By / May 22

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 22, 2020—Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, released the following statement in response to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new interim guidelines to communities of faith in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The CDC guidance seems reasonable and helpful to me. The tone is, appropriately, not a directive to churches but counsel based on the medical data. Such counsel is hard to make specific since practices differ so much from congregation to congregation, even within the same religion or denomination. Every church I know is working through a staging plan, telling their members what benchmarks they are looking for to know when to re-gather, how they will then phase that re-gathering in, and what steps they will take to ensure safety when they do. The CDC guidance is not a blueprint but it is a prompt to help leaders as they think through what questions to ask.

“Just as with shelter-in-place recommendations in March, most congregations are already on top of thinking through these issues. People want to be confident that when their church reopens every reasonable precaution is taken, and that’s exactly what I see church leaders doing. The CDC guidance will come as a reassurance to many churches that their hard work in planning out the path back to worship is, in most cases, in line with the recommendations of health officials.”

By / Apr 27

NASHVILLE, Tenn., April 27, 2020—Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, has announced organizational changes and new staff positions to strengthen the work of the organization and fulfill its mission to serve and equip churches to apply the gospel to moral and ethical issues. 

Moore has appointed Daniel Patterson as the new executive vice president of the organization, who will be charged to lead the ERLC staff, strategy and operations. Patterson will succeed Phillip Bethancourt as the ERLC executive vice president, who is now the senior pastor of Central Church in College Station, Texas.

Patterson was hired at the ERLC in 2013 and has served since then as vice president for operations and chief of staff. In this role, he directed public relations and helped drive operations across the organization. Patterson holds a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he served in a number of posts prior to his time at the ERLC.

“Daniel Patterson and I have worked together nearly 15 years, and since the start of my tenure at the ERLC, I have entrusted him with some of the most important work the ERLC has sought to carry out,” said Moore. “At every step, he has exceeded my already-high expectations, with amazing capacity to manage teams, develop strategy and foster effectiveness throughout the organization, and I’m grateful to God to have him at the helm in this role.”

“It is an honor of the highest magnitude to step into this new role at the ERLC,” said Patterson. “Ethical transformation and religious liberty are vitally related to our cooperative work carrying out the Great Commission, and for the last seven years I’ve had the privilege to watch the ERLC team come to work every day with a deep desire to serve Southern Baptist churches with faithful advocacy, thoughtful resources and an unrelenting focus on the gospel and our witness. I look forward with great expectation to stepping into this new role and the opportunity to continue serving our churches in the ERLC’s efforts to connect the agenda of the kingdom to the cultures of local congregations for the sake of the mission of the gospel in the world.”

ERLC Cabinet Changes

In addition to the appointment of Patterson, Moore added to the responsibilities of three of his Cabinet members.

Brent Leatherwood has been named the new chief of staff for the ERLC. Leatherwood has served as the director of strategic partnerships since 2017. Prior to his work at the ERLC, he served a successful four-year tenure as the executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party and held several important posts in the Tennessee Legislature and on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., before that.

Elizabeth Graham will now direct women’s initiatives and coordinate the ERLC’s pro-life initiatives including Stand for Life and Evangelicals for Life, while continuing to serve as director of events. 

Travis Wussow, who serves as vice president for public policy and general counsel, will also serve as the ERLC lead on matters related to sexual abuse in churches and the Caring Well Initiative.

Moore remarked, “If we had conducted a nationwide search we would have identified these same leaders, with their proven giftedness and conviction. Thankfully, in God’s providence, all of these individuals who are my brilliant colleagues are already here. What was needed was a shifting of additional responsibilities, not the hiring of new people, which turns out to be an additional blessing in this time of our country’s great economic distress.”

Thacker and Wester assume new roles

Moore also announced updated roles for two additional members of the existing ERLC team. 

Jason Thacker has been named the new chair of research in technology ethics, in addition to continuing in his role as creative director for the ERLC. Thacker is the author of “The Age of AI: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity” with Zondervan. His work has been featured at Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, Slate and Politico. Thacker also previously served in the role of special projects manager at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Joshua Wester has been appointed as the new chair of research in Christian ethics. Previously, Wester served as director of research in the office of the president since coming to the ERLC in 2017. Prior to joining the ERLC, Wester served as director of operations at Redeemer Church in Rocky Mount, N.C. He also previously served as director of ministries at Redemption City Church in Franklin, Tenn. 

By / Apr 14

NASHVILLE, Tenn., April 14, 2020—Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, is scheduled to participate in a Facebook Live interview April 15 with Baptist Press, the daily news service of the SBC, to discuss the most pressing issues for America’s faith communities.

Dr. Moore will be interviewed by Jonathan Howe, vice president for communications for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, tomorrow from 1:00-1:30 p.m. CDT to help Southern Baptist leaders and pastors navigate issues related to COVID-19, religious liberty, and the federal stimulus. 

Questions include: 

  • How should faith leaders think about religious liberty in the context of the coronavirus?
  • Will participation in the SBA loan program lead to a violation of religious liberty? 
  • Are drive-in churches the new front for religious liberty? How should pastors think about this?
  • Based on your conversations with political leaders, how should churches prepare for ministry in the next few months?

Members of the national media are invited to watch the interview at this link and the video will also be made available on the Baptist Press Facebook page following the interview. 

By / Mar 16

The Swiss theologian Karl Barth once advised young theologians “to take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.” What Barth was recommending was that his students read the news with biblical discernment. 

Biblical discernment is the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the aid of the Holy Spirit to separate truth from error and right from wrong. Biblical discernment is therefore not only a habit needed to develop a biblical worldview, it is a primary reason for developing a biblical worldview and has the practical effect of helping us to live. 

Recognizing and rejecting false teaching is an essential element of biblical discernment, as well. As Paul tells us, “Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil” (1 Thess. 5:20-22). But too often Christians limit discernment to the teachings within the church and overlook the catechism they are receiving from the culture. This is especially true when it comes to consumption of news media. 

There is much more to discernment, though, than simply avoiding false teachings, as Sinclair Ferguson explains in his book In Christ Alone

True discernment means not only distinguishing the right from the wrong; it means distinguishing the primary from the secondary, the essential from the indifferent, and the permanent from the transient. And, yes, it means distinguishing between the good and the better, and even between the better and the best.

How to develop discernment

“How is such discernment to be obtained?” asks Ferguson. “We receive it as did Christ himself—by the anointing of the Spirit, through our understanding of God’s Word, by our experience of God’s grace, and by the progressive unfolding to us of the true condition of our own hearts.” Ferguson is clarifying that, as with most spiritual disciplines, biblical discernment contains both a passive and an active element. We must rely on our union with Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But we also must develop our understanding of Scripture and our ability to make critical judgements about how to apply what we learn. 

Let’s look at a few necessary steps for developing the skill of discernment when reading the news:

Consider what you believe about the news. Which is more important to us, God’s Word or the news? What if someone were asked to determine that answer by observing our habits? The uncomfortable truth is that we often spend far more time reading news articles than reading the Bible. And we spend more time watching news programs than actively acquiring wisdom. How would your life differ if you changed your news consumption habits to develop wisdom and understanding?

Understand that “news” is a product for consumption. The term “news” is most commonly used in our daily lives to mean information about current events that is delivered to the general public by the news industry. The news industry produces one product but sells two: they produce news content that they sell to news consumers (i.e., you), and they package the attention of news consumers (again, you) that they sell to others (usually advertisers but sometimes nonprofit donors).

For the news industry, you are both a consumer and a product. But in the age of social media you have also become a free distributor. Your friend who daily shares the content of a cable news show on Twitter and Facebook is essentially an unpaid intern working for Fox News or MSNBC. That means most of us are an unofficial part of the media and will be held responsible to God for how we use the news to promote or degrade the understanding and truth. 

Unfortunately, many of us don’t even bother to read the news we share. As philosopher Michael P. Lynch has noted, current research estimates that at least 60% of news stories shared online have not even been read by the person sharing them. We can’t be discerning if we are spreading a product that we have not even taken the time to evaluate. 

Guard your mind. You may consider yourself an “independent thinker,” but if you are a news consumer, you’re conditioned to “think about” whatever issues the news industry has decided you will think about that day. This is especially true if you engage on social media outlets like Twitter, where a recurring joke is to ask, “What are we upset about today?” Most of us, if we are honest, use outlets like Twitter as a shortcut to find out what agenda the news industry has set for the day.

Too often Christians limit discernment to the teachings within the church and overlook the catechism they are receiving from the culture. This is especially true when it comes to consumption of news media.

Christians don’t need to believe the news industry has nefarious motives to find this agenda-setting function troubling. Whether we are getting our news from Fox News or NPR, the picture of reality being drawn by the news industry is not likely to match the reality produced by our Creator. The Bible commands us to set our minds on things above, not on earthly things (Col. 3:2), which is impossible to do when we’re tuned into around-the-clock “headline news.”

Consume less news. Most news products are the mental and spiritual equivalent of junk food. By consuming less of it, we won’t necessarily improve our health, but we can limit its negative effects on us. But what if we miss something? The late media theorist Neil Postman offers this response: 

If you are concerned that cutting down your viewing time will cause you to “miss” important news, keep this in mind: each day’s TV news consists for the most part, of fifteen examples of the Seven Deadly Sins, with which you are already quite familiar. There may be a couple of stories exemplifying lust, usually four about murder, occasionally one about gluttony, another about envy, and so on. It cannot possibly do you any harm to excuse yourself each week from thirty or forty of these examples. Remember: TV news does not reflect normal, everyday life. 

News is for reading, not watching. If you are an American, you likely get your news in the worst way possible—through the medium of video, specifically television news. Studies show that more than half of adults in the U.S. get news from TV. We can improve our ability to discern the news by shifting our habits of consumption and obtaining the bulk of our news in printed form (including online text), listening to radio news sparingly, and avoiding TV news like it’s spreading a plague.

The primary reason for developing this preference is the way each medium communicates information. TV has a lower informational density than a newspaper. All the words spoken in an hour of TV news could fit on a single page of a newspaper, says Postman, so TV viewers are getting much less news content than newspaper readers. Postman also notes, “The grammar of images is weak in communicating past-ness and present-ness” and prefers change rather than stasis. That’s why, says Postman, violence finds its way on television news so often—it is a radical and attention-grabbing form of change. 

Arm yourself against “fake news.” Almost everyone in America agrees that so-called “fake news” is a problem. A study by Gallup and the Knight Foundation found that 73% of Americans say the spread of inaccurate information on the internet is a major problem with news coverage today, more than any other potential type of news bias. But there is less agreement on what the term means. So, let me offer my own definition: Fake news is information about current events that is distributed as news but has no concern for the truth; its purpose is only to motivate a particular form of acceptable thought.

The reason fake news has become so common is because there is a strong demand for it. And it isn’t the fake news of those we disagree with that we should be worried about but the news from those on “our side.” We all want to believe, especially when it comes to politics, that our preferred ideas, policies, and politicians are so obviously superior as to be above reproach. But for Christians, the priority must always be the truth. Truth must even take precedence over our political objectives. As Francis Schaeffer once wrote, “Christian values . . . cannot be accepted as a superior utilitarianism, just as a means to an end. The biblical message is truth and it demands a commitment to truth.”

Pray for guidance. We should ask God to open our hearts to his Word and allow us to see any specific issue clearly. We should also continuously pray, as did the psalmist, “I am your servant; give me discernment” (Psa. 119:125). For every minute we spend consuming news products, we should spend a minute in prayer about how we discern the news. And if you don’t have time for that much prayer, you don’t have time to be wasting with the news. 

This article originally appeared in Light Magazine

By / Mar 13

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent talk about the coronavirus upending life all over the U.S., justice in the case of Harvey Weinstein, the results of Big Tuesday, and NASA’s new Mars rover Perseverance. Lindsay also gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including a piece from Courtney Reissig on parenting and work, Neal Hardin on LGBT issues at BYU, and Russell Moore’s article “Don’t Quarantine the Great Commission.” Also in this episode, the hosts are joined by Dr. Randy Davis for a brief conversation about life and ministry.

About Dr. Davis

Dr. Randy C. Davis became the executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board in 2010 after 34 years of pastoral ministry, serving churches in Mississippi and Tennessee. Davis is a graduate of William Carey College, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and Southern Baptist Center for Biblical Studies. Davis and wife, Jeanne, have two adult daughters, Wendy and Beth, and four grandchildren.

ERLC Content

Culture

Coronavirus

  • Widespread alarm and misinformation, we recommend you follow live updates on Covid-19 from the Washington Post
  • Pulling out all the stops to stem the tide, churches, schools, and major events across the nation are delayed, cancelled, or moving online.
  • The NCAA has cancelled both the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, the NBA and NHL have suspended play, and the MLB has ceased operations and delayed opening day.

International

Politics & Culture

On the Lighter Side

  • Mars rover gets a new name — Perseverance
  • Spring football (may) begin soon for the  SEC

Lunchroom

ERLC Mailbag

  • Q: Is it okay for a husband and wife to be celibate within marriage?

 Connect with us on Twitter

Sponsors

By / Mar 6

In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent talk about an abortion case at the Supreme Court, coronavirus (COVID-19) spreading in the U.S., tornadoes in Tennessee, Joe Biden’s comeback, and rumors about Ed Sheeran. And don’t miss Lindsay’s rundown of this week’s ERLC content including a Q&A with infectious disease specialist Scott James M.D. about how to prepare for coronavirus, a piece from Rebecca McLaughlin on winsome apologetics, and our explainer on ethical concerns about research using fetal tissue. Also in this episode, the hosts are joined by Jason Thacker for a brief conversation about faith and technology.

About Jason

Jason Thacker is the author of The Age of AI: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity. He serves as the Creative Director and an Associate Research Fellow at The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He is a graduate of The University of Tennessee in Knoxville and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. His writing has been featured at The Gospel Coalition, Christianity Today, and many other outlets. He is married to Dorie and they have two sons. You can follow him on Twitter: @jasonthacker

ERLC Content

Culture

Coronavirus

International

SBC/Religion

Politics

On the Lighter Side

 Lunchroom

  • Brent: Mike Trout wins Topgolf forever (USA Today)
  • Lindsay: Arm & Hammer Advance White  (seriously)
    • And . . . Happy Birthday, sweet Marian
  • Josh: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics— get the audio version.

  ERLC Resource

 Connect with us on Twitter

Sponsors

By / Mar 3

Jason Thacker, of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, released his new book today, “The Age of AI: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity,” with Zondervan

In “The Age of AI,” Thacker, who serves as creative director and associate research fellow at the ERLC, helps readers navigate the digital age by providing a thoughtful exploration of the social, moral and ethical challenges of ongoing interactions with artificial intelligence.

“I don’t fear AI,” said Thacker. “Rather, I fear the people of God buying the lie that we are nothing more than machines and that, somehow, AI will usher in a utopian age. AI is not a savior. It is not going to fix all of our world’s problems. It is a tool that must be wielded with wisdom.” 

“The Age of AI,” serves as a guide for those wary of technology’s impact on society and also for those who are enthusiastic about the direction of AI in the culture. In the book, Thacker explains how AI affects individuals–in relationships and in society at large–as he addresses AI’s impact on people’s bodies, sexuality, work, warfare, economics, medicine, parenting and privacy. 

With theological depth and an expert awareness of the current trends in AI, Thacker is a steady guide, reminding readers that while AI is changing most things, it does not need to compromise our human dignity.

Richard Mouw, president emeritus and professor of faith and public life at Fuller Theological Seminary, provided the foreword for the book. 

Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, comments on Thacker’s new work.

“No ethical issue keeps me up at night as does the question of artificial intelligence. The reason for my dismay is that the church doesn't seem to be thinking very deeply about these matters at all, even as we move into a technological revolution that could prove to be Gutenberg-level in its implications. This book is a balm for anxiety in the age of technological disruption. No evangelical has thought and written more clearly on these matters than Jason Thacker. In this monumental work, he avoids both naïveté and paranoia about AI. The years ahead will require wise Christians in a time of smart robots. This book shows the way.”

“The Age of AI” has been endorsed by several public figures including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska; technologist and VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger; and theologian R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Gov. Bush said, “Harnessing technology in our world, especially in education and medicine, can help us live productive and fulfilling lives. Yet Thacker reminds us that we must learn to do so in ways that glorify God and protect the most innocent among us. Great read for parents!”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jason Thacker serves as associate research fellow and creative director at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn., and holds a master of divinity from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. His work has been featured at Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, Slate, and Politico. Jason and his wife, Dorie, live outside of Nashville with their two sons. 

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

By / Mar 2

Recently, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo traveled to Ethiopia as part of an international effort to encourage the country to reach a peaceful solution with Egypt. What is the conflict over? The Nile River. 

For background, the Nile River flows North from Lake Victoria (shared between Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania) and Lake Tana in Ethiopia. These lakes feed into rivers known as the White Nile and Blue Nile, respectively, which merge in Khartoum, Sudan, to form the longest river in the world—the Nile River. The Blue River is responsible for most of the Nile’s water and rich sediment, thus, residents of Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt have had centuries-long arguments about how to properly allocate its resources. 

To help encourage cooperation between governments over the river, 10 countries in the Nile Basin formed the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) in 1999. In 2011, during massive political turmoil in Egypt, Ethiopia began construction on the Grand Egyptian Resistance Dam (GERD) without the approval of the NBI. This was seen by many of the other countries in the NBI as Ethiopia attempting to dominate the region and exert unilateral control over the Nile. 

In order to avoid violent conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia, the two governments entered into negotiations over how fast GERD was to be built and its reservoir filled. 

Now, in 2020, GERD is almost completely built. 

Negotiations are ongoing between Ethiopia and Egypt with the United States serving as mediator. These negotiations are why Pompeo is traveling to Ethiopia. Egypt is hoping for a slow fill of the reservoir so as not to disrupt the Nile supply downstream, and Ethiopia is hoping for a quicker fill for greater energy production. The United States is reported to have positioned itself somewhere in the middle.

Whatever one thinks about the specific foreign policy these countries should pursue, Christians should critically care about the allocation of Nile River resources for three reasons: political instability, creation care, and humanitarian concerns. 

Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt (to say nothing of the other NBI countries) have complex international and political history. It would be naive to think that the current negotiation over GERD has nothing to do with the rich national narratives of each country and past conflicts between them. 

Not only that, but the stakes are incredibly high. All of these countries face dire economic challenges. Access to the Nile River is an absolute necessity for food security, economic development, sanitation, and energy among other basic resources. Simply put, the Nile River is the only thing between Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, and a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. 

The governments of these countries know this, and are acting from a posture of self-preservation. This desperation can lead to political unrest, turmoil, and general instability in the region. Disruptions such as this have left room for corruption to gain a foothold in offices of power in the past. We should be wary of leaders using the Nile River to aggress in the region at the expense of their citizens or ones of neighboring countries. 

A Christian response 

In a fallen world, there are limited resources. The gospel compels us to prudentially and responsibly allocate these resources based on the authority granted by God to governments in Romans 13. Christians also must be motivated by God’s mandate in Genesis 2 to steward the natural resources we’ve been given. God has entrusted to us abundant provision, and we are to use it responsibly, not allow it to stir up division. 

Here are three ways Christians can be engaging and praying about this salient issue:

  • Pray the involved governments would have just and sober-minded leaders.
  • Pray for a quick, fair, and peaceful resolution.
  • Pray for God to establish the work of aid organizations on the ground. 

Centuries of people have lived on the banks of this river—planted roots (literally and metaphorically), raised families, and formed regional identities and communities. Lest American Christians think this doesn’t affect them, consider in Exodus when Moses is placed on the Nile to escape a murderous dictator, or in Ezekiel when God uses the Nile to lead his people to repentance. The Nile is an important landmark in the American Christian’s faith. How much more special is it to Egyptian, Sudanese, or Ethiopian Christians?

Sources:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/02/09/world/africa/nile-river-dam.html?te=1&nl=morning-briefing&emc=edit_NN_p_20200210&section=longRead&campaign_id=9&instance_id=15871&segment_id=21131&user_id=17ae888c4735477564fe38903e916ea9&regi_id=100230113ion=longRead

https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2020/02/18/why-ethiopia-egypt-and-sudan-should-ditch-a-rushed-washington-brokered-nile-treaty/

https://madamasr.com/en/2020/02/17/feature/politics/sources-us-proposed-gerd-deal-sets-ethiopia-water-release-at-37-bcm-major-disputes-remain/

By / Feb 20

Dear Chairman Stone and Members of the Executive Committee,

As convictional and grateful Southern Baptists, we would like to thank every member of the Executive Committee for their service to the Southern Baptist Convention. Our convention is indebted to all who take time to do the unglamorous but vital work of serving on our various boards and committees. 

At the same time, as members of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, we write to express our strong opposition to the recent Executive Committee formation of the ERLC study task force. There are several reasons why we believe this task force is unwarranted, divisive, and disrespectful.

1. The Task Force Inappropriately Seizes the Responsibility and Work of the ERLC Trustees

To begin, Chairman Stone’s own statements in Baptist Press regarding this action describe the need for this task force as being based on “reports that are largely anecdotal.” Chairman Stone stated that the task force is “looking for facts . . . we are making a statement about effectiveness.” To be clear, this task force seizes the work and responsibility of the trustees of the ERLC. Evaluating the effectiveness of Dr. Moore and the ERLC team is uniquely the work of the trustees of the ERLC. The appointment of this task force can be taken in no other sense than a vote of no confidence in the ERLC Board of Trustees, which is both insulting and, in our view, inappropriate and out of step with Southern Baptist cooperation.

Furthermore, as we review not only our own ministry assignment but the other Convention-approved ministry assignments, we see that there seems to be an intentional latitude in them so as to allow the work of our various entities to conduct their gospel ministry in ways that meet the demand of the moment. Our question, then, is which aspects or assignments have supposedly been violated such that it could justify a task force? This is all the more confusing to us when, unlike our other entities, virtually every single thing the ERLC does in its day to day ministry is, by necessity, in public view, for any and every Southern Baptist to see and evaluate. 

Not only that, but, again, we point to Chairman Stone’s own words in Baptist Press, when he said that this task force is “a formal process by which we can receive information and determine the level that this issue is affecting the Cooperative Program.” But the issue of whether or not the ERLC is adversely affecting giving to the Cooperative Program of the SBC was dealt with in 2017. The CP study created then found that Cooperative Program impact was “not as significant in fact as it is in perception.” By way of reminder, only fourteen churches in our vast convention were estimated to have diverted funds. Rather than create a new study or task force, we believe the wise and appropriate approach is to refer those offering present anecdotal complaints back to the 2017 Executive Committee study findings. Regardless, the entire premise of evaluating the ERLC effect on CP giving is flawed unless one also investigates how many churches have increased their giving because of their enthusiastic support of the work of the ERLC.

2. The Executive Committee Failed to Consult with ERLC Trustees

Further, as we reviewed both the comments by Chairman Stone, as well as the text of the approved motion itself, we were struck in particular by Bylaw 18.E(9):

To maintain open channels of communication between the Executive Committee and the trustees of the entities of the Convention, to study and make recommendations to entities concerning adjustments required by ministry assignments or by established Convention policies and practices, and, whenever deemed advisable, to make recommendations to the Convention. The Executive Committee shall not have authority to control or direct the several boards, entities, and institutions of the convention. This is the responsibility of trustees elected by the Convention and directly accountable to the Convention.

We are curious: At what point did the Executive Committee “maintain open channels of communication between the Executive Committee and [ERLC] trustees” as is the Executive Committee’s obligation under this bylaw? It appears to us that the Executive Committee cites one aspect of a bylaw to justify its action, but defies a critical part of the very same bylaw. Were any of our trustees consulted? If not, why not? Were any of our trustees invited into relevant discussions of this motion? If not, why not?

3. The Executive Committee Inappropriately Formed the Task Force During a Closed-Door Executive Session

More still, it appears that discussion of this motion at both the committee level and in the plenary session was done in executive session. Your Board, of course, has a right to go into executive session, but executive sessions are used most often to protect proprietary, financial, or sensitive information. We believe it was unnecessary and inappropriate for such a divisive move to be deliberated and decided in secrecy.

This is all the more confusing because Dr. Moore gave a presentation to the Cooperative Program Committee during the meeting, after which there was a question and answer session. According to several reports from that session, there were no antagonistic questions and no frustrations expressed whatsoever. If there was enough evidence, confusion, or frustration sufficient to justify the creation of a task force (1) why would none of that been expressed directly to Dr. Moore in public session when there was ample opportunity; and (2) why would the Cooperative Program Committee feel the need to discuss the task force in secrecy the next day? 

4. The Task Force Overrules the Will of the Messengers of the SBC.

We also believe that it is critical to point out that every time any question about Dr. Moore’s leadership of the ERLC has come before the convention, the elected messengers at the SBC Annual Meeting have overwhelmingly supported Dr. Moore’s leadership of the ERLC on behalf of Southern Baptists. A motion to defund the ERLC in 2018 was nearly unanimously rejected; the question of the messengers’ support for the ERLC has been asked and answered. If the job of the Executive Committee is to carry on the work and represent the will of the business carried out at the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, this task force is doing the very opposite. It is taking the clear, expressed will of the body and calling it into question.

Not only that, but why would present-day anecdotal reports lead the Executive Committee to take an action that creates an undeniable and completely unnecessary culture of suspicion regarding the work and ministry of the ERLC? Is there any reason to think present-day anecdotal reports are any more accurate when anecdotal reports just a few years ago (1) proved not to align with reality, according to the Executive Committee’s own report; and (2) when the messengers have spoken at the Annual Meeting with overwhelming support. 

5. We Support Dr. Moore’s Leadership and the ERLC Board of Trustees Will Continue to Hold Him and the ERLC in Trust on Behalf of Southern Baptists

More importantly, as members of the Board that is charged with holding the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission in trust on behalf of our churches, we as members of the ERLC Executive Committee want to be crystal clear in our confidence in Dr. Moore’s leadership and in the effectiveness of the Commission’s ministry. We grieve this task force in part because of the suspicion that it inevitably casts over Dr. Moore’s character. And we are firm in our belief that Dr. Moore’s character, convictions, and theology are both biblical and unimpeachable.

All told, we find the action of the Executive Committee in appointing this ERLC study task force disappointing, unnecessary, and harmful to our cooperative work in the SBC. The Executive Committee, of course, has a financial stewardship, particularly in terms of allocating the resources of the Cooperative Program. But that should not result in a disregard of the clearly-expressed will of the denomination it purports to serve. It should not include a disregard of the very bylaws the Executive Committee is claiming as justification for its action. It should not include a culture of secrecy leading to a committee that unmistakably creates suspicion regarding one of our own entities. It should not include ignoring the directive to “maintain open channels” and instead create hostile channels with what should clearly be first a matter for the ERLC Board of Trustees to consider.

At a time where a unified voice is needed for our cooperative gospel work, the Executive Committee is sowing needless division, treating trustees with disrespect, and spreading suspicion with this unnecessary task force. Even if the appointment of this task force does not violate the letter of the law, the existence of the task force and the process by which it was created unquestionably violates the spirit of friendly cooperation.

All this being the case, we as members of the Executive Committee of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission consider it critical that messengers at the SBC Annual Meeting be given the opportunity to signal whether they agree with the Executive Committee’s action in the creation of this task force. Should messengers approve such a task force, we will be happy to entertain questions. Until then, we are instructing Dr. Moore and the ERLC not to comply with it until messengers have an opportunity to signal their belief that such a task force is appropriate and legitimate.  

For Christ and His Kingdom,

David E. Prince, Chairman        
Lori Bova, Vice Chairman    
Ron Harvey, Secretary
Trevor Atwood, Chairman, Administration and Finance Committee
Michael Wilson, Chairman, Research and Public Policy Committee
Tony Beam, Chairman, Communications Committee     

By / Feb 14

Happy Valentine’s Day! In this episode, Josh, Lindsay, and Brent talk about the Oscars, the rebirth of the XFL, the latest on the Coronavirus (COVID-19), and the status of the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary. Lindsay also gives a rundown of this week’s ERLC content including an article from Prison Fellowship’s Heather Rice-Minus on Christians and criminal justice reform, another Super Bowl ad, and a resource from Brad Hambrick from the Summit Church on seeing a counselor. Also in this episode, the hosts are joined by Trillia Newbell for a brief conversation about life and ministry.

About Trillia

Trillia Newbell serves as the Director of Community Outreach for the ERLC. She is the author of numerous books, including Sacred Endurance: Finding Grace and Strength for a Lasting Faith (2019). Her writings on issues of faith, family, and diversity have been published in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Desiring God, True Woman, Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, and more. Her greatest love besides God is her family. She is married to her best friend and love, Thern. They reside with their two children near Nashville, Tennessee. You can follow her on Twitter: @trillianewbell

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All God’s Children: Growing Kids who Embrace a Biblical View of Racial Unity by Afshin Ziafat  

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This episode was sponsored by The Good Book Company, publisher of Jesus and the Very Big Surprise, a new children’s storybook by well-known singer and TV presenter Randall Goodgame. You can find out more here