July 2012

A DEFINING MOMENT: In historic vote, messengers elect first African American president

Fred Luter ackowledges a long, loud standing ovation from SBC messengers after he was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Bryant Wright, outgoing president, prayed for him immediately after messengers to the convention made their votes known by standing at a packed Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. As he came to the podium following the historic vote, he wiped his eyes, pointed toward heaven, and wiped his eyes again.

By Karen L. Willoughby, Managing Editor

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – Native New Orleanian Fred Luter was elected by acclamation Tuesday, June 19, as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

He was nominated by David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans, whose three-minute nomination speech was interrupted four times by enthusiastic applause.

“[Luter] would likely be a candidate for sainthood one day if he were a Catholic,” Crosby said in describing Luter as “the fire-breathing, miracle-working pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church.”


Luter sees a ‘genuine’ open door for ethnic groups

A Door Opens: Fred Luter Jr., pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, answers questions during a 45-minute press conference June 19 after his historic election as the first African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

By Tammi Reed Ledbetter, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – Newly elected Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter Jr. engaged a roomful of reporters in his hometown of New Orleans June 19, sharing his surprise at “the confidence Southern Baptists are putting in me and my leadership skills and what God has done in my life.”

The unanimous endorsement of the first African American to serve America’s largest Protestant denomination is more than symbolic, Luter said, though he understands why fellow blacks might view it as such, waiting to see that “this is not a one-and-done deal.”

“If we stop appointing African Americans or Asians or Hispanics to leadership roles in this convention after my term is over, we failed. We absolutely failed,” Luter said. Instead, he said, “This was a genuine, authentic move by this convention that says our doors are open, and the only way they can see that is not just putting up an African American president, but seeing other ethnic groups in other areas of this convention. Time will tell and I’ll be a cheerleader promoting that.”


Decline of civility most alarming issue facing the United States?

By Kelly Boggs, Baptist Message Editor

If observers of history are correct, America may be in more trouble than most of its citizens realize and for a reason not often highlighted in the news. While the national debt, war on terror and a presidential election dominate headlines and newscasts, the decline of civility may be the most ominous issue facing the United States.

The deterioration of civility, according to many historians, served as a key factor in the decline and disappearance of the “enlightened” cultures of Greece and Rome. For some students of history, the decay of civility served as the linchpin for the ancient civilizations’ ultimate demise.

Civility refers to the behavior between members of society that create a social code. It is a foundational principle of a civilized society.


Praising God for what He’s doing under the Big Tent called Southern Baptist

By Philip Robertson, Pastor Philadelphia Baptist Church

I am excited about what God is doing under our Southern Baptist tent. During the recent Annual Meeting Southern Baptists unanimously selected Dr. Fred Luter to be the first African-American president of our convention, not because of the color of his skin, but because we believe he is God’s man for this time.

Only God could have brought our convention to this place, demonstrating that our tent continues to widen, and for that I say, praise God – it’s a good day to be a Southern Baptist.

Consider what we as a convention have been discussing in the last few months and in New Orleans – the doctrine of Salvation. Thank God that at the SBC2012 we weren’t debating the legitimacy of homosexuality as a lifestyle; rather we were discussing ways to show the homosexual community the love of Jesus Christ.


Fred Luter is a great choice

Messengers Vote

By Waylon Bailey, Pastor of First Covington, President of the LBC

During the meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention on June 19, we elected Fred Luter president of the Southern Baptist Convention. It was a great day. Let me share with you why this is so special and why this is a great choice.

First, Fred Luter is a prince of a person. He loves the Lord and loves people. He’s the same every time you see him. He has a wonderful family. I could go on and on.

Of all the qualifications for president of anything, these personal qualities should be first in importance. Fred is a man of integrity. The Southern Baptist Convention elected Fred Luter because of the “content of his character.”


The most important thing is that everyone win one for Christ

By Price Harris, Shreveport Music Evangelist

One of my friends asked me about both the new “Descriptor” we have now adopted for our convention and also about the debate regarding Calvinism. These are some of my thoughts on both issues.

First of all, as we put this new “Descriptor” in our mission statements and out there for the world to see, let’s be what we say we are. Let’s arm ourselves to tell the story and make “the main thing” in reality the main thing.

As I travel to churches throughout our convention, I am finding more emphasis on style and convenience than in “telling the old, old story.” I pray we will get back to building a personal prayer list of friends and acquaintances who need the Lord, and to a dedicated time of personal evangelism in our schedules.


Letter to the Editor


It has come to my attention that there is a document by the title of A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation being proposed to the people of the Southern Baptist Convention.

It is my understanding this document is an apologetic against Calvinism. May I give a testimony of the effects of Calvinism in the ranks of the SBC?

I pastored the Fellowship Baptist Church of Sulphur, Louisiana from 1987 until 1994. It was a Southern Baptist Church at the time.


Questions We've Pondered

By Bill Warren, NOBTS

Question: What do we know about the Apostle John, like when he died and such?

Bill Warren responds: The Apostle John was the last of the 12 Apostles to die, with Jerome noting that his death happened in Ephesus early in the reign of the emperor Trajan, so about A.D. 98-100 (Jerome, On Illustrious Men, IX).

Early church sources indicate that John was exiled to Patmos by the emperor Domitian, perhaps as late as A.D. 95 (Jerome), then released when Domitian was killed in A.D. 96.


Raymond Lull: Missionary to the Muslims

By Rex Butler, NOBTS

Toward the end of the Crusades, after two hundred years of conflict between Christendom and Islam, a Christian stepped forward with a new plan for approaching Muslims – not with the sword, but with the Gospel. Raymond Lull, considered the first western missionary to the Muslims, wrote, “It is my belief, O Christ, that the conquest of the Holy Land should be attempted in no other way than as Thou and Thy apostles undertook to accomplish it – by love, by prayer, by tears, and the offering up of our own lives” (Contemplation of God). Ultimately, Lull did offer up his life as a martyr in North Africa.

Lull (also spelled “Llull” or “Lully”) was born to a wealthy family in Majorca, Spain, in 1232, just a few years after it was liberated from Muslim rule. Because of his excellent education, Lull obtained a position in the royal household and married a relative of the king, Blanca Picany, with whom he had two children. Despite his marriage and position, however, he traveled about as a licentious troubadour, composing and singing love songs.

In his young thirties, Lull was converted to faith in Christ by an unusual experience. As noted in his autobiography, Lull amorously pursued a married woman, who did not return his affections. After making a fool of himself by following her on horseback into a church, the young lady came to him privately and, with dignity, bared her breast to him. Shocked that it was diseased by cancer, Lull saw in her disfigurement the corruption of his own lusts.


Annual SBC Convention proves to be a ‘historic event’

SBC Convention: More than 7,800 messengers attended the 2012 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, participating in an historic vote for the first African American president, Fred Luter Jr. The theme of the convention at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans was “Jesus: to the Neighborhood and the Nations.”

By Michael Foust, Baptist Press

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – In one of the most historic meetings in the Southern Baptist Convention’s 167-year history, messengers meeting June 19-20 elected the body’s first African American president and voted to keep the convention’s name while approving a descriptor, “Great Commission Baptists,” for those churches that wish to use it.

The momentous occasion in New Orleans brought media from across the nation to see the election of Fred Luter, a descendent of slaves who now is the president of a convention whose founders, in 1845, defended slavery.

The convention officially repented of its racist past at the 1995 meeting, and has seen the percentage of non-white churches grow, from 5 percent of the SBC in 1990 to 19 percent in 2010. Last year, messengers approved a landmark report encouraging ethnic diversity in committee appointments.