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Steven Harris joins ERLC as advocacy director

WASHINGTON (BP) — The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has named Steven Harris as the director of advocacy in its Washington, D.C., office.

Harris, 29, who served during the last year as a ministry fellow for the Christian Union at Yale University, will advocate for the ERLC’s policy positions with Congress as well as the White House and the remainder of the executive branch. He also will provide analysis of legislative proposals and content for the ERLC’s website and its other media outlets.

Harris becomes the second African American to join the ERLC staff since Russell Moore became president in June 2013.

Christian Union’s ministry includes the development of Christian leaders at eight universities that have an exceptional impact on American culture. In addition to Yale, the other schools are Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn and Princeton.

In announcing Harris’ appointment Monday (July 6), Moore described Harris as “one of the most dynamic young leaders in Baptist life today.”

“As we searched for someone to fill this key position, we found ourselves running into Steven’s name at every turn,” Moore said in an ERLC release. “He is well respected across the evangelical world and has deep experience building coalitions and getting things done.”

Before Harris’ time with Christian Union, he was an assistant pastor at Consolidated Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky., for three years. While serving there, Harris helped unite the Christian community to address public policy issues and represented the interests of churches with city government, according to the ERLC.

Harris received a master of divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2011 and a master of arts in religion from Yale this year. His undergraduate degree is from Vanderbilt University.

Harris said he is “humbled and honored” to work with the ERLC and “to represent the godly aims and Gospel interests” of the SBC in Washington.

“Though kingdom advancement via congressional advocacy might sound like a heretical category error that conflates the church and the world,” Harris said in written comments for Baptist Press, “it is, in many ways, precisely how I have come to regard my new role — a role that calls me in very particular and political ways to rehearse before both Capitol Hill and the culture that powerful Gospel implication that, despite recent events, yet remains true: Jesus is Lord.”

Two Southern Baptist pastors in Washington applauded the selection of Harris in comments for the ERLC’s release.

Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, described Harris as “a thoughtful Christian, husband, father and student of Scripture and our world. He’s competent and careful. I am delighted to have him representing our church — and many others — in the public sphere, and representing us to public officials.” Harris was a pastoral intern at Capitol Hill Baptist Church during the fall of 2012.

Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of Anacostia River Church, said Harris combines “a keen mind with a generous heart. A dedicated student of our changing cultural times, Steven is also an ardent defender of Christian truth.”

Harris began his work with the ERLC July 6.

News of Harris’ appointment came less than three weeks after the ERLC named Travis Wussow as director of international justice and religious liberty. In the new position, Wussow will provide direction from an office in the Middle East to collaborative efforts with other organizations to advocate for religious freedom and social justice around the world. Before his appointment, Wussow served as an ERLC legal consultant and as an executive pastor and general counsel for The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas. He holds a juris doctor and an undergraduate degree in finance from the University of Texas.