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.