(Photo: The Christian Post/Katherine T. Phan)
HOUSTON – The torch for defending biblical truth and practice represented by the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has been passed from its leader of 25 years, Richard Land, to evangelical theologian Russell Moore. The occasion was marked with a special tribute to Land and an address by Moore to more than 4,400 members attending the SBC's annual meeting this week in Houston.
On Wednesday, the day after the ERLC gave its report, Land told The Christian Post that the advocacy group should now focus on the same theme as this year's SBC meeting: revival.
"Our problems in America are only God-sized problems and only God can solve them," said Land, who is retiring from the ERLC president position. "2 Chronicles 7:14 tells us that 'if my people, which are called by my name (Christians), shall humble themselves and pray and seek my (Jesus') face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land.'
"What that tells me is that the future of America doesn't depend on what the lost people (non-Christians) do, the future of America depends on what the saved people do," he said. "So, Southern Baptists need to get revived. They need to have revival in churches all across this country, in the hearts of believers. That needs to translate into more evangelism so that lost people get saved and find Jesus as their savior."
Land, who is also CP executive editor, added, "What we have to have is a revival that ripens into an awakening and culminates into a reformation. At the same time, Jesus has commanded us to be salt and light. Being salt and light means that you go out into the society, you don't withdraw, and you seek to tell the truth in Christian love. Salt stops dead things from rotting, light brings life, it penetrates the darkness."
Moore, 41, who taught Christian Theology and Ethics and served as the Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention, officially began his position as the ERLC's president on June 1.
He said that as the ERLC goes forward he would like to focus on equipping churches to recognize the implications of ethical and religious liberty "currents" all around them.
"One of the things that is most dangerous for our churches, these are not simply the things that we see and recognize, but the things that we don't see," said Moore at a press conference during the SBC meeting. "I see our goal as the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission serving as a catalyst for conversations within churches. I believe churches are the places where Christians are shaped and formed, and where consciences are re-created and sent forward out to the world."
He added, "I want us to be the kind of place that brings the priorities we get from God to bare upon local congregations to prepare disciples to engage in the full spectrum of issues."
At the SBC meeting, Moore spoke highly of the man whose position at ERLC he now holds.
"When the history of this era of Baptist Christianity is written, there will be so many things to commend Richard Land and his revolutionary leadership, but there is nothing greater than this in my opinion: no one stood more courageously toe-to-toe with the spirit of the abortion culture, with the spirit of death, than Richard Land," Moore said.
"No one did more to lead Southern Baptists out of the wilderness of the spirit of death and back to the biblical truth that Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, born and unborn," he said.