The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) elected its first African-American as President of the nation's largest denomination. Dr. Fred Luter, a pastor from New Orleans,  ran unopposed for the position and was elected to the post Tuesday afternoon.

The history of the SBC is marred by its dark beginnings as Baptists in the South split from its brethren in the North over the issue of slavery in 1845. Now, 167 years later, the descendant of slaves will be the leader of the SBC at a time when the denomination is at crossroads where its own identity might be altered in the years to come out of this week’s convention.

Luter is credited for helping grow his church, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, from 65 members in 1986 when he became senior pastor to now 7,000 members as of 2005 (source: Augusta Chronicle). The New York Times profiled Luter in its Sunday website edition as well.

Among the issues facing the denomination is the decline in membership numbers and if the election of Luter can bring a change of outside perspective, perhaps the leadership of Luter can bring new ways of building the Baptist group back up.