Tuesday News Briefing: Southern Baptist Convention sees 66% jump in diversity

Meredith Flynn —  February 5, 2013

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The number of non-Anglo congregations in the Southern Baptist Convention has increased by more than 66 percent since 1998, according to data from the convention’s agencies. Of the SBC’s 50,768 congregations, just over 10,000 identified themselves by an ethnicity other than Anglo in 2011, up from 6,044 in 1998.

SBC President Fred Luter, elected last year as the convention’s first African American president, rejoiced over the shift.

“I remember at one time I was the only [African American pastor] in my city who was Southern Baptist,” Luter said. “I caught a lot of flack as a result of that. Thank God I’m able to see some of the fruit of my labor – not only at my particular church but in the associations and conventions across the country.”

In Illinois, one-fourth of Southern Baptist churches, missions and church plants identify either as an ethnicity other than Anglo, or as a multi-ethnic church.

“Having been Southern Baptist since 1969, and to see the changes and see the increase, it’s simply exciting to me,” said Don Sharp, pastor of Faith Tabernacle Baptist Church in Chicago. “I really get a good handle on it when I go to Black Church Week at Ridgecrest, N.C., and see the gathering of close to 2,000 who come there who are Southern Baptist.

“I remember some years ago when we went there, and there weren’t enough of us to fill up one little room.”

The largest jump in non-Anglo congregations within the SBC has predominantly come from an 82.7 percent increase in the number of African American congregations, but Hispanic congregations also have seen a significant increase over the same span – nearly 63 percent. And the number of Asian congregations affiliated with the SBC has grown by 55 percent. Read more at BPNews.net.

-From Baptist Press, with additional reporting by Meredith Flynn

Other news

Richard Blackaby says prayer is hard workWhile in Springfield to speak to directors of missions and associational leaders, author Richard Blackaby sat down with the Illinois Baptist for a Q&A on prayer and character development. Blackaby, who comes from a famously prayerful family (his father Henry co-authored “Experiencing God), said prayer is hard work.

“It must be, because so many Christians struggle with it. I mean, it’s not really hard to do, but it is a discipline because you’re talking to someone that’s invisible. You don’t hear His voice, and you’re busy, and you start thinking of all the other stuff you should be doing.”

The solution? Carving out unhurried time with God, to start with, Blackaby said. He also suggested writing out your prayers. “Not my prayer requests…but actually writing out in sentence form what I was asking God to do.

“I’d get my hands on it better when it was written out.”

For more of the IB‘s interview with Richard Blackaby, see the next issue of the Illinois Baptist, online Feb. 8 here.

Stanford opens religious liberty clinic
One of the country’s most prestigious law schools has opened the first legal clinic exclusively for religious freedom cases, Baptist Press reports. “It’s not needed because the U.S. is uniquely persecuting – it’s not,” said Stanford Law professor Michael McConnell. “I believe we are the freest and most welcoming country in the world … But we still be to fight and to think and to litigate and protect.” The clinic works like a small law firm, where students handle real cases under the supervision of a professor. Read full story at BPNews.net.

Help from above?
A survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found 27% of Americans believe God “plays a role in determining which team wins” in sporting events. And 53% believe God “rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success.” Institute CEO Robert P. Jones told CNN that many Christians believe in “a God that is very active in their daily lives and very concerned about the things that matter to them. So far as sports are one of the things that matter, it stands to reason that God is playing an important role.” Read more on CNN’s Belief blog.

Meredith Flynn

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Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.