PLEASANT GARDEN, N.C. (BP)—Speaking to a group of mostly African-American pastors and church leaders, Fred Luter recently voiced both encouragement and concerns regarding a few issues Southern Baptists face today.
Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), spoke at a breakfast that preceded the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s 2013 State Evangelism Conference at Pleasant Garden Baptist Church in Pleasant Garden, N.C.
The first African-American to be elected as SBC president, Luter talked about everything from Calvinism to pastors standing up against societal pressures on issues such as gay marriage. He also encouraged them to join the 1 percent Challenge that encourages all Southern Baptist churches to consider a 1 percent-of-budget increase in Cooperative Program giving.
“I’ve been a part of [the Southern Baptist] convention for 26 years,” Luter said. “This is not a perfect convention, but ... I would put this convention up to any in the world.”
“We’re number one when it comes to evangelism. We’re number one when it comes to discipleship, number one when it comes to disaster relief.”
Luter recalled how the SBC’s Disaster Relief ministry reached out to Franklin Avenue Baptist Church and New Orleans residents left in wake of Hurricane Katrina.
“This [convention] has a passion for reaching people,” Luter said.
“I promise you this convention, bar none, is one that believes in doing the Master’s will. And that’s why I’m proud to be a part of this convention.”
The debate over Calvinism and what some refer to as “traditional Baptist” views on salvation, he added, is becoming more of a distraction in Southern Baptist life.
“We have a major, major issue with Calvinism,” Luter said. “That issue can possibly, if we don’t deal with it in a Christian manner, split this convention. Every city I go to, when I [meet] with pastors, [they] will ask what’s going to happen with the Calvinism issue.”
SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page formed a special advisory team last year to address the Calvinism debate. The advisory team is expected to report on the issue during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in June.
“There’s going to be a proclamation given out that hopefully will satisfy everybody,” Luter said. “We’ve got to look at this thing as spiritual warfare. ... It’s an issue that has to be dealt with, and unless we deal with it in a Christian-like manner, I really believe the enemy can come and divide us.”
Pastors and church leaders need to take more of a stand, he said, against the pressures of today’s politically correct culture.
“We’ve got preachers [who] are compromising the Scriptures,” Luter said. “We need pastors and preachers in this convention who are going to stand on the Word of God.”
Luter mentioned an interview he participated in the day after being elected as SBC president. During the interview a journalist asked him about his view of same-sex marriage and whether or not he agreed with President Obama’s stance on the issue.
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