Posted on Feb 6, 2012 | by Gary D. Myers
NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention by David E. Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans.
"Fred has been among Southern Baptists for more than 20 years as a pastor. He has taken a church that was at death's door to the largest worshipping congregation in the state of Louisiana among Southern Baptists," Crosby said.
"He has been a great evangelist and has baptized thousands of people through these years of ministry."
Luter, the SBC's current first vice president, told his congregation Jan. 29 he is willing to be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Crosby cited Luter's diligence and determination as a pastor, Bible expositor, evangelist and spiritual leader as characteristics that qualify him to lead Southern Baptists. Luter's family life -- his love for his wife Elizabeth, and his two children, Kimberly and Fred "Chip" III -- is a model for Southern Baptist ministers, Crosby said.
The fact that Luter is African American would make his election a historic moment for Southern Baptists, Crosby said.
"Our election of Fred Luter as the first African American president of the SBC will send a great, hopeful, powerful message to our city, our culture, our convention and our country," Crosby said in an interview. "For many, it will make them rethink who Southern Baptists are, and it will help us reach the new diversity that we find in our cities.
"For Southern Baptists to elect Fred Luter heralds a new era of inclusion -- of working together in our diversity," Crosby continued. "It is a statement that people of all ethnic groups make up the Southern Baptist Convention and are honored."
Luter, who often calls himself a "street preacher from the Lower Ninth Ward," has made a significant mark on Southern Baptist life. A popular preacher at conferences and seminaries across the country, Luter became the first African American to preach the keynote sermon at the Southern Baptist Convention in 2001. At last year's annual meeting in Phoenix, Luter became the first African American to serve as the convention's first vice president.
Though known for boldness in proclaiming the Bible, Luter is a native New Orleanian who became pastor of Franklin Avenue in 1986 at a time when the church was fading as its surrounding neighborhoods were in transition. Under his leadership the church was given fresh life. Membership grew to around 5,000 and each Sunday, the church draws nearly 7,000 worshippers.
Deeply involved in Southern Baptist life, Luter has served in leadership roles on the local, state and national level. The New Orleans Baptist Association (NOBA) and the Louisiana Baptist Convention have tapped him for numerous leadership positions, and he served as a member of the committee that worked on the revision of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
"Fred Luter's support of our local association is stellar," Crosby said. "We could not do what we do without him or Franklin Avenue Baptist Church."
Crosby commended Luter for his pastoral leadership following Hurricane Katrina. Franklin Avenue's building was inundated with water and most of the church's members were displaced, but Luter's commitment to the congregation never wavered.
"Fred returned to New Orleans to continue his ministry even though I am confident he could have moved on to other places and pulpits," Crosby said. "But his heart was drawn here and he demonstrated the faithfulness of a pastor who cares for his flock.
"He met with his people who had evacuated to other places and he wanted to start meeting with his congregation here in New Orleans, but the building took on seven feet of water. There was no part of the facility that was able to be used," Crosby said.
Crosby offered space at First Baptist. Franklin Avenue met there for worship at 7:30 a.m. every Sunday for nearly two and a half years. During that time, the two congregations grew close and began to participate in ministry together. The churches joined together for men's ministry, the women's Bible studies and Vacation Bible School. Though Franklin Avenue moved back to its restored facility in April 2008, the churches have remained close.
"We are still doing some of those things together," Crosby said. The men's and women's groups from both churches still gather for prayer, fellowship and Bible study. Franklin Avenue also is involved in First Baptist's efforts to reach the Songhai people in Accra, Ghana.
"Fred and I have grown to love each other. I have a great respect for him as a man of God and expositor of the Word of God to his people," Crosby. "I think Fred Luter is a great example of evangelism, family life, pastoral care and leadership and we need him now."
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Chuck Kelley, a longtime co-laborer with Luter in New Orleans, affirmed Crosby's nomination of Luter.
"Slice off any aspect of a pastor's work, and Fred Luter does it well," Kelley said. "Look at him as a leader, and his work in the aftermath of Katrina is the stuff of legend. Check his calendar and you will find him active at every level of SBC life, including the grunt work of committee meetings no one even knows he attends. Invite him to preach and everyone will remember him and want him back. He is as Southern Baptist as Southern Baptist gets."
Gary D. Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email(baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).