Two quick links / news stories on the Southern Baptist Convention. First, on Richard Land. The SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission have reprimanded Richard Land for his comments on the Trayvon Martin case and the reported plagiarism on his radio program. They also have canceled his radio show. Honestly, he has repented of his sins, but I do feel it’s time to replace Dr. Land as head of the ERLC. Here’s more from Dave Miller of SBC Voices:
Many people, the current author included, thought that the charges of plagiarism might cost Land his job. At this point, that is not the case.
Here are my thoughts on the issue.
1) Land’s second and more formal apology is regarded as genuine (it seemed so to me) and that act may well have helped him keep his job. It definitely changed my view of the whole debacle.
2) We have a trustee system and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we have to commend them for doing their job. They did not sweep this under the rug, but neither did they assemble a firing squad. They appear to have taken a measured and responsible action toward Land.
At some point, as Southern Baptists, we have to trust our trustees. In this case, the trustees looked at all the evidence and made a decision. They had more information than I do. In the absence of clear evidence that they failed in their trust, I am not going to substitute my judgment for theirs.
If they think this is a fair result, I am accepting this as a fair result.
3) Land is going to have some challenges facing him at the ERLC. He is our recognized leader in ethics and he has been reprimanded for ethical lapses. He is supposed to make judgments and take stands and his judgment has been called into question. His ability to do his job at the ERLC may have been compromised by this whole unfortunate episode.
Time will tell if he is able to continue to be effective at his job. It would not surprise me if, after this kerfuffle settles down, Land announces his retirement. He is close to retirement age anyway (born in 1946), and in the compromised position he finds himself, his enthusiasm for his job may wane a little, making retirement a more desirable option.
Second point is from Fred Luter. Luter, who looks more and more likely to be the next President of the Southern Baptist Convention, said the Convention should not be defined by race. He’s right. Here’s more from HuffPo:
The Southern Baptist Convention began in 1845 in support of slaveholders and is now poised to elect its first African-American president, the Rev. Fred Luter Jr., in June.
“It’s a new day in the Southern Baptist Convention,” Luter told the PBS program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly. “Our doors are open to each and everybody.”
Luter, 55, has been pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans more than 25 years. Under his leadership, Franklin Avenue has become one of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the state, with nearly 5,000 members. At one time, it was an all-white Southern Baptist congregation. But in the 1970s, whites moved out of the neighborhood, and the congregation became mostly African-American.
A New Orleans native, Luter grew up in a black Baptist denomination. When he arrived at Franklin Avenue in 1986, there was debate about leaving the SBC. Luter convinced the congregation to stay affiliated with the denomination.
“I knew this convention had a heart for evangelism, had a heart for discipleship and had a heart for reaching people in difficult times, and I felt this is the right place for us,” he said.
Luter is currently the SBC’s first African-American first vice president. He is the only declared candidate for president, although additional nominations may be made from the floor of the SBC’s annual convention, which will be held June 19-20 in Luter’s hometown.
The SBC is about 80 percent white. In recent years, the denomination has adopted resolutions of apology for its previous stands on racial issues.
“I have a past, you have a past, everybody has a past. This convention, unfortunately, has a past that we’re trying to move forward from, and that’s how I look at it,” Luter said. “There was apology made, and so it’s now time to move on.”