PHOENIX — Sensitive to the need for greater diversity in
leadership and increased participation of ethnics, the Southern Baptist
Convention (SBC) voted overwhelmingly June 14 to ask for greater accountability
regarding their involvement in SBC life.
During a news conference after the vote, Paul Kim, pastor emeritus of Antioch
Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., said: “I want ethnic pastors and leaders to
also have the opportunity to express their love for Southern Baptists in
Christ. We have to work together.”
It was Kim who asked messengers at the 2009 SBC annual meeting to study how
ethnic churches and leaders could better partner with others to serve the SBC.
After a two-year workgroup study of the motion, the SBC Executive Committee
approved a 10-part recommendation for the Phoenix meeting, citing the “need to
be proactive and intentional in the inclusion of individuals from all ethnical
and racial identities within Southern Baptist life.”
For the first time in history, the convention will ask its entities to provide “a
descriptive report of participation of ethnic churches and church leaders in
the life and ministry of the respective SBC entity;” the SBC president to “give
special attention to appointing individuals who represent the diversity within
the Convention” to committees under his purview; and a subcommittee of the EC
to provide a report each year in February with an update on how each of the
recommendations has been addressed.
Members of the Executive Committee’s communications workgroup joined Kim for a
news conference after the vote. They were Darrell Orman, pastor of First
Baptist Church in Stuart, Fla.; Robert Anderson, pastor of Colonial Baptist
Church in Randallstown, Md.; and workgroup chairman Scott Kilgore, senior
pastor of Crossland Community Church in Bowling Green, Ky.
For decades, Southern Baptists have passed resolutions and motions on the
inclusion of minorities and ethnics — and elected a few to various positions at
the state and national level, Orman said. The action at the annual meeting,
however, took things a step further.
“The real power of this report is actually that it is now inculcated into the
machinery of the Southern Baptist Convention, a (new) level of accountability,”
The recommendation does not establish a practice of affirmative action, Orman
said. Instead, it gives something tangible to those who say, “We have been
Now people can say there is “machinery in effect,” along with accountability
and a “metric” for measurement, Orman said.
The move is more than symbolic, Orman said, calling it “one of the signals”
Southern Baptists can send to “ethnic brothers and sisters across the nation”
that they take seriously a commitment to broaden ethnic involvement.
Kim said the 16-million-member convention historically has had many ethnic
fellowships that convene throughout the year — some assembling in the same city
as the SBC annual meeting. He believes Southern Baptists would be stronger if
they would work more closely with all groups in the denomination.
“I love Southern Baptists,” Kim said, noting how the churches of the convention
work together to support missions through the Cooperative Program and the
emphasis on the Great Commission. However, even when ethnics speak English, “we
don’t invite them,” to be a part of the greater work of continuing to build the
Kingdom, he said.
“How can this be done if we just focus on one ethnic (group) doing what they
have done all these hundred years,” Kim said. “We need to work together.”
Kim urged ethnic Southern Baptists to get more involved in the convention in
its “history-making moment,” saying, “This is the time.”
Asked about the election of Fred Luter Jr., senior pastor of Franklin Ave.
Baptist Church in New Orleans — an African American — as first vice president
of the convention, Anderson said the reaction has been positive.
Luter, according to some sources, is the first African American to be elected
as first vice president in the SBC. In 1974, Charles N. King, pastor of
Corinthian Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky., was elected as second vice
president at the annual meeting in Philadelphia. He lost in a run-off in 1972,
the first time a black had been nominated for a top post. In 1994, Gary Frost,
then pastor of Rising Star Baptist Church in Youngstown, Ohio, was elected
second vice president. In 1995, Luter was elected to that same post. Several
other ethnic leaders have since been elected as first or second vice president.
Luter’s election “is a reflection of the very motion that was passed and
accepted today,” Anderson said. “Dr. Luter is loved by so many people in our
denomination and it is just a time that has come.
“It reflects what people desire to see more of in our convention,” Anderson
Asked if America would take the convention more “seriously” if it elected an
ethnic as president, Orman pointed out that the immediate past president,
Johnny Hunt, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., is a
member of the Lumbee tribe of Native Americans.
Anderson said he believes ethnic Southern Baptists were “cautious” at first
about the recommendation, but came to see the move as a “God thing” and are
anxious to work together in an effort he sees as “deliberately inclusive.”
Moved almost to tears, Orman said he remembers when, as a young college
basketball player, his church in Memphis, Tenn., forbade him from bringing
African American members of the team to church.
“It broke my heart,” Orman said. “That drove into my heart a real desire for me
as an individual to see the implementation of this, and with it a strong desire
and prophetic desire to see more involvement but not as a quota, but as a
Kim said the move signals a new time in the era and history of Southern
“We need to move forward for the Kingdom of God,” Kim said. “Let’s continue to
pray. It’s God’s work, not denominational work.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Hannigan is managing editor of Florida Baptist Witness.)