NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- An Arkansas pastor has become chairman of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission after the resignation of a retired Indiana minister who was leading the Southern Baptist entity’s trustee board.
The new chairman, Richard D. Piles, pastor of First Baptist Church in Camden, Ark., circulated an email notice May 21 of the change in trustee leadership.
Piles, who has been serving as the ERLC trustee vice chairman, noted in the email, “The [ERLC trustees’] Executive Committee remains committed to their previously scheduled task of making a public report by June 1 regarding Dr. Land and charges against him of racism and plagiarism.”
Richard Land, the ERLC’s president since 1988, is undergoing trustee scrutiny after a March 31 radio broadcast that sparked controversy over his remarks about the Trayvon Martin shooting and prompted an allegation of plagiarism over the use of a source he did not identify on the broadcast.
The former ERLC trustee chairman, Steve Faith, a retired pastor and director of missions from New Albany, Ind., resigned from the trustee board, citing “his desire to commit more of his time and energy toward the local church where he is a member as they are currently without a pastor,” Piles stated in the email.
Both Piles and Faith were elected to their ERLC leadership positions during the trustees’ September 2011 meeting in Nashville, Tenn.
An ad hoc committee created by the ERLC trustee executive committee on April 18 is investigating the plagiarism allegation involving material Land failed to attribute to a Washington Times columnist on the March 31 broadcast.
Faith was among 12 participants in a May 2 meeting when concerns of African American leaders in the SBC were voiced to Land, prompting a five-part, two-page apology by Land that was issued May 9.
Faith issued a statement later on May 9 that the ad hoc committee is working "with due diligence and will bring a thorough and complete report to the ERLC Executive Committee who will prayerfully consider the findings. The ERLC Executive Committee will bring a report to the full board of trustees and then release a public statement by June 1.
"It is important to understand that our Southern Baptist polity places Dr. Land under the authority of the ERLC trustees who are elected by and accountable directly to the Convention," Faith said. "The trustees are aware of their responsibility to the Convention and to the watching world."
In addition to Piles, other members of the ERLC executive committee are Donald L. Mason, a Georgia layman; Stephen W. Long, a director of missions in Ohio; Christopher L. Slaughter, a West Virginia layman; and Stephen G. Veteto, a Colorado seminary educator.
Earlier Baptist Press reports on the controversy over Land's comments can be accessed at www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=37804
; and www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=37630
Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press. The full text of Richard Piles' statement follows:
“On Friday, May 18, Dr. Steve Faith resigned from his position of chairman and trustee of the ERLC. Dr. Faith cited his desire to commit more of his time and energy toward the local church where he is a member as they are currently without a pastor.”
“Dr. Richard Piles, who was previously serving as vice-chairman, has assumed the role of chairman. The Executive Committee remains committed to their previously scheduled task of making a public report by June 1 regarding Dr. Land and charges against him of racism and plagiarism.”
Dr. Richard D. Piles, Pastor
FBC Camden, AR