Messengers to the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) voted down a motion to abolish the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) June 15.
The motion was made by messenger Joshua Scruggs from Bethlehem Baptist Church in Jacksonville, N.C.
“I motioned that we abolish the ERLC in order to remove an entity that had the unintended consequence of causing needless division among Southern Baptists,” Scruggs said. “I think we have given the ERLC an assignment that inevitably will cause significant division.”
Scruggs pointed to specific instances such as the ERLC’s filing of an amicus brief in favor of the religious liberty of a Muslim group in 2016. He also referenced acting ERLC President Brent Leatherwood’s signing of an open letter from the National Right to Life last month.
Leatherwood asked messengers to vote against the motion saying ERLC leaders believe the mission they have been given by the SBC is to take the gospel to the public square.
“When I was given this role, I told our team, ‘Let us double down on our mission, because, regardless of the personality, our mission remains unchanged to equip our churches to apply Christian principles to the moral and sinful problems of our day,” he said.
Longtime former ERLC President Richard Land, speaking as a messenger from the floor, also asked messengers to vote down the amendment.
“I cannot imagine a more damaging moment for the Southern Baptist Convention to defund the ERLC than this precise moment,” Land said.
“After nearly 50 years of effort, we are on the verge of having Roe v. Wade overturned, and that will immediately lead to a battle in all 50 states in the state legislatures, and Southern Baptists will be leading that charge.”
SBC President Ed Litton led the convention to a show of hands on the motion as it failed.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brandon Porter serves as associate vice president for convention news at the SBC Executive Committee.)