September 1, 2014
Ethnicity & the SBC
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Luter sees 'genuine' open door for ethnic groups
NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- Newly elected Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter Jr. engaged a roomful of reporters in his hometown of New Orleans June 19, sharing his surprise at "the confidence Southern Baptists are putting in me and my leadership skills and what God has done in my life."
The unanimous endorsement of the first African American to serve America's largest Protestant denomination is more than symbolic, Luter said, though he understands why fellow blacks might view it as such, waiting to see that "this is not a one and done deal." "If we stop appointing African Americans or Asians or Hispanics to leadership roles in this convention after my
Luter "loves being part of this convention."
term is over, we failed. We absolutely failed," Luter said. Instead, he said, "This was a genuine, authentic move by this convention that says our doors are open, and the only way they can see that is not just putting up an African American president, but seeing other ethnic groups in other areas of this convention. Time will tell and I'll be a cheerleader promoting that." Luter's only announced agenda at the news conference is an effort to build bridges to help Southern Baptists acquire a reputation as "the church getting along" instead of folks who often fuss with one another, a concern he addressed the night before when speaking to the SBC Pastors' Conference. Appealing for prayer, Luter said he hopes to get diverse groups together "to make sure the Gospel of Christ and the Great Commission is not watered down because of the fact that it seems we don't get together." He asked Southern Baptists to pray that he would have wisdom in dealing with the media, so that nothing he says will hurt the convention, his church, his family or the Kingdom of God. "There will be some pitfalls, but I hope I will learn from them and study more on things I anticipate being asked," he added, hopeful he will be known as a person, pastor, husband, father and man of God who loves the city of New Orleans, the state and the country, "and loves being part of this convention." Luter hopes his church's reputation for having strong participation by men will serve as an example to other congregations. "When I became pastor of this church, I said, 'Lord, I know the impact a man could have on a child's life,'" he said, having promised God he would be the role model in his own son's life that he never had. At the outset of his church's development, Luter said he noticed most of the members were women and children. He thanked them for their involvement, but then set about discovering a way to attract their husbands and other men. By inviting men of the neighborhood to his home to watch a pay-per-view broadcast of a fight between Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard, he developed relationships that multiplied into a steady increase in the number of men attending Franklin Avenue Baptist Church. "They came with boom boxes and loud music, with a beer can in one hand and a wine cooler in the other," Luter said. "I appreciated them coming but they were going to have to throw away the beer and the wine cooler," he remembered. "It was not a problem. They wanted to see the fight." While insistent the message of the Gospel must remain the same, Luter said, however, "We cannot expect to reach this do-rag, tattoo-wearing, ear-pierced, iPod, iPad, iPhone generation with an eight-track ministry. Things are changing and so we've got to some way, somehow change the methods of how we do things." The historic coincidence of being elected on the day when many African Americans celebrate Juneteenth, commemorating the enforcement of emancipation of slaves, had not occurred to Luter until a reporter asked for his comment on the day's significance. While Southern Baptists cannot avoid the fact that support of slavery factored into the founding of the convention, Luter said, "All of us have done some things in our past we're not happy about. We cannot do anything about that past. It's over with. However, we can do a lot about our future." Luter recalled the 1995 SBC racial reconciliation resolution that he helped write with Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land, a man he described as his good friend and brother. ...
Land: ERLC remains committed to reconciliation
At NAAF, Luter exhorts SBC to trust in God
NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- Fred Luter, in his first sermon after his election as Southern Baptist Convention president, exhorted believers to place their trust in the Lord and work through the church to heal today's troubled society.
Fred Luter's trailblazing life rich with trials, blessings
NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- The new blue and silver Honda 360 motorcycle was mangled junk. A young Fred Luter Jr. lay in a hospital bed, his left leg broken in several places, a hole in his head. Louis Beloney, then-senior deacon at Greater Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, gave the 21-year-old Luter sage advice: "Obedience is better than sacrifice." That is, Luter would have done better to obey his mother Viola, who told him just a month earlier not to buy the bike, rather than nearly sacrifice his life in the May 1977 accident when he struck a car on Paris Avenue in New Orleans.

Video story on Dr. Fred Luter, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, La. 2012 Baptist Press

"And he said, 'You better get your life right with God.' It challenged me and started making me really consider my relationship with God, to the point that I started reading my Bible every day, on a daily basis, morning and evening," Luter recalls 35 years later. "I called the accident my Damascus Road experience." Leaving the hospital three months later in a full-leg cast he would wear until the next year, his head mostly healed, he soon walked on crutches down the aisle of Greater Mt. Carmel and committed himself to the Lord. "I immediately started a street ministry because ... I was so shocked by my relationship with Christ, I wanted everybody in my neighborhood, all my partners ... to know the God that I knew," Luter said. "So every Saturday at 12 noon I'd be preaching on different streets of the Lower Ninth Ward and sharing Christ. And that's how, as they say, that's how it all began." The first African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention is amazed at how God has blessed his ministry, opening doors previously closed to those from Luter's side of town. "I've been with Southern Baptists for 25 years as pastor," he said, "and I have a really, really good relationship with a lot of pastors across the convention, a lot of the directors of missions across the country, a lot of state execs, evangelism directors. I've preached for most of them, if not all of them." Luter was unopposed for the SBC presidency. A trailblazer in the SBC, the pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church ...
Historic: Fred Luter elected SBC president
NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- Native New Orleanian Fred Luter was elected by acclamation Tuesday, June 19, as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Hispanic Advisory Council holds first meeting
FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) -- The effectiveness of cell groups in reaching Hispanics, the need for quality discipleship materials in Spanish and family pressures experienced by Hispanic believers were among the topics discussed at the first meeting of the Hispanic Advisory Council on the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
African American Advisory Council named
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- An African American Advisory Council has been created to communicate the perspectives of black churches and their leaders to Southern Baptist Convention entity leaders, Executive Committee President Frank S. Page has announced.
Korean church planter takes Gospel to Alaska's capital
EDITOR'S NOTE: Photojournalist Tyler Malone of Nashville, Tenn., did a photo essay of pastor Peter Oh in Juneau, Alaska, last fall. The following story provides context for Malone's photos. Malone is on the Web at JUNEAU, Alaska (BP) -- Believing that God was stirring him to reach unchurched fellow Koreans, Peter Oh relocated his family from the largest city in Alaska three years ago to plant a Korean church in the state's capital, Juneau. Oh and his wife Jong - with their teenage son, pre-teen son and toddler daughter -- moved from an established Korean Baptist church in Anchorage and relocated to Juneau "totally on faith," said Mike Procter, executive director of the Alaska Baptist Convention. Oh said he "noticed God was calling me to go Juneau" about two years after learning from a fellow church member in Anchorage that the Korean church in Juneau had closed. "That broke my heart." Procter said that Oh, who was in Anchorage about three years, "has done a tremendous job developing a Korean congregation" in Juneau, which meets on Sunday afternoons in the building of Emmanuel Baptist Church. "He has a high sense of calling," Procter said of Oh, "and he's got a commitment to that calling of God." Oh, as pastor of Juneau Korean Church, reaches into the city's Korean population in practical ways, such as visiting fellow Koreans in their businesses on Saturdays, carrying gifts of traditional Korean food, a CD recording of a sermon and the church's most recent bulletin. Juneau is "one of those places you can only reach by boat or plane," Procter said. It's the only state capital in the United States not accessible by road. "The cost of living is very high," Procter said. And because the city is not only the state's political center but also home to the University of Alaska Southeast, "There are a lot of high academic expectations," with "Christianity constantly being challenged intellectually and philosophically." Despite such challenges, Procter said, "Pastor Oh's church is growing." To reach out to the community, some of whom are second-generation Americans, Procter said Oh is teaching classes in Korean culture and Korean as a second language. "Our church started out with only three families," Oh said -- 17 people from among about 70 Koreans in Juneau. "Now I have a relationship with about 40 of the 70 Koreans in Juneau." Oh recounted, "At first when me and my wife visited Korean [workers in local] restaurants they did not welcome us. But we still kept trying to have an open mind for them. We kept that up for two years every week and gifted them with Korean food. And now they open up their mind for us and welcome us." Oh said five Korean business owners have joined his church, which has about 25 attending weekly.
Hispanic church embraces Cooperative Program
HYATTSVILLE, Md. (BP) -- "The beauty of the Cooperative Program," as Rolando Castro sees it from a church's perspective, "is that you can be involved no matter how big you are, no matter your location." Currently serving as interim pastor of a Hispanic congregation in the metro Washington area, Castro added, "You can be involved in reaching the world with the Gospel message of Jesus Christ."
Castro has led Primera Iglesia Bautista Hispana de Maryland from giving zero to missions to 10 percent of their offerings through the Cooperative Program to fund missions and ministry by the state conventions and the Southern Baptist Convention. When a church extends itself beyond its neighborhood through the Cooperative Program, it can become involved in international missions and in planting churches across North America, Castro said, describing its CP giving as "the first step in increasing involvement in missions, in evangelizing." "I think churches should be spending their resources -- actually God's resources -- to Kingdom first and then to themselves," Castro continued. "This is probably reversed in Christian churches in America. If you are giving to the Cooperative Program in this way, you can say 10 percent of your income is going to missions. That would be a really good point to launch a missional mentality in the church. "If we are giving, then the next step is to go, and the next step is to participate," said Castro, who also coordinates Hispanic church planting and evangelism for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. "You need to surrender yourself to be missional, and the first thing to surrender is money. "I don't think God is giving us His resources to pay the bills" solely for church expenses, he said. About 10 years ago, an average of 200 people participated in Sunday services at Primera Iglesia Bautista, located in Hyattsville, Md. But the number dwindled over time, and for at least two years the church was without a pastor. Castro filled the pulpit occasionally, and when he was asked to serve as a long-term interim, he agreed to do so if they would allow him to lead as a pastor would. "Because they were ready to change, they agreed," Castro said. "Now it seems like everybody is on the same page. They really want to see something happen. "And not only evangelizing, getting people involved in church, but being involved in other kinds of missions," said Castro, who is involved with a church plant in addition to his pastoral duties. Castro would like to see something similar to Primera Iglesia Bautista's transformation take place across the two-state convention, where about 30 churches worship in the Spanish language. Three or four more are in the process of organizing, and one or two are actively planting churches.
Urban engagement sparks NAMB-Rebuild partnership
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) -- "Years later the church has become an idol/ It became a culture and it's no longer a faith/ We seek comfortable living and no longer His face/ See churches on the corner but the corners don't change," -- from "Rebuild the City" by Sho Baraka L.
Hip hop may not readily come to mind when thinking of Southern Baptist work through the North American Mission Board. With The Rebuild Initiative, it may be essential. In an effort to enhance the reach of NAMB's Send North America strategy, the mission board is embarking on a partnership with The Rebuild Initiative. Stemming from the vision and passion of two urban church planters, Rebuild is intent on identifying, equipping and networking urban church planters and leaders.
Watch a discussion on the challenges of urban church planting here.
"Rebuild brings the focus of the Gospel into cultural context," Dhati Lewis, president of the organization, said. "What you often find is people who are culturally contextual but not theologically sound, or they are theologically sound but not culturally relevant. With Rebuild we are working with leaders who are both. We have a desire to connect new leaders who will be theologically sound and culturally relevant. We want to help raise up indigenous leaders and train them theologically so we can come together and address urban culture." In addition to establishing a network of urban church planters and leaders, Rebuild will host roundtable events in key urban areas to equip and encourage leaders. The idea is a natural fit for Send North America. Noting that the Send North America strategy includes urban settings, NAMB President Kevin Ezell voiced enthusiasm "about what Dhati Lewis and Larry Grays are doing to mentor urban leaders and how the Rebuild Initiative can show us how to reach urban centers better, to model it so we can bring others alongside and make a significant difference in urban settings." Grays is vice president of Rebuild and pastor of Midtown Bridge Church in Atlanta. Lewis is pastor of Blueprint Church, which launched in downtown Atlanta last year. "One of the biggest challenges facing urban church planting is awareness," Grays said. "If we are going to be serious as a convention about the Great Commission and reaching unreached people and underserved people, I think we've got to look at the urban environment." Aaron Coe, NAMB vice president for mobilization, underscored Rebuild's synthesis of urban development, leadership equipping and church planting.
18 Hispanic council members named
Page announces Hispanic Advisory Council
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, announced the formation of a Hispanic Advisory Council with a goal of "more fully integrating Hispanic Baptist churches into the total fabric of Southern Baptist life and ministry."
BLACK CHURCH WEEK: Don't be 'too good' to reach out, pastor urges leaders
RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP) -- "When Sinners Show Up" -- the title of a Sunday School lesson -- sparked the preaching of T. Vaughn Walker during the Black Church Leadership and Family Conference (better known as Black Church Week) with nearly 1,000 in attendance at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina.
Luter election reflects SBC's growing diversity, New Orleans pastors say
NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- African American pastors in the New Orleans Baptist Association say the election of Fred Luter as the Southern Baptist Convention's first vice president is important evidence that the SBC has departed from the racial exclusion of its past.
New NAMB role seeks to boost ethnic involvement
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)--A new role created by the North American Mission Board will help the entity maintain a strong focus on minority ministry needs and facilitate leadership opportunities for minorities throughout SBC life.
NAMB president Kevin Ezell created the role of Presidential Ambassador for Ethnic Church Relations shortly after messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix voted to approve a recommendation citing the "need to be proactive and intentional in the inclusion of individuals from all ethnic and racial identities within Southern Baptist life." Ezell has named Ken Weathersby to fill the role. "I think messengers sent a clear signal in Phoenix that they want to see a broader spectrum of ethnic involvement in the SBC," Ezell said. "This new role will help facilitate that." Weathersby most recently served as associate vice president for ethnic mobilization at NAMB. He has previously served in leadership positions in NAMB's church planting and evangelism areas as well. He has also served in an evangelism leadership role with the Tennessee Baptist Convention and pastored churches in Baton Rouge, La., and Cincinnati. "All of us need to be doing whatever it takes -- as our president, Kevin Ezell, says -- to reach all peoples," Weathersby said. "So I'm asking 'How can we strengthen what we're doing? How can we plant more churches? How can we show we value everyone and that we all need to work cooperatively?'" Weathersby's role will be fully funded by NAMB, but he will spend part of his time working with the SBC Executive Committee as it seeks to implement recommendations made by the Executive Committee's ethnic study workgroup regarding ethnic involvement in SBC life. Based on a motion presented at the 2009 SBC annual meeting in Louisville, Ky., the Executive Committee workgroup examined "how ethnic churches and ethnic church leaders can be more actively involved in serving the needs of the SBC through cooperative partnership on the national level."

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