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ERLC to focus additional resources on D.C. front toward public policy

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is reallocating more of its resources to its Washington, D.C., office, and the ERLC’s president says the move reflects a continued unfolding of a strategic plan by the SBC entity to impact the culture by seeking to influence public policy decisions.

ERLC President Richard Land announced that Barrett Duke, the commission’s vice president for research, is now leading the ERLC’s public policy division in Washington.

“Integrating our research and public policy teams into one unit is a move I have contemplated for some time,” Land said. “God opened the door for such an organizational change and the shifting of resources to our Washington office.

“I am grateful He has provided Barrett Duke to oversee this new approach. His expertise in research will help strengthen our public policy work in the capital.”

Shannon Royce, who served as the ERLC’s director of government relations and legislative counsel since 1999, resigned from her position at the end of March but will continue to work with the agency in a consulting capacity as legislative counsel. She left her position in order to better accommodate the changing needs of her family.

“The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has unprecedented opportunities at this time to impact our country’s public policies,” Land said, expressing appreciation for Royce’s service to Southern Baptists and for her willingness to continue to give the ERLC “valuable assistance” in the legislative area.

Duke began serving in the new role early in April after Land named him vice president for public policy. Duke, an ERLC staff member since 1997, will continue to oversee the entity’s research function. He has served as vice president for research and director of the ERLC’s Research Institute since 1999.

Duke said he is excited about serving God and Southern Baptists on the ERLC staff in Washington. “I am humbled that God has called me to this great task, and I am grateful to Southern Baptists, Dr. Land and our ERLC trustees for the privilege of serving in this strategic ministry. I am convinced that God has a great plan for this ministry,” he said.

“There is no question the decisions made in our nation’s capital affect the lives of every person in America and beyond,” Duke said. “Good public policy honors God and gives expression to the morality that makes families strong and nations great.”

Duke will work in both the Nashville, Tenn., and Washington offices of the ERLC until he moves to the capital area this summer.

“I see this additional investment of resources in our Washington office as further evidence that God’s hand is on the ERLC as we seek to fulfill our vision statement, which is ‘An American society that affirms and practices Judeo-Christian values rooted in biblical authority,'” Land said.

Christians are to be the salt of the earth, he said. “As salt is a preservative against decay as well as a purifying agent, the church is to bring God’s truths to bear on the culture,” Land continued, noting it has to touch that which it seeks to purify and preserve.

“If we are going to be obedient to the command to be salt, there is no room for withdrawing from the world and saying we aren’t going to get involved,” he explained.

“We are to be light of the world,” Land added. “Light penetrates the darkness and dispels the doom. God’s Word makes clear that we are to be out there in society — in Washington and in our local communities — as salt and light seeking to bring every institution in society under the sway of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

In addition to directing the ERLC’s work in the capital, Duke is anticipating the Washington office expanding its ongoing efforts to build strong working relationships with leaders in the Baptist state conventions, he said.

“The involvement of Southern Baptists in our nation’s public life is crucial to the task of restoring our nation’s moral compass,” he said. “As Southern Baptists become more aware of what is happening in Washington, they will recognize the need to become involved in influencing the laws and policies that affect all Americans.

“God is using Southern Baptists to transform our culture,” Duke said, indicating he is anxious to engage more Southern Baptists in the effort to bring biblical principles to bear on the public policy process.

Duke joined the ERLC staff in 1997 as director of denominational relations, conferences and seminars before becoming vice president for research two years later. Prior to joining the ERLC, Duke served 12 years as founding pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Littleton, Colo. He received his bachelor degree from Criswell College, his master’s degree from Denver Seminary and his Ph.D. in religious and theological studies through the Ph.D. joint program of the University of Denver and Iliff School of Theology in Denver.

Before joining the ERLC staff, Royce served eight years as an aide to two members of the U.S. Senate and worked for other pro-family organizations in the capital.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: BARRETT DUKE.

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