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ERLC Academy focus on ethical issues ‘open & robust’

NASHVILLE (BP) — Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore and others provided two days of training on ethical issues for church leaders, Bible teachers and seminary and college students during ERLC Academy, May 20-21 in Nashville.

The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission sponsored its academy for a fifth consecutive year and followed it with a three-day doctoral seminar.

Moore, the ERLC’s president, taught an introductory course on Christian ethics and answered questions from 180 participants during the academy at the SBC Building and, in some sessions, an audience watching on Facebook. From an ethical paradigm, he addressed such issues as the sanctity of human life, religious liberty, marriage, gender identity, artificial reproductive technology, capital punishment and poverty.

“This is a week I treasure,” Moore told Baptist Press. “I enjoy it so much because it is right at the core of what the ERLC exists to do: Equip Southern Baptists for faithfulness in the Christian life and the public square.

“My prayer each year for those who join us at this event is that they would leave with greater passion for the truths of Scripture and greater commitment to Gospel application with all the issues they face in life,” Moore said in written comments.

Southern Baptist pastors in Florida and California told BP the ERLC Academy helped them in thinking about the many issues that arise in their ministries.

“I can’t think of a time in recent history where pastoring a church and ministering to a broken people has become more complex,” said Boyd Bettis, lead pastor of The District Church in Jacksonville, Fla.

“My time at the academy has spurred on many conversations with my elder and staff teams about how to unpack the Gospel in the complexity of a world that is increasingly getting more complex in loving our people and city,” Bettis said in an email.

He commended Moore and the ERLC staff, saying Moore “spoke with the heart of a pastor and gave a prophetic voice to our coming years of ministry together.”

DJ Jenkins, lead pastor at Anthology Church of Studio City in Los Angeles, said he was helped “to interact on difficult ethical issues which I encounter as a pastor/planter in Los Angeles.”

The ERLC Academy “did not fail my expectations,” Jenkins said in email remarks. “The content was high quality, the discussions were open and robust, and the ethical issues discussed were both timely and applicable for all times.”

Dana Hall McCain told BP she took part in the academy to help her in writing on faith and politics as a columnist for Alabama Media Group.

“I felt that a better understanding of the nuts and bolts of Christian ethics would enhance my ability to approach current events in a disciplined, biblically sound way,” McCain said in an email.

“The benefit to me was that I had the opportunity to ponder a variety of ethical and moral issues through the lens of Scripture and learn how leading Christian ethicists and pastors apply the Word of God to complex issues and arrive at some sort of direction,” McCain said. “Given that so many issues we face didn’t even exist in the culture surrounding the authorship of our Bible, we need a methodology to faithfully apply the whole counsel of Scripture to contemporary problems.”

Bettis, Jenkins and McCain are members of the ERLC’s Leadership Council, a group of Southern Baptist pastors and leaders who are equipped by and provide input to the entity.

Jenkins — who is in his final year as a master of divinity student at Gateway Seminary — received credit by attending the academy, as did other students from five of the SBC’s six seminaries.

Randy Stinson, provost of Southwestern Seminary, told BP, “I am always eager for our SBC entities to partner together. But I am particularly glad for our students to have had the opportunity to benefit from the vast array of expertise that the ERLC provided regarding the ceaseless ethical challenges pastors are facing today.”

Moore and Andrew Walker — the ERLC’s director of research and senior fellow in Christian ethics — taught the doctoral students in their public theology seminar. The doctoral students also participated in the two-day academy, which included breakout sessions.

Cedarville University, a Baptist-affiliated college in Ohio, partnered with the ERLC for the first time to enable its students to earn course credit through the academy, Dan DeWitt told BP in email comments.

DeWitt, associate professor of apologetics and applied theology at Cedarville, described the academy as “a great opportunity for our students to sit under the teaching of those like Andrew Walker, Dan Darling, Russell Moore, and others.

“Additionally, the chance for our students to meet others from different schools is a great way for them to build relationships, network and encourage one another,” said DeWitt, also director of Cedarville’s Center for Biblical Apologetics and Public Christianity.

The ERLC Academy was held previously in Nashville in 2015 and 2017. Washington, D.C., was the site of the academy in 2016 and 2018.