo SBC churches has grown from 5 percent to 20 percent, and now 7 percent of Southern Baptist churches are identified as primarily African-American,” Stetzer said. “But, we are still a predominantly Anglo denomination, so it is particularly encouraging to see the openness and enthusiasm for an African-American SBC president.”

Five percent – or 180 of Georgia’s 3,595 Southern Baptist churches – are black, according to Eddy Oliver, the director of communication services for the Georgia Baptist Convention.

“We have a total of 463 non-Anglo congregations in Georgia, and that number is growing each year,” Oliver said.

The South Carolina Baptist Convention doesn’t track those figures, a spokesman said.

The Aiken Baptist Association doesn’t have any predominantly black churches among the 73 it counts as members, said Director of Missions Jim Diehl.

“Honestly, I don’t know what sort of impact Luter’s election might have on the local church,” Diehl said. “The average church member couldn’t tell you who Fred Luter is. But it is a big deal to their pastors.”

The Southern Baptist Convention has made a concerted effort to reach out to black churches over the past few years, said Don Wheless, the outgoing director of missions at the Augusta Association of Baptist Churches. In his 14-year tenure, four black churches entered the association. Previously, there weren’t any.

“The election of Fred Luter would continue that effort,” he said. “However, I don’t know that it would affect black churches in this area one way or the other.”

Clay hopes it will.

“A lot of the African-American churches here in Augusta are unsettled by the Southern Baptist Convention. There’s a distrust, I think, but it comes from a lack of knowledge or a lack of understanding,” said Clay, one of several local pastors who met Luter when he appeared at a state evangelism conference at Abilene Baptist in 2004. “Hopefully, with Pastor Luter, that can change.”

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Craig Spinks
817
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Craig Spinks 06/18/12 - 02:35 am
1
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CONGRATULATIONS,

Pastor Luter and the SBC delegates who will elect you as SBC head.

curly123053
4267
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curly123053 06/18/12 - 07:32 am
3
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It's not about the color of

It's not about the color of the skin, it's about the heart. We all have to have the heart to do God's will no matter who we are. This move is more about looking forward to where God wants us to be going, not looking back to another time. Good luck Dr. Luter !

InChristLove
22420
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InChristLove 06/18/12 - 09:05 am
4
1
soapy_725, I will agree that

soapy_725, I will agree that there are "churches" not proclaiming the Truth but our society is not an indicator of what the church is presenting so much as the condition of the heart of those who should recieve it. No, softball leagues and movies won't save their soul but it will help attract and draw some in so that the Word of God can be planted and the Love of God can be shown. If you expect to reach the loss with just fire and brimestone preaching, you are sadly mistaken. A lot of people receive the Word when it is shown, rather than when it is "preached" to them. If you have a hungry sinner, do you think he/she is going to listen when all they can think about is their physical hungry. Take care of the physical hunger and they will be more receptive to the spiritual hunger.

I'm not sure if I'm reading your comments incorrectly but do you have an issue with this article. I think that it is wonderful that prodominently Africian American churches are uniting with their "white" brothers and sisters in Christ to reach one goal, and that is to help win lost souls for the glory of God. They are moving past "the past" and realizing that we are one in Christ. I am blessed to be part of a multi-racial, multi-cultural, Southern Baptist church and we are not black or white, we are sister and brother (just from another mother). How about rejoice that progress is being made instead of trying to find fault and put down those of faith. If I have misread your intentions, I apologies.

bdouglas
4535
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bdouglas 06/18/12 - 10:59 am
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@ICL: Well said in your 9:05

@ICL: Well said in your 9:05 comment.

@Soapy: You said: "I was attracted to Jesus Christ as a small child by the "awesome power of the Holy Spirit". I received the Word that He was my savior and friend."

How did this happen exactly? I'm curious. Who told you that He was your savior and friend? Was it through Bible stories told or acted out to you in a Sunday school class or kids camp of some sort? I would be inclined to think that it wasn't simply by someone preaching at you that you made this discovery, but what I'm gathering is that you now suggest that's the only good way of reaching people. The guy yelling on the street corner was never a good method of converting people to the Gospel of Christ, and it certainly doesn't work in today's culture (Westoboro Baptist Church has demonstrated this well). Christ's sacrifice and suffering might not be what draws people in initially because they've never heard it. But regardless of the method by which they are exposed or drawn to the Gospel, that message is certainly what keeps them. The method by which people hear is not our place to judge, as we were commanded only to plant the seed. The Holy Spirit will do the watering. Whether they are exposed to Him by a movie showing, a softball league, lattes or a CD full of music some more traditional church-goers might call "evil" is of no concern to me as long as they are exposed to it. If you have the "cure for cancer" that you spoke of, you can't just go to someone and hand them a pill saying "Here, take this and it will cure your cancer" and expect them to take you seriously. You show them why. You love them, you show you care about them and give them a reason to trust you. That's where all those things you disagree with come into play. Religion is about a relationship, and that heavenly relationship makes much more sense to people who have never had it when it starts with earthly relationships.

I'm not trying to change your mind about anything, as you say you are secure in your relationship with God. There's only one way to heaven, but there are plenty of ways to encounter God. My church uses many of the methods you disagree with to draw people in to hear the Word of God, and by all accounts, it works pretty well. My church (and yours!) is a church for ANYbody, but not the church for EVERYbody. And that's okay.

InChristLove
22420
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InChristLove 06/18/12 - 11:49 am
3
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“If the message of Christ

“If the message of Christ suffering on the cross does not attract sinners, then it will not keep them.”

I find this statement troublesome. I would think the message of Christ’s love is the message that attracts and renews a sinner. Although the suffering on the cross which Christ endured, proves how much He loves us, I do believe that the emphasis on His love for us would have a more heartfelt impact on a lost soul.

“I have attended churches and played softball. Most of the first string players never "darkened the door" of the church. Their salvation is between them and God.”

You are correct, their salvation is between them and God and it is not because of softball. They never darkened the door because they refused to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to them. At least you took the opportunity to show them God’s love through your actions and fellowship (hopefully you all played with Christian sportsman like conduct).

“If, you believe that "whatever we have to do to attract people to church is okay, then I have issue with same".

I don’t believe I inferred to “do what it takes” but I do believe sometimes we have to think outside the box to appeal to individuals to get their attention. This sinful world has such a strong attraction that sometimes it takes a festival, a bake sale, a softball game, a BBQ dinner, to get peoples attention and to draw them into the Christian fellowship so that their focus is on their spiritual need and not their worldly need and the seed of the Word can be planted. Why do you think VBS is such a popular witnessing tool for children, do you really think children are going to listen and receive the message listening to a one hour sermon. They require something they can relate to in order to allow the message to seep in and take root. Unbelievers are just like these young children.

I have seen both the message and organized religion change to look like the "world" and "act like the world".

I agree with you, but there are still some who still preach the Truth and those in organized religion that follow the teachings of Christ, you just have to be discernful to tell the difference, and because they don't stand up and preach hellfire and brimestone does not mean they are not preaching the gospel and winning souls for Christ.

(Did not Christ feed the 5,000 before he fed them the Word of God. Did he not dine with the apostles in the Upper Room before He spoke to them again of His death. Did He not socialize with His friends before performing His first miracle and beginning His ministry) Take care of the physical needs and present the spiritual need, God will take care of changing the heart.

InChristLove
22420
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InChristLove 06/18/12 - 12:14 pm
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This has nothing to do with

This has nothing to do with pragmatism, and no one has mentioned church attendance or membership. I've not mentioned anything but saving lost souls and my opinion on how to reach this corrupt, lost and dying world. It appears, you wish to stand on the side and yell protection from hellfire and brimestone....I wish to offer a bucket of healing water and some cooling ointment by the way of the cross. Which do you suppose will get the sinners attention.

By your last comment It appears you are starting to ramble and I'm afraid I have no clue what you are trying to say. "My Jesus was an entertainer"........I'm afraid sir, that your Jesus and my Jesus, must be two different individuals. My Jesus was the Son of God, my redeemer and savior, a loving, caring, man and spirit, that did not entertain but taught. Where you came up with the idea that Jesus wanted to perpetuate our sufferings, is lost on me. Who said this was his goal and what gave you that idea? No one said that one can be saved without admitting they are a sinner, ask for forgiveness, accept Christ as your Lord, and repent. Who said one can not be healed unless they admit their are a sinner? What are you talking about?

InChristLove
22420
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InChristLove 06/18/12 - 12:34 pm
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soapy, rest assured, I know

soapy, rest assured, I know whom my redeemer is and my soul and eternity rest in the hand of Almighty God. I do find myself testing the spirit where your comments are concerned and this is why I said your comments are troublesome.

"What shall I say. If I say I have Christian love for you and see you about to fall in the fire and do not warn you, what value is my love"

My question is, if I say I have Christian love for you and do nothing to show you what that love looks like, what value is it?

InChristLove
22420
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InChristLove 06/18/12 - 12:41 pm
2
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Matthew 25: 41-46 "41 Then

Matthew 25: 41-46 "41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' 44 Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' 45 Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.' 46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Soap, is this not from the Lord's own mouth, to take care of the physical as well as the spiritual needs?

InChristLove
22420
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InChristLove 06/18/12 - 12:53 pm
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soapy, I have no clue what

soapy, I have no clue what direction you are going with your comments. They seemed to be just random statements with no reasoning or thought pattern so it makes it very difficult to have a meaningful conversation with you. I will have to say one thing that has struck me, is all the "I", "I", "I"'s. Remember this is not about YOU but about Christ and saving the lost. Yeah, you had a wonderful spiritual experience as a child growing up, and you have been saved, but the important question is What have you done for others? How have you showed Christ love through your actions, not just talking the talk, but walking the walk? How many lost souls have to witness to that have turned their life over to Christ? You talk a lot about "you" but sure doesn't seem to be much focus on Christ.

InChristLove
22420
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InChristLove 06/18/12 - 12:59 pm
3
1
"But what draws me to a

"But what draws me to a Christian meeting place is the "desire to passionately worship and express my love to the One who died in my place".

Soap, that is because you already have Christ living in you so the desire is passionate to have a relationship with Him.

When someone is lost, they do not have that desire. Do you think the desire just drops out of thin air. The seed has to be planted in a heart that has been prepare by the Holy Spirt. It needs to be nurtured and cared for so that it will grow solid roots. You can not take a lost sinner, preach hellfire and brimstone to them and expect them to be receptive.

You take a lost sinner, tend to their physical and emotional needs while planting the seed of the Word of God, by action, teaching, and by prayer, then allowing the Holy Spirit to tend to the heart and that sinner will be more receptive to hearing about a God who loves them.

InChristLove
22420
Points
InChristLove 06/18/12 - 01:07 pm
3
1
Although your 12:45pm comment

Although your 12:45pm comment on Love is correct....what does it have to do with our conversation. This is what I mean by random comments.

Soap, seems like there have been multiple congregations that you have found fault with.....did you ever stop and think that maybe the problem is YOU. There is never going to be a perfect church because was are imperfect humans. If you expect to find the perfect church for you, then you are not seeking His people for the right reason. We are to pray where He will lead us and who knows, maybe He is leading you to that imperfect church in ordering to reveal their imperfection and so His glory can shine.

you stated Now we are using circular logic? Is is? Is is? If I said I would remember you in my prayers, I would be condescending, correct"

What in the heck are you talking about....until you begin making some kind of sense.....I do believe my end of the conversation is concluded.

InChristLove
22420
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InChristLove 06/18/12 - 01:21 pm
2
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Glorifying God and lifting up

Glorifying God and lifting up Christ is worship.....not teaching the Word of God.

I understand the difference and what I'm saying is that sometimes you have to use church programs (which I rather call ministries) to attrack the lost and then show and tell them about the love of Christ. As with everything, there are some church programs that are more for entertaining the members than being use for Christ but it is not in all cases as you so like to lump together as sinful and nonbeneficial.

"Faith without works is dead. Works without faith is as filthy rags in the site of GOD" Yes indeed, and it sure appears like you are promoting only faith and no works as a way to Christ. I'm saying you have to have both. If I don't treat the sick, feed the poor, teach the lost, then my faith and words alone mean nothing. What better way to show children than through activities. Likewise, if I only have activities and do not teach then it's just fun games and has no meaning.

howcanweknow
2306
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howcanweknow 06/18/12 - 01:26 pm
5
0
Paul said that he became all

Paul said that he became all things to all people in order to win some to Christ. I take that to mean, when Paul spoke with Greek philosophers on Mars Hill, he spoke of their gods and presented the real God to them (just like Acts says).

If Paul could have won some by playing 1st base on a softball team, I suspect Paul would have done so.

If Paul could have won souls by changing car oil for ladies, I'm sure he'd have done that too.

It's not so much the methods that are important, but the purpose and the focus. Methods can and should change. But, Christ is always the focus and the purpose.

InChristLove
22420
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InChristLove 06/18/12 - 01:29 pm
2
0
"If you, there we go using

"If you, there we go using "pronouns again, or whatever word do not understand "

Soap, it wasn't an issue with the pronouns or word I didn't understand, it was your random thought process. My comment referring to "I", "I", "I", wasn't an issue with pronouns, it was an issue with self-centerness. Your testimony should have been focused on Christ instead of yourself.

bdouglas
4535
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bdouglas 06/18/12 - 02:21 pm
6
0
So many disjointed, pieced

So many disjointed, pieced together responses and random uses of quotation marks. You lost me shortly after I bothered to type a long, well-though-out response, which you promptly ignored, as well as most of what ICL said. If you're happy sitting at home reading your KJV and are secure in your salvation, then I am thrilled for you and will surely see you one day when we both depart this earth; but it's obvious that you aren't going to agree with anyone on anything any time soon. As for me, I'm going with Romans 12:1 and presenting my body to the Lord as a spiritual act of worship like it commands. That means using my time and my talents to glorify Him. Whether it's using wisdom he gave me to try and lead people in the right direction in the AC comments section, playing songs on the guitar, designing a poster for an outreach event or playing first base on a church league softball team. It's the motivation behind it that counts.

iLove
626
Points
iLove 06/18/12 - 02:31 pm
1
1
Bdouglas
Unpublished

Well written! Praise Yahweh!

Jake
31722
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Jake 06/18/12 - 02:53 pm
2
1
On another note, sorta

On this day in 1942, Bernard W. Robinson became the first African American officer in the U.S. Navy.

allhans
23321
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allhans 06/18/12 - 03:22 pm
1
0
Someone asked earlier..so

Someone asked earlier..so here it is:
When you submit your life to God, the feeling of Warmth and Love you receive is so intense it is impossible to describe. It is an experience you never forget.

An old term would be used "You had to be there".

DMPerryJr
1698
Points
DMPerryJr 06/18/12 - 04:49 pm
1
1
Anyways...

It is good to see that the SBC is getting a person of color to lead. Looks like progress to me.

All the arguing about theology is a waste of bandwidth. God is Catholic!

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 06/18/12 - 04:57 pm
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soapy, I have been reading

soapy, I have been reading your comments trying to understand you. My feelings are that you are intelligent & goals/heart are good, but that you may struggle with the affects of legalism. Here's a good book on the subject if you are interested. "The Twelve Steps For A Recovering Pharisee, like me.." It is awesome and helpful to all of us, because it is so easy to get caught up in it. No offense intended towards you.

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 06/18/12 - 05:05 pm
3
0
The Mission

It should never be about color, whether it is white or black. The presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention, should be about... Who has our God called into servant/leadership?

As long as the focus is on color, and personalities we have missed the purpose.

Whomever serves, may our God stand this convention/denomination on it's head and win countless souls to the glory of His kingdom, beginning with it's own members.

DMPerryJr
1698
Points
DMPerryJr 06/18/12 - 05:15 pm
0
0
Good Book Rec

Just hit Amazon to get the book that Willow recommended. If the reviews are any indication, it's a good one to add to the shelf.

Thanks.

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 06/18/12 - 05:25 pm
1
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You are welcome, DMP,Jr. My

You are welcome, DMP,Jr. My bookshelves overflow... I'm going to have to switch to an ipad, kindle, nook, something!

InChristLove
22420
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InChristLove 06/18/12 - 07:12 pm
0
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Willow, a nook is great

Willow, a nook is great because you can download reference literature and study guides and several translations of the Bible. If you are like me and those important questions pop up that you need an answer for, it's a great source to do research. Haven't gotten an ipad but those who have one love them. Still can't beat a printed book in your hands but these are great for on the go or having several several references at your finger tips.

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 06/18/12 - 08:04 pm
0
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ICL, thank you for sharing

ICL, thank you for sharing that.

saywhatagain
409
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saywhatagain 06/18/12 - 09:51 pm
1
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Big whoop

I was born and raised in SC. I became a Christian at age 8 and was baptized at a Southern Baptist Church in Orangeburg SC in 1959. Since that time I moved around SC and NC and have been a member of 7 Southern Baptist Churches. In 52 years I have never once heard a racist remark from the pulpit of any of those churches. I have never had a rascist bone in my body, probably due in large part to how my parents, both born and raised in rural SC, raised me. It goes right over my head what's the big whoop over the prospect of a black SBA President. God in heaven people! Every day 150,000 people plunge into eternity and the overwhelming of those into a Christless grave. Let's move on to something vastly more important than the color of someone's skin.

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