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King Sanders, Southern Baptist public policy leader, dies

WASHINGTON (BP)–S. King Sanders, who served Southern Baptists in the public policy arena at both the state and national levels, died Oct. 30 after a long illness.

Sanders, 54, worked most recently as director of constituent relations in the Washington office of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission but had been hospitalized since March when he had heart surgery. Prior to his more than five years with the ERLC, he served eight years as legislative liaison for the Baptist Convention of New Mexico while a pastor in Santa Fe.

“The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptists and the greater Christian family have lost a tremendously dedicated servant-leader in the home-going of King Sanders,” ERLC President Richard Land said. “King served with great distinction as a trustee of our commission from 1992 to 1997. He was so wonderfully used of God in galvanizing Baptists and other Christians to be salt and light in New Mexico that we felt led to extend a call to him to come and serve with us and orchestrate a similar ministry on a national scale in our Washington office in 1997.”

At the ERLC, Sanders worked with Southern Baptists in various state conventions, seeking to undergird their work and to foster their involvement in national issues. He also assisted in the ERLC’s work on public policy issues and among coalitions in Washington. He served as communications director of the office early in his ERLC tenure.

While serving as pastor of Rodeo Road Baptist Church in Santa Fe, Sanders also led the efforts of Baptists in opposing gambling and seeking to influence other government policies in New Mexico. Three-time governor Bruce King once described Sanders as the “most visible person on Christian causes” during his tenure.

“Nobody fought a better fight than King Sanders,” said David King, a former state treasurer in New Mexico and a close friend. “He was helpful to people — that’s why he was so effective. All the leaders [in both political parties] loved him and had great respect for him.”

His death “creates a void that’s going to be hard to fill,” said King, who was a charter member of Rodeo Road Baptist Church, which Sanders planted in 1986.

Sanders served as director of missions of the Santa Fe Baptist Association for seven years before starting the church. Prior to his service in New Mexico, he served on Baptist church staffs in two Texas towns, Baytown and Colleyville.

A native Texan, he received master of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

The ERLC trustees approved a proclamation of appreciation for Sanders at their September meeting, saying to him, “Your perseverance has inspired us and your concern for the local church has instructed us. Your enthusiastic and effective ministry among us has blessed us. We are grateful for your resolve to do God’s will no matter the cost.”

He is survived by his wife of 30 years, Rose; a daughter, Courtney, 24; and a son, Michael, 19. “We extend our deepest sympathy to his dedicated and godly wife Rose and their two precious children,” Land said.

The funeral will be held Nov. 1 at the family’s home church, Spotswood Baptist Church in Fredericksburg, Va.
Dwayne Hastings contributed to this article.