The president of the Southern Baptist Convention will be the special guest speaker at the Neshoba Baptist Association's Discipleship Training rally at New Bethel Baptist in January.

The rally will be held Thursday, Jan. 16 at 6:30 p.m. from New Bethel Baptist Church at 11681 Mississippi 488.

Pastor J. Curtis Pace announced Monday that Dr. Fred Luter, the Southern Baptist Convention president, will be the guest speaker.

"We have never had an SBC president in Neshoba County to my knowledge," he said. "The event will be even more significant since Dr. Luter is the first ever African American president of the SBC."

Dr. Luter Jr., born Nov. 11, 1956, in New Orleans, La., was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention on June 19, 2012.

The rally, an annual event at the church in its third year, will play host to members of the 39 churches of the Neshoba Baptist Association.

Pace said the rally is to encourage church participation and Bible study. Awards are also given out to the churches that have grown in the past year.

This year the rally will be open to the public as long as seating is available, Pace said.

Admission is free but seats must be reserved ahead of time and are first come, first served, he added.

Seats can be reserved through the church office at 601-656-2301.