Can Southern Baptists Change?
Has change finally come to Southern Baptists? Ever since the news release of the probability of electing an African American president of the once all-white Baptist convention, signals change is possible. Many changes have come to the SBC over the last 25 years, but this will change the history of the convention.
Growing up in the racist south where segregation was the norm, I attended a black Baptist church. White visitors only came during the World Day of prayer services or when election time came around. I never heard of Southern Baptists or ever dreamed of working with them.
My first encounter with Southern Baptists occurred during my freshmen year at college. I accidentally showed up at the FBC in the town and got the surprise of a lifetime. Most of the students attending the University Of Southwestern Louisiana (USL) were catholic, but this northern Baptist girl would never attend catholic mass. When Sunday came I headed for the Baptist student union (BSU) where I thought the Baptists met for worship.
I arrived at the building before , but no one was around except for a man mowing the yard. When I asked the time of the service, he informed me that there were no Sunday services. He pointed to a steeple sticking out between the trees and said that was a Baptist church. Fearlessly I followed that steeple to an experience I would never forget.
As I approached that massive brick building beneath that tall white steeple I could not imagine such a church. I walked toward the front door, but it was locked. I knocked on a side door and a worker welcomed me inside. He escorted me to the sanctuary where I could wait until church started. My eyes wandered taking pictures of this beautiful place that I assumed was a black Baptist church.
I turned around in my comfortable seat to notice a T.V. camera in the balcony. My heart stopped beating for a moment and I froze with fright. I knew I was in the wrong place, but I couldn’t remember how to get out of there. Heading for the exit, my escort returned to inform me that blacks had never attended a worship service there and he was going to get the pastor. I apologized and told the kind gentlemen that I would just leave and return to the dorm.
Just as I was walking toward the door this tall white man came down the stairs. He extended his hand and introduced himself as the pastor. My heart was pounding so loud that I could hardly get words out of my mouth. He asked me if I knew the Black pastor in town. I quickly apologized and suggested that I go back to the dorm. This pastor said he would find me a church to attend. He walked me to his shiny black car and off we went.
It seemed like we drove forever to God knows where to find this suitable church. The pastor kept talking something religious, but I was frightened. I knew I was supposed to be matured, but right now I was a scared little girl. When we arrived at the church someone was outside mowing the yard. The pastor asked if this was the
and the man said it
was. The pastor told me this was a good
church and that I would be more comfortable here. I watched the tail lights of
that white pastor’s car disappear and I wanted to hide somewhere and cry. I had to wonder if he would appreciate his
daughter being treated this way.
Although my first impression of Southern Baptists was not a very pleasant one, I eventually found my way to the BSU. This place served as a launching pad to more than 40 years of missionary service. The more I hung out with those Southern Baptists the more I felt comfortable. I was watching their every move wondering just what God was teaching me through them. It felt like family at the BSU so naturally I followed my friends to “their” church.
Every Sunday morning I looked forward to attending
where Dr. Walter Fox
served as pastor. There are not enough
words to express how much this church added to my spiritual growth. They filled the music hall during my senior
recital and gave me a reception afterwards.
They never treated me like a
token, but a member of the family. I
will be forever grateful to BSU and those days at Emmanuel for my early days in
ministry. . Emmanuel
Through my association with the BSU I became a summer missionary which led to my being a US-2er and later a career missionary. God led me to attend a Baptist college where I was encouraged to attend Seminary in
. I have to admit I was in sad shape
spiritually, but so thankful for those old professors who shaped me for my
God led me to the inner-city of
as a fish out of water,
but with the love of a Savior who used me to make a difference. My eyes nor ears could not comprehend all God
was doing in my life because of the work of Southern Baptists. I will never
forget marching 60 inner-city children from the streets of
Orleans inside the Superdome to
sing for the convention. I was part of a
team and God did fantastic things in all our lives. New
Every year was a welcomed challenged, but God was working. Our focus was on Christ and sharing his love all over the land. My heart nearly burst when I was invited to speak from the pulpit of the church where I was not allowed to worship as a freshman in college. Love came down that day and that same pastor became one of my dearest friends. I traveled to many SBC churches and spoke at many conventions that I felt like the Home Mission Board poster child. We cried, laughed, and worked together sharing the love of God to everyone. I can honestly say I really enjoyed my employment with southern Baptists.
Meanwhile changes caused many heated discussions among Southern Baptists. To this day I never understood what all the fuss was about. The next thing I knew the convention split and I was writing my resignation. Although I was discouraged and very disappointed, I realized that I was just as a “token” with no regard to my leadership skills as a fellow worker. Many employees left the board to start other ministries which was all in the plan of God. Sadness gripped my heart as I watched churches decline and ministries die, but God was still working.
The turbulent winds of Katrina moved all of us closer to being servants of God. God brought all of us together to minister to the many needs of
. Our differences were put on the back burner
as we worked together. I was proud to be
associated with Southern Baptists. New
God relocated me to a state known for racism and hatred:
. Against warnings of my family and friends I
followed God’s will and settled in my new community. When God asked me to join the FBC in
Picayune, all He asked me to do was just love them. Fear was on many of their faces because I did
not fit the profile of what the media displayed as an African American. I have cried, laughed, worshipped, hugged,
and worked with these folk not because of civil rights, but because of whose we
If electing an African American is a God thing it will be a good thing. I wish they had done it sooner before the convention declined and they had no other choice. Pastor Luter knows how to deal with decline. He was given a dead church with the mandate to bury it or resurrect it. Through prayer and hard work the Franklin Ave. Baptist church is one of the largest growing Southern Baptist churches in the nation. God has used Pastor Luter to bring racial harmony in many SBC ministries. Many outstanding African Americans have played a part in many SBC programs that paved the way for this election I along with them will be praying for the move of God during the convention in June. I don’t believe Pastor Luter will change the convention, but I know he will introduce them to a Savior who can. One of my favorite quotes from my favorite pastor: It’s not about the pastor, it’s about the Master.