ROCKWOOD, Tenn. — Ever since his election as first vice
president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)
at the annual meeting in June in Phoenix, Fred Luter has heard the same
“Will you allow yourself to be nominated as president of the convention next
Luter, senior pastor of Franklin Avenue
in New Orleans, heard the question
once again in early August prior to speaking at a summer Bible conference at First
in Rockwood, Tenn.
Luter gave his standard answer that he is excited people are encouraging him to
consider the nomination and that he is praying about the possibility to see if
God is leading him in that direction.
But during the course of an interview with the Baptist and Reflector, Luter
acknowledged he is about “80 percent” leaning toward the idea.
Luter stressed he is still seeking input from close friends, as well as leaders
at Franklin Avenue where he has served as pastor for 25 years. He said it would
be important to have his church’s support should he decide to allow his name to
be placed in nomination.
But Luter also acknowledged that the most important input will come from the
home front. “I’m henpecked,” he joked.
“I have to have my wife’s input. Elizabeth
will probably be the toughest one to convince,” Luter laughed. “It is an
awesome responsibility (to serve as SBC
president). I don’t want to take it lightly or for granted.”
Luter has given serious thought to the idea, which was voiced through Twitter
following the annual meeting.
Among those who advocated Luter for the presidency was Union University
President David Dockery, whose post read: “Good day for SBC:
1st VP Fred Luter. Hope he will be elected president next year in New
Luter knows his election as president would be a milestone. He would be the
first African American to be elected president of the Southern Baptist
“You cannot get around the fact that I am an African American and we have never
had an African American president,” Luter said.
While it would be a historic vote if he is elected, Luter already has achieved
several milestones. He is the first African American to preach a convention
sermon and the first to serve as a trustee at LifeWay Christian Resources. In
addition to his current role as first vice president, he also is a former
second vice president of the convention.
Luter hopes he will be elected for his accomplishments over the years — if he
allows his nomination.
Luter recalled that when he preached the convention sermon, then-SBC
President James Merritt was asked if Luter was asked to preach because of his
race. He noted that Merritt replied that the reason he was chosen was “because
he was a respected preacher.”
Luter is proud that Southern Baptists recognize him for what he has
accomplished during his 25-year ministry at Franklin
Avenue, a church that began as a mission and is
the only church he has ever served.
Luter also is an ambassador for the Cooperative Program. “Our church would not
be where it is today if it was not for the Cooperative Program,” he emphasized.
As a result Luter has led his church to increase its giving through the
Cooperative Program (CP). In 2007, the church gave $44,000 through CP. In 2010,
that amount had increased to $261,798, according to Southern Baptists’ Annual
“I am a strong supporter of the Cooperative Program. It still works,” Luter
If he decided to allow his name to be placed in nomination, Luter said his
goal, if elected, would be to “bring us together as a convention” so that “we
can truly be the body of Christ…. We need to major on the things that have
made this convention great through the years — evangelism and discipleship.”
Luter said he hopes to make a decision about the presidency shortly after the
first of the year. In the meantime, he is content in working with and assisting
current SBC President Bryant Wright.
Luter said he knows the future is in God’s hands.
“I’ve been faithful to my calling, to my church and to my convention. God
rewards faithfulness,” Luter said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector, newsjournal for
churches of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)