NASHVILLE (BP) – The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s 2023 was marked by ultrasound placements through the Psalm 139 Project, public policy engagement, strengthening relationships with state convention partners and staffing developments.
“2023 was a year full of unique challenges, some unlike any this institution has ever faced,” ERLC President Brent Leatherwood said. “And yet those hurdles revealed the continued strength of this entity: the teammates who do the work. It never ceases to amaze me the ways in which this small but dedicated group of men and women continually seek to faithfully represent our churches.
“Oftentimes, they do so away from the spotlight or just out of public view, helping leaders think through policy, working with partners to develop new ideas, or talking to a pastor facing an unprecedented dilemma. Underlying all this is our commitment to bring the hope of the Gospel to the public square. Regardless of the year, that never changes.”
Notable ERLC highlights and updates from the past year are listed below:
Psalm 139 Project
As the nation marked the one year anniversary of the overturn of 1973’s Roe v Wade decision, ERLC continued its pro-life advocacy both in the public policy arena as well as in individual pro-life centers through its Psalm 139 Project.
The project provides ultrasound equipment and necessary training to pregnancy resource centers.
In 2023, 12 total ultrasound placements were made, including one in Southeast Asia in partnership with the International Mission Board (IMB). This placement, made in October, marked the first time the ERLC and the IMB have worked together through Psalm 139 to place an ultrasound machine in a community where IMB personnel is ministering.
This year the ERLC also recognized the efforts of several Baptist state conventions by giving a Psalm 139 Partner for Life Award to partners who have shown an exceptional commitment to valuing life by supporting those on the front lines of this essential ministry work.
Public policy engagement
The ERLC advocated for several different policy goals throughout the year covering a variety of topics.
To start the year, the entity released its 2023 Public Policy Agenda in January, which describes the policy priorities of the organization for the upcoming year. The agenda focused on four focus areas: religious liberty, sanctity of human life, family & marriage and human dignity.
Additionally, the ERLC released its first-ever state policy review in March, which identified several issues of concern at the state level.
In late June, two major Supreme Court decisions were deemed by the ERLC to be wins for free speech (303 Creative v. Elenis) and religious liberty (Groff v. Dejoy).
Lastly, the ERLC filed public comments in late November and early December addressing two proposed regulations from government departments regarding foster care and LQBTQ-related issues, as well as the availability of abortions and transition services for unaccompanied minors.
Leatherwood installation and staff appointments
After being named ERLC President in September 2022, Brent Leatherwood was officially installed in a service at Brentwood Baptist Church in March. Leatherwood previously served as acting president of the entity for a year before being unanimously elected permanent president by the board of trustees.
In January, the trustees voted to elect Miles Mullin to serve as ERLC vice president and chief of staff. In March, the trustees approved two additional senior staff members — Julie Masson, director of communications, and Rachel Wiles, deputy chief of staff. Masson had been serving as the ERLC’s director of external engagement, Wiles as executive assistant to the president and director of placement for the Psalm 139 Project.
In September, Kevin Smith, pastor of Family Church Village in Fla., was elected as the first-ever Black chairman of the ERLC trustee board.
Hannah Daniel was appointed ERLC director of public policy by Leatherwood in December. Daniel previously served as the ERLC’s policy manager.
Additional updates and resources
- Two online events were held by the ERLC on the issue of racial unity, the first of which was done in partnership with The Unify Project.
- The ERLC hosted a meeting of state ethics leaders (Nov. 30–Dec. 1) at their offices in Nashville. The meeting was part of an intentional effort for the entity to strengthen partnerships with state conventions.
- The ERLC released a statement in support of Israel after the Hamas attacks on Oct. 7
- The ERLC podcast relaunched in the fall with a retooled format. The first season of the podcast focuses on gender and sexuality.
- A full-year review of the mission and work of the ERLC is documented in the entity’s 2023 Annual Report