The Southern Baptist Convention re-elected its first Black president, the Rev. Fred Luter Jr., at its annual meeting last week.
Luter was first elected in 2012. His presidency comes at a time when the nation’s largest Protestant denomination is trying to move beyond its traditional white Southern base.
The Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention claims 16 million members, but recently announced that membership declined in 2012 for the sixth straight year.
Luter was unopposed for re-election and received a standing ovation. Southern Baptist presidents can serve a maximum of two one-year terms.
Also at the convention, delegates made motions that included a request for a task force to look into alternatives to the Boy Scouts of America, now that the Scouts have agreed to allow gay members.
The convention later approved a resolution to condemn the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to allow openly gay boys to become Scouts. The resolution, which did not receive unanimous support, stops short of requiring member churches to break with the organization.
At the meeting of about 5,000 Southern Baptists in Houston, Texas, Charlie Dale, pastor of the Indian Springs First Baptist Church in Alabama, spoke against the Boy Scouts resolution.
Dale said that “boys who think they are gay are probably confused and need help. Such a boy needs our love. So let’s bring him in, show him what real Biblical manhood is about. And love him.”
The Boy Scouts has deep ties to churches all over the country, with about 70 percent of the group’s more than 100,000 units chartered by faith-based organizations,” Reuters reports. Some 108,000 Boy Scouts in nearly 4,000 units are sponsored by Baptist churches, according to the Boy Scouts website.”