New Research: Pastors say an African-American president would be good for SBC

Southern Baptists have come a long way. In the last 20 years, the percentage of non-Anglo SBC churches has grown from five percent to 20 percent, and now seven percent of Southern Baptist churches are identified as primarily African-American. But, we are still a predominantly Anglo denomination, so it is particularly encouraging to see the openness and enthusiasm for an African-American SBC president. In a recent survey, we found 86% of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) pastors who expressed an opinion believe it would be good for our denomination to have an African-American leader.

From the release:

Many anticipate the historic election of Rev. Fred Luter, an African-American pastor from New Orleans, as SBC president at the denomination’s annual meeting next month. This past spring, LifeWay Research polled SBC pastors asking their level of agreement or disagreement with the statement: “Without regard to any individual, I think it would be a good thing to have an African-American as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.” Of the nearly 1,000 SBC pastors who responded, 61 percent agree it would be positive, 10 percent disagree, but 29 percent don’t have an opinion. Of those who had an opinion, 50 percent strongly agree and 36 percent somewhat agree.

The LifeWay Research question was posed to gain perspective on pastors’ views of this anticipated historical vote, but was not focused specifically on Dr. Luter. We wanted to know about race’s role in denominational leadership. What we didn’t want was a referendum or pre-convention vote of confidence of any individual’s skills or electability. That’s why we asked the question the way we did. Pastors, when answering, may have thought about a black SBC leader as being a sign of national racial progress or even a positive pivot point in the direction of the denomination. Either way, more than 8 out of 10 is an overwhelming percentage and a sign of remarkable progress by any measure.

You can read the full release here.

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  1. Josh   •  

    I understand the intent of the poll, and I am embarrassed that the response wasn’t 100% in favor of Dr. Luter. However, I am scared that as Southern Baptists, and more importantly as Christians, that we are in danger of over emphasizing the “blackness” of Dr. Luter while not highlighting the calling and leadership. We are bordering on pride in ourselves for electing an African-American leader…instead of humbling electing the man which God has called to lead us. Either way…Dr. Luter will be a tremendous leader, and I cannot wait to see where God directs us through his vision.

  2. Josh   •  

    humbly…not humbling…sorry.

  3. svmuschany   •  

    The pastors who voted “somewhat disagree” or “strongly disagree”, should be questioned, and if a rational, non-racist reason for this position is not provided, they should be kicked out of the SBC. Yes I know the SBC does not work like that, but at least in this case, it should.

  4. Michelle   •  

    Is it not an aimless conversation to even be talking about the color of the next SBC leader? We should probably work to get the best person for the job no matter whether they’re black, white, brown, blue or pink.

  5. Josh   •  

    Agree whole-heartedly with you Michelle.

  6. Bruce Ashford   •  

    Ed, thanks for the blog. Michelle, I only agree with you “sort of.” I agree that we want to elect a great man for the job, regardless of color. But I also think we want African-American, Asian-American, and Hispanic presidents because it is a display of how the gospel overcomes all barriers, including racial and ethnic. For too long, our churches and seminaries and SBC presidencies have been pasty white. This is a bizarre anomaly in American life. We unintentionally send the message that, “If you want to want to find a powerful uniting force that can overcome racial barriers, look to the US government (b/c they’ve done it in the schools systems) or to the business world (they’ve done it also. But don’t look to our churches to be able to overcome such barriers b/c apparently our gospel isn’t powerful enough to do it.” And that message, albeit unintentional, is a powerfully bad message.

    Instead, we want to be a sign of the kingdom. We want to provide the world a foretaste of what it will be like on that day when all tribes, tongues, peoples, and nations gather around the throne (Rev 5, 7).

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