Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Should Fred Luter be the next President of the SBC?

Fred Luter is a very gifted preacher of the Gospel.  He has led Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans to be one of the strongest churches in Louisiana.  He has been a stalwart defender of the faith in the aftermath of the Conservative Resurgance.  He is the first Black person to hold the office of First Vice-President of the SBC.  He has been nominated to be elected President of the SBC at the forthcoming convention in June.  Should we elect him?

Dwight McKissic thinks any gains accomplished by Luter’s election have already been lost by the remarks Richard Land made concerning the Trayvon Martin shooting.  McKissic also believes the SBC was eaiser for Black Baptists to associate with prior to the Conservative Resurgence than now.  His approach and that of most people I’ve had contact with is that the time has come for a Black President of the SBC in order to reach across racial barriers and bring Black Baptists into the SBC fold.

The elephant in the room no one seems willing to talk about is the widely disparate theological divide between traditional Black and White Baptists.  That divide is never more evident than in elections where 96 percent of Blacks voted for the election of President Obama in the 2008 general election.  The vast preponderance of Southern Baptists deplore abortion, and the socialistic agenda of President Obama.  Most of that opposition does not result from racism, but rather from a theological perspective which views those positions as contrary to Biblical teachings.

Black Baptist congregations are generally overtly political with the Pastor playing a much more important role, and with much more influence than the typical Southern Baptist Church.  Prior to the Conservative Resurgence in Southern Baptist life, the moderate leadership seemed to overlook those differences, while seeking to expand the SBC tent to include entire groups of ethnic peoples.  During the latter days of the Conservative Resurgence, the theological was so evident that a break with the churches of Washington DC ensued because of theological positions leading to decisions which were at odds with Southern Baptists.

Now comes another attempt at enlarging the tent.  The time is right many believe for a Black to lead the convention.   I think this is the wrong attitude to have regards to electing a leader.  It was wrong for the nation in 2008, and it is wrong for Southern Baptists in 2012.  Fred Luter is a very good man.  He is a theological conservative who preaches the whole counsel of God’s truth.  However, his recent appearance on PBS demonstrates that even he is misguided by seeing racism in everything.  He made the case that most of the opposition to President Obama is race related, deliberately ignoring the honorable opposition most Southern Baptists feel based upon his policies which Southern Baptist, in large part, believe are contrary to Scriptural teachings.

The tent of Southern Baptists should be enlarged, most definitely.  However, it should be done by individually sharing Christ with people of all races and creeds, no matter their pre-conceived notions.  Constantine declared his army Christian and with a pronouncement the Holy Roman Empire was born politically.  Are we naive enough to believe that all those soldiers were genuinely converted?  Surely, we must guard against bringing en mass into the tent those who have very different views of salvation and Christian living without first ascertaining that they are truly born again.

In the second chapter of John, untold numbers professed belief in Jesus Christ, but He did not accept their profession, because He knew their hearts.   The time has come that judgment must begin at the house of The Lord, and we must guard against accommodating error in order to increase our clout in the world, or our standing in social circles.

Now comes the difficult part of the convention.  How does one oppose a Black candidate without his being labeled a racist.   The charge continually leveled against President Obama’s opposition is that it is racist.  How much more is this likely in the racially charged environment being created in New Orleans at the Southern Baptist Convention?   Already, such whisperings abound that this election should be by acclimation to show the world that we are not racist as a denomination.   Dear friend, until a Black and White can compete on equal footing without either being labeled racist for opposing the other, racism continues to flourish.

If Fred Luter is, indeed, God’s man of the hour, let’s elect and him to that position.  However, let each examine his own heart as to why he is voting for, or against Fred.  Let the opposition treat one another with respect. 

©                 2012                     Mike Rasberry

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