Southern Baptists poised for historic election

June 13, 2011 - 2:44 PM

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Southern Baptist Convention meets this week in Phoenix to elect new leaders and one could make his mark in the history of the nation's largest Protestant denomination.

Fred Luter is expected to be nominated for first vice president. If elected, he would be the first African-American in the No. 2 position of the mostly white denomination.

Luter is head pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. He has broken other barriers: In 1992, he was the first African-American elected to the executive board of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. In 2001, he was the first African-American to preach the convention sermon at the SBC annual meeting.

The conference runs Tuesday and Wednesday. It comes at a time when membership is declining and the denomination is trying to diversify.