Know Your Southern Baptists: Fred Luter Jr.
Age: 56 (born November 11, 1956)
Why you’ve heard of him: At his election as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2012, Luter became the first African-American to ever hold that position. Messengers to the 2013 SBC annual meeting in June reelected him to that role.
Position: SBC President and senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, LA.
Previous: His whole ministry career has been in his hometown of New Orleans. First, he was a street preacher. He preached his first sermon in Law Street Baptist. Before taking the pastorate at FABC, he was on staff at Greater Liberty Baptist.
Why he’s important: After a potentially devastating motorcycle accident in 1977, which Luter calls his “Damascus Road experience,” he committed his life to ministry. He began to preach on the corner of Caffin and Galvez streets in New Orleans. Later, Luter accepted the pastorate of Franklin Avenue, a struggling church that had dwindled down to 65 members. Initially, Luter was a bi-vocational pastor at FABC. By 2005, the upper Ninth Ward church had grown to 7,000 members, but that year Hurricane Katrina destroyed the building and scattered members across the country. Instead of leave the city, Luter stayed and worked to rebuild his church. At his election to the SBC presidency, Luter had saw membership climb back to virtually what it was previously.
His ascendancy to the presidency in the SBC grew from decades of service within the denomination. Luter began to speak across Louisiana, after the state convention noticed that FABC led the state in baptisms regularly. He played a role in the convention issuing an apology in 1995 for their slave-owning history. In 1996, he spoke at the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference. Following that, Luter guest preached at numerous influential churches across the nation. In 2001, he became the first African-American to preach the convention sermon. He also previously served as second vice-president and became the first African-American to serve as the first vice-president of the SBC in 2011. After his historic election to the presidency in 2012, he was reelected this past June and will continue as president until the 2014 SBC annual meeting.
“I have a past, you have a past, everybody has a past. This convention unfortunately has a past that we’re trying to move forward from and, and that’s how I look at it. There was apology made, and so it’s now time to move on.”
“The man is the head of the family. If he comes to church he’s going to bring his family with him.”
“Our doors are open to each and everybody, no matter the color, no matter the creed, no matter the background, this convention’s doors are open and our churches are open to whosoever will, let them come.”
“We have lost folk who are burning in a lake of fire, while many of us are debating about which hose to pick up to put the fire out.”
“My mindset and my lifestyle is driven by what the Word of God says. If God says it’s wrong, then it’s wrong.”