I write in response to Jeff Jacoby’s June 27 op-ed column “Stain of racism is finally fading in America.” I was one of the more than 7,000 Southern Baptists who met in New Orleans last month to elect the denomination’s first African-American president, the Rev. Fred Luter Jr., and to say that the atmosphere in the convention hall was electric would be an understatement. I have rarely been so proud to be a Southern Baptist. One of the most exciting aspects of his election is that this was not a political statement, or an attempt to fill a quota, but simply recognition that he was the best man for the job. He has demonstrated his leadership abilities and commitment to Southern Baptist principles in extraordinary ways, and I believe he will serve us well during his term.
Sadly, I wish I could say with as much confidence as Jacoby that racism is dead in America. I serve as pastor of a medium-sized church, and while most of my congregation is excited about Luter’s election, a handul of members expressed to me in private their disappointment that “one of them” had been elected as our denomination’s most visible leader.
Then again, one of the reasons for the church’s existence is to help sinful, imperfect human beings grow in grace. I look forward to the day when Martin Luther King’s dream will be realized. Only when we focus on what we have in common, rather than what separates us, will our society experience true healing in the area of race.