Southern Baptists elect Fred Luter Jr., the head pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, to the number two position in their denomination:
Southern Baptists elect black pastor to No. 2 post
The move to elect Luter comes at the same time the SBC is making a push for greater participation among what it sometimes calls its “non-Anglo” members in the life of the convention, particularly in leadership roles.
Luter’s church is one of an estimated 3,400 black churches in the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, a small minority of more than 45,700 total SBC-affiliated churches with about 16 million members total.
His election also sets up the potential for his election to the top position of president when the denomination holds its annual meeting next year in Luter’s hometown of New Orleans.
It’s a big step for a denomination whose history is rooted in a split over race. The denomination originally formed in 1845 in a split with the American Baptist Convention over the question of whether slave owners could be missionaries. The SBC was silent or actively opposed civil rights through the 1970s, and many congregations excluded blacks. It was not until 1989 that convention declared racism a sin.