Meet the Rev. Fred Luter Jr., pastor of New Orleans’s 4,500-member Franklin Avenue Baptist Church””and the man who this spring will likely become the first black president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He announced last month that he was putting himself in the running, and the convention’s movers and shakers seem almost unanimous in their support.
The SBC was born in 1845 after Baptists from the Northern states refused to appoint slaveholders to missionary posts, and the Southern states decided to break off. Like many Protestant denominations in America that split over the issue of slavery, the Baptists remained separate long after the Civil War. Though the leadership of the SBC supported an end to segregation even before Brown v. Board of Education (1954), the denomination’s churches in many cases remained hotbeds of racial animus.
It wasn’t until 1995 that the SBC issued a resolution on racial reconciliation….