Local Southern Baptists react to new national leader, image

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The Southern Baptist Convention elected its first African-American president this week. Reverend Fred Luter, who is the pastor at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, will officially take office on Wednesday.

His new position is a historic moment for the Southern Baptist Convention.  The denomination was formed in 1885 over a dispute about slavery.

Loren Hutchinson is director of Missions for the Blue River, Kansas City Association, a division of the Southern Baptist Convention.

"Northern Baptists did not want to send missionaries to the field who owned slaves," explained Hutchinson. "Southern Baptists who were on the wrong side of the issue argued that slave owners should be allowed to be missionaries, so the two groups split."

The split was in 1845.  Now, 167 years later, an African American is leading the Christian denomination that formerly embraced slavery.

Hutchinson said Luter's new leadership is a sign that old prejudices and fears are history and people of all races are embraced by Southern Baptists. 

Angela Addison is a member at the Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church, which is one of 25 predominantly African-American churches in the Southern Baptist Convention.

She's excited that Reverend Luter is the first African-American President of the SBC.

"I think it's very positive and I think by Southern Baptists doing it they're making a very big step and impact on the world," said Addison.

After being officially declared President of the SBC, Reverend Luter said, " To God be the glory; God bless you, I love you."

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