He is not proud of the denomination’s past, Luter said in the conference. However, in the 25 years he has been part of the denomination he said he has witnessed their attempts to make amends for that past.
“To see this happen this year, I think it says this convention is putting their money where their mouth is,” he said. “We have spent the past few years talking about making changes and now our actions are showing.”
And there is still work to be done Luter, Barnette and Richardson believe.
When he joined the Southern Baptist Convention 19 years ago, Barnette he had no idea of the denomination’s past. But when he did come to know their past, he decided the best way to make a difference was to stay. And now that Luter is president, Barnette is even more committed to be a prophetic voice within the denomination.
“Even though Fred is our president, we must maintain our prophetic voice to speak to what is wrong. We must still address issues going out in our denomination,” he said. “We must maintain our prophetic voice and push the envelope to bring up the issues that need to be dealt with.”
And even though they respect Luter, Barnette said they cannot let their fears of hurting him and his presidency influence their prophetic responsibilities.
While Richardson holds to his belief that Luter’s election is symbolic, he welcomes being proven wrong. He welcomes the opportunity to work with Luter and the SBC.
“There are issues that African-Americans face that the church must address. And so, I would welcome the opportunity to meet with him and to help in any way we can to build bridges,” he said. “At the end of the day we all are under the banner of Christ. The challenge of the church is to find ways there is unity that does not restrict us. How do we celebrate Christ and yet not become dismissive of each other on basis of our cultural diversity.”
For Luter, it is yet to be seen what impact his election will have on the SBC. Yet, he dismisses the idea that his election is a symbolic one.
“What happens from this day on? If we stop appointing people of color to leadership roles after my term is over, we have absolutely failed,” he said. “Time will tell and it remains to be seen what can happen from here on. I promise you I will be a cheerleader. I do not want to just be a symbolic image. I will do all I can to ensure this is not a one-and-done deal, but something we can see from years down the line.”
Reports from National Public Radio, the Christian Post and the Baptist Press contributed to the report.
Follow Mashaun D. Simon on Twitter at @memadosi