(Editor’s note: New Orleans in Rear View. Now that we’re back home, our Illinois Baptist news team reflects on the question: What is the lasting value of the 2012 SBC?)
Posted by Lisa Sergent
The 2012 SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans was historic for many reasons. The return of Southern Baptist Convention for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, the adoption of the “Great Commission Baptist” descriptor name, and the election of Pastor Fred Luter as convention president.
Luter’s election made headlines across the country because he is the first African-American to be elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention, a convention which some still associate with its birth in the support of slavery. But, as I listened to the various platform speakers, I began to grow concerned. Yes, Luter is an African-American, but this is not why he is president. Luter is president because of his character, leadership abilities, heart for Christ, and the way he has allowed God to lead him in his ministry.
One example of his leadership, commitment, and faith was seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when Franklin Avenue Baptist Church sat in 13 feet of floodwater. While some of the churches over 7,000 members remained in New Orleans, others were scattered to Baton Rouge and Houston. On the first and third Sunday’s of the month, he would preach an early morning service to members who gathered in First Baptist New Orleans church building. In the afternoon, he would travel to Baton Rouge to lead a service for more members. The second and fourth Sunday’s of the month saw Luter in Houston, Texas, leading church services for still more members. He did this for over two years until the Franklin Avenue’s building was ready for services again.
As Southern Baptists we need to focus on Luter’s God-given abilities and pray for him as he leads our convention. He is president because of the content of his character in the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream. His election is a historic step for the Southern Baptist Convention, but his election is wonderful because he is a faithful man of God, whom God has already used and will continue to use in great and wonderful ways.