Spotlight on: Southern Baptist Convention
Fred Luter Jr., pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, became the Southern Baptist Convention’s first African-American president when he was elected to the position during the organization’s annual meeting in June. “It is nothing I was looking for. It was not on my bucket list, so to speak,” Luter said in the Baptist Press in February after receiving the nomination. “I think this will speak not only to our convention but to our country and throughout the world that this convention is serious about reaching all people.”
The Southern Baptist Convention elected Fred Luter Jr., pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, as its first African American president in June at the convention’s annual meeting in Luter’s hometown. News of his election made national headlines for its historic nature as he, a descendant of slaves, assumes the leadership position at organization that supported slavery and segregation when it was founded in 1845.
The convention is used to media attention, says Roger “Sing” Oldham, the organization’s vice president for convention communications and relations. National media frequently pick up stories from the Baptist Press, the official news agency of the SBC. Many faith-based organizations are wary of the media, but Oldham emphasizes the importance of developing relationships with media to get their organizations’ messages across. “Many members of the national media call me in the weeks leading up the SBC annual meeting on a variety of matters,” Oldham says. “I try to guide them to sites on our website or on the annual meeting app to answer most of their questions and try to provide context for those who are unfamiliar with Southern Baptist polity and doctrine.
“Faith-based ministries have a story to tell,” Oldham adds. “They are engaged in real people’s lives at the most basic levels of human need. If a ministry has no positive relationship with members of the media, it is more challenging to tell its story in a compelling way.”
The SBC is the nation’s largest evangelical denomination with 16 million members. In his role as president, Luter will be charged with growing that membership as he’s done at his own church in New Orleans. He will serve a two-year term.