NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Southern Baptist Convention plans to begin its annual meeting Tuesday to elect a new leader and consider how to attract more believers in a country that's more diverse than ever.

The Rev. Fred Luter Jr. is a former street preacher from New Orleans' Lower 9th Ward who founded Franklin Avenue Baptist Church. He's currently unopposed for president of the SBC and could become the first African-American leader of the denomination. While it's possible challengers could jump into the race, most observers think Luter will be elected.

It's an important step for a denomination that was formed out of a pre-Civil War split with northern Baptists over slavery and for much of the last century had a reputation for supporting segregation.