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Southern Baptists to Elect First African American President

By Daniel Cherry | Published 15 Jun 2012 06:13pm | comments

The national Southern Baptist Convention is set to elect Reverend Fred Luter Jr. President of the convention tomorrow. He will be the first African American President of the denomination. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how religious leaders in Mississippi praise the move.

Southern Baptists once took a hard line stance supporting slavery and segregation, but tomorrow leaders will elect an African American man as their leader for the first time. Neddie Winters, is President of Mission Mississippi, a Christian organization working towards racial reconciliation in the state. Winters thinks Reverend Luter's impending election indicates big changes within the convention.

"They've talked about how they've made this concerted effort to change their image, to change how things how used to be, and they're very serious and sincere about it. And I think this is just another opportunity to show they're serious about it."

Luter served as Vice President last year so he's no stranger to the convention. In recent years, white Southern Baptist membership has declined, and the church has made moves to be more inclusive. Rick Henson is Pastor of Oakwood Baptist Church in Brandon.

"We, as a convention have said, we're open to all people, and I don't think this is more, we're trying to show something than this is just simply revealing what's already there."

Leaders admit, some won't like the change, but William Perkins, editor of the Baptist Record says it's a positive move.

"That is in now way representative of the majority. Dr. Luter is known for his service over the years. I think he'll be a great leader, and I look forward to his leadership."

The Southern Baptist Convention is the 2nd largest Christian denomination in the U.S. In 2010 African American churches mad eup about 8 percent of the congregations. 

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