The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) addressed same-sex marriage, religious freedom, racial reconciliation, the sanctity of human life and politics among other issues in a tumultuous year for social and church-state issues.
The ERLC sponsored conferences and panel discussions, provided resources to equip pastors and churches, and advocated for biblically based policies with the federal government during 2015.
Russell Moore, the ERLC’s president, urged those attending the entity’s national conference in August to engage the culture’s important issues socially and politically but not to claim politicians as “spiritual mascots” or to adopt a “siege mentality.”
Photo by Gary Ledbetter
Panelists discuss the Gospel and homosexuality at the ERLC’s Equip Austin event, July 29.
“We are exiles in America not because we have lost America,” Moore said. “We are strangers and exiles in every culture and every place because the gospel and the mission get us out of step with the culture.”
Here are 10 key news items related to the ERLC from 2015:
Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage nationwide
The U.S. Supreme Court transformed the legal definition of marriage in June by ruling 5-4 that states must recognize marriages between people of the same gender. Southern Baptist leaders responded to the legalization of gay marriage nationwide with dismay but also with encouragement for churches to act with courage and faithfulness.
ERLC offers resources to churches on gay marriage
The ERLC provided aid before and after the Supreme Court’s ground-breaking decision to assist churches in addressing same-sex marriage. This included a manual offering legal advice to churches, schools and ministries, as well as a July equipping event in Austin, Texas. Moore also spoke on a panel about the issue at the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in June.
Leadership summit addresses gospel, racial reconciliation
Black, white and Hispanic pastors presented the gospel of Jesus as the solution to America’s racial divisions during the ERLC’s second annual leadership summit in March in Nashville. Moore addressed racial reconciliation in other forums as well, including appearances in Charleston, S.C., following the murder of black church members there and a blog post calling for removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina statehouse grounds.
Conference calls for gospel-shaped political engagement
Speakers in August at the ERLC’s second national conference urged evangelical Christians to engage politically with a witness shaped by the gospel. Just prior to the conference, Moore spoke to more than 13,000 people on a Christian’s citizenship responsibilities at the North American Mission Board’s Send North America Conference, also in Nashville. During its conference, the ERLC hosted an event familiarizing young pastors and leaders with the SBC and the Cooperative Program.
Videos instigate effort to defund Planned Parenthood
Undercover videos providing evidence Planned Parenthood trades in baby body parts prompted a renewed call by the ERLC for the federal government to eliminate funds for the country’s No. 1 abortion provider.
Religious freedom office opens in Middle East
The ERLC opened an international office in the Middle East to advocate for religious freedom and social justice, with Travis Wussow named as its director.
ERLC launches Capitol Conversations in Washington
The ERLC inaugurated Capitol Conversations, a series of periodic panel discussions in Washington, D.C. The first three events in the series addressed same-sex marriage and religious liberty, Planned Parenthood and the sanctity of human life, and the Syrian refugee crisis.
Briefs urge Supreme Court to review HHS mandate
Friend-of-the-court briefs filed by the ERLC and other Southern Baptist entities asked the Supreme Court to review lower-court rulings that upheld the federal abortion/contraception mandate for Baptist universities and ministries served by GuideStone Financial Resources. The high court announced in November it would rule in the cases.
ERLC, Focus on Family unveil Evangelicals for Life
In January, the ERLC and Focus on the Family introduced Evangelicals for Life – a major evangelical, pro-life conference in conjunction with the 2016 March for Life.
Christianity Today honors Moore’s ‘Onward’
Christianity Today named Moore’s latest book, “Onward,” as its Book of the Year, as well as the top book of the year in the politics and public life category.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)