By / Feb 10

At the annual convention in 2015, the SBC adopted a resolution on racial reconciliation that, in part, urged “churches to demonstrate their heart for racial reconciliation by seeking to increase racial and ethnic diversity in church staff roles, leadership positions, and church membership.”

Increasing racial diversity is not the end goal, of course, and will not automatically lead to reconciliation. Yet it can be a useful metric to determine whether reconciliation is being attempted within our churches and throughout the denomination. Ideally, individual SBC churches that are living out the gospel would be attractive to people of all races and ethnicities. If a lopsided racial imbalance is occuring, it might signal that there is a divide along other lines, such as cultural or political, that should not ​​separate the people of God. 

How is the SBC faring in its goal to be more racially diverse?

To find the answer we can look to the Great Commission Relations and Mobilization (​​GCRM) Ethnic Research Network, which tracks the state of ethnicity and race in the SBC. The network is a research initiative and a shared data collaboration of Southern Baptist Research Fellowship (SBRF) and SBC entities, such as the ERLC. Through statistical and analytical research, GCRM Ethnic Research Network “tells the story of SBC diversity as well as our collaborative and cooperative effort of sharing the Gospel in every city, town, neighborhood, and community in fulfilling the Great Commission.”

Diversity by the numbers

Currently, the SBC Annual Church Profile documents that there are 50,696 congregations and 14,089,947 people in the SBC. The network tracks the state of ethnicity and race within those congregations.

As of 2020, there are 39,408 congregations that are predominantly White Anglo, 3,895 that are African American, 3,361 that are predominantly Hispanic, 1,501 predominantly other ethnicities, and 422 that are predominantly Native American. Since 2010, there has been a 33.2% increase among congregations of other ethnicities, a 20.7% increase among Asian American congregations, 10.2% increase among African American congregations. During that time there was a 3.3% decrease among White Anglo congregations and a 3.0% decrease among Native American congregations. 

  • The states with the most African American congregations are Texas (1,168), California (455), and Georgia (239). 
  • The states with the most Asian American congregations are California (445), Texas (313), North Carolina (125), and Georgia (119). 
  • The states with the most Hispanic congregations are Texas (1,353), California (376), and Florida (317). 
  • The states with the most Native American congregations are Oklahoma (185), North Carolina (78), and Arizona (26). 
  • The states with the most other ethnic congregations are Florida (465), Texas (250), California (105), and North Carolina (98). 
  • The states with the most White Anglo congregations are Texas (4,685), North Carolina (3,739), Alabama (3,090), and Georgia (3,019). 

Within those congregations, 12,642,060 individuals are White Anglo, 880,108 are African American, 223,351 are Hispanic, 173,773 are Asian American, 136,750 are other ethnicities, and 33,590 are Native American. Since 2010, there has been a 23.8% increase among other ethnicities, a 12.1% ​​increase among Asian Americans, and an 8.6% increase among Hispanics. During that time there was a 16.1% decrease among Native Americans, a 14.1% decrease among White Anglos, and a 2.1% decrease among African Americans. 

Encouraging signs of growth

Almost 1-in-4 (22.3%) Southern Baptist congregations are non-Anglo or ethnic minority congregations. In contrast, in 1990 only 8.4% of SBC congregations were non-Anglo or ethnic minority congregations. African American congregations saw the largest growth of 289.3% from 1990- 2018, while the Anglo group saw the smallest growth of 11.4%. From 1995-2000, the African American group grew by 482 congregations, and, from 2000-2005, this group grew by an additional 833 congregations.

As for church membership, from 1990-2019 ethnic minority groups increased by over one million (1,021,658). From 2000-2010, the most growth experienced among SBC membership

was among African American, Asian American, and Hispanics, with Asian American membership growing by 270.7%.

With 22.3% of our Southern Baptist congregations being non-Anglo and many worshiping in multiple languages across America, the Southern Baptist Convention may be the most multiethnic and multilingual denomination in the United States. While the SBC still has a long way to go in its pursuit of racial reconciliation, we are moving in the right direction toward ​​the first step of having a diverse convention of believers unified around a common goal to fulfill the Great Commission.

By / Dec 26

I have been a Southern Baptist, specifically an Alabama Baptist, since my parents first brought me to church as an infant. Yet, I admit that I never actually knew what it meant to be a Baptist. Until college, I never even considered it, and I imagine others haven’t either. When I started seminary, the first class I took was about the Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Program. I learned about Baptist commitments such as religious liberty, church autonomy, and the inerrancy of Scripture, among others. And while all of these are vital and foundational to Baptist life, there is one more ingredient that makes the Southern Baptist Convention special: cooperation. 

Cooperation among the different levels of Baptists

I recently had the opportunity to go to Birmingham, Alabama, for an ultrasound dedication. The ERLC’s initiative, the Psalm 139 Project, seeks to raise awareness about the incredible influence that ultrasound machines can have in a mother’s decision to choose life for her baby. The project works to raise the resources necessary to place ultrasound machines in pregnancy centers across the country.  

Sav-A-Life, the PRC that received an ultrasound in Birmingham, is located in the same building as its partner, the Birmingham Metro Baptist Association. This new location needed an ultrasound machine in the clinic. Seeing a need, Baptists were able to do what they do best: come together in cooperation in order to meet physical and spiritual needs. 

The ERLC worked alongside the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, the Birmingham Metro Baptist Association, and the North American Mission Board to make sure that an ultrasound machine was placed in this Sav-A-Life clinic so that mothers and their preborn babies would be cared for and supported. 

The imagery and symbolism of this level of cooperation is astounding. In this case, there were Baptist ministries from the local level to the national level partnering to ensure that the implications of the gospel were being lived out in an undeniable way. There are very few places in which multiple ministries or organizations work together like this.

Cooperation due to the faithfulness of Baptists

All of this happens because of the Cooperative Program—which is how the Southern Baptist Convention is able to financially support the work that it does. This is how the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and the various seminaries and boards are able to faithfully carry out their gospel work for the glory of God. 

Without this funding, it would be more difficult for the IMB to send out missionaries to unreached people groups. It would be less effective for NAMB to deploy church planters all throughout North America, and it would be hard for the ERLC to be missionaries of sorts to the public square. The Cooperative Program is what makes the work of the Southern Baptist Convention possible. And all of this begins with the local church and the faithfulness of SBC members. 

As I discovered on my recent trip, the ultrasound donated to Sav-A-Life was a tangible picture of the faithfulness of Alabama Baptists. And I realized that an Alabama Baptist like me can be a part of future work like this for the sake of the gospel. Giving to my church allows me to play a role in the sending of IMB missionaries, the support of NAMB church planters, the convictional work of the ERLC in the public square, and the ministry of other entities. What a remarkable privilege. Cooperation that enables us to take the gospel to our various areas of influence and ministry is why I am a Southern Baptist.

By / Dec 6

Government is ordained by God and exists to promote justice and order the civil sphere.

Government is ordained by God for the promotion of civil order and justice in society. From the Noahic covenant, which served to set limits on how individuals interacted with one another after the Fall—requiring life for those who took a life—to Paul’s reminder to church at Rome about submission to government, government exists to punish evil doers and restrain injustice (Gen. 9:1-7; Rom. 13:1-7). 

Practically, this can mean everything from the building of roads and setting of safety standards as well as the just enforcement of laws and physical defense of citizens. As an institution of God, it is good for its own sake, not just as a result of the Fall and sin’s entrance into the world. Christians should desire the government to further justice and human flourishing as its proper end. 

God alone is Lord of the conscience. 

In the same passage where Jesus reminds his disciples to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, he also says that there are things which belong rightly to God, not Caesar (Matt. 22:15-22). This is a reminder that God alone is Lord of the conscience, and the government should not interfere with the sincere religious convictions of individuals. In the words of John Leland, Baptist preacher and religious liberty advocate, if the government won’t answer for a person before the judgment seat of Christ, it should not interfere with an individual’s religion in the present. 

Baptists have historically held that though the conscience is not infallible, recognizing that it can be malformed because of sin’s effects, it should be inviolable. When rightly normed by Scripture, individuals should live in accordance with conscience rather than do what they think to be sin (Rom. 14:1-12).  

Christians owe obedience to the state as a divine institution of God. 

As a divine institution of God, Christians are to give obedience to government when it exercises its power justly within its sphere of authority. The command to give obedience to government is not a blessing of all the uses of government’s power, but a submission to the authority established by God (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:14). Christians should resist commands from the government that call them to sin or reject the teachings of Christ. 

However, in other instances, Christians should willingly submit to the authority instituted by God, availing themselves of all the rights of citizens for protest and redress of grievances. They should do so while also praying for all authorities and leaders to further promote justice and justly govern society (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

The Church and state should not be united. 

As the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 declares, “A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal…” Baptists have consistently held that the church and state are to remain distinct from one another, not to promote a secular state, but rather to prevent the unjust use of power by the state inside the church. As early American Baptist Roger Williams described it, the hedge of protection exists to protect the garden of the church from the wilderness of the state. A state which can interfere with the church’s governance is one that will seek to corrupt and control the church based on cultural norms. 

As Baptists, we affirm that entrance into the church is not coterminous with entrance into the state, and reject any nationalized churches. Rather, Baptists have historically held that the church and state are distinct, even as they have called for Christians to seek the promotion of justice and virtue in the public square.

Religious liberty is the canary in the coal mine of societal health. A government which can attempt to control your devotion and worship is a government which seeks to control the most basic part of who you are. 

Religious liberty in Baptist history

This is why the Baptist Faith & Message (2000) states unequivocally that “A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal.” That is a truth that has been preserved and defended by Baptists for over 400 years from Thomas Helwys in England to Roger Williams, John Leland, and Isaac Backus in early America, and modern examples such as George Truett. When persecuted, especially under the hand of state or establishment churches, they reminded the state of the limits of its authority. Their advocacy was not limited only to self-interest, but a recognition that all have the right to worship God (or not) in accordance with their conscience because only the individual will stand before God and give an account for their soul. 

Thomas Helwys, one of the earliest English Baptists, issued what is likely the first call for universal religious liberty in the English language when he said, “Let them be heretics, Turks, Jews or whatsoever, it appertains not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure.” This call would cost him his life because in doing so he would denounce the power of the king to jail and punish heretics with the power of the sword. 

Today’s challenges from within to religious liberty

Today, there are some who would have Christians believe that our current cultural situation’s antipathy toward Christian morality and biblical truth is too dire for us to uphold such principles as religious liberty and its relation to the liberal democratic order with an emphasis on individual rights and basic freedoms. They assert that the environment of classical liberalism is toxic to faith and has led to an increasingly secular square and the rise of an individualism unmired from notions of the common good. Instead, these critics call for a state project that will provide a moral framework supporting the church–though they are conspicuously quiet about which denomination should be preferred. As one author stated recently, the greater problem to be faced is the sexual revolution and gender confusion of our age, not the fear that one religious group will force another to conform.

The sexual revolution is deeply concerning, and Christians should oppose it and limitations on religious liberty at the same time. Baptists can do both without any problem or need to look to other traditions. A commitment to religious liberty is not just a practical outgrowth of Baptist persecution, but a result of Baptists’ commitment to reading and interpreting the scriptures. Those are the same scriptures that tell us that gender and sexuality is part of God’s good design. Those who think that Baptists are incapable of meeting the challenges of the day without changing their tactics should remember that our weapons have always been spiritual, not simply temporal. 

Just as we oppose gender ideology that seeks to conform the body to a mistaken understanding of self, Christians should oppose any attempt to coerce the soul and force outward conformity. Those who call for such coercion are saying either that these heretics are misguided and in need of correction which the state can provide or that outward religious action is more important than true religious conviction. Thus, they would use the state to make hypocrites, choosing outward conformity over sincerity of belief.

A lesson from the Reformation 

Again, a perspective of church history can help us to understand that the ability to conform our outer worship to our inner understanding of what God requires has been a hard fought battle. In England, after the break from Rome, there were intense periods where the established church fought over whether certain outer liturgies were essential to the faith or adiaphora (things left to conscience and personal preference). At various points, certain forms of dress and use of particular prayer books were the established practice, and nonconformists were persecuted and stripped of their rights and titles and positions in the church. 

The established church often told this small group that these were matters which did not cause any damage to the soul. You can still preach the gospel, just do so in a miter (a headdress worn by bishops). You can still offer the sacraments, just make sure that you are using the liturgy from the official prayer book. But the non-conformists boldly refused, saying that they intended to carry the reformation to its fullest extent and that these actions were not just adiaphora. The response of the church was to jail, persecute, and in some instances execute these nonconformists. For the state church, the threat of heterodox belief and practice was reason enough to warrant persecution, and when they controlled the levers of state power they were all too keen to enact it.

As Baptists, we know how this story plays out. What begins with compulsion on non-believers ultimately ends up as compulsion on believers of a different tradition, with the circle growing ever smaller and smaller. But it is not out of practical self-interest that Baptists push against trends of illiberalism and state-sanctioned coercion. It is a recognition that we live not in the inaugurated reign of Christ, but rather in the time between Christ’s ascension and return, the already-not yet. In this time of contestation, we recognize that religious liberty (and the value of principled pluralism) are the framework in which we operate. The state cannot coerce belief, but the church can persuade individuals. 

Those, who would flee to the government for state support, such as theonomists who seek to enshrine Old Testament laws in American civil law, betray their own fear of the weakness of their positions. In the words of John Leland, another Baptist defender of religious liberty, “Truth disdains the aid of the law for its own defence…it is error, and error alone, that needs human support; and whenever men fly to the law or sword to protect their system of religion and force it upon others, it is evident that they have something in their system that will not bear the light, and stand upon the basis of truth.” 

A commitment to blessings and principles of religious liberty is a recognition that neither the state, or any state-sponsored church, will answer for our souls on Judgment Day. We will stand there alone, answering for our own actions. Thus, it is a recognition of the limits of government power to bring about the kingdom. We must not buy the lie that the canary is a lamentable, but necessary sacrifice in the fight against secularism. Because an environment too toxic for religious liberty is an environment that seeks to trade the power of God for the power of the state. And that is a bargain no Christian should make.


Andrew Walker, Liberty for All

Robert Louis Wilken, Liberty in the Things of God: The Christian Origins of Religious Freedom

Baptist writings on religious liberty:

  • Thomas Helwys, A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity
  • Roger Williams, The Bloody Tenent & The Bloody Tenent Yet More Bloody
  • John Leland, “The Rights of Conscience Inalienable”
  • George Truett, “Baptists and Religious Liberty”

Jonathan Leeman, “Christian Nationalism Misrepresents Jesus, So We Should Reject It” (9Marks)

Paul Miller, The Religion of American Greatness: What’s Wrong with Christian Nationalism

Trevin Wax’s 3 part series on Christian political activity: 12, 3 (TGC)

Baptist Faith & Message (2000): Article XVII. Religious Liberty

God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it. Church and state should be separate. The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends. The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind. The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion. A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.

Genesis 1:27; 2:7; Matthew 6:6-7,24; 16:26; 22:21; John 8:36; Acts 4:19-20; Romans 6:1-2; 13:1-7; Galatians 5:1,13; Philippians 3:20; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; James 4:12; 1 Peter 2:12-17; 3:11-17; 4:12-19.

By / Dec 2

Within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), resolutions have traditionally been defined as an expression of opinion or concern, as compared to a motion, which calls for action. A resolution is not used to direct an entity of the denomination to specific action other than to communicate the opinion or concern expressed. Each year, resolutions are passed during the annual meetings of the state conventions.

Highlighted below are some examples of resolutions on ERLC related issues from the 2022 conventions:

Alabama Baptist Convention

Resolution No. 1: On Appreciation for the Overturning of Roe v. Wade

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Alabama Baptist State Convention meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, November 15-16, 2022, offer thanks and praise to God for turning hearts on the issue of protecting innocent human life.

Resolution No. 3: On Calling for Repeal of Legalization of Medical Marijuana in Alabama

RESOLVED, That each city and county in the state of Alabama refuse to pass resolutions permitting the opening of medical cannabis dispensaries within their jurisdictions and to otherwise close such dispensaries that may have been opened while the Act is in effect.

Resolution No. 4: In Support of the Vulnerable Child Compassion and Protection Act

RESOLVED, That appropriate and wise medical, psychological, and spiritual counsel be determined to protect minors from improper and unnecessary life-changing medical procedures and to provide support for them, their parents, and their families.

Resolution No. 5: On Reaffirmation of Christian Parenting for All Children

RESOLVED, That Alabama Baptist churches teach sound Biblical values as God’s pattern for family life, marriage, and parenting; and that each church provide a spiritually-nourishing environment for every family and diligently commit to equipping parents to support and empower their children to fulfill their God-given potential.

Resolution No. 6: On Appreciation to the Sexual Abuse Task Force

RESOLVED, That we commend Alabama Baptist entities and local churches as they protect the vulnerable by making sure their facilities are safe spaces for all as we seek to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Arkansas Baptist State Convention

Resolution No. 3: On Opposing the Potential Harmful Effects of Legalizing Recreational Marijuana

Resolved, that we the messengers to the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, meeting at First Baptist Church, Hot Springs, Arkansas, October 25-26, 2022, implore Arkansas voters to cast their votes against Issue 4, the Arkansas Adult Use Cannabis Amendment.

Resolution No. 4: On Supporting the Arkansas Religious Freedom Amendment

Resolved, that we implore all Arkansans to support Issue 3, the Arkansas Religious Freedom Amendment, and, if able, cast their votes for its passage, sensing that it is the right thing to do and now is the time to do it. 

Missouri Baptist Convention

Resolution No. 4: On the Overturning of Roe V. Wade

RESOLVED, that we commend the recent decision of the Supreme Court and the work of Missouri lawmakers regarding abortion, and we thank God for granting them wisdom;

Resolution No. 5: On Puberty Suppression and the Gift of Gender

RESOLVED, that the messengers of the Missouri Baptist Convention meeting in St. Charles, Missouri, October 25, 2022 oppose the use of puberty blockers for children experiencing childhood gender nonconformity;

Resolution No. 6: On Gambling

RESOLVED, that we encourage the churches and associations cooperating with the Missouri Baptist Convention to engage in vigorous programs of education for adults, teenagers, and children about the moral tragedies wrought by legalized gambling; 

Resolution No. 7: On Recreational Marijuana and Missouri Amendment 3

RESOLVED, that we oppose any activity that would render our neighbors and ourselves enslaved to any chemical dependency, contrary to the healing and renewing will of the Creator and Redeemer, Jesus Christ (I Cor. 6:12);

Resolution No. 8: On Proclaiming Biblical Morality 

RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Missouri Baptist Convention meeting in St. Charles, Missouri, October 25, 2022, call upon our Pastors to raise the standard of Godly morality lived out in their personal lives to serve as an example;

Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma

Resolution No. 4: On Religious Liberty, Forced Conversion, and the Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report

We lament the degradation and dehumanization, which included forced removal of children from their families, forced child labor, removal of their tribal identity, confinement, flogging, withholding food, whipping, slapping, and cuffing, as well as discouraging or preventing the use of Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian languages, religions, and cultural practices. We declare the atrocities done against these people in the name of religious “conversions” as reprehensible, betraying the Great Commission.

Resolution No. 5:  Against Recreational Marijuana

We believe that states should protect their people from the proliferation of recreational marijuana. Legalizing addictive drugs for recreational use leaves neighborhoods, families, and schools vulnerable for exploitation. We pray that Oklahoma will maintain legal barriers between these substances and the communities they devastate, and that the church will work with Christ-centered ministries to reach people who are impacted by addiction.

Resolution No. 6: On the Overturn of Roe v. Wade and Supporting Pregnancy Resource Centers

We remain fully committed to this shared effort, to honor the image of God in the preborn, their mothers and fathers, and the uniquely challenging circumstances they face. We pledge to support this gospel ministry with prayer, volunteer work, and financial resources.

South Carolina Baptist Convention

On the Use of Preferred Gender Pronouns 

RESOLVED, that we encourage all South Carolina Baptists to resist speaking falsely and giving credence to the philosophies of the LGBTQ+ movement by adopting preferred pronouns that do not refer to a person’s created sex and biological makeup;

Encouraging the South Carolina Legislature to Pass a Law Protecting Minors by Prohibiting Transgender Surgery, Puberty Blockers, and Cross-Hormone Therapies

RESOLVED, we strongly encourage the South Carolina Legislature to draft and pass a law that will prohibit children under the age of 18 from obtaining transgender surgery, receiving puberty-blocking medication, or being subjected to cross-hormone treatment;

Exhorting Affiliated South Carolina Baptist Convention Churches to Develop Biblical Definitions and Policies to Confront Sexual Abuse

RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the South Carolina Baptist Convention meeting in Irmo, South Carolina, on November 14–15, 2022, exhort churches and their leaders to recognize the potential effect sexual abuse can have on individuals and their congregations; to develop biblical definitions of sexual abuse; and to develop and/or strengthen policies and procedures to acknowledge, prevent, report, and facilitate healing from the effects of sexual abuse in their congregations consistent with Holy Scripture and applicable law.

Strengthening And Clarifying Laws Concerning Pastors And Churches Regarding Sexual Abuse

RESOLVED, we encourage South Carolina lawmakers to remove barriers to the free flow of information between churches and other entities about employees and volunteers and, in so doing, empower churches to prevent sexual abuse;  

Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC)

Resolution 3: On Gambling

RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, meeting November 14–15, 2022, in Corpus Christi, Texas, declare our opposition to any further legalization, government facilitation, or expansion of any type of gambling including land-based casinos, riverboat casinos, sports betting, daily fantasy sports, instant racing, electronic versions of raffles, bingo, lottery scratch tickets, Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs), expanded lotteries and Keno; phone and computer-based wagering; and the expanded use of gambling technologies in Texas; 

Resolution 4: On Biblical Gender & Sexuality

RESOLVED, that we, the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention exhort our members and leaders to not accept any type of false doctrine or deceptive application related to gender identity and sexuality rather than what is stated clearly in Genesis 1:27 (“God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”), affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 Article IV, “The gift of gender is thus part of the goodness of God’s creation,” and demonstrate this truth by teaching our children to honor God with their bodies; 

Resolution 5: On Celebration of the Overturning of Roe v. Wade

RESOLVED, we encourage all Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches to take up the responsibility of both the proclamation and demonstration of the gospel by teaching the grace, forgiveness, and hope of Christ and by continuing steadfast in our commitment to pursue pure and undefiled religion prayerfully, financially, and practically in prenatal and postnatal care through pregnancy resource centers, counseling, fostering, adoption, and other available means.

By / Nov 21

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of traveling to multiple state conventions as they hosted their annual meetings. To say it was a joy to be with our SBC pastors and leaders in person is an understatement. There is something to be said about being in the same room with these brothers and sisters with whom we’ve linked arms for the purpose of the Great Commission. 

Two months ago, the trustees of our entity turned over the reins to me as president of the ERLC. Since that time, I have been busy calling and connecting with pastors from all across the country to––first and foremost––listen to their ideas, challenges, and experiences. In doing so, I believe this foundational work ensures that the ERLC will be able to keep speaking from our churches, just as it has since its inception. The ERLC is an institution that dates back over a century, and it belongs to Baptists––the pastor, the minister, and the individual in the pew who faithfully and sacrificially gives to the Cooperative Program. 

But this heart isn’t unique to me. It comes directly from our mission statement. The ERLC exists to speak with and assist our churches in understanding the moral demands of the gospel and, at the same time, to speak from our churches about the pressing policy issues that we all face in the public square. This includes issues such as the dignity of life, religious freedom, protection of conscience rights, the sanctity of marriage as God has defined it, and the defense of human dignity. This ensures that, even as we work alongside a number of partners and peers in our work, we’ll continue speaking with a thoroughly Baptist voice about the issues important to the SBC.

What matters most

As we reconstitute and rebuild this team, I know that if my vision for the ERLC is not aligned with what our churches actually need right now, it won’t work. So as new staff members are brought aboard, new initiatives are designed, and new resources are created, know that each of these steps are undertaken so our entity is fashioned in such a way as to address the feedback we are receiving from our churches.

One thing that will not change is our ministry assignment; one that we are privileged to carry out. This specific task has been given to us by our convention, so that means where our churches have spoken, this Commission will also speak without wavering. This is vital because a deep, abiding, and consistent voice of moral clarity is needed in the confusing times we find ourselves in. That’s what will set us apart. While there are other organizations in this space with competing motivations, this ministry will be firmly rooted in Scripture and guided by our Baptist Faith and Message.

What’s next

It’s natural to wonder: What will this new version of the ERLC look like, and what comes next? There will be many updates to come on that front. I’m eager to tell our churches more in the weeks and months ahead. The best way to stay informed is by joining us at 

Signing up for email updates allows you to hear directly from us about our work and ways we are serving you on the issues that matter most to Southern Baptists. You’ll learn about our advocacy in our nation’s capital, exciting new partnerships with our state conventions, and the ways we are working across the SBC with our sister entities.

As we move forward in this next chapter, know that our churches are first in our hearts and at the top of our minds. We are taking each next step with a Mark 10:44 mindset: to be a servant of all. I cannot wait to hear from you and be alongside you as we take the gospel to a chaotic public square that is in desperate need of the hope and peace that can only be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

By / Nov 8

The following article is adapted from remarks made by ERLC President Brent Leatherwood to Michigan Baptists.

In my recent conversations, I’ve detected quite a bit of fear. Outside the walls of our churches, fear is rampant. It often comes out as fear of the unknown, fear of the results of the election, or, as another put it, fear of what “they” may do to us. For the most part, it’s causing people to respond in one of two ways: either despondency and pulling back from the world, or seething with anger and deploying the language of warfare and conquest. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking is seeping into our churches. I have been told this by pastors and ministers in numerous conversations I have had over the last six weeks.

There is no doubt we live in a challenging and confusing moment, and we should be clear-eyed about the challenges we face. But allow me to offer a gentle reminder of Paul’s reassuring words to Timothy: “. . . for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:7). Spirit-led courage, unceasing love, and humble self-control are qualities that stand in complete opposition to the times in which we find ourselves. And they are qualities Christians should exude at all times, whether we are going to another country, planting a church in a new context, or entering a chaotic public square.

Life in the public square

The public square is where the ERLC operates on a daily basis and where Southern Baptists have spoken for over a century. It is vital that we continue to do so by serving and responding to the needs of our churches while continuing to build on the legacy of those who came before us. The best way to do that is through partnership, or, to use that rich Baptist term: cooperation. When we cooperate in our missional work, I truly believe there is no better gospel force on the planet than our convention of churches. And given the state of our public square, it is crucial that we see it as a mission field that is in dire need of those who are cooperating together for the sake of the gospel.

Last summer, we witnessed the most significant victory in the history of the pro-life movement with the Dobbs decision that overtuned Roe v. Wade. Abortion, as an issue, can now be directly dealt with at the state level. A number of states, overnight and in the ensuing weeks, shifted to a legal posture that respects life, defends preborn lives, and serves mothers. But we must acknowledge some have taken the opposite path. A path where more lives are lost and more mothers are allowed to be targeted and preyed upon by the abortion industry. At the same time, not every state has settled this question. 

To find an example, all one has to do is look at a state like Michigan.There, the question of abortion rights is being placed before voters on Election Day. 

Proposition 3 seeks to amend the state constitution to create a right to abortion, prohibiting the state legislature from regulating the procedure before viability. This law could take the state well beyond even the disastrous Roe framework. I encourage Christians in Michigan, and throughout the U.S., to be people of life who speak into this moment (and others like these) clearly and convictionally. Those who live in Michigan should vote against this diabolical measure and instead work to institute a culture of life with policies and leaders that protect both mother and child. The right to an abortion in Roe was wrong in 1973, and Proposition 3’s anchoring of a right to abortion in the state constitution is wrong in 2022.  

Because this issue has long been important to our churches, we have many stories to share about ways lives have been saved and mothers have been protected. As Tim Patterson, executive director of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan, wrote in August, “Keep telling the story and living the life. It has and does make a difference.” That’s why the ERLC wants to come alongside ourBaptist brothers and sisters in Michigan—and members of SBC churches across the nation—as you proclaim the dignity of preborn lives, inviting you to our pro-life conferences and gatherings, and why we want to continue placing life-saving ultrasound machines in centers that will directly confront Planned Parenthood and the lies they tell vulnerable mothers and scared fathers.

Other important issues in the public square 

The same is true for other issues important to our Baptist family that are within our ministry assignment. We want to continue being the foremost Baptist voice on religious liberty, which, in a legal sense, is on its strongest footing ever right now. Yet, we know the challenges to that standing are growing. So we must safeguard this liberty––which is our first freedom, our essential liberty.

The same goes for our human dignity issues like pursuing real, Ephesians-like racial unity and continuing to advocate before the state for laws that help families flourish. And of course, it is imperative we cooperate on an issue like combatting sexual abuse. This terrible scourge has been with us for far too long, and I am encouraged that our convention of churches has resoundingly said, “No more.” At the ERLC, we are proud to be partnering with our new SBC president, Dr. Bart Barber, and the new Implementation Task Force that is turning recommendations into action to serve you and your churches and to make sure they are safe from abuse and safe for survivors.

It is clear that there is urgent work to be done. Work that is not for the timid or fearful. And it is work that can be accomplished through our Southern Baptist cooperation. As we at the ERLC come alongside to assist you, your church, and your convention, it will allow us to speak more adeptly from our churches into the public square––a chaotic, messy, noisy public square that is in desperate need of the hope and peace that can only come from hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

By / Oct 28

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay discuss the U.K.’s new prime minister, Rishi Sunak. They also talk about Putin’s threat of a radioactive bomb, the Refugee Resettlement Program, and the importance of SBC local associations. 

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  • Dobbs Resource Page | The release of the Dobbs decision marks a true turning point in the pro-life movement, a moment that Christians, advocates and many others have worked toward tirelessly for 50 years. Let us rejoice that we live in a nation where past injustices can still be corrected, as we also roll our sleeves up to save preborn lives, serve vulnerable mothers, and support families in our communities. To get more resources on this case, visit
  • Sexual Ethics Resource Page | Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of entertainment and messages that challenge the Bible’s teachings on sexual ethics? It often feels like we’re walking through uncharted terrority. But no matter what we face in our ever-shifting culture, God’s design for human sexuality has never changed. The ERLC’s new sexual ethics resource page is full of helpful articles, videos, and explainers that will equip you to navigate these important issues with truth and grace. Get these free resources at
By / Oct 28

The months of October and November are the time when most of the SBC state conventions hold their annual meetings. Here is what you should know about these state-level groups that assist local Southern Baptist Convention churches in fulfilling the Great Commission.

What are SBC state conventions?

State conventions are voluntary networks of local SBC churches within a particular state or geographic region. The state convention is distinct from both the local Southern Baptist associations within the various states and from the national SBC and its entities (such as IMB or ERLC).

As with local SBC churches, SBC state conventions are autonomous organizations.  Any work they may choose to do together is based solely on having a cooperative relationship and working voluntarily together in a particular ministry or project. Churches cooperate with their state convention by giving to the Cooperative Program (CP) and by participating in the leadership and ministries of the state convention.

How many state conventions are there?

There are currently 41 state conventions throughout the United States (though not all refer to themselves as a “convention”). Eight conventions are composed of more than one state (North Dakota and South Dakota, Kansas and Nebraska, Maryland and Delaware, Minnesota and Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and South Jersey, Utah and Idaho, Northwest, which includes Washington, Oregon, and part of Idaho, and New England, which includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont). Two states—Texas and Virginia—have two state conventions. Puerto Rico is the only U.S. territory to have a state convention.

Are all local SBC churches a part of a state convention?

More than 99% of churches that cooperate with the SBC also maintain a cooperative relationship with a state or regional Baptist convention. Due to the long-established practice of cooperation with state Baptist conventions and local associations, the SBC encourages such multi-level cooperation (local, state, and national) and does not encourage churches to practice national-only cooperation.

Each local church is autonomous, though, and can choose to not be a part of a state convention. 

How are state conventions funded?

The primary means by which cooperating churches fund SBC missions and ministry entities is through a plan of giving called the Cooperative Program (CP). The “cooperative” of CP refers to the interdependent relationships between the local church, the state Baptist convention, and the SBC.

Individuals provide tithes and offerings to their local church, and the participating churches forward a portion of their undesignated funds to their state convention. During the annual meeting of each state convention, messengers from local churches across the state decide what percentage of Cooperative Program gifts contributed by local congregations stays within the state to support local missions and ministries, and what percentage is to be forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention for North American and international missions. 

At the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting, messengers from across the country decide how the gifts received from the states will be distributed among SBC entities. 

How much funding do the state conventions pass along to the SBC?

Each state determines for themselves how much of the giving by local churches will be used for in-state ministries and how much will be forwarded to the SBC. Some states, such as Alabama and Florida, forward about half of the CP funds they collect to the SBC. Currently, Iowa (55.7%) and Texas (55.2%) are the state conventions that forward the highest percentage to the SBC.

From 1930 to 2020, Southern Baptists have given $19,998,788,139 to the CP, with 37.67% of that total staying with the states and 62.33% being forwarded to the SBC. Since 2016, the average percentage given to the SBC has been above 41%.  

Do state conventions hold annual meetings and pass resolutions?

Each state holds its own annual meeting. As the South Carolina Baptist Convention says, “The Annual Meeting is a great place to build relationships, be encouraged, and learn from others around the state. It’s also where we elect officers and committees, pass the annual budget, and make plans for the coming year.”

Another activity that occurs at state conventions is the passage of resolutions. Within the SBC, resolutions have traditionally been defined as an expression of opinion or concern, as compared to a motion, which calls for action. A resolution is not used to direct an entity of the denomination to specific action other than to communicate the opinion or concern expressed. Each year, resolutions are passed during the annual meetings of the state conventions just as they are at the national annual meeting.

How do state conventions differ from associations?

Associations are voluntary networks of local SBC churches that join together for a particular mission. For example, the Heart of Texas Baptist Network is a group of 60 churches in central Texas. The network joins together for such functions as maintaining a missionary-in-residence house that is available to vocational missionaries who are returning to the U.S. for furlough and partnering with the Southern Wisconsin Baptist Association to support church plants in Wisconsin. 

The conventions serve many of the same functions as associations, but on a larger geographic level. In some states, the associations voluntarily align themselves with state conventions, representing the state convention at the local level.

How are state conventions involved in disaster relief?

The beginning of Southern Baptists involvement in disaster relief is traced back to 1968, when a group of Texas Baptists assisted victims of Hurricane Beulah in 1968. At that time the Brotherhood Commission, along with state Baptist Brotherhood leadership, took the lead in organizing Southern Baptists to respond to disasters by creating the coordinating agency for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) and hiring the first national disaster relief director. 

The turning point for SBDR came in 1989 when Southern Baptists responded to Hurricane Hugo. Since that time, Southern Baptists have grown to become the third largest disaster relief organization in the country, behind only the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts are divided among the state conventions and have nearly 70,000 trained volunteers.

By / Oct 27

Throughout October and November, SBC state conventions will be gathering for their annual meetings. However, many Southern Baptists might be unfamiliar with their state conventions or only have a limited knowledge of what they do. Seth Brown, the director of convention relations at the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, answer questions below about these entities and shines a light on the value of cooperation throughout the SBC. 

Lindsay Nicolet: What is the role of state conventions within the Southern Baptist Convention? 

Seth Brown: The 41 state and regional conventions across the United States have a primary purpose, and that is to serve local congregations. We connect churches to the relationships, resources, and services they need. A key part of that effort is participation with our national family of churches and entities through our unified giving channel, the Cooperative Program.

LN: How does your state convention specifically carry out its mission? 

SB: N.C. Baptists are a movement of churches on mission together. We are fueled by local churches and focused on local churches. Everything we do is geared toward serving congregations with an emphasis on helping them work together to make disciples of all nations.

We have staff deployed from the mountains to the coast to ensure churches are getting what they need when they need it. Other staff members serve in specialist roles to assist churches when they have specific needs. Our camps and conference centers provide beautiful spaces for rest and renewal. Plus, we have the privilege of training the next generation of faithful pastors, ministers, and missionaries through Fruitland Baptist Bible College.

LN: How can churches best utilize and partner with their state convention? 

SB: We have around 2,800 churches actively engaged with us, but there are many churches that miss out on what their state convention offers. We find that some church leaders are simply not aware of all the resources and services available to them. The best first step for a church to receive more value from their state convention is to ask about all the cooperative ministries they operate and resources they provide. Our N.C. Baptist staff is eager to help churches find what they need to support their local ministries.

In addition, I highly encourage more people to get involved with their state convention. Attend the annual meeting. Sign up for events. Recommend someone or make yourself available to serve on boards and committees. Ask lots of questions.

LN: How do state conventions relate to the national entities (NAMB, IMB, ERLC, seminaries, etc.)?

SB: We consider the national entities of the Southern Baptist Convention to be close partners in ministry. Each of our organizations is self-governing (or autonomous), so we don’t answer to them, and they don’t answer to us. But our relationship is one of support, trust, and a common vision to help churches take the gospel to the nations. 

N.C. Baptists deeply value our SBC partners and pray for those relationships to continue deepening through the years. 

We couldn’t be more proud of the many N.C. Baptist missionaries serving with the International Mission Board. In 2023, we’re launching a new prayer emphasis called “Praying for the Nations” that will highlight missionaries from our state. N.C. Baptists recently launched a groundbreaking church planting partnership with the North American Mission Board called “SendNC.” We are grateful for our six mission-focused and doctrinally faithful seminaries across the nation, including our beloved Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. And, last but not least, we stand for life alongside the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission through a partnership with Psalm 139, an effort that has allowed us to help place ultrasound machines in strategic pregnancy centers.

Our partnerships run deep, and we believe that springs from the spirit of cooperation and unity embraced by our congregations.

LN: What are some particular opportunities and challenges unique to state conventions related to the SBC? 

SB: Baptists at every level are facing opportunities and challenges that represent two sides of the same coin: unity and division. Our society has been marked by polarization and fracturing for some time now. Christians have a plethora of wonderful opportunities to display the kind of gospel unity that transcends social, ethnic, and political boundaries. 

Like all generations, we have the opportunity to speak the gospel anew to a rapidly changing world. I pray that state conventions can do our part to equip and assist Baptists along the way.

LN: How can state conventions be effective in shaping the public square within their region?

SB: As statewide or regional networks of churches, conventions can help bring a great deal of unity around cultural issues and public policy. In addition, they normally have close relationships with local associations as well, so they are well-suited to understand cultural issues from the ground level all the way up to state capitols. Ideally state conventions are able to work alongside both churches and associations to engage the public square with uniquely Christian character and values. 

By / Oct 14

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay discuss the 60 Minutes segment with SBC President Bart Barber, what a jury ordered Alex Jones to pay the families of Sandy Hook victims, and the ERLC’s comments about the new Veterans Affairs abortion rule. They also talk about resources for pastors that enable them to respond bibically and wisely to gender and sexuality issues. 

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  • Dobbs Resource Page | The release of the Dobbs decision marks a true turning point in the pro-life movement, a moment that Christians, advocates and many others have worked toward tirelessly for 50 years. Let us rejoice that we live in a nation where past injustices can still be corrected, as we also roll our sleeves up to save preborn lives, serve vulnerable mothers, and support families in our communities. To get more resources on this case, visit
  • Sexual Ethics Resource Page | Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of entertainment and messages that challenge the Bible’s teachings on sexual ethics? It often feels like we’re walking through uncharted terrority. But no matter what we face in our ever-shifting culture, God’s design for human sexuality has never changed. The ERLC’s new sexual ethics resource page is full of helpful articles, videos, and explainers that will equip you to navigate these important issues with truth and grace. Get these free resources at