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Luter leans ‘80%’ toward presidential nomination
Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist Press
August 15, 2011
4 MIN READ TIME

Luter leans ‘80%’ toward presidential nomination

Luter leans ‘80%’ toward presidential nomination
Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist Press
August 15, 2011

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

question repeatedly.

“Will you allow yourself to be nominated as president of the convention next

year?”

Luter, senior pastor of Franklin Avenue

Baptist Church

in New Orleans, heard the question

once again in early August prior to speaking at a summer Bible conference at First

Baptist Church

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.

BP file photo by Gibbs Frazeur

Fred Luter preaches the convention sermon at the 2001 SBC Annual Meeting in Luter’s hometown of New Orleans.

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

Orleans.”

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

Convention.

“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

Church Profile.

“I am a strong supporter of the Cooperative Program. It still works,” Luter

affirmed.

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.)