A New Orleans pastor seeking to become the Southern Baptist Convention's first black president says his election would add credibility to a 1995 resolution that apologized for the denomination's past support of slavery and segregation.
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Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, said March 11 on NPR's "All Things Considered" that since adopting a Resolution On Racial Reconciliation On The 150th Anniversary Of The Southern Baptist Convention in Atlanta, the nation's second-largest faith group has tried to let the public know it "is not just a convention that ... is lily white and that is not open to folk who are not white."
"And they've done that, I think, successfully," Luter said. "I think what this election would do, if I am elected, it will say, 'Hey, we're not only talking this thing; we're putting our money where our mouth is.'"
"If I'm elected, it's going to be because of the Anglo messengers who overwhelmingly have voted for me," he said. "It won't be because of the handful of black folk that's going to be there. So it will say something to the country and to the world that the Southern Baptist Convention is not just talking this thing, we're actually walking this thing. And I think that will speak volumes."
One hundred-sixty-seven years after its split with northern Baptists over slavery prior to the Civil War, the Southern Baptist Convention remains predominantly white, but leaders say that half of churches started in the last decade were non-Anglo.
Ethnic congregations made up about 13 percent of SBC churches in 1998. That increased to 18 percent by 2008, with African-American and Hispanic congregations leading the way at 6 percent each of SBC churches, followed by Asians and other ethnic groups making up 3 percent each.
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SOURCE: Associated Baptist Press