Press Releases

Brent Leatherwood elected ERLC president

ERLC trustees unanimously vote Leatherwood into office at board meeting

September 13, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Sept. 13, 2022—Brent Leatherwood has been elected to fill the role as the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission by the organization’s trustees. 

The ERLC board of trustees voted unanimously to appoint Leatherwood during its first session on Sept. 13. Leatherwood, 41, has served as the organization’s acting president since September 2021, following the departure of Russell Moore. The vote occurred during the trustee’s annual meeting, Sept. 12-14, in Nashville, Tenn. 

“It has been both my joy and privilege as the current chair of the ERLC board of trustees to work directly with Brent Leatherwood in his interim capacity as acting president,” said Lori Bova, of Hobbs, N.M. “Under his leadership, the staff has not missed a beat in producing timely, quality resources for our churches. He is a tireless servant with a passion to serve Southern Baptists and to steward well the ministry assignment of the ERLC.”

Prior to serving as acting president, Leatherwood held the role of chief of staff at the ERLC, as well as the entity’s director of strategic partnerships. Leatherwood has an extensive background in public service and electoral politics, serving as the executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party and as director of communications and policy strategy in the Tennessee General Assembly. He also previously served on Capitol Hill as a senior staffer for a member of Congress.

The ERLC trustee presidential search committee, chaired by Todd Howard of Pine Bluff, Ark., recommended Leatherwood to the full board after a 14-month search process.

Howard likened the ERLC search committee process to 1 Samuel 16. “Initially, the committee had a great pool of candidates and thought the next president of the ERLC could be among them. However, as the committee began the process of interviews, doors started closing. We found ourselves asking, ‘Are these all your sons?’ 

“Leatherwood was recommended to us from a variety of sources and became the top candidate by virtue of his leading well through the various challenges facing the commission during the interim season. He has intangible leadership qualities that we could not ignore. After a final round of interviews with Leatherwood, the committee, for the first time in this process, voted unanimously in favor of recommending him to the full board of trustees as the next president of the ERLC.” 

Leatherwood is a dedicated member of The Church of Avenue South in Nashville, Tenn., where he has served as a deacon since 2014. He is married to Meredith, and they have three children. 

“True leadership begins as service,” said Leatherwood. “That has been the heart I have brought each day to the ERLC these past 12 months. And it is that same heart I will continue to bring as this new chapter begins. I am honored and humbled to be given the opportunity to serve this historic institution as its next president. 

“Rooted in Scripture and guided by the Baptist Faith and Message, this team will remain fervently committed to carrying out our ministry assignment—faithfully serving our churches and growing our convictional presence in the public square on behalf of our convention. That means speaking with biblical clarity about the issues that matter to Baptists: the inherent value of life, religious liberty at home and abroad, human dignity and the flourishing of families. 

“We have made it a priority to come alongside and equip our churches, partner with our state conventions, and support our sister SBC entities. This Commission will continue to do so in this new season because we know the Southern Baptist Convention is stronger when we are cooperating on mission together.”

Prior to Leatherwood’s appointment as ERLC president, Russell Moore served as president from 2013-2021 and Richard Land served from 1988-2013. All three men were appointed to the presidency at age 41.


Brent Leatherwood was endorsed by a variety of SBC and state leaders. Their statements are below. 

“I believe Brent Leatherwood will serve Southern Baptists well in this strategic position. He is a gifted and godly man with firm biblical and baptistic convictions.” 

Daniel Akin 
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

“It is my privilege to recommend Brent Leatherwood to you as the next president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC). Brent has the spiritual grounding, experience, and skill set necessary to lead the ERLC at this unique time in our Convention’s and nation’s history. As I have observed, Brent has a strong faith, knowledge of Scripture, and an unbounding love for Jesus. These are critical tenets for anyone who leads one of our Southern Baptist entities.” 

Kevin Ezell 
North American Mission Board 

“Brent Leatherwood strikes me as the sort of man who loves Southern Baptists—who we have been, are, and hope to become. Such a man as that can rise as a statesman to speak for Southern Baptists. Such a man can also come alongside Southern Baptists and gently speak to us as a brother.” 

Bart Barber 
Pastor, FBC Farmersville, TX 
President, Southern Baptist Convention

“I consider it a privilege and an honor to endorse Brent Leatherwood’s nomination as president of the ERLC. Brent has led wisely and courageously as the interim president during what can only be described as a tumultuous and strident period in our nation and our convention. Southern Baptists and America both desperately need the information, inspiration, and guidance the ERLC can provide under Brent Leatherwood’s leadership.” 

Richard Land 
President Emeritus 

“The National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention (NAAF) wishes to express our strong support of Mr. Brent Leatherwood’s candidacy for President of the ERLC. Brent is a proven leader and trusted partner. His commitment to Gospel-centered public policy is seasoned by his sensitivity to the nuanced lived experiences of our diverse Southern Baptist (SBC) family.” 

Rev. Frank Williams
National African American Fellowship, SBC 
Rev. Dennis Mitchell
Executive Director,
National African American Fellowship, SBC

“Tennessee has a long history of faithful men and women who love their neighbors through service in the political arena. Believers must view engagement in government as the opportunity that it is. I can think of no one better than Brent Leatherwood to be the next President of the ERLC, leading Southern Baptists as they strive to represent Jesus through faithful and humble engagement in the public square.” 

Bill Lee
50th Governor of Tennessee


To request an interview with Brent Leatherwood, contact Elizabeth Bristow by email at [email protected] or call 202-547-0209.

Elizabeth Bristow

Elizabeth Bristow serves as the press secretary for the ERLC. Elizabeth oversees public relations and media operations for the organization. She received a B.A. in Public Relations and Marketing from Union University in 2010. She is a native of Tennessee and resides in Lebanon, Tennessee, with her husband and two … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24