Baptist Press – the public relations arm of the Southern Baptist Convention – reported today that Fred Luter will be nominated for the 1st Vice-President position at the upcoming annual meeting of the SBC in Phoenix. Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, will nominate Luter.
Fred Luter is the senior pastor of the 4,800-member and predominantly-African American Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of Theology at Southern Seminary, suggested via Twitter that Southern Baptists should elect Luter as president of the SBC in 2012. The annual meeting of the SBC is being held next year in Luter’s New Orleans.
The announcement of Luter’s 1st VP candidacy comes on the heels of reporting from Baptist Press late last week that messengers to the upcoming annual meeting of the SBC will vote on a set of recommendations aimed at “making the convention’s leadership positions more reflective of the growing ethnic diversity in its church.”
Robert Anderson, the only African-American serving on the SBC’s Executive Committee, explained the reason for the pro-diversity recommendations:
There was a full buy-in from the Executive Committee. I think there will be full buy-in and support from messengers. Come on, we’ve got a black president,” Anderson said, referring to President Obama. “We’ve moved on now, and it’s time for the SBC to step up its game. They may not think of it in that regard, but that’s my take on it. I do believe it will have good support.
Anderson stressed that ethnic diversity in leadership positions “will not happen by osmosis.” Intentionally is needed, according to Anderson:
You’ve got to start somewhere. I hate to call it a starting place, but in some respects this is a starting place….If you don’t start here, where are you going to start? If this is not the right thing to do, then what is the right thing to do?
The recommendations call for newly elected SBC presidents to
“give special attention to appointing individuals representing the diversity within the convention” and “select annual meeting program personalities representing the ethnic diversity within the SBC.”
The recommendations also call on SBC entities to “give due consideration to the recruitment and employment of qualified individuals to serve in various professional staff positions, on seminary faculty and as appointed missionaries in order to reflect ethnic diversity within SBC life.”
These Executive Committee-approved recommendations are extremely interesting as they essentially amount to a Baptist-style Affirmative Action program.
Many SBCers will undoubtedly cringe at those two words – Affirmative Action. Yet, I don’t think there is any disputing these recommendations that aim to involve minorities in leadership/employment positions “in order to reflect ethnic diversity within SBC life” meet the definition of “affirmative action.” Look it up.
Richard Land, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, wrote back in 2009 that affirmative action “is now counterproductive” in American society. Land argued that “affirmative action exacerbates racism and prejudice.”
I’m interested in hearing a Southern Baptist attempt to distinguish between an affirmative action emphasis within the SBC and an affirmative action emphasis beyond the denominational walls in American society.
If affirmative action qualifies as discrimination as Land and other Southern Baptists have argued, then how is it appropriate to urge SBC agency heads and seminary administrators to consider the race/ethnicity of a potential employee?