New data from the North American Mission Board (NAMB) indicates that almost 20 percent of congregations in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) now identify as non-Anglo.
The new report from the NAMB's Center for Missional Research revealed that "10,049 of 50,768 SBC congregations identified themselves by an ethnicity other than Anglo in 2011," according to Baptist Press. The most significant increase in non-Anglo SBC congregations comes from an 82.7 percent increase in the number of African American congregations, though Hispanic and Asian churches grew by 63 and 55 percent, respectively.
That's good news for the SBC, which elected its first African American president, Fred Luter, in June 2012. At that time, the Washington Postreported an estimated 3,400 black churches in the denomination.
But in spite of the growing number of African American congregations and increasing diversity overall, NAMB officials cited concern for a "variety of ethnic groups in North America with no Southern Baptist presence among them."
Similarly, president of LifeWay Research Ed Stetzer noted in a blog post last June that increasing denominational diversity "does not mean diversity within local churches has changed ...We know that many churches are just as segregated as ever. Much of the new gains are coming from churches which are of one race."
Other NAMB data shows that 4 out of 5 SBC churches are located in the South, though the number of SBC churches in the Northeast grew 54.1 percent during the 1990s.
CT has previously reported on Fred Luter, noting the SBC's push to boost the presence of minorities in top leadership roles, Luter's subsequent election to the denomination's national office in 2011, and his installation as president in 2012. CT also reported on racially charged comments by outgoing Southern Baptist leader Richard Land–and the resulting tension between Land and Luter–following the high-profile killing of Trayvon Martin.