TRUSTEES: Moore notes ERLC's Gospel focus

NASHVILLE (BP) -- The mission of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission in the last year has been to help churches be Gospel-focused, Russell D. Moore told trustees during their Sept. 16-17 annual meeting in Nashville.

"[W]e are trying to apply the gospel so that we will be able to equip churches to be able to reach people for Jesus Christ."

-- Russell D. Moore

The ERLC has sought "to equip churches to be able to think in terms of the Gospel and to think in terms of a Gospel that does not simply believe but a Gospel that works itself out, as the apostle Paul says, in love," Moore said.

The ERLC has attempted to practice this mission in its response to news and in its initiatives, he told the trustees.

The commission, Moore said, has "worked hard to deal with rapid response" to such issues as the Supreme Court's June decision to uphold Hobby Lobby's religious freedom under the Obama administration's abortion/contraception mandate; the many judicial decisions regarding state marriage laws; and World Vision's quickly rescinded move to hire people in legal same-sex marriages.

The ERLC's approach, he said, has been "not simply to respond to events themselves but to use these events as teaching opportunities in order to think through: How do we apply the Gospel to whatever it is that is happening around us at the moment?"

This Gospel focus has shown up in the last year, Moore told the trustees, in such new initiatives as a leadership network, published resources and a Research Institute.

Through these initiatives, "we are trying to apply the Gospel so that we will be able to equip churches to be able to reach people for Jesus Christ," he said.

Moore also introduced initiatives the ERLC has planned for the next 18 months:

-- A new partnership with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for a modular Ph.D. in Christian ethics with an emphasis in public policy. The program, which begins next year, will enable doctoral students from all SBC seminaries to take courses led by the ERLC. The ERLC also is finalizing plans for a doctoral degree with Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

-- A religious liberty conference later in September in New Orleans in association with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

-- A two-day, intensive seminar in May in Nashville to help pastors and others gain insight into how the Bible addresses ethics issues and how Christians should think about them.

-- A spring 2015 conference in Oklahoma on marriage and sexuality in partnership with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

-- A March 2015 leadership summit in Nashville titled "The Gospel for Life" that will address such issues as abortion, bioethics, living wills, end of life, orphans and human trafficking.

-- An August 2015 conference in Nashville on the Gospel and politics that will be held in conjunction with the North American Mission Board's Send North America event.

-- A joint effort at the March for Life in January 2016 at Washington, D.C., with Focus on the Family and other organizations to help mobilize evangelical Christians to think biblically about an ethic of life and how to express it in the public square.

-- A publishing initiative to produce resources quickly and provide short books on ethical issues. The first book will be "The Gospel and Sexual Ethics."

Moore also reminded trustees of the ERLC's national conference – "The Gospel, Homosexuality, and the Future of Marriage" -- Oct. 27-29 at the Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville.

Regarding the Ph.D. partnership, Moore said he is "thrilled" with the alliance "as one of several new opportunities for the ERLC to partner with each of our SBC seminaries."

"As Christians, we are called to engage the culture with the Gospel, and this includes being a prophetic voice in the public square," Moore said in a Sept. 17 news release. "I am hopeful that this degree program will be a service to the church in raising up a corps of future pastors and professors trained at the highest academic level to be a Gospel-focused voice in the academy and on Capitol Hill."

In its written report to the trustees, the ERLC provided details on its ministry in the last year, including a report on the large growth produced by a digital overhaul. Page views of the entity's main website – erlc.com – increased 132 percent to 1.02 million page views. It marked the first time the ERLC has reached 1 million views.

Trustee actions during the annual meeting included:

-- Unanimous approval of a 2014-15 budget of about $3.53 million, an increase of more than $340,000 from the previous year's budget.

-- Unanimous election of new officers: Chairman, Christopher Slaughter, a lawyer in Huntington, W.Va.; vice chairman, Kenda Bartlett, executive director of Concerned Women for America in Washington, D.C.; and secretary, Kenneth Barbic, senior director of federal government affairs with the Western Growers Association in Washington, D.C.

-- Presentation of a plaque of appreciation to Richard Piles for his service the last two years as board chairman. Piles is pastor of the First Baptist Church in Camden, Ark.

Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.
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