NEW YORK - A black Southern Baptist pastor has asked his denomination to acknowledge the importance of President Obama's election, despite the Southern Baptist Convention's opposition to many of his policies.

The Rev. Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, has proposed a resolution that would celebrate the election of the first African-American U.S. president "as a significant contribution to the ongoing cause of racial reconciliation."

McKissic has submitted a draft to a Southern Baptist committee, which will decide whether it should be put to a vote at the denomination's annual meeting June 23-24 in Louisville, Ky.

The convention was formed in 1845 so slaveholders could continue to serve as missionaries. In 1995, Southern Baptists formally sought forgiveness from African-Americans.

By 2007, the convention's minority membership, including African-Americans, Asians and Latinos, had grown to about 18 percent, said the Rev. Richard Land, head of the denomination's public policy arm. But like many other U.S. denominations, the 16.2 million-member Southern Baptist Convention remains overwhelmingly white.

Southern Baptists are staunchly anti-abortion and have consistently supported Republicans.

President George W. Bush regularly addressed the denomination's annual meeting, and the convention often supported his policies. Still, a past Southern Baptist president, the Rev. Frank Page of Taylors, S.C., serves on the advisory council for Obama's Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

McKissic did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

Earlier this week, the Rev. Wiley Drake, a former second vice president of the denomination, told Fox News radio that he was practicing "imprecatory prayer," or seeking a divine curse, that Obama would die.

"If he does not turn to God and does not turn his life around, I am asking God to enforce imprecatory prayers that are throughout the Scripture that would cause him death," Drake said in an interview with Fox's Alan Colmes.

The denomination's leaders have denounced Drake's comments and said Southern Baptists have been praying for Obama as Scripture instructs them to do.

"Wiley Drake is far out of the mainstream," Land said. "In fact, he's in a drainage ditch somewhere."

Drake, who leads a Buena Park, Calif., church, said yesterday that he stood by his remarks. *