Contrary to what some may tell you, Fred Luter is no stranger to Southern Baptists. He preached the annual convention sermon in 1998, and has been a regular speaker at the Pastors' Conference for many years. He also served on the committee that drafted the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. I don't know him personally, but he's been praised by some of our most respected SBC leaders. I did talk to him in the hallway at the SBC in Orlando two years ago, and he seems to be a very friendly and likeable fellow.
So what does Fred Luter's election mean for the future of the SBC? I'm no prophet, but I can offer a few personal speculations and hopes. First, I hope it will encourage the involvement of more non-white churches in the SBC. I am aware that Southern Baptists have been guilty of racism in the past. When I was a little boy in a Southern Baptist church, we used to sing a song that said, "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight." Unfortunately, as I got older, I learned that not all people in our church truly believed that. Thankfully, we have come a long way in the last forty years, and I hope that the racism and animosity of the past will continue to be replaced by forgiveness and reconciliation.
Second, this election reminds us that the concerns raised by Southern Baptists over the years are not "whites only" issues. I read an article in which someone speculated that Luter's election might be the signal of greater "tolerance" among Southern Baptists. I told my wife, "If he thinks this means we're going to soften our stands on abortion and same-sex marriage, then he doesn't know Fred Luter very well!" Many African-Americans and people of other races share our concerns on these issues, and I'm confident that our new president will be a powerful leader and spokesman regarding these matters.
One thing is certain: Fred Luter will be in the public eye perhaps more than any other SBC president in recent memory. He will need our prayers and support. Let us pledge our prayers for him and other SBC leaders as we enter this exciting new chapter in our history.