"Milestone" Continued...

Issue: "Effective Compassion," June 16, 2012

Back in North Carolina, Strickland's enthusiasm for the SBC extends to Luter's rise in leadership. He says that Luter has earned his status in the denomination for his hard work in the ministry, not because of his race: "This is not an affirmative action appointment."

Indeed, Luter has been well-known in SBC circles for years. After a near-fatal motorcycle accident more than 30 years ago, he grew serious about his faith and pursued pastoral ministry. Franklin Avenue had 65 members when he arrived in 1986. By 2005, the church had grown to nearly 8,000.

But those numbers plummeted when Hurricane Katrina devastated the church building and dispersed the congregation in 2005. A few dozen church members continued meeting on the campus of First Baptist Church across town. Luter led efforts to open satellite churches in areas where members fled, and continued pastoral visits to the displaced.

Though the pastor could have fled himself, Luter stayed in New Orleans and led the church's efforts to restore its building and its congregation. Today, more than 4,500 worshippers pack Sunday services in a new building that opened in 2008.

The minister has said he hopes to promote racial reconciliation in the SBC, but he also wants to help start more churches and help congregations that have struggled like his own.

Whatever the outcome of the election, Luter still seems surprised by his own path. During the same sermon he preached in 2010 that described his wayward youth, Luter told the congregation that "God chose me" despite his sin and rebellion. "Where would I be if Jesus didn't sacrifice Himself for me?" he asked. "I wasn't even looking for God, but I'm glad that He was looking for me."

More than race

Richard Land statements prompt plagiarism investigation

Associated Press/Photo by Alex Brandon

Beyond racial issues, Richard Land ignited another set of worries with his March 31 broadcast when he discussed the Trayvon Martin case: A blogger and doctoral candidate at Baylor University in Texas charged Land with plagiarizing part of the program. Blogger Aaron Weaver pointed out that some of Land's comments repeated verbatim an editorial in The Washington Times.

Land admitted that he quoted parts of the editorial without giving clear credit to the author. "On occasion I have failed to provide appropriate verbal attributions on my radio broadcast," he wrote on his website. "I regret if anyone feels they were deceived or misled. That was not my intent nor has it ever been." (Land pointed out that he provides links on his website to the material he uses during broadcasts.)

The executive committee of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission announced it would conduct an investigation of the plagiarism charges, and planned to produce a report by June 1. The committee also acknowledged Land's work on racial issues-like the 1995 resolution-but expressed regret for "any harm that may have been done to race relations" in the SBC by his radio broadcast. (Land declined a request to comment for this story.) -Jamie Dean

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the political beat and other topics as national editor for WORLD Magazine. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.


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