Rev. Fred Luter Jr.*Four months ago, two African-American pastors stood in a hallway of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Nashville headquarters looking at a row of white faces, says MSNBC.

The portraits of the 56 convention presidents since the denomination’s 1845 founding are in large picture frames holding several portraits each. The final frame holds empty slots.

“They got a space for Fred, right there,” one of the men said. “Got a space picked out for him.”

“Fred” is the Rev. Fred Luter Jr., the man poised to become the firstAfrican American president of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination when messengers, as the convention calls representatives sent to the convention meeting, vote next week in New Orleans.

It’s a big 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.

In recent years, faced with growing diversity in America and declining membership in its churches, the denomination has made a sincere effort to distance itself from that past. Many Southern Baptists believe the charming and charismatic Luter is the man who can lead them forward.

Read the full story at MSNBC.com.