Conventional Wisdom Leads SBC to New ChiefSeven years ago, the idea of heading up the nation's largest Protestant denomination probably never crossed Dr. Fred Luter's mind. At the time, the New Orleans pastor was literally trying to keep his head above water after Hurricane Katrina flooded his 8,000-person mega church. Like so many in Louisiana, the popular African-American minister emerged from the disaster even stronger. Rev. Luter believes the same is true of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) he now leads.
Like Dr. Luter, the SBC has weathered its share of storms. For years, allegations of racism hung over the Convention, leading the SBC to apologize in 1995 for its 19th century roots. That proved to be a turning point for the denomination, opening the doors to real reconciliation with the black community--a reconciliation that culminated in yesterday's election of Rev. Luter, the first African-American President of the SBC. With tears streaming down his face, Rev. Luter accepted the position to prolonged cheering and applause. Darren Martin, a minister from Luter's church, couldn't contain his emotion, saying that this was "a true sign that... change from within has really come. Christ is at the center of the SBC."