Land: ERLC remains committed to reconciliation
NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- In his first public comments on events that drew a sharp reprimand from trustees of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Richard Land acknowledged June 19 the charges of both plagiarism and "racially insensitive and hurtful remarks" following the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, expressing hope nothing he did would take away from the election of New Orleans Pastor Fred Luter during the 2012 Southern Baptist Convention.
"It has been my prayer that nothing I have done or said would detract from the historic election of our convention's first African American president," said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
"I pray that no mistakes of mine would rob our Heavenly Father of one moment of the glory that is His for the work that He has done, and continues to do, in changing the collective heart of the Southern Baptist Convention on the issue of race," he continued.
During the ERLC's report to the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans, Land reiterated his belief in "trustee oversight and governance," saying he is "under the authority of the trustees elected by you, the Southern Baptist Convention."
"I am tremendously appreciative of this whole review process and that it was conducted in a Christian manner by Christian gentlemen with the best interests of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Southern Baptist Convention and its ministry foremost in all of our hearts," he said.
In a June 1 statement, the ERLC's trustee executive committee reprimanded Land for his comments during a March 31 radio broadcast that were "very hurtful and offensive to the Trayvon Martin family and to many in the African-American community, including hundreds of thousands of African-American Southern Baptists." The committee also ended Land's weekly call-in radio program, "Richard Land Live!"
Land, who accused President Obama of playing politics with the Trayvon Martin case during the radio program that sparked the trustee action, led messengers at the SBC in praying for the president and his family, asking God to give Obama "wisdom, power and direction" in leading the nation and for the safety of the president and his family.
Land prayed that God would use elected officials as "instruments of righteousness."
"The ERLC, and its predecessor the Christian Life Commission have always been committed to the cause of racial reconciliation and to a convention that reflects the demographic makeup of the nation," Land told messengers at the annual meeting, emphasizing the entity remains dedicated to that goal.
He said the ERLC is committed to working with the SBC's African American Advisory Council, announcing plans for a "40 Days of Prayer for Racial Reconciliation" emphasis to be held early in 2013.
Land and ERLC trustee chairman Richard Piles presented New Orleans pastor Fred Luter with the commission's Distinguished Service Award during the ERLC report to the convention. ERLC trustees voted to recognize Luter for his service to the Lord and His church during their annual meeting in September 2011.
In receiving the award, Luter, who just minutes prior to Land's report had been elected SBC president, expressed gratitude for the honor, telling the convention he was thankful for the "faith, trust and confidence you've placed in me."
The ERLC president said Luter's election was "as truly a historic moment as Southern Baptist life will ever experience." He noted he had dedicated "over half of [his] ministry working toward the goal of having an African American elected as our convention's president."
Land, continuing in his report to the convention, said, "We face a moral and spiritual crisis as great as we have ever known in the United States." It is a "struggle for hearts and minds" in which Southern Baptists must be involved.
Land noted the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission supports Southern Baptists in their engagement of the culture by providing resources to the local church, advocating a biblical perspective on Capitol Hill, filing legal briefs with the federal courts, and being willing to speak out in the media.
During the 112th Congress, Land said ERLC staffers had 200 face-to-face meetings with congressional and White House staff. He said the SBC's moral concerns entity mailed nearly 3,900 letters to Washington, D.C., and state-level powerbrokers. He said the communications focused on Southern Baptists' viewpoints on a wide variety of moral and ethical issues being considered in legislation and public policy.
The commission staff participated in 351 press and media interviews over the past year, reaching an estimated 4.5 billion people with a biblical perspective on the issues of the day, Land said.
Southern Baptists must be involved as "salt" and "light," he said, as scriptural positions on human life, marriage and religious freedom are increasingly in disfavor in society.
The nation's founding document reflects America's founders' view that all men are created equal and "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights," Land said, noting the right to life is explicitly cited in the Declaration of Independence.
But Americans today are challenged by a quality of human life ethic in which, Land said, some want to play god and decide for themselves when individuals have lost a sufficient quality of life to be expendable and no longer protected.
The "culture of death" has invaded the nursery, nursing home, intensive care unit and "now into the panels under Obamacare that will decide who gets what treatment and what treatments your doctor will be able to give you," Land said.
Southern Baptists must continue to fight for God's definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman, he said, adding that the institution of marriage is threatened from all sides. "Every child deserves to have a mother and a father," he said, lamenting 41 percent of children are being born out of wedlock.
He said government welfare might help compensate for the absence of fathers, "but it does not make up for the holes in the hearts of those who are being raised without fathers."
Land warned about attempts in the culture to squelch Americans' religious freedom and conscience, "restricting it only to worship in the home and church buildings."
"The U.S. Department of Health and Human Service's mandate to religious groups that their insurance coverage must include abortion-causing drugs and contraceptives is the tip of the sword," Land said.
"This is not about reproductive freedom; it is about religious freedom. It is not about contraception; it is about coercion. It is about being able to live out our faith without being fined and penalized by our government for obeying God rather than man," he continued.
Land said it is important to stand with those whose liberties are being threatened, warning that Baptists might well be the next faith group targeted with a restriction of religious freedom.
"People of faith are in this together," Land said.
Dwayne Hastings is a vice president with the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.