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.
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.