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Ethics entity issues call for reformation

SAN ANTONIO (BP)–Richard Land thanked messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention for approving an “encouraging increase in funding” for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, promising that the SBC entity will continue to be at the forefront in calling Southern Baptists to pray for reformation in America.

During his June 12 report to the convention, Land, president of the ERLC, said the commission is the SBC entity most dependent upon CP receipts since more than 90 percent of its funding comes from the Cooperative Program.

Earlier in the day the convention approved an increase in the ERLC’s share of Cooperative Program funds, from 1.49 percent to 1.65 percent of receipts sent from the states to the convention’s national and international ministries.

“We will do our very best to maximize that resource for the cause of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ,” Land said, noting that the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is marking its 60th anniversary.

Messengers to the 1947 Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis voted to establish the Christian Life Commission, a forerunner to the ERLC.

“There is a great contest going on for the high ground in our culture. We face myriad challenges in our nation as people of faith,” Land said, expressing gratitude that the Supreme Court upheld the ban on the “heinous, barbarous practice” of partial-birth abortion earlier this year.

God is not going to bless a nation that allows a practice like partial-birth abortion to continue, Land said.

The new makeup of the Supreme Court made possible because of two new justices nominated by President Bush secured the decision, Land said, suggesting that if John Kerry had been elected president the “nation would be stuck with a 6-3 pro-abortion majority on the Supreme Court.”

“Thank God we voted our values, we voted our convictions and we voted our beliefs,” Land said.

To those who argue that Americans need to leave their faith at the door when engaging the culture, Land said, “The separation of church and state means the government is not to get into the religion business. Only the government can violate the First Amendment.”

The amendment was never intended to mean that people’s religious convictions about political matters and public policy issues were to be disqualified from the debate, he said.

“The Baptist Faith and Message affirms a call to involvement with the world,” Land told messengers, reminding that Christians are to be the salt of the earth and light of the world.

“That does not leave us the option of either being involved in reform of society or being involved in personal evangelism,” he said. “It is not an either-or option, it is a both-and option.”

Those who teach there is a gap between a social gospel and a personal gospel are failing to completely understand the biblical revelation, Land said. “There is only one Gospel; it is a whole Gospel for a whole people. We live in a society that is desperate to hear an authentic word from God, from God’s people sold out in obedience to Him,” he said.

Land pointed to King Josiah in 2 Chronicles 34 as a classic example that reform by government alone is never sufficient. Josiah sought the God of his ancestor David, and when a copy of the Pentateuch was found in the temple that Josiah ordered be rebuilt, the king’s heart was convicted, Land recounted.

Yet while Josiah and the prophet Jeremiah led a great reform, their reform died with them because it was only their hearts that were changed, he said, not the people’s habits.

“What ails America will never be solved in Washington, D.C.,” Land said, adding that God’s people getting right with God will fuel the reformation that will bring lasting positive change to the nation.

“We need to quit preaching the Bible by the yard and living it by the inch. Our walk needs to coincide with our talk,” he said.

The ERLC’s recently launched JosiahRoad.com website is designed to reach a younger demographic, encouraging users to dialogue about spiritual and ethical concerns.

“We never know the influence we are going to have on other’s lives,” Land said, recalling that as a 17-year-old living in Houston he was invited to a Bible study.

Having been accepted at Princeton University, he said the Bible study led by a Baptist layman was designed to aid those students who would be attending eastern colleges that were often “aggressively hostile to Christian faith.”

Land said the crash course in biblical apologetics changed his life, revealing that the layman who hosted the study in his home was Judge Paul Pressler, a leader in the Conservative Resurgence in the SBC.

He said he was grateful to the Presslers for their investment in his life.

“We need to be investing in the lives of young people,” Land said, “calling them to revival and calling them to apply the Gospel to the culture.

“What America must have is a reformation that shakes America for Jesus. Just as Luther and Calvin shook Germany, just as Whitfield and Wesley shook England and just as Whitfield and Edwards shook a colonial America for Jesus.

“It’s time; it’s past time,” Land said.

    About the Author

  • Dwayne Hastings