The inauguration of a new president and the swearing-in of a new Congress always means a time of change and new beginnings. The 117th Congress, though, begins in a time of unique peril and uncertainty for our country. A global pandemic—and the resulting economic distress—along with the January 6 insurrection against our country mean that a level of anxiety exists in perhaps unprecedented levels. But, God as revealed in Scripture does not give us, as the people of Christ, the option to yield to fear or, maybe even worse, to cynicism. A time of peril is also a time of opportunity, for witness, for cooperation, and for the quest for justice.
In some ways, our Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) agenda will be the same as that of all Americans of goodwill—an end to the COVID-19 disease that has long plagued the world. In other ways, multiple issues will emerge unique to the mission of the ERLC. We will work with any and all of those elected by the people, or appointed to serve in our government by those who were so elected, on issues where we may share common concern. On some of those issues—such as criminal justice reform, the regulation of payday lenders, and providing a just solution to the plight of children brought to this country by their parents and now in legal limbo—there may well prove to be broad bipartisan consensus already. On other issues—such as protecting preborn children and their mothers, strengthening protections for religious freedom and conscience, and advocacy for religious minorities in peril around the world—there will probably be much less consensus in a divided and increasingly partisan America. Nonetheless, whether issues are currently popular or unpopular, we have the opportunity to bear witness, to seek to persuade, and to build the consensus needed to make change.
In addition to our work with the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, the ERLC will continue our work with the judicial branch on issues consistent with our mission, and will expand our work in multiple states, in partnership with state conventions and state advocacy groups, on issues of missional priority that are of national import.
The following agenda is not an exhaustive blueprint, but a sketch of the core public policy priorities for the next year through the cooperation of congregations throughout the Southern Baptist Convention.