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Southern Baptist Eyes on Black New Orleans Pastor

Even before the Southern Baptist Convention elected the Rev. Fred Luter to national office, there was already widespread speculation that Luter is poised to become the denomination's first African-American president.

Representatives of 16 million Southern Baptists overwhelmingly elected Luter first vice president on June 14 at their annual meeting in Phoenix.

By the time Baptists gather again next summer in Luter's backyard, many expect the pastor of this city's 5,000-member Franklin Avenue Baptist Church — one of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the state — to clinch the top post.

"Many of us are thinking this is the first step toward him being elected president next year," said Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., who nominated Luter for the vice presidency.

"I haven't talked to a person who hasn't affirmed that, including the present president, Bryant Wright, the past president, Frank Page" and others, Akin said. "There's tremendous ...

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