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A POSITIVE DEVELOPMENT: SOUTHERN BAPTISTS CHOOSE AFRICAN AMERICAN PASTOR AS PRESIDENT WHO SAYS, “I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST”

Fred Luter, Pastor of the Franklin Ave. Baptist Church in New Orleans, right, wipes away tears as he is elected as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, at the convention in New Orleans, Tuesday, June 19, 2012. Luter is the first African-American to be elected president of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. Right is current president Bryant Wright. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

UPDATED: Here’s some very good news amidst all the news about a possible implosion of the country: God has raised up a black pastor from New Orleans to boldly preach the Word of God, and proclaim the Gospel, and win people to faith in Jesus Christ in a city devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and now to lead the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC is the nation’s largest Protestant denomination with 16 million members and some 45,000 churches.

“The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has tapped Fred Luter, a pastor from New Orleans, to be its first African American president. Luter, who is running unopposed, is expected to be elected at next week’s convention meeting in New Orleans,” reports Christianity Today.

New Orleans is no easy place to be a pastor. It’s a city that was nearly wiped out by a natural disaster, and is now a city with a murder rate ten times worse than any other city in America, even though it has fewer residents. (see also here, and here). But even against such odds, Luter has done it well.

And you’ve got to hear this man’s message.

“What is it going to take to change our lives?…. What is going to take to change our mindset? What is it going to take to change our society,….our culture, our community and our world?” asked Pastor Luter at the SBC convention. “Well, let me ask you a question; the question of the hour is Southern Baptists, what did it take to change you? I have no doubt in my mind…that if change, real change is going to happen in our lives and in our communities and in our world, it must start with the Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

“I’m convinced my brothers and my sisters that the Gospel can save a gang banger, the Gospel can save a crack addict, the Gospel can save a child abuser, the Gospel can change … an unfaithful spouse, the Gospel can change you and the Gospel can change me! How do I know it? Because ladies and gentleman I wasn’t always a preacher in a pulpit! At one time I was…going to hell and enjoying the ride. But one day I heard the Gospel!” Luter said he is is convinced that the Word of God is the “only hope for a miracle today.”

“We are living in the last days, he noted. Yet some are looking to Washington, the economy or the schools for lasting change,” reported the Christian Post. “Think about it …. if the Word of God changed you and changed me, why can’t the Word of God change our culture? Why can’t the Word of God change our communities? Why can’t the Word of God change our world?”

“There are a lot of things in this life … that I’m ashamed of. I’m ashamed of the number of babies that are being killed through abortion every year in America; I’m ashamed of the racism that still persists in our society; I’m ashamed that our elected government officials cannot put aside their personal agendas for the betterment of our cities, our states and our nation; I’m ashamed that brothers and sisters in the body of Christ can’t put aside their petty differences for the cause of Christ. Maybe if the world saw us getting along, … then maybe we can be an example; I’m ashamed of the number of preachers who don’t practice what they preach; I’m ashamed of the high divorce rate among Christian couples in America; I’m ashamed of our drive-by shootings; I’m ashamed of our child pornography. Yes … there are a lot of things … that I’m ashamed of. I’m so glad to proclaim that in spite of all the things I am ashamed about … I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!”

Amen!

“Last year, Luter made history when the SBC elected him as first vice president, the denomination’s second-highest post,” noted Christianity Today. “He was the first African American elected to that position. A decade earlier, Luter was the first African American to preach the convention sermon, which also occurred in New Orleans. ‘There is a convention-wide movement of people, who often disagree about other things, who all agree that the time is way past when we should have elected someone of an African American background to the presidency,’ said Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson….The SBC was founded in 1845 after a split with northern Baptists over the issue of slavery. In 1995, the convention passed a resolution publically apologizing for its participation in slavery and Jim Crow laws. ‘To have a son of slaves now leading this denomination as it reaches the world with the gospel is a sign of God’s mercy,’ Southern Baptist Theological Seminary dean Russell Moore said.”

The Washington Post reports that Luter’s church, “Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, is an inner-city black congregation—still somewhat of a rarity in the SBC, which counts a minority membership of 20 percent—and is thriving. Before Hurricane Katrina severely damaged the church, it reached a high of 7,000 members, making it one of the largest churches in the state. Just 50 or 60 of its members remained, while the rest fled New Orleans, but Luter worked to rebuild the congregation, sharing another church until construction was complete in 2008. The congregation has swelled again to some 5,000 members.”

“People call me a heart preacher, because I preach with passion,” Luter told a local TV station. “It’s simply because of the fact of what I’ve gone through. My mom and dad divorced when I was six years old and I pretty much had to raise myself because momma had to work two or three jobs.”

“One of Luter’s greatest personal and professional trials came when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 and gutted his church, his home and his city. ‘Katrina was really difficult for me,’ he recalled. ‘I went through a difficult time because I just couldn’t understand how something like that could happen in America.'”

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