ROCKWOOD — Ever since his election as first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention at the annual meeting in June in Phoenix, Fred Luter has heard the same question repeatedly.
“Will you allow yourself to be nominated as president of the convention next year?”
Luter, senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, was posed the question once again last week prior to speaking at the iConnect Summer Bible Conference held at First Baptist Church here.
He gave his standard answer that he is excited that people are encouraging him to consider the nomination and that he is praying about the possibility to see if God is leading him in that direction.
But during the course of an interview with the Baptist and Reflector, Luter acknowledged that he was about “80 percent” in leaning toward the idea.
He stressed there were still close friends that he was seeking input from as well as leaders at Franklin Avenue where he has served as pastor for 25 years. He said it would be important to have his church’s support should he decide to allow his name to be placed in nomination.
But he acknowledged that his most important input will come from the home front. “I’m henpecked,” he joked.
“I have to have my wife’s input. Elizabeth will probably be the toughest one to convince,” he laughed.
“It is an awesome responsibility (to serve as SBC president). I don’t want to take it lightly or for granted,” he said.
He has given serious thought to the idea that was voiced through Twitter (a social media tool) by SBC leaders following the convention.
Among those who supported Luter for the presidency was Union University President David Dockery.
Dockery tweeted, “Good day for SBC: 1st VP Fred Luter. Hope he will be elected president next year in New Orleans.”
Luter knows that his election as president would be a milestone in the convention. He would be the first African American to be elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“You cannot get around the fact that I am an African American and we have never had an African American president,” he said.
While it would be a historical vote if elected, Luter already has achieved several milestones. He is the first African American to preach a convention sermon and the first to serve as a trustee at LifeWay Christian Resources. In addition to his current role as first vice president, he also is a former second vice president of the convention as well.
He hopes his accomplishments over the years will be why he is elected if he ever allows his nomination.
Luter recalled that when he preached the convention sermon, then SBC President James Merritt was asked if Luter was asked to preach because of his race.
He noted that Merritt replied that the reason he was chosen was “because he was a respected preacher.”
Luter is proud that Southern Baptists recognize him for what he has accomplished during his 25-year ministry at Franklin Avenue, a church that began as a mission and is the only church he has ever served.
Luter is an ambassador for the Cooperative Program. “Our church would not be where it is today if it was not for the Cooperative Program,” he stressed.
As a result he has led his church to increase its giving through the Cooperative Program. In 2007, the church gave $44,000 through CP. In 2010, that amount had increased to $261,798, according to Southern Baptists’ Annual Church Profile.
“I am a strong supporter of the Cooperative Program. It still works,” he affirmed.
If he ever decided to allow his name to be placed in nomination, Luter said his goal, if elected, would be to “bring us together as a convention” so that “we can truly be the body of Christ. …
“We need to major on the things that have made this convention great through the years — evangelism and discipleship,” he stressed.
Luter told the B&R he hopes to make a decision about the presidency shortly after the first of the new year in 2012.
In the meantime, he is content to working with and assisting current SBC President Bryant Wright.
As to the future Luter knows that is in God’s hands.
“I’ve been faithful to my calling, to my church and to my convention. God rewards faithfulness,” Luter said.