What’s next for the ERLC? Many people have asked us this question, and rightly so. We’ve undergone a substantial amount of change and transition in the last few months, and some have wondered about what lies ahead for our organization.
Let me assure you: the path ahead is clear, and our commitment to carrying out our ministry assignment has never waned.
The issues we handle are critically important to Southern Baptists, and our team is addressing them with the excellence and care our churches have come to expect. As acting president, I’d like to share the direction we are taking the organization during this interim period.
Just like our missionaries are sent to tumultuous nations or church planters are commissioned to establish churches in the midst of challenging contexts, we feel it is both our responsibility and mighty privilege to be a kingdom voice and carry forth the Good News of the gospel into a chaotic public square.
While there are many parts of the globe where certain groups have never heard the gospel, there are also sectors of the public square that are equally unfamiliar with the glorious name of Jesus Christ. It is our joyful duty to ensure that His name is taken where it is not known.
As we carry out this work, we understand we are not doing so alone. Our churches, our associations, our state conventions and our entities are all unique and independent – and yet we need one another to accomplish the work set before us. In fact, as all of us move forward in our cooperative work, we complement one another. In a word, we are interdependent. I believe when we are doing the work of our ministry assignments alongside one another, we are honoring the will of Southern Baptists. So, continuing to build those bridges remains our focus even during this season.
Our ministry assignment
The ministry assignment Southern Baptists have given the ERLC asks us to assist churches in applying the moral and ethical teachings of the Bible to Christian life. We are doing this on a number of fronts:
Life: Our life team is well on its way to placing 50 life-saving ultrasound machines in pregnancy resource centers by the 50-year mark of the disastrous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. In the coming months, churches will hear more from our team about this “Road to Roe50” and ways you can partner alongside us.
At the same time, we are exploring exciting cooperative partnerships with our sister Southern Baptist Convention entities that will help leverage this significant cultural moment so that a watching world can see how precious every single preborn life is – just as God sees them. In doing so, we are working toward the goal of a society where abortion is not just illegal, but is also both unnecessary and unthinkable.
Public policy: Our public policy advocacy work continues on Capitol Hill, following the guidance set forth by messengers in numerous resolutions. Our team in Washington works tirelessly to protect life, defend religious liberty and advance human dignity by working on initiatives to safeguard the pro-life Hyde Amendment and file briefs before courts ensuring religious freedom is respected.
Internationally, your ERLC has used our platform to loudly decry the heinous treatment of the Uyghur people by the Chinese Communist Party and call for America to counter that regime morally. This work was enhanced significantly with the incredible step taken in June by our messengers to call the appalling situation in China a genocide – making us the first faith group to use this label.
Perhaps one of the most exciting developments has been the announcement of our new project on technology ethics: The Digital Public Square. With the challenges presented by emerging technologies, artificial intelligence, and social media platforms, we felt a calling to equip the church with rich, theologically-centered resources that will help pastors navigate these complex issues.
Sexual abuse: Three years ago, Southern Baptists called on the ERLC to launch an initiative to equip churches about the issue of sexual abuse. Through a challenge churches can engage, curriculum that equips ministry teams and guides that promote best practices, we believe a foundation has been laid to help churches be safe from abuse and safe for survivors. But we know more must be done, and we are grateful messengers to the 2021 annual meeting emphatically said so. With that clear direction, we are committed to not only redoubling our Caring Well efforts, but partnering with churches in the years ahead to fully assess the scope of abuse so that we may understand it, confront it and end it.
Obviously, we have a lot of work ahead of us. As we move forward, we are committed to fortifying our relationships with our churches, our associations, our state conventions and our sister entities. This interdependence upon one another is what truly makes the Southern Baptist Convention so remarkable, and our fellow Southern Baptists expect nothing less.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brent Leatherwood is acting president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.)