Southern Baptists meet during challenging times

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - It's a time of change for the nation's largest Protestant denomination.

The Southern Baptist Convention holds its annual meeting this week in New Orleans to elect a new leader, vote on an alternative name and discuss ways to attract a more diverse membership.

The biggest development could be the likely election of the denomination's first African-American leader, the Rev. Fred Luter Jr.

There are lots of obstacles in place for the denomination to break trends of declining numbers and appeal to a broader group of believers in a country that is growing more diverse.

Ed Stetzer, president of the denomination's Lifeway Research, sees a long slide that can only be reversed with aggressive efforts to cut down internal disagreements, embrace new leaders from different backgrounds and plant new churches.

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