As the Southern Baptist Convention prepares to install its first black president, observers disagree on how much clout Fred Luter will have in a denomination closely identified with high-profile figures such as Richard Land. Christianity Today story published online June 1.
Who will be the face of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)?
Will it be Fred Luter, the New Orleans pastor expected to be elected this June as the first African American president in the convention’s 167-year history?
Or will it be Richard Land, the denomination’s longtime Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) president disciplined by his board today—including the cancellation of his radio show—over racially charged comments about the Trayvon Martin case?
While insiders characterize Luter’s anticipated election as a watershed moment for a denomination started by slave owners, some observers outside the SBC voice skepticism about the true potential impact on race relations.
“The real issue is whether denominational leaders, of whom Land is perhaps the most public right now … have any intent on sharing real denominational leadership with Luter or other non-whites outside the traditional networks of denominational power,” said Bill Leonard, professor of Baptist studies and church history at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.