By / May 23

The tragic reality of those who have been abused, marginalized, and stonewalled by many in the Southern Baptist Convention, as revealed by the Sexual Abuse Task Force report, is cause for deep lament and grief. In the midst of this dark moment, our first response is to cry out to the Lord. He alone can bring the comfort that survivors long for, bring abusers and enablers to perfect justice, and purify his church. Below is a sample prayer that you can use in your individual prayer life or with your church as you cry out for the Lord’s grace and mercy during such a horrific time. 



How long, O Lord, will the wicked succeed? How long will the ones who should be trustworthy, who should protect, bring harm while using your name as a cover? How long will an understanding of you and your Bride be harmed by the wickedness of sexual abuse? How long will the picture of a shepherd that should reflect your perfect justice and love instead be perverted, bringing fear and causing unspeakable trauma?

We are grieving, Lord. We are saddened and angered by the sin that has infected your church and that has been allowed to fester for so long. We lament the betrayal by those who should have been trustworthy. We agonize over the ones who should have been respected, protected, and cherished but have been grievously violated and ignored.

Lord, may you act to protect the vulnerable, cleanse our churches of this heinous sin, and keep the abused safe. May you act to thwart the wicked who uses his power and relationship to harm others. May you bring all injustice and unrighteousness into the light and to account. Break our hearts for what has been exposed and what may not even be known yet. Root out these sins and expose the fullness of the truth to the light. May all see the deception associated with abuse and not fall for the grooming tactics employed by those who are deceivers. May you comfort the afflicted and humble the ones in need of repentance. May you give us a steadfast resolve to hold abusers to account and encourage and walk alongside the abused.

May we step in and fight for the defenseless. May the government rightly bear her sword to judge the ungodly and the abusive. May you grant wisdom and strength to those in leadership to hold abusers and those who enabled it to account. May brothers and sisters step in to protect and care for the afflicted as they reflect your tender love and care for the most vulnerable among us. May your church be a picture of the safety and care that you have for your people.

May the afflicted see they are not alone. May they see you as you are—an ever-present help in trouble and a loving shepherd in the midst of a dark storm. Lord, you are good and active in the midst of this great darkness. Help us, your people, meet all of those affected by these revelations with love, grace, and care. Help us to meet tangible needs and stand beside those made in your image through the long haul. Help us to be faithful. And grant those who have endured abuse courage and strength as they walk this difficult path and seek safety and justice.

Lord, our words are not enough. Our hearts are broken. Sin has now been revealed for all to see. We plead with you to give us repentant hearts and a contrite spirit that will do what’s right, no matter the cost or how long it takes. 

In Jesus’ just and merciful name,


By / May 20

In less than a month, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) will be holding its 2022 Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California. Although every local church affiliated with the SBC is autonomous, congregations send representatives (known as messengers) to the meeting to help guide and direct the future of the denomination. In a s​​imilar way, while the Bible is the only rule of faith and practice for our churches, the SBC has adopted a statement of faith known as the Baptist Faith and Message (BFM) to “set forth certain teachings which we believe.”

Here is what you should know about the BFM and its various revisions. 

1. Throughout ​the history of the church, Christians have adopted various creeds and confessions for use, both internally and externally, in communicating what they believe. Creeds have generally been statements of faith that are agreed upon by most all orthodox believers, such as the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed. In contrast, confessions have typically been formal statements of faith that explain a group’s beliefs about what is set forth in Scripture, both on first-order doctrines (such as the Trinity) and on issues in which Christians can reasonably disagree (such as the mode of baptism or the nature of the Lord’s Supper). Confessions often tend to be developed at a time when clarification is necessary because of challenges to biblical orthodoxy. From the time it was organized in 1845 until 1925, the Southern Baptist Convention did not have an agreed upon confession. 

2. In the early part of the 20th century, a bias against supernaturalism began to creep into both the secular culture and the church. As SBC theologian E. Y. Mullins said in the 1925 report of the Committee on Statement of Baptist Faith and Message, “The present occasion for a reaffirmation of Christian fundamentals is the prevalence of naturalism in the modern teaching and preaching of religion. Christianity is supernatural in its origin and history. We repudiate every theory of religion which denies the supernatural elements in our faith.” The committee recommended that the SBC adopt the New Hampshire Confession of Faith, “revised at certain points, and with some additional articles growing out of present needs,” as the statement of the Baptist faith and message. This document became the first version of the BF&M.

3. To explain the nature and function of confessions historically held by Baptists, and to “clarify the atmosphere and remove some causes of misunderstanding, friction, and apprehension,” the 1925 committee recommended a statement that was later incorporated into both the 1963 and 2000 versions: 

  • That [the doctrinal articles in the BF&M] constitute a consensus of opinion of some Baptist body, large or small, for the general instruction and guidance of our own people and others concerning those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely conditions of salvation revealed in the New Testament, viz., repentance towards God and faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord.
  • That we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future Baptist should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time.
  • That any group of Baptists, large or small, have the inherent right to draw up for themselves and publish to the world a confession of their faith whenever they may think it advisable to do so.
  • That the sole authority for faith and practice among Baptists is the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience.
  • That they are statements of religious convictions, drawn from the Scriptures, and are not to be used to hamper freedom of thought or investigation in other realms of life.

4. The next revision to the BF&M was prompted in the early 1960s by disagreement over what was being taught in the Southern Baptist seminaries. A prime example of the controversy, as R. Dwain Minor observes, was the publication of The Message of Genesis by Ralph Elliott, a professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. In his book, which was published by the SBC’s own Broadman Press, Elliott taught that the first 11 chapters of Genesis were not historical accounts. In an attempt to strengthen the view of the Bible, the 1963 version added that Scripture was the “record of God’s revelation of Himself to man,” that “all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy,” and that it is “a testimony to Christ, who is himself the focus of divine revelation.” The 1963 version was later amended in 1998 to include a section on “The Family.” 

5. As the 20th century was coming to a close, the SBC found it was necessary to update the BF&M once again to countercultural trends. “By the end of the twentieth century, several denominations had revised their confessions of faith or creeds,” says Albert Mohler, “but almost all had done so in order to accommodate theological liberalism.” The SBC took a different path, with the revision of the BF&M in 2000 having, as Mohler says, “nearly unprecedented status as an intentionally conservative revision of a major denomination’s confession of faith.” This revision further strengthened the view of Scripture by stating that “all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy” and that “All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.” It also clarified for the first time in the BF&M’s history that, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

By / May 18

NASHVILLE, Tenn., May 18, 2022—The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, will host an event on “The Mississippi Abortion Case and the Future of the Pro-Life Movement,”during the annual SBC meeting in Anaheim, Ca., Monday, June 13 at 9:30 p.m. PST in the Grand Ballroom E-K at the Anaheim Marriott.

The event will feature a keynote address on human dignity, a panel discussion on the Dobbs case with a diverse group of pro-life leaders and a time of prayer and lament. Questions to be addressed include:

  • What is the Dobbs case about and why is it significant to the pro-life movement?
  • How should Christians be preparing in their states for a post-Roe world?
  • How can churches serve vulnerable women and children?  
  • What are some child welfare policies that state leaders can be thinking about working on, on a state-level?
  • How can Christians serve if they don’t feel called to adopt or foster?

Event speakers include:

  • Kevin Smith, Campus Pastor, Family Church Village
  • Denise Harle, Senior Counsel, Center for Life, Alliance Defending Freedom
  • Dean Nelson, Vice President of Government Relations, Human Coalition
  • Herbie Newell, President, Lifeline Children’s Services
  • Elizabeth Graham, Vice President of Life Initiatives, ERLC 

Media interested in attending this event should email Elizabeth Bristow at [email protected] for credentials

By / Mar 30

The people of God should delight in the different colors that make up the human race. Each shade is a reflection of the Creator’s beauty and creativity. Shamefully, we have often turned a point of celebration into one of contention. The Southern Baptist Convention is no exception. As we reckon with the sins of our past and move forward in obedience to God and love for our neighbor, it’s encouraging to see more diversity represented in the SBC. Willie McLaurin’s appointment as the interim president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee is a historic moment. He shares his perspective on the SBC, racial unity, and embracing diversity. 

What is the importance of your appointment as interim president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee to the worthy aim of racial unity? 

It marks a significant turning point in the history of the SBC. This is the first time in 177 years that an individual of non-Anglo descent has served as the interim or head of any SBC entity. This moment is marked with a number of African Americans who are serving in key positions in state conventions, associations, and national entities. In addition, many of our state conventions have non-Anglo leaders serving as president of their state conventions. I am prayerful this moment will signal the Southern Baptist Convention is actively engaged in atoning for the stain of racism.

I am honored to be the first African American to lead an SBC entity, even if only for an interim season. So many people have paved a path for me. I am standing on the shoulders of many who have gone before me, and I’m thankful for ministry leaders, past and present, who believed in me and gave me an opportunity to serve in various capacities. When I began serving in denominational work in 2004, my goal was to simply be faithful where the Lord planted me. My grandfathers were all born in the late 1920s and early 1930s. They would have never had an opportunity to serve where I am serving today. One of my grandfathers worked in a granite quarry. Grandpa Brim served as a deacon in his local Baptist church for more than 50 years. He modeled to me what it means to be faithful in serving God. I believe God has allowed me to serve in this moment because of my grandpa’s faithfulness that was passed on to my generation (Psalm 145:5). Now I want to serve faithfully so I can pass on a godly legacy to the generations that follow me.

As a Christian who is black and ministering in the Southern Baptist Convention, what have you been encouraged by in recent years as it relates to racial unity? And what have you been concerned about?

I have been encouraged by the vast number of individuals and organizations that realize racial unity is a gospel issue. It has been encouraging to see that our orthodoxy is beginning to inform our orthopraxy in the areas of racial unity. For many years, the Southern Baptist Convention was only talking racial reconciliation; however, upon the election of Dr. Fred Luter as the first African American president of the SBC, walls began to be torn down across our convention not only for African Americans but for all ethnic groups. I am seeing African Americans and other ethnic leaders serving in significant positions in associations, state conventions, and SBC entities. 

My concern has been what I call topical burnout. We live in a culture that has been discipled by cable news and social media. Thus, the latest topic and issue consume the narrative. When we are focused on racial unity as a gospel issue, we are focused; but, when other issues rise to the surface, our attention is derailed, and thus the conversation and focus has to be rebooted. I am concerned that as we attempt to atone for the stain of racism in the SBC that we do not erase the beauty of the vast numbers of ethnicities represented in the SBC. And, as we lock arms for the advancement of the gospel, we do not confuse unity with uniformity.

How would you counsel a pastor or church leader who desires their church to pursue racial unity? And how would you encourage them if they have grown weary in the work?

God has given pastors charge to provide spiritual leadership to the local church. I have often said that when you do not know how to talk about a matter, then you should be able to pray about the matter. I would encourage pastors to begin praying that God will create a culture in their church and community that facilitates racial unity. 

Second, I would encourage pastors to intentionally begin a relationship with someone that doesn’t look like him and begin to learn about his culture and customs. Every people group has a story, and once we develop community and spend time with each other we begin to cultivate love, which is the foundation for unity. 

Third, I would encourage pastors to disciple their members in the teaching of Jesus regarding racial unity and loving our neighbor. He taught very clearly how we are to relate to one another in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–7).

If you could sit down with each member of the SBC individually, what would you want to say to them as it regards race relations in our country and our churches?

We should love other people the way that Jesus loves other people. Jesus says in John 13:35, “by this will all men know that you are my disciples that you have love one for another.” When you love other people the way that Jesus loves other people, you will treat them with dignity and respect. When you love other people the way Jesus loves other people, you will be quick to forgive and will always take the high road. First Peter 4:8 remind us, “Above all, love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sin.” 

Soren Kierkegaard, a 19th-century Danish philosopher, said, “Life must be lived forward, but can only be understood backwards.” We need to learn from the past and use the lessons to help draft a picture of the foreseeable future. Our automobiles are equipped with a rear-view mirror and a front windshield. The front windshield is 80% larger than the rear-view mirror. I would encourage every individual to always take a glance at the past so that you can be rooted in what is true, but keep focused on creating a future that will honor the Kingdom of God.  

How can we encourage our brothers and sisters of color in these tumultuous times?

We are living in some really challenging times. We are still in a global pandemic, and there is racial unrest and political unrest. But there are five words that give us hope: “Jesus only, and only Jesus!” I would encourage my brothers and sisters of color to look to Jesus, and Jesus Christ alone. 

People of color are people who have traditionally held on to their faith in difficult times. Our faith is not a foolishly-optimistic type of faith where everyone has to be happy. We have a faith that is active during the difficult parts of the journey. I would encourage every person of color to be clear about who you are and whose you are. You are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God to accomplish a specific purpose. If you allow other people to define who you are, then you are no more than they say you are. But if you are defined by God, then you are who God says you are. I would encourage you to stand for what is right and exercise your rights as a Kingdom citizen.

In your experience, do you have any practical wisdom for believers who are seeking to pursue diversity within their communities?

Pray: Convene a solemn assembly in every community in which churches come together across racial, cultural, and class lines with other churches. The purpose of this gathering is acknowledging and crying out for the presence of God. Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21 is still unanswered: “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one — as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” Call on God, and then God works! 

Participate: Churches should join together in outreach to engage the entire community.
Create community partnerships such as adopting schools together and ministering at strategic points in the community. 

Partner: Churches should have a single, unified voice on clear issues of racial injustice in their communities. When these issues surface in the community and within the SBC, the Church cannot be silent. 

How can we, as Christians, ensure that our children grow up to be confident of their worth, not because of any attribute, but because God has created them in his image?

Psalm 127:3 says that our “children are a heritage from the Lord.” Our children are living in a difficult time in history. They have the world at the palm of their hand. They are connected digitally across the globe. When I was growing up, we had the complete set of World Book Encyclopedia. That treasured resource still sits on the bookshelf of my homestead. In our home, we do not have an encyclopedia, we have the World Wide Web. More specifically, we have Google. 

I would encourage parents, grandparents, and guardians to make sure that children are nurtured with love, care, and concern. Involve your children in a local church where they are regularly engaged in community. Teach your children to love God, love their family, and love others. We live in a “me-centered” culture, and children need community. Encourage your children to know that there is so much they can accomplish by God’s grace and in obedience to his will. 

Remember the words of Jesus: “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (Luke 18:17). Here, as in so many other areas of the spiritual life, Jesus turns our human expectations inside-out and upside-down. The point, of course, is that knowing God is not a matter of mastering difficult theological concepts or immersing yourself in esoteric mystical experiences. It’s all about childlike trust.

Watch the ERLC’s racial unity event for an informative and hopeful conversation about race in the SBC. 

By / Mar 29

A few years ago, I read the SBC president at the time was considering different gavels for presiding at the SBC Annual Meeting. One of the options under consideration was the Armstrong gavel. I sent him an email with this message:

This weekend I did a bit of reading on Annie Armstrong and was inspired anew. Attached, please find 50 reasons why I’m advocating for an Annie Armstrong gavel. Annie was tireless in her efforts on behalf of Southern Baptists. We all enjoy the fruits from the toil of her labor. 

Word count will not permit me to recount all 50 reasons in this article, but I want to share a few things I learned from Bobbie Sorrill’s Annie Armstrong, Dreamer in Action. Honoring Armstrong’s life means honoring the missions heritage of Southern Baptists and the contributions of Southern Baptist women. The offering which bears her name had brought in more than $2 billion for Southern Baptist missions efforts in North America at that time. In addition, at that time, the offering for international missions, begun under her leadership, had brought in nearly $5 billion for the international missions efforts of Southern Baptists. 

Annie Armstrong and the creation of the WMU

As a young adult, Armstrong helped Southern Baptists open and sustain foreign missions fields. No doubt, participating in the dedication services sending Lottie Moon’s sister, Edmonia, to China and William and Anne Bagby as the first missionaries to Brazil had a profound impact on her life. She developed a lifelong friendship with Anne. With encouragement from Lottie Moon, Armstrong helped Southern Baptists continue to channel their energies toward missions with the launch of the Woman’s Missionary Union on May 14, 1888. At the meeting, Armstrong’s sister Alice read a paper titled, “Special Obligations of Woman to Spread the Gospel.”

Armstrong was elected as the first corresponding secretary of the Woman’s Missionary Union and would fill the role (unsalaried) for 18 years. During her first year, Annie personally wrote 637 letters and 182 postcards. She doubled the letters written the second year, and in the third she sent 2,737. In 1894, she wrote 17,718 letters. Her writing hand was damaged permanently by this effort and never regained its strength. All money collected by the organization would go to the mission boards. The first offering was at the request of the Home Mission Board to build a church and enlarge a cemetery in Cuba. The second WMU offering was to raise money for two female missionaries to help Lottie Moon in China. WMU members gave enough to send three women to China.

Annie Armstrong and domestic missions

When Armstrong heard of the plight of destitute ministers on the frontier home missions fields, she organized an effort to send frontier boxes. And she led the women to build chapels on the frontier and home mission fields. Because of Armstrong’s efforts, Lula Whilden was appointed in 1887 to work with Chinese in Baltimore and Marie Buhlmaier was appointed to work with German immigrants. In addition, she petitioned the Home Mission Board to send a missionary to work with Italian immigrants. Armstrong advocated for the appointment and financial support of the first black female missionaries by the Home Mission Board and worked to help Native American women organize for missions. She welcomed the first two Native American women as delegates to the WMU, SBC, Annual Meeting in 1896.

In 1894, both the Home Mission Board and the Foreign Mission Board were in debt. Armstrong rallied WMU to join with the SBC to wipe out the Foreign Mission Board’s debt, raising even more than asked. For years, she even wished Southern Baptists would make provision in their wills for the work of the mission boards. And in 1899, Armstrong worked out a proposal encouraging legacies to the boards. Likewise, she worked with the boards to establish an annuity for their missionaries.

Ever the encourager, Armstrong made a 4,000 mile, 40-day trip to Oklahoma (via train, carriage and horseback) in 1900 with the hope of doing unifying work in the territory. Many people in her day used the word indefatigable to describe her. She had seemingly unlimited energy and a deep inspiration to work. She was untiring, resourceful, and persevering. Her spirit was indomitable. 

Annie Armstrong had a profound and unprecedented impact on SBC missions — both in North America and around the world — that continues to resonate today in our collective Southern Baptist work and life. As you give to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, remember the legacy of this indomitable leader whose influence is still being felt today.  

By / Feb 18

In this episode, Brent and Lindsay discuss the ERLC’s board of trustees voting to move forward with the sexual abuse assessment of the SBC, a likely Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the pandemic slowing and becoming endemic. They also discuss evaluating our social media engagement and the SBC’s history within the pro-life movement.

ERLC Content


  1. Sexual Abuse Assessment of the SBC 
  2. Russian amassing more troops on Ukrainian border
  3. Russia invasion likely in next few days
  4. U.S. sends more aid to Poland as preparation for conflict continues
  5. America’s uneven pandemic off ramp


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  • Prison Fellowship | Second Chance Month // Every person has dignity and potential. But one in three American adults has a criminal record, which limits their access to education, jobs, housing, and other things they need to reach that potential. Join Prison Fellowship this April as they celebrate “Second Chance Month”. Find out how you and your church can help unlock second chances for formerly incarcerated people who have repaid their debt to society. Learn how at
  • Psalm 139 Project // Through the Psalm 139 Project, the ERLC is placing 50 ultrasound machines by the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade in 2023, and thanks to the overwhelming generosity of Southern Baptists and our pro-life partners, we’re already halfway to our goal. But requests for these lifesaving machines continue to pour in from around the country, and our team can’t keep up without your help. Will you take a stand for life by helping us place our next ultrasound machine? One hundred percent of financial contributions designated to the Psalm 139 Project go toward purchasing ultrasound machines and providing training for workers. Learn more at
By / Feb 15

Richard Land served as the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission from 1988–2013. Prior to his time at the ERLC, he worked in a variety of church and political roles, many of which were involved closely with the modern pro-life movement in its earliest days. Below, he shares his experiences and brings perspective to the current cultural moment, the story of Southern Baptist involvement in the fight against abortion, and what comes next. 

Jill Waggoner: Historians have noted that before Roe v. Wade, evangelicals in general were fairly inactive on the issue of abortion. Is that true for Southern Baptists? If so, how did that change after Roe? What did it take to change Southern Baptists’ mind on this issue? 

Richard Land: I was pro-life from the time I was a junior in high school because of an experience I had with a high school biology project. One of my classmate’s fathers was an OB-GYN, and she, as part of a project, brought to class what I now know to be about a 12- to 14-week-old male embryo. It was clearly a human being. That sensitized me to the issue. 

Abortion wasn’t much of an issue for Southern Baptists until Roe v. Wade. Prior to 1970, the broad attitude was that the life issue was a “Catholic issue.” There were a lot of prominent pastors who followed the teachings of Dr. W. O. Vaught at the time, and I think he influenced Dr. W. A. Criswell. They believed life began when God put breath into the body of Adam, and so they took the interpretation that personhood begins when you begin to breathe. So that alleviated them having to deal with abortion. 

The real shift came in the aftermath of Roe. I was a foot soldier in the pro-life army back in the mid-1970’s, organizing pro-life groups in churches when I was in Texas working at Criswell College. And I saw [the shift] happen. It was [a result of] the revulsion over the bloodshed. I don’t think even the pro-choice people thought that abortions would jump they way they did once Roe was made the law of the land. That, and the amazing advances of embryology and sonograms — we knew a whole lot more about human development. I saw a ground shift among Southern Baptists. 

At the time, the Christian Life Commission (the precursor to the ERLC) staff, including President Foy Valentine, was all pro-choice, as was James Wood and James Dunn at the Baptist Joint Committee. Paul D. Simmons, who was radically pro-choice, was teaching ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. That’s when we got the 1971 pro-choice SBC resolution

I was part of Southern Baptists for Life. It was clear by the mid-to-late 1970’s that Southern Baptists had been awakened on the issue, and the majority of rank-and-file Southern Baptists were dissatisfied with the official position of the Convention, which was the resolution. 

The CLC staff opposed the 1982 resolution. They tried to amend it to make it more pro-choice, and they tried to put other exceptions in there besides the life of the mother. We had been pushing hard to get a Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on the denominational calendar. The CLC staff came into the subcommittee meetings of the Executive Committee and tried to stop it. And then when they realized they couldn’t stop it, they tried to get it moved to another part of the year, away from January and away from abortion. Eventually, CLC President Larry Baker resigned.

In defense of the generation before me, a lot of their aversion to engaging the issue, as I mentioned above, was that they saw abortion as a “Catholic issue.” They were dealing with the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church, which was not nearly as in favor of religious freedom and who didn’t believe that Protestants were Christians. The kind of cooperation you see now between evangelicals and Catholics on the life issue wouldn’t have been possible without Vatican II. 

JW: The resolution that you have mentioned that was passed at the 1971 Annual Meeting in St. Louis called on Southern Baptists “to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” How should we understand that moment? 

RL: It came about in 1971 because some states were making their abortion laws more liberal, as part the feminist movement. To me, there’s nothing more anti-woman than abortion, as the majority of babies aborted are female. Southern Baptists were beginning to think about the issue, and the pro-life movment was beginning to make headway into SBC life. The CLC wanted to head it off at the pass. They used that resolution to support the Roe. v. Wade decision. They were anticipating the liberalization of abortion laws. They would file amicus briefs with this resolution as an attachment. 

JW: Looking at more recent history, what has been an encouragement to you about the work of pro-life advocacy within the SBC and evangelicals more generally? 

RL: The most encouraging thing to me has been to go the pro-life marches or to to watch them on television and to see that the crowd gets younger and younger every year.

I​​ remember going to a demonstration in my hometown of Houston, Texas, against the largest abortion clinic outside of China. The people gathered there were young and they were holding up signs that said, “We survived Roe. Roe won’t survive us.” They had a very palpable sense that they could have been killed. Approximately one-fourth to one-third of babies conceived the year they were born were killed. They take it personally.

In addition, that at least one political party has remained true to its pro-file commitments has been encouraging. I long for the day when both parties are pro-life, which will change voting patterns.

In 1980, Republicans adopted the pro-life platform and nominated Ronald Reagan. Let me give you some of the impact of that. In 1976, the majority of White Baptists voted for Jimmy Carter. When he ran against Reagan, the majority of White Baptists voted for Reagan. There have been pro-choice people who have tried to run in Republican primaries that haven’t been successful. The unfortunate fact is that you could not be pro-life and get the nomination of the Democratic Party. There was a whole generation of Democrats who were pro-life and became pro-choice because they wanted to be nominated for president: Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, Richard Gephardt. I wish it were otherwise, but I don’t see it changing in my lifetime.

JW: Looking ahead, what do you think is the next place for Southern Baptists to be concentrating their pro-life efforts, especially in a world where Roe may be overturned with the recent Supreme Court Case out of Mississippi?

RL: If the Supreme Court overturns Roe, that doesn’t solve the issue. That just puts it into more of the political process. It’s going to be a titanic struggle for hearts and minds. 

The ERLC has two responsibilities. First, the ERLC is to be the conscience of the Convention to call them to be where we believe they ought to be on moral issues and, in that regard, we call Southern Baptists to oppose abortion except to save the physical life of mother. The second responsibility is to represent Southern Baptist views to the Congress, to the president, to the Supreme Court, and to men. There we have to be as accurate as possible — descriptive, not prophetic. Southern Baptsits are broadly pro-life, but there disagreements on some of the troublesome exceptions.

JW: Gathering all your knowledge and experience, what do you think is going to come next? What are the next 20 years going to look like?

RL: I think Southern Baptists are going to remain pro-life. They understand that God is not a Republican or a Democrat, but he is pro-life. There was a reason that Jews were the only people in the Mediteranean basin who didn’t practice infanticide. Their God, the one true God, had made it clear in the Scriptures that he’s involved whenever conception takes place. 

I recently read the testimonies of women in The New York Times about the impact of their abortions. What I would love to do is put a question mark beside their photo to say, “This is who their son or daughter would have become.” They ignore the fact that we’re talking about killing a human being. I think it is a symptom of the fact that our country has increasingly gone down the road of narcissism, which leads to self-adulation and self-idolatry. 

Public policy is never static. The situation is either going to get a lot better or a lot worse. Pope John Paul II was right when he talked about a “culture of death.” Because of legalized abortion-on-demand, we have seen the “culture of death” go from the womb to nursing home, to the ICU and to the nursery. Now we have states passing laws that say it’s okay to kill a baby up until the time it is born. What’s next? If a baby is just a collection of cells or an advanced mammal, then what stops people from killing a baby after he or she is born, because of a deformity? If you believe that every human life is sacred, you’re going to contest that with everything you’ve got. Either we get more pro-life or we descend into more death. 

This interview was edited for brevity and clarity. 

By / Dec 24

All across the world, Southern Baptists are preparing for Christmas Eve services with their local congregation. But there was as time in American when most Protestants, including many Southern Baptists, did not consider Christmas to be a holiday worth celebrating.

A holiday rejected 

In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, many Protestants found no biblical justification for Christmas and associated it with Roman Catholicism. For instance, in his book on “profane and superstitious customs,” the influential preacher Increase Mather included an entire chapter titled, “Against Profane Christ-mass Keeping.” Among his reasons were that the very name of Christmas (“Christ mass”) “savours of superstition,” that there’s no evidence Jesus was born on Dec. 25, and that the celebration was “in compliance with the Pagan Saturnalia that Christ-mass Holy-days were first invented.” (Modern scholars would later debunk the narrative that Christmas had a pagan origin.)

They were also scandalized by the drunkenness and revelry that was similar to activities we would now associate with Halloween. As J.A.R. Pimlott points out, celebrations included trick-or-treating, cross-dressing, and going door-to-door demanding food or money in return for carols or Christmas wishes. “Men dishonor Christ more in the 12 days of Christmas,” wrote the 16th-century clergyman Hugh Latimer, “than in all the 12 months besides.”

In 1647, the Puritan government in Boston even canceled Christmas for a few years. They ordered shops to stay open, churches to stay closed, and ministers to be arrested for preaching on Christmas Day. Protestants in the Southern states, though, were more tolerant of the festivities, at least as a civic function. In the 1830s Christmas became a legal holiday in Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Still, it was mostly a civic holiday rather than a religious one.

The celebration of Christmas during the Victorian Era in England — when Christmas carols first became popular and Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol — eventually trickled over into the United States. After the Civil War, the celebration of Christmas became more common in Southern Baptist life, though it was still mostly associated with friends and families than with activities of ​the local church. 

A change in the celebration of Christmas

That began to change, though, due to the influence of Charlotte Digges “Lottie” Moon, the SBC’s most famous missionary. In 1873, the SBC’s Foreign Missions Board (now the IMB) appointed Moon to go to China. Moon became the first American woman to attempt to live exactly as the Chinese did, adopting their dress and language and showing a greater appreciation for their culture. The effort helped to connect with Chinese neighbors. As Moon told the FMB,  “I am more and more impressed by the belief that to win these people to God, we must first win them to ourselves.” 

In 1887 Moon wrote a letter to the Foreign Mission Journal suggesting that Southern Baptist women set aside the  “week before Christmas” as a time of prayer and giving to international missions. “Is not the festive season when families and friends exchange gifts in memory of the Gift laid on the altar of the world for the redemption of human race,” she wrote, “the most appropriate time to consecrate a portion from abounding riches . . . to send forth the good tidings of great joy into all the earth?”

In 1888, a handful of women dedicated to the cause of missions founded the Woman’s Missionary Union. That initial Christmas offering collected $3,315 (roughly $97,000 in 2021 dollars). By 1889, the Annual Report of the convention reported that “Christmas envelopes” were distributed in the churches. The Foreign Mission Board in the Annual Report of 1890 acknowledged that it had published “Christmas literature,” and in 1897 the convention thanked the WMU “for the sum of all these Christmas offerings.” As Stephen Douglas Wilson observed, “Over time the Southern Baptist embrace of a Christmastide offering to support missions made it respectable to incorporate additional Christmas themes in Southern Baptist churches.”

In 1918, after Moon’s death, ​the WMU Christmas offering was renamed the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Since its inception, several billion dollars has been collected for the fund, including $159.5 million in 2019–20. The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions funds more than 50% of IMB work

One of the best ways Southern Baptists can continue to promote the true reason for Christmas — Immanuel, God with us — is by giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. You can help send even more Southern Baptists to the ends of the earth in order to proclaim Jesus by making a year-end donation to the International Mission Board

By / Nov 24

When asked to define conservatism, noted scholar Yuval Levin simply replied, “gratitude.” He explained that true conservatism is rooted in gratitude because it appreciates the institutions, procedures, and traditions that have been built up over the years by those who came before us. 

That understanding of conservatism deeply resonates with me, both as a philosophical conservative and as a theological conservative. I continually find myself grateful for what previous generations have done. Even in the midst of a challenging cultural season, where so many are interested in tearing things down, I find myself grateful for the efforts of peers, colleagues, and others who continue to build.

I am grateful for my fellow Southern Baptists, as well. We have built, and continue to do so, upon the work done by countless pastors, missionaries, church planters, ministry leaders, and scholars. Whether it is the enduring strength of the Cooperative Program, the commitment to sending missionaries around the globe or the planting of churches across North America, there is much to be thankful for. Here are five things the Lord has laid on my heart that I am truly grateful for. 

A cooperative spirit

Most of our state conventions have wrapped up their annual meetings. I was able to attend the Tennessee Baptist Convention just last week, and it was a true joy to be with pastors and church leaders from across our great state. People from various towns and different ministries came together to encourage one another and remind us of how much can be accomplished when we work together. 

I know this was the takeaway for so many messengers at all of our state conventions as well. Our cooperation is what makes us unique. We really are so much better when we work together to serve our communities and reach the nations for the sake of the gospel.

I’m grateful for the cooperative spirit that resides at the heart of the Southern Baptist Convention. 

Our theological fidelity

Another core component of the SBC is our commitment to the gospel. We believe that the Word of God is inerrant, and thus, we rightly hold a very high view of Scripture. If it weren’t for all six of our seminaries holding so fast to this truth, we would be foundering as a denomination. Each seminary continues to train men and women for gospel service. We must support our this integral work of our seminaries. They have excelled at teaching and equipping outstanding individuals we need to lead our churches and serve in this chaotic culture that is so desperate to hear a word of truth. 

Our theological fidelity ensures our churches continue serving in their communities and keep sending their best to be missionaries overseas. And all of that guides our work at the ERLC, ensuring that we are speaking to a watching world based on the convictions of our convention. 

I’m grateful for the theological fidelity our churches, associations, conventions, and entities hold to in our efforts to proclaim the gospel and reach the lost.

A commitment to church planting

I’m always saddened when I learn of an old church building that has been converted into something else. While I know a church building is only a structure of wood, brick, and other materials, it also represents lives and ministries where God has been at work. To think about that space no longer being used for these purposes grieves my heart, which is why I’m thankful for the important work our sister entity, the North American Mission Board, is doing to plant new churches in communities all across the country. Some are replants in those old, forgotten church buildings, and others are new plants meeting in movie theaters or strip malls. Regardless, the fact that our convention of churches continues to prioritize church planting is a natural outflow of our commitment to obey Christ’s commandment to go into all the world.

I’m thankful for NAMB and the faithful church planters who seek to take the gospel into new and forgotten corners of our country.

A commitment to international missions

In September, Staples Mill Road Baptist Church held a commissioning service for 34 International Mission Board missionaries being sent to the four corners of the globe. Around that same time, members of our ERLC life team traveled to Northern Ireland to place our very first Psalm 139 project ultrasound machine overseas. I see the same spirit in both of these events — Southern Baptists, motivated by the gospel, being sent out to save lives. It reminds me that the SBC views gospel proclamation around the globe as one of the main objectives, if not the main objective, that brings us together, and that’s a very, very good thing. 

I’m thankful for the IMB and our convention’s commitment to taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. 

A commitment to life

You would be hard pressed to find a Southern Baptist who doesn’t think the protection of preborn lives is not a matter of utmost importance. As a true conservative network of churches that actually believes every aspect of the Bible is true, we are resolute in our commitment to advocating for the rights of God’s image-bearers in the womb, and this requires a cooperation unlike no other. And Southern Baptists have risen to the task.

In the past year alone, the ERLC has placed 24 ultrasound machines. In December, we will place our 25th. This is not an accident. We have committed to placing 50 machines by the 50-year mark of the disastrous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. When I think about how Southern Baptists have rallied around the Psalm 139 Project already, I’m confident we will be able to place the other 25 life-saving machines in pregnancy resource centers around the country. The SBC cares about life because we know how precious each life is to God. 

I’m thankful for our convention’s commitment to taking a stand for life. 

A grateful people

I was recently visiting with a pastor of an SBC church, and he was reflecting on the last year. He admitted it has been uniquely challenging at times, but he was still appreciative of all the ways the Lord has blessed his congregation and ministry. Unfortunately, these stories of gratitude can get lost in the midst of all the noise. But I cannot tell you how many times I have had this same conversation with other pastors. I think that reveals a fundamental truth about Southern Baptists: We’re a people of gratitude. We know we are the recipients of an unearned grace, saved from death, and have been raised to walk in the newness of life (Rom. 6:4). And that’s why I’m thankful for a convention that cooperates to tell the world about the One who is the reason for the gratitude we have. 

By / Oct 6

When the COVID-19 pandemic brought Brazil’s economy to a screeching halt, the already impoverished communities were the ones most affected by the sudden loss of income.

Unable to beg at stoplights, get government subsidized assistance or even sell wares at outdoor markets like they have been accustomed to, these individuals were left with no means of providing for their families.

One region, known for being a vast and crowded slum, with over 200,000 occupants, was particularly devastated by the financial crisis. In this area, coronavirus-related deaths were recorded at a minimum of seven deaths a day—nearly six times the rate of China’s fatalities during this same period.

Send Relief heard about this community living hand-to-mouth and sprung into action.

Equipped with hundreds of food baskets and Bibles, teams were mobilized to help these families experience healing physically and spiritually—but God multiplied these efforts. Initially, this slum was the only neighborhood our teams were deployed to, but because of an increase in volunteer participation and many requests from other communities, we were able to reach five different neighborhoods in the poorest region of Brazil.

One volunteer, Maya*, told Send Relief teams, “The work of distributing the food baskets has been the fundamental help in these communities. Through the distribution, I’ve always seen gratitude in these people. Many of them don’t know how to express gratitude, but just looking in their faces [as they] demonstrate a happiness and hope that there is going to be food in their house, [I know they are]. And through the distribution of Bibles, God has also supplied the most important thing [for] their spiritual needs, and we will continue praying for these people to see that God is the Bread of Life.”

Eventually, this project became so successful that it spawned the creation of four identical efforts throughout São Paulo’s shantytowns and expanded to include mental health counseling. Thousands of people in need were assisted because of your generosity!

Since the beginning of these efforts, a prominent national Christian motorcycle club, Ministério Motociclistico Abençoados, has been an integral part of delivering baskets to families unable to travel to distribution sites. The club president commented on his experience volunteering, saying, “People came up to us and asked for Bibles while we were making deliveries, so we gave them out and prayed with them. In another place, a young pregnant couple came up and asked for a Bible and prayer because they wanted their baby to serve God. In both cases, we made sure that they were introduced to a local pastor and church so they can grow in their knowledge of the gospel.”

Our teams requested the involvement of five local churches to begin building relationships with faith communities, and, through their participation, hundreds of gospel presentations were conducted during the food and Bible distributions.

One church leader, Santiago*, shared, “[At] the distribution of the food, it was very gratifying to see these people so satisfied to receive these baskets. For me, it was an honor to know that we are working for Jesus. I want to thank the people who were involved in [healing] our community—thank you very much!”

This project was made possible by the generosity of Southern Baptists through Global Hunger Relief. On October 11, Global Hunger Sunday, you and your church can help more communities like this experience the tangible love of God.

*Names have been changed for security.