At its annual meeting, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) today elected native New Orleanian Fred Luter as its president. Although Luter was the only elective for office, the SBC acknowledged that his presidency represents a historic moment.
The Baptist Press reports that he was nominated by David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans, whose three-minute nomination speech was interrupted four times by enthusiastic applause. "[Luter] would likely be a candidate for sainthood one day if he were a Catholic," Crosby said in describing Luter as "the fire-breathing, miracle-working pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church."
Southern Baptists "are already a convention with great diversity in our membership ranks and our churches. If we are faithful in our work this diversity will continue to grow," the Baptist Press quotes Crosby as saying. "We need Pastor Fred at the head of the table, helping us understand our mission field and our mission. It is time to tap the great resource of his experience, wisdom and passion for this wider purpose. "
In 2011 Luter became the SBC's first African American first vice president and in 2001 was the first African American to preach the convention sermon. He also served on the committee that proposed a revision of the Baptist Faith and Message in 2000. He is a popular preacher at revivals, state conventions, evangelism conferences and other Southern Baptist gatherings.
Slavery and The Plantation — Black pastor accuses Luter of playing the "house n***** role."
The Southern Baptist Convention is known for its support of slavery in the past. The Baptist Press writes that some observers felt it was appropriate that Luter's election took place on the day many celebrate "Juneteenth" and the anniversary of slavery's end in the United States.
But a news station in August, Georgia, paints a different story.
WRDW-TV Channel 12 interviewed two local pastors for their reactions, one of whom had very unkind words to say, calling Luter a "house nigger."
Bishop Willie Jackson of Christ Centered Outreach Ministry told Channel 12 (see the link and the video clip below to fact check):
For most of us, we see it as a political — of it being politically motivated, anyway. I applaud him in a sense, but on the other hand, I see him as on the plantation, and playing "house nigger" role. Here is a man that is not even seminary trained and they have him — they've chosen him over all of the other Southern Baptists. I see it in the same way that I saw Michael Steele of being president of the Republican Party.
Andy Jones, minister at the First Baptist Church of Augusta had a different view:
Making a historic decision today is very good for the Southern Baptist Convention, for the South, good for Baptists in general. I think this is certainly a way to go in the right direction. You know, Dr. Martin Luther King said that the most segregated place in America is churches at 11 o'clock on Sunday mornings.
The First Baptist Church of Augusta's original building on Green Street was the birthplace of the SBC in 1845. The church separated from the Southern Baptists over issues involving slavery.
(The news video will load in 1-2 seconds.)