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ERLC resource highlights importance of the Cooperative Program

Scott Foshie (left) said the ERLC creates “real, meaningful value” to local churches through the advocacy work and resources.

NASHVILLE (BP) – To coincide with the 75th anniversary of being an entity supported by the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) released a booklet resource chronicling the history of its advocacy work titled “The ERLC and the Cooperative Program.”

The booklet details the various advocacy endeavors the entity has taken up since beginning to receive CP funding as the Social Service Commission in 1947, then as the Christian Life Commission (CLC) and eventually its current work as the ERLC.

Alex Ward, lead researcher for the ERLC, is the author of the booklet, fully titled “The ERLC and the Cooperative Program: 75 Years of Southern Baptist Advocacy in the Public Square.”

“We were really wanting to emphasize the ERLC and the CLC (Christian Life Commission) works because of the generosity of the Cooperative Program,” Ward said.

“What we do is because of what Southern Baptist have generously given and the trust that they’ve given us through their Cooperative Program dollars.

“We didn’t want this to just be descriptive, but actually connecting to the work that is ongoing and drawing that line.”

The book is broken down into topical chapters which Ward explained represent the four focus areas or “buckets” the on which the entity has always concentrated.

The four “buckets” are marriage and family, religious liberty, human dignity (such as racial justice) and pro-life issues.

The focus areas of advocacy are explored in the resource over different time periods such as Brown v. Board of Education in the 1960s, abortion in the 1970s, religious liberty in the 1990s and various issues the current ERLC grapples with like artificial intelligence and sexual abuse.

The booklet includes a foreword from newly named ERLC President Brent Leatherwood and an interview with former ERLC President Richard Land on abortion.

In the short time the resource has been out, it has already begun to be used for educational purposes at the local level.

Scott Foshie Health Team leader for the Illinois Baptist State Association, primarily walks churches through the process of revitalization, including equipping them to engage cultural issues from a biblical worldview.

“You can imagine how valuable the ERLC has been,” he said.  

“The resource is specifically valuable because we can point them to that and say ‘look at the different ways the ERLC can serve your church. Look at how they’ve served, look at how they’re serving, look at how they’re positioned for the future,’” Foshie said.

“It shows you God’s faithfulness throughout the existence of the CLC/ERLC, but it is also a handy reference for churches to understand when do I turn to the ERLC?

“It shows local churches that the ERLC brings real, meaningful value that can make a generation difference in churches if they utilize and take advantage of the resources.

“I would recommend it for any church or local association or state convention office to have on hand. They can go back and look at it regularly to be able to say ‘Oh, I can turn to the ERLC about this or this.’”

Foshie explained the process he helps churches through is called “refocus” and is aimed at examining where the church has been and where it is currently, in order to develop a plan for the future.

He said one of the most challenges aspects of equipping these churches is helping them engage the ever-changing cultural issues of the day. The ERLC booklet has been a great resource for him in this endeavor, and is only one of the crucial resources available through the ERLC.

“I think the best way to characterize it is overall is when a church that’s dealing with the challenges of modern culture connect with ERLC’s resources, they can move from frustration to having ideas about meaningful solutions that can impact lives in their church,” Foshie said.

“The ERLC has been valuable to churches that I’ve been a part of and served by helping us understand the culture, helping us to promote the sanctity of life, helping to understand the dangers of gambling and different types of addiction.

“The ERLC has been vital in the churches that I’ve served and the convention where I serve to help us process what’s happening in the world and how do we engage a world with all these changing dynamics with a biblical worldview. And how do we do it in a winsome way, in a loving way, in a caring way.”

Ward said this goes along with his original intent to create a resource that not only informs, but inspires.

“The ERLC really wants this resource to be something that encourages churches,” Ward said.

“This is an encouragement to say, ‘This is what you have been able to do for the last 75 years. This is what your tithes and offering have done.’ There are ripple effects for each dollar that’s given to the Cooperative Program. I hope it builds trust with them. I hope that they see that we have stewarded it well.”

The booklet is only available through physical copy, and churches can request copies by emailing [email protected].