By The Associated Press
HOUSTON — The Southern Baptist Convention re-elected its first black president, the Rev. Fred Luter Jr., at its annual meeting Tuesday.
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 on Tuesday, 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.
That motion was referred to a committee, but it is widely expected that the denomination’s leadership on Wednesday will propose a similar resolution, possibly recommending that Southern Baptist churches no longer sponsor Boy Scout troops.
Southern Baptist churches are independent and the convention cannot order them to drop ties with the Scouts. However, churches are occasionally kicked out of the convention.
SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Frank Page, during his address, mentioned his own efforts to persuade Scouting leaders to maintain the exclusion of gay members.
“We are under attack,” he told members. “The worldview of God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit is under attack.”