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Longtime civil rights leader honored by ERLC

JACKSON, Miss. (BP) — For Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore, presenting an award to longtime civil rights leader John Perkins was an opportunity to honor “one of my heroes in the faith.”

Perkins received the John Leland Religious Liberty Award from Moore Oct. 28 in Jackson, Miss. Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, gave the award during the Wednesday evening prayer service of Mount Helm Baptist Church in Jackson. Mount Helm is Jackson’s oldest historically African American church.

The ERLC gives the Leland Award annually to a person who exhibits a deep commitment to religious freedom. The ERLC’s board of trustees voted unanimously to honor Perkins with the award during its yearly meeting in September.

Perkins’ “tireless advocacy for Gospel-based racial reconciliation is prophetic work in our times,” Moore said in a news release announcing the presentation. “His life is a testimony to his conviction, and few have lived out the Gospel of reconciliation so fearlessly and boldly as he has.”

He is “endlessly thankful for what Christ has accomplished” through Perkins for the Kingdom of God, Moore said.

Afterward, Perkins called it an “amazing evening” on Twitter and thanked all those who “came to show their support.”

A native of Mississippi, Perkins, 85, spread the Gospel while serving the poor and seeking racial reconciliation. He was a leader in the desegregation movement in Mississippi. With his wife, he founded various ministries — including the John and Vera Mae Perkins Foundation in Jackson — that focus on the Gospel, community development, justice and reconciliation.

Perkins was a keynote speaker at the ERLC Leadership Summit on “The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation” in March.

When the ERLC’s trustees approved the award for Perkins, Moore said the recipient “has been fighting for religious liberty” for seven decades.

After the presentation to Perkins Oct. 28, Moore preached before being interviewed by Mount Helm pastor CJ Rhodes and answering questions from the congregation.

Leland, the award’s namesake, was a Baptist pastor in Virginia and Massachusetts in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. While a pastor in Virginia, he was instrumental in securing religious freedom as part of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

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