Fred Luter Jr. will be the first black leader of the 167-year-old Southern Baptist Convention. Church leaders say the move is in part an effort to distance the denomination from a racist past. Reuters reports on what is a pretty big deal:
First Baptist New Orleans Pastor David Crosby, who will nominate Luter, said the move is a statement that “we not only love people of color, we want them in our leadership.”
“We need his perspective. We need him at the table to help us understand who we are as Southern Baptists in this new era.”
Luter, 55, has already served as the first African-American in various leadership positions within the convention, including as its current first vice president.
The New Orleans civic and religious leader said he is both optimistic and realistic about what he can accomplish during his short tenure. His leadership role will initially last just one year but can be extended for a second, he said.
Luter said his hope is to “let people know that ... we’re open minded, and it’s open to different ethnic groups.”
The vote will be held on Tuesday during the convention’s annual meeting in New Orleans, home to the church Luter rebuilt into the denomination’s largest congregation in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina devastated it in 2005.
With no opposition so far, his likely election comes as the Southern Baptist Convention considers ways to become more inclusive and less identified with slavery, ties to which led to its founding in 1845. Southern Baptists split off from the First Baptist Church in America in the pre-Civil War days over the issue of slave ownership.
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