NASHVILLE (BP) — Gospel application to such issues as the sanctity of human life, sexuality and religious freedom marked the work of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission in 2016.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) co-hosted a first-of-its-kind, pro-life conference in the opening month of 2016, sponsored a national conference on the Gospel and culture in the summer, and promoted scripturally based policies with the federal government throughout a year featuring an election campaign that divided evangelical Christians.
Christians should not be fearful as a form of Christianity that is captive to culture falters, ERLC President Russell Moore said during the national conference in August.
“[T]he shaking of American culture is no sign that God has given up on His church,” Moore told attendees. “The shaking of American culture well could be a sign that God is rescuing His church from a captivity we didn’t even know that we were in.
“So we must be prepared to be the people who stand and stand fast and, if necessary, to be the people who are willing to stand alone,” he said.
Here are 10 key news topics involving the ERLC in 2016:
ERLC co-sponsors first Evangelicals for Life conference
The ERLC and Focus on the Family co-hosted in January the inaugural Evangelicals for Life conference in conjunction with the annual March for Life. Conference participants in Washington, D.C., heard from nearly 40 pro-life leaders and took part in the march on the snowy, second day of the event.
Government promotes transgender rights
In May, the Obama administration directed public schools and universities to permit transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their gender identity instead of their biological sex in another victory for transgender rights. Moore described it as “a stunning misuse of power.” The Supreme Court announced in October it would rule on a case out of Virginia involving a transgender student.
ERLC leads successful statement on religious liberty in higher ed
The ERLC issued an August statement signed by more than 140 religious, academic, legal, policy and media leaders that opposed California legislation it said would violate religious freedom in higher education. The bill’s sponsor announced the next day he would remove language that prompted the opposition.
Trump wins divisive election; Moore offers guidance
Donald Trump completed an unexpected rise in the Republican primaries and November general election to defeat Hillary Clinton and win the presidency in a campaign that divided evangelical Christians. Moore called for evangelicals to consider character issues during the campaign and afterward addressed how they should respond to the election result.
National conference addresses Gospel and culture
The ERLC’s third annual national conference sought to help more than 900 attendees engage culture while remaining faithful to the Gospel. Speakers at the August gathering addressed the application of the redemptive work of Christ to such topics as racial reconciliation, politics, the arts, sports, sexuality and marriage. The ERLC and Alliance Defending Freedom jointly sponsored a post-conference event regarding the presidential race and religious liberty.
Baptist institutions await HHS mandate solution
GuideStone Financial Resources and other Baptist institutions continued to wait for a legal resolution in their challenges to the Obama administration’s abortion/contraception mandate that requires employers to provide for their workers drugs and devices that can potentially cause abortions. The ERLC and other Southern Baptist entities urged the U.S. Supreme Court to rule the mandate violates religious freedom.
Effort continues to defund Planned Parenthood after veto
President Obama vetoed in January a bill that would have largely defunded Planned Parenthood in the wake of undercover videos that provided evidence the country’s No. 1 abortion provider was trading in baby body parts. His administration also issued a rule in December protecting the organization from state defunding as Congress continued to investigate.
Shootings of black men, police draw responses
Moore provided advice on responding to the killings of black men by police, as well as the ambush of police in the aftermath.
Supreme Court invalidates Texas abortion regulations
The Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that regulated abortion clinics and doctors for the purpose of protecting women who use their services. The ERLC and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention had asked the justices to affirm the law.
ERLC unveils ‘Gospel for Life’ book series
The ERLC released in June the first three volumes in its new “Gospel for Life” book series. The subjects were racial reconciliation, religious liberty and same-sex marriage.