Wednesday, March 12, 2008

ERLC president reacts to ‘Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change’

In a follow up to Monday's post, Iwanted to help circulate the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President, Dr. Richard Land's statement (included below). I especially appreciate Dr. Land's memory that the 2007 Resolution was amended. I must have been giving my wife some play-by-play.

Dr. Land's statement shows why he, and not others, is the President of the ERLC.


NASHVILLE, Tenn., March 10, 2008—Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, issued the following statement today regarding the recently released “Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change.”

Land answered questions about the ERLC’s lack of support for the declaration explaining that as an official SBC entity, the ERLC follows the consensus of Southern Baptists on public policy matters as determined by the SBC meeting in session each year.

He also stated, “The ERLC does not agree that Southern Baptists have been ‘too timid’” in addressing the issues of creation care and environmental stewardship.

Land’s statement follows:

“While official Southern Baptist Convention resolutions are not binding on the conscience of any Southern Baptist, they are instructive, particularly to those of us who have the privilege of serving all Southern Baptists through one of the Convention’s official entities.

“One of the responsibilities that accompanies this privilege of serving Southern Baptists is to seek the broadest possible consensus on issues where the Convention has spoken and to encourage change, when it is considered appropriate, through private discussion and dialogue to reach new consensus rather than public critique. We continue to encourage, and to participate in, such dialogues on this issue, as well as many other important issues.

"Southern Baptist public policy advocacy is most effective when it is supported by the broadest possible consensus among Southern Baptists.

“The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has a Convention-assigned role to express the consensus of Southern Baptists on public policy matters when they have reached such consensus. If the ERLC asserted Southern Baptists were in a different place on an issue than they actually were, we would lose the trust of Southern Baptists, and we would rapidly lose our credibility in Washington as well. Individual Southern Baptists may feel greater latitude in expressing disagreement on issues on which the Convention has spoken than do spokespersons related to official SBC entities.

“The Southern Baptist Convention had an opportunity at its 2007 Convention in San Antonio, Texas, to address this issue in the manner it is addressed in ‘A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change.’ Instead, the Convention’s voting messengers, elected by their local churches, voted approximately 60 to 40 percent to remove the following language from the proposed resolution:

‘RESOLVED, That we encourage continued government funding to find definitive answers on the issue of human-induced global warming that are based on empirical facts and are free of ideology and partisanship; and be it further.
. . .
‘RESOLVED, That we support economically responsible government initiatives and funding to locate and implement viable energy alternatives to oil, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and decreasing the amount of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions; and be it further’

“The officially adopted resolution, minus the above language, is as close to an ‘official’ position as the SBC is capable of making, apart from its formal confession of faith, The Baptist Faith and Message.

“Consequently, in our Convention-assigned role to share faithfully with Washington and other public policy venues where the Convention is on an issue, it would be misleading and unethical of the ERLC to promote a position at variance with the Convention’s expressly stated positions.

“Given the fact the Convention has officially addressed the issues of creation care and environmental stewardship in its 2006 and 2007 Conventions through resolutions adopted by the Convention’s duly elected messengers (see links below to view cited SBC resolutions), the ERLC does not agree that Southern Baptists have been ‘too timid’ in addressing these issues.

“Southern Baptists, collectively and individually, jealously guard their independence and autonomy. They reserve to themselves the right to decide through Convention action what the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy positions are to be. The ERLC will continue to share the officially adopted positions of the Convention with public policy makers and the media. Thus, the ERLC has declined to endorse ‘A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change’ in its present form.”

The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest non-Catholic denomination with more than 16.3 million members in over 44,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.


Pastor John said...

Rodney -

Alright, help me out here. Am I reading you correctly - that your biggest beef with the initiative is that it did not seek ERLC approval/support before its release?


Rod said...


Well, yes and no.

The yes part is that the Declaration really doesn't say anything, so I can't be against much else. So, yes, my beef is they've by-passed the ERLC which has been saying a lot. Did you catch the "has been" part? Southern Baptists (particularly the ERLC) aren't newcomers to this issue. Unlike "The Declaration" admission "we have RECENTLY been engaged in study..." the ERLC has been at the forefront. Jonathan Merritt and Company may just have started to engage this issue. Leaders charged with this responsibility have not.

Sometimes, quietly and behind the scenes (which is where most legislative decisions are made); sometimes publicly for the benefit of all Southern Baptists and Christians.

The No part to your query comes from reading between the Declaration's lines. No, my beef isn't just with competing with the ERLC. I can't help believing the promoter(s) of this movement have an agenda not yet published.

I personally believe they aren't as ignorant and irresponsible as they sound when they hint at Southern Baptist silence, "timid" actions and "cautious response." Those words (or accusations) just will be stand up under scrutiny.

I think there's an agenda closer to Al "Green" Gore than most Southern Baptists. Men like Frank Page can't be unaware of what Southern Baptists are doing. It must be they disagree.

I predict "signatories" to the Declaration will continue to grow. We are in an age where people are seeking a movement. Some genuinely will sign. Others just don't want to get left at the station. But once the excitement subsides and the agenda becomes delineated, names will start to be removed.

In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if a few names start dropping almost immediately.

** For the record, I'm not arguing they get approval or support from the ERLC. But to insinuate the SBC has been silent on environmental issues is deceptive and unacceptable. And to orchestrate a PR campaign of such magnitude has proven confusing to the secular press. Southern Baptists haven't changed their position on the environment and they haven't changed who speaks to those issues.

Pastor John said...

Fair Enough -

I realize that the ERLC has spoken to environmental issues - I'm sure most of the signers are aware of that too - but at the same time, such thinking has not filtered down into churches themselves. Just parusing the blogs that have addressed this shows that there are more than a few who seem to think that you can pollute all you want with no environmental repercussions.

Yes the ERLC has spoken to the issue. But the evangelical community, including many Southern Baptists, just aren't listening.