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First Black Leader Of Southern Baptists Visits Tulsa, Encourages Unity

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As president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Fred Luter travels a lot to meet with pastors all over the country. As president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Fred Luter travels a lot to meet with pastors all over the country.
Tulsa pastors lead a prayer of blessing over Luter. Tulsa pastors lead a prayer of blessing over Luter.
TULSA, Oklahoma -

The first black president of one of the nation's largest denominations was in Tulsa on Wednesday.

As president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Fred Luter travels a lot to meet with pastors all over the country.

A constant theme goes with him since he's the first black president of the mostly white denomination.

Luter is almost halfway through his term, and he came to Tulsa to encourage local church leaders.

He did it with a fiery sermon.

It's preaching like that helped Luter gain the denominations top job, and it came with plenty of expectations.

Southern Baptists, statistically, are mostly white.

Luter's a successful black pastor of a mixed-race congregation in New Orleans.

"And God has just now allowed me to do on a national level basically what I've been doing in New Orleans for years," Luter said.

Luter was elected head of the convention last June, with no opposition.

It's the organizational body for 45,000 churches and 15 million people.

Luter said he hopes to open up the denomination, especially to young black men.

"We have to purposely and passionately go after young men and let them know that, man, there's a better way of life, of living life and change some methods to reach them, to let them know they're welcome no matter how they look, how they're dressed, what they have on," Luter said.

The Tulsa pastors gave him a traditional blessing; and they challenged him to continue trying to improve a denomination founded on protecting slavery.

"It's a changing of the time, a long time coming," Luter said. "We have some deep divides, racially, especially in Tulsa. This is a healing time and time to put away all the trivial stuff about skin color and just be about Christ."

It's still a mostly white crowd, but Luter and some white Tulsa pastors see that changing.

"But now everywhere I go there are more African-Americans, more Asians, more Hispanics and eventually it will be something you don't even think about because we all are the body of Christ," Luter said.

Luter is still the pastor of his congregation in New Orleans, which was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina and since has been rebuilt.

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