NEW ORLEANS (BP) – The recommendation of “Great Commission Baptists” as a descriptive name and the prospective election of the first-ever African-American president are on the horizon for the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) June 19–20 meeting in New Orleans.
Messengers will decide whether to adopt the informal, nonlegal “Great Commission Baptists” descriptor as recommended by the SBC Executive Committee, embracing the suggestion of a special task force appointed to study changing the SBC’s name, deemed by some a regional barrier to the gospel.
“The overwhelming acceptance of the Executive Committee was the first major step,” SBC President Bryant Wright said of the proposed descriptor. “Obviously, the decision of the convention will be most important. If approved, our entities will lead the way in using the descriptor. I think it will be a 10- to 20-year process of helping Southern Baptists and the general public to think, ‘Those people really are Great Commission Baptists,’ when they think of us.”
Fred Luter Jr., senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and SBC first vice president, currently is unopposed for the SBC presidency. Luter would be the first African-American to hold the post, on the heels of the SBC’s historic 2011 measure calling for greater accountability among its entities regarding ethnic diversity in leadership. David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans, is expected to nominate Luter.
“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.
“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,” he added. “It is a statement that people of all ethnic groups make up the Southern Baptist Convention and are honored.”
The annual meeting will be held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the 2005 source of troubling images as thousands suffered hunger, thirst and lack of medical care as victims of Hurricane Katrina.
The center has undergone $92.7 million in improvements since the storm, according to press reports.