Durham, N.C. — Raleigh pastor Rev. Don Cashwell has been a Southern Baptist all his life, but he never supported the denomination's views on slavery, segregation and white supremacy.
He said he hopes the recent election of the Southern Baptist Convention's first black leader will put an end to racial division in the church and usher in a new chapter.
Cashwell said Rev. Fred Luter, a pastor in New Orleans, excites Southern Baptists with his enthusiasm, leadership and vision.
"Not only do I think he's qualified for it, I think he has exactly what we need as Southern Baptists at this point in our lives," Cashwell said.
When he joined the ministry in 1972, Cashwell invited some black people to his church. At that time, the convention was made up entirely of white people.
"(We) were told very quickly that, should they attend, we'd be the first ones asked to leave the church because of it," he said.
But, 40 years later, a lot has changed. Though Cashwell's church, Creedmoor Road Southern Baptist, is still a predominantly white church, James and Katrina Levine, who are black, said they felt accepted from day one.
"It doesn't feel any different than when I was in an all-black church, being here in a not so multicultural church," Katrina Levine said.
She said Luter's election is a sign that the convention is moving forward.
"I say, keep it moving so that we can all come together and do what's right as far as serving God," Levine said.