NASHVILLE, Tenn.?Upon his 15th anniversary as head of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (formerly the Christian Life Commission), trustees honored native Texan Richard Land with a Sept. 16 luncheon featuring tributes from Southern Baptist leaders and awarded him the commission’s 2003 Distinguished Service Award. ERLC trustees also renamed the award for Land himself.
Trustee chairman Dale Wallace of Birmingham, Ala., saluted Land for being a “consistent voice in society annunciating biblical truth.” He said in marking Land’s 15th anniversary trustees wanted to honor Land for his work “as one of God’s primary watchman for spiritual values in this country.”
“I am grateful that the ERLC has been called by the Southern Baptist Convention to help bring about the biblically-based transformation of families, communities and the nation,” Land said. “I don’t see that happening without active and energetic involvement by Southern Baptists.”
A video celebrating Land’s tenure as president of the commission featured taped appearances by SBC notables, including Jack Graham, SBC president and pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano; Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Robert Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board; and Adrian Rogers, former SBC president and pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in suburban Memphis, bringing congratulations to Land on his service to Southern Baptists.
Morris Chapman, president of the SBC’s Executive Committee, and James T. Draper Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources, were in attendance. Letters of congratulations from U.S. President George W. Bush and Tennessee’s U.S. Senators Bill Frist and Lamar Alexander were among those received and read at the gathering.
“It has been an honor and a privilege to be able to serve Southern Baptists these past 15 years at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission,” Land said, noting he was more humbled than anything else about what had been said about him. “Any success I have had, the primary honor goes to the Lord Jesus Christ,” he continued, saying he believed the greatest years of the Southern Baptist Convention are in the future. “When you are privileged to serve as an SBC entity head, you get to know what a great people of God Southern Baptists are,” Land said.
Trustees announced the first recipient of the Richard D. Land Distinguished Service Award as Claude Witt, a former ERLC trustee and retired executive director of the Kentucky League for Alcohol and Gambling Problems. Land said Witt had “labored tirelessly in the Lord’s vineyard for truth and justice.”
U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kansas, was awarded the ERLC’s John Leland Religious Liberty Award for 2003. Land called Brownback the “poster child for conviction politics” in Washington, D.C., because of his principled stands on public policy issues critical to America’s families.
ERLC trustees also signed off on a $3.3 million budget for the next fiscal year. While the budget reflects no growth from last year’s budget, the new budget amount is more than 5 percent above estimated actual receipts for the current budget year.
Land and the ERLC received praise from the board for seeking out cooperative agreements with other ministries to work toward the commission’s goals. Commission staffers announced strategic alliances with Church Initiatives, who partnered with the ERLC in developing the new “Chance to Change” video series aimed at helping problem gamblers and their families (www.chancetochange.org); American Tract Society; Tyndale House Publishers, who jointly publish the ERLC’s monthly “Faith & Family” bulletin insert; Parable Group, the backbone of the ERLC’s online bookstore (www.familybookstore.net); and Bsafe Online, an Internet filter provider (www.bsafeonline.com/family).
Trustee chairman Wallace encouraged the staff to continue to explore ways to “lock arms” with other ministries in these strategic alliances, saying the partnerships allow the ERLC to distribute more efficiently critical Bible-based content on moral and ethical issues.
Harold Harper, head of ERLC’s broadcast ministry, was named executive vice president. Land said Harper will continue to have responsibility for the broadcast area and will foster an important synergy in pursuit of the organization’s vision of an “American society that affirms and practices Judeo-Christian values.” Complimenting Harper for his six years of “ground-breaking” service at the SBC entity, Land said Harper adds an important element as a “strategic thinker” to the entity’s work. He said given Harper’s expertise, the new position would allow the ERLC to broaden its reach and maximize its resources.
Newly named members of the ERLC Research Institute are Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Philip Roberts and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary assistant dean for ethics and philosophical studies, Doug Blount. The research institute serves to advise and assist the ERLC in equipping Southern Baptists and others in the areas of ethics, morality and public policy.