Richard Land Announces His Retirement (October 2013)

by Dave Miller on July 31, 2012 · 55 comments

In a move that was predicted by many after the controversy that occurred earlier this year, Dr. Richard Land has announced his retirement from the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, effective in October of next year. Baptist Press’ article can be found here.

When the trustees of the ERLC reprimanded Land and took away his radio program after racially insensitive remarks about the Trayvon Martin tragedy and the plagiarism allegations were made public earlier this year, many expected that Land’s retirement was imminent. It is probably the best solution to the situation.

Land will still be at the helm of the ERLC for 15 months,  while his successor is sought.

Several questions seem appropriate here:

1) Who will be the successor to Dr. Land?

2) Some have suggested that the ERLC become less about one man and his advocacy and more of a team effort. Is that possible? Desirable?

3) What is the purpose/mandate of the ERLC going to be headed into the future?

Lots to talk about.

 

1 SBC Layman July 31, 2012 at 7:27 pm

It will be Russell Moore. You heard it here first.

2 Dave Miller July 31, 2012 at 7:42 pm

That would cause a firestorm that would keep this blog busy! I’d have no problem with the idea. But his affiliation with Southern would be a red flag for many.

3 SBC Layman July 31, 2012 at 7:58 pm

I agree, it would probably create a firestorm! Moore’s well known, well spoken and engaged in the culture. He has political connections and interests from his former life which he has apparently maintained based on his writings and tweets. Al Mohler would probably be the person most gifted for this kind of position, but I don’t see him leaving his position of influence at Southern. Moore seems like a short-lister to me.

4 Cameron Teller July 31, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Russ certainly wants the job, that is well known. He might do a good job. However, it is not just the Southern Seminary connection (as David points out), but the Southern Seminary morale (and turnover) with him as the leader. There are just too many issues. The ERLC needs strong leadership right now, free of baggage.

Cameron

5 SBC Layman July 31, 2012 at 7:40 pm

At least that’s my guess…..

6 Tom Parker July 31, 2012 at 7:53 pm

I am not surprised one bit. I’m still left wondering why he was not fired or encouraged to retire now so his replacement could begin the job now, not fifteen months from now.

7 Dale Pugh July 31, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Looks like he still has a lot of chips on the table. His personal clout has been built over years in the position. Not saying that’s right, just reality.

8 Dave Miller July 31, 2012 at 8:19 pm

It takes a while to search for a replacement.

9 Micah Fries July 31, 2012 at 9:01 pm

If I were to wager a guess, and it’s only a guess, I’d think Craig Mitchell, of Southwestern, has a good chance of being the next President of the ERLC. With that said, I’ll probably be wrong. ;-)

10 Tim Rogers July 31, 2012 at 9:54 pm

If we are serious about racial diversity, this is the best choice. As it stands the SBC does not have an African American in any position responsible for a budget. Dr. Mitchell would be an excellent choice.

11 Rick Patrick July 31, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Between Mohler, Moore and Mitchell, I prefer Mitchell. Not only is he an eminently qualified ethicist, with the experience and skills to do the job, but he would also help Southern Baptists take another step toward the racial equality we seek for our denomination by entrusting a minority with the leadership of a significant staff and budget.

With that said, I’ll probably be right. :-)

12 Hariette August 2, 2012 at 11:08 pm

Rick, okay…then I’m with you. :) not that it means much. ha ha.

13 Frank July 31, 2012 at 10:04 pm

Dr. Mitchell was a classmate of mine. He is a first-class scholar and an excellent manager. He’s just a basically great guy.

14 Todd July 31, 2012 at 10:10 pm

And, he was, as I understand it, in the meeting that produced Dr. Land’s apology from May of this year. Might want to explore that one.

15 Rick Patrick July 31, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Todd,

What are you suggesting? That his presence in the company of many other people at a meeting to restore a brother whose remarks were offensive was somehow a breach of ethics that needs to be explored? Do you think they “cut a deal” during an ethics investigation? In a room full of ethicists?

16 Dave Miller July 31, 2012 at 10:31 pm

I think what he meant was that Dr. Mitchell’s candidacy was something to be explored, not his involvement in the ethics investigation.

Todd can correct me, but that is how I took his statement – that Dr Mitchells candidacy is interesting.

Wow, think about what it would mean to have an African American at the helm of our ERLC. That would be a bigger thing, perhaps, than the election of Fred Luter (as big a deal as that is!).

17 Todd July 31, 2012 at 10:44 pm

Rick,

I do not know Craig Mitchell. I have read the thread and believe he could be an interesting selection. That he is African-American would get my vote.

The meeting I referenced had a number of invitees. Dr. Mitchell’s presence was requested or made possible by a friend of Dr. Land’s, as I understand it. I believe it could be important to know how he parsed the incident as it related to racism and Dr. Land’s comments.

In our current climate in the SBC, including Dave’s recent posts, I would like to know how Dr. Mitchell, or any candidate, sees our way forward.

Dave – very close. ;)

18 Todd July 31, 2012 at 9:50 pm

While it takes time to find a replacement, I am not sure I care to endure the potential gaffes with little to no recourse over the next 15 months. Land just spoke at a political event in Ft. Worth and in his normal range – hyperbole – claimed this election the most important since 1860. He shared the platform with Glenn “I am a Mormon Alcoholic” Beck (Beck’s own description from the article). Even a fellow from SWBTS posted a “good grief” post on FB.

Richard Land and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is an embarrassment to Southern Baptists. The old Christian Life Commission wasn’t any farther afield than is the ERLC. I wish Southern Baptists would dismantle the ERLC and its promotion of an American civil religion and use the money to promote the gospel.

And,

The Third Great Awakening was ushered in by Glenn Beck last weekend; at least, that is what he is claiming. So glad that Richard Land was there beside Mormons, Jews, anti-Trinitarians, etc so he can come back and tell Southern Baptists how wrong we were for believing Matthew 7:13-14 and point us to an American civil religion. Sheesh.

19 Dale Pugh July 31, 2012 at 9:54 pm

Ouch!

20 Joe Blackmon July 31, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Did that person graduate from SWBTS prior to 1990?

Oh, and you may not notice but that was a question not a statement so it’d be pretty impossible to actually answer it with “You’re right, Joe, always right”.

21 Todd July 31, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Joe,

I do not know when the person graduated. But, I do know he has a current relationship to SWBTS.

Did you attend SWBTS? Honest question. No hidden motive for asking.

22 Joe Blackmon July 31, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Ok. I assume “from” meant graduated from.

I have two degrees–one in music education and one in accounting. I’ve never been to seminary.

23 Todd July 31, 2012 at 11:16 pm

I should have been more clear. But, you likely expected me to be ambiguous. Eh? (Smiling while typing.)

24 Todd July 31, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Joe,

I do not know if the person attended or graduated from SWBTS.

25 Rick Patrick July 31, 2012 at 10:17 pm

Todd,

We’ll have to disagree on the issue of Dr. Richard Land. I am not embarrassed by him at all, but generally appreciate his stand for truth.

Let me especially say that for him to suggest this is the most important election since 1860 does not strike me as hyperbole at all. I definitely believe it is.

26 Joe Blackmon July 31, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Without question it is, Rick. Obama didn’t deserve to be in office at all in the first place. It is vitally important to America that we excise that cancer from the Oval Office.

27 Christiane July 31, 2012 at 11:08 pm

?????
“Obama didn’t deserve to be in office at all in the first place. ”

rationale ?

28 Joe Blackmon August 1, 2012 at 7:09 am

Any man who votes to allow babies who survived their mother’s legal attempts to murder them (i.e. abortion) to die in a clothes hamper without medical care does not deserve to be President.

29 Les Prouty August 1, 2012 at 7:43 am

Christiane,

““Obama didn’t deserve to be in office at all in the first place. ”

rationale ?”

What Joe Blackmon said. Obama is the most pro-death president we have ever had and any pro-death advocate never deserves to be in political office, much less as president of the US.

30 Todd July 31, 2012 at 10:28 pm

Rick,

The italicized quotes are not mine. I found them interesting for their source.

This may be the most important election where we do not have any good alternatives. I felt te same way four years ago.

31 Joe Blackmon July 31, 2012 at 11:11 pm

….where we do not have any good alternatives….

I actually agree with this. Ok, I just threw up in the back of my mouth a little bit.

32 Todd July 31, 2012 at 11:13 pm

Painful, I know.

How will we ever regain our reputation around here. Oh wait, just give it another post. ;)

33 dr. james willingham July 31, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Whether any of the suggested heads for the ERLC are right or not, I will leave to others. My point is the need for someone who will not walk in lock step mentality, something not likely to happen in view of of the past 50 years of religious controversy over the Bible. However, it is desperately needed as we are now to face the greatest challenges that Southern Baptists have ever faced, a society turning against us in hostility and activity directed to the end of eliminating us from the public sector. This process has been going on for some 100 years, and it is finally beginning to bring to pass the aims of some folks that met in (I think it was Boston, but it might have been NYC) in 1906. The lock step mentality is poor preparation for meeting the exigencies coming upon us. We need a highly diversified, multiform, eclectic, intellectual response that is profoundly biblical, a sad absence in our present day thinking and understanding of the Christian Faith.

34 Louis July 31, 2012 at 11:34 pm

I suspect that whoever ends up leading the ERLC it will not result in a big change in direction.

Dr. Land’s leadership contribution primarily involves seeing that the ERLC’s positions and direction are in keeping with the SBC.

His book on church state relations is good. He has really helped educate the SBC that there is viable position between the extreme separationist view and a view that is more accommodating, but does not favor one religion over another, and is more consistent with our nation’s history.

Also, Dr. Land helped educate the SBC and represent it with respect to a pro-life position.

There are a host of other issues on which Dr. Land has done an excellent job.

I do not believe that his replacement will take the ERLC in a significantly different direction, though the public face and projection of the ERLC will be different.

Most importantly, the ERLC will continue to reflect the moral concerns of the people in the SBC, rather than being a mouthpiece for an elite class that is removed from and hostile to the SBC constituency. That is often the case in denominational agencies like the ERLC. I have friends in other denominations who have had to suffer with that for years.

Dr. Land has set a good example for the ERLC in that regard, and I expect that legacy to continue.

35 BDW August 1, 2012 at 9:52 am

There are some SBCers to your right that would say he was a mouthpiece for an elite class removed from the grassroots on issues such as immigration, Islam and even ecumenism (w/ regard to Catholics). You might even throw the environment in there (circa early 1990s).

When he was elected, you might even say he was removed from some grassroots conservatives on his views of Dr. King. Land was an admirer. The views of Curtis Caine in 1988 were not “fringe” at the time.

36 andy August 1, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Great post Aaron. Are you now seeking out other blogs (in addition to your ” Big Daddy Weave rag”) to slander Dr. Land? The truth is none of these projected new ERLC heads can carry Dr.Land’s socks. He is much more articulate, knowledgeable and educated. Sadly, we will end up with a lesser voice to represent us in Washington and take a dramatic step backwards. What you really want heading the ERLC is a “so-called progressive” which really means ” a liberal like Aaron”)…. so transparent and sad.

37 BDW August 2, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Andy,

Got a last name? I know a few Andys. Always great to know who’s accusing me of something.

Mind telling me how I’ve slandered anybody?

I personally know of Southern Baptists who would agree with my above statement. It’s well-known – if not in all cases publicly verifiable – that Land has received a good bit of criticism over the years from his right on the issues I mentioned.

I don’t “want” anything. I’m not a Southern Baptist. But I do have a professional and personal interest in who’s next. My personal preference is for Russ Moore. Not because he’s “progressive.” He’s definitely not that. I like him because of his tone. His tone makes his arguments more persuasive.

38 Frank August 2, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Andy,

I’m certainly a scholarly challenge for Dr. Land, but his socks can’t be that heavy!

39 Frank August 2, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Make that, “not a scholarly challenge.”

40 Jeremy Crowder August 1, 2012 at 12:41 am

I am sad that Richard Land is leaving as I have always been a fan of his writing and listened to his radio program. What about someone outside the inner battles someone like Mike Huckabee. To me Mike Huckabee given his role in the Chik-Fil-A battle and having been a SBC state leader etc. would be a perfect fit for the job. He would automaticaly have a larger profile than any other Southern Baptist to lead it. This is dreaming but will throw it out.

41 Louis August 1, 2012 at 8:56 am

Jeremy:

My thought about Huckabee is that he has a broader voice now than he would have at the ERLC. At ERLC he would be seen as a denominational spokesman, and would have to give up his show etc.

42 John Tautfest August 1, 2012 at 11:01 am

@ Todd. I agree with you brother! My wife and I watched the “Indivisible” event and it was a sad state of affairs to see a religious gathering promoting national revival and a return to God when people calling us back to God were a Mormon, a new apostle, a word faith preacher, a few Catholics, and a Jewish Rabbi. Which God are we supposed to go back to? One that was a human before, one what we can order around with our words, one that speaks through the Pope, or one that never sent the Messiah???? Bro. Lands speech was not good or bad, nice and political and pro American but – Rick Patrick – how do you justify taking a stand on religion/spirituality with those that deny Christ and faith alone in Christ as he did? I am a SBC Pastor of a small rural church in eastern OK and all of our deacons and most of the cong. was upset that Bro. Land would stoop to this level.

43 dr. james willingham August 1, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Bro. Land, so I understand, went to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship. You all should read Carroll Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope and his The Anglo American Establishment, especially the appendice of Cecil Rhodes Sixth Will and Testament. It would shed a lot of light, I think, on why Dr. Land spouted such platitudes.

44 Martie Mangum August 1, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Words cannot describe how delighted I am to see Richard Land retire from the ERLC. I hoped this day would come several years ago, but thrilled that it is coming soon.

I agree with others here that Russell Moore will most likely be the candidate. I like Moore, his writings and his commitment to the truth. He did some fine work at the last convention with several of the resolutions.

My issue is not with Moore, Land (okay, maybe some issues with Land) or any of the others, but with the ELRC as a SBC entity.

Their stated Vision & Mission from the website are as follows:

Our Vision
An American society that affirms and practices Judeo-Christian values rooted in biblical authority.

Our Mission
To awaken, inform, energize, equip, and mobilize Christians to be the catalysts for the Biblically-based transformation of their families, churches, communities, and the nation.

The problem with the Vision is they seem to desire a moralistic society. Tell me how this Vision aligns with the teachings of Jesus? Moralism rooted in biblical authority (I know some will argue that this was not true “biblical authority” but you get my point) prevailed during Jesus’ life and ministry. He did not look favorably upon their Moralism, but fervently preached against it.

To me it is obvious, if your Vision is off then your Mission will be misguided.

I would rather see the ELRC shut down and the monies shifted to the IMB & NAMB.

I know this is very unlikely and I am a minority position, but I am convinced that there are an abundance of young pastors like myself who agree. Either the ERLC needs to radically shift its Vision & Mission or it needs to be cut. If it is not ended in 2013, I believe it will come to an end by 2025.

45 Todd August 1, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Martie,

May your tribe increase. And as you note, it is interesting how we try to fit existing practice within a stated Vision that seems more rooted in the hope of a civil religion. We often eschew anything that smacks of social Gospel but willingly participate in efforts to solidify our vision of civil religion.

46 Dave Miller August 1, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Martie, I have advocated something similar in the past, but do not think it likely to happen.

47 Martie Mangum August 2, 2012 at 7:34 am

Dave,

In the few years I have been involved in the SBC I have learned that it is much easier to change something rather than eliminating it.

I too don’t think it is likely, so what crucial changes do you believe need to be made within the ERLC? What is a viable Vision and Mission for the ERLC?

48 Dale Pugh August 2, 2012 at 9:03 am

This is one “more mature” (I refuse to say “older”) pastor who agrees with you. I believe the money placed in the ERLC could be better used elsewhere. Possibly move the ERLC to an office within NAMB as part of their work? That would accomplish the task of the ERLC while supporting our mission of kingdom advancement. Unfortunately, I do not think it will happen.

49 Stephen M Young II August 1, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Maybe the announcing of a retirement effective not this, but next October can be a precedent. The small group in the church is after the pastor. They, in a closed room tell him he can resign now, or they will fire him in a business meeting and he will get no severance. So the pastor says. Ok gentlemen, I will announce my resignation Sunday.

Sunday Morning
“I am announcing my resignation as pastor of this church effective December 2015.”

50 Tom Parker August 1, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Stephen:

Excellent comment! How many folks get to announce their retirement or leaving this far in advance? Wonder if this would work at the job I am currently employed?

51 Louis August 1, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Martie:

I know some people who think as you do, and I used to be one of them.

ERLC (under it’s prior names – the Christian Life Commission and it also assumed the church/state issues that used to be exercised by the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs), was formed because the Baptist people perceived a need to educate churches and to have the churches address some issues in the public square.

The CLC was founded primarily over the prohibition issue. In recent years, that issue has not been as prominent.

Other more recent issues – human trafficking, religious freedom etc. have become more prominent. These are important matters, in my opinion, and I am glad that the SBC joins with groups from other faiths and denominations to address them.

I believe it is a good thing that the SBC takes a small portion of its overall budget to have someone working to both educate Southern Baptists and to speak with our nation’s leaders about concerns that Southern Baptists have.

I have always said that if we did away with the ERLC, we would have to re-invent it.

Because eventually, an issue will arise that requires education and a sustained response and show of concern from the nation’s largest protestant denominational body.

On the theological front the question you ask is whether and to what extent in a representative democracy the churches should seek to impact the laws and conduct of others who don’t subscribe to the Christian faith.

This is often a delicate question because it can involve difficult questions, and the response also requires a great deal of wisdom.

What does it mean to ‘make disciples?’

Does it include teaching and proclaiming to others how to love one another – basically, the teachings of Christ? Or is that reserved only in the church house or for evangelistic activity?

I believe the church does play a role in such matters, particularly in a representative democracry.

We need look no further hand Willberforce (sp?) and the impact Bible believing Christians in England had on the demise of slavery for a good illustration. They could have remained silent, and decided that slavery was a secular matter that the church should not address.

Again, a lot of mistakes can and have been made in this area.

But to me the answer is not a wholesale abandonment of sharing truth in the public square.

The answer is to make sure we are on solid ground when we speak and to speak effectively.

What we can hope for is an ERLC that will continue to improve, rather than doing away with it.

52 Martie Mangum August 2, 2012 at 7:27 am

Louis,

In all that you stated I found no answer to the question I raised. You shifted the focus and talked about how we need educate the church about various issues. No one would argue with you about the need for the church to be educated. Be honest and tell me the last time the ERLC “educated” you/your church on a matter(s) that you previously had no knowledge?

You spoke of making disciples. Again, yes we need to make disciples, but the question we must answer is what does a disciple look like? There stated vision is to basically make America into a moralistic society. If this is what you and the ERLC thinks a disciple should look like then I am more convinced than ever to get rid of the ERLC.

You are misguided if you think I am advocating “abandonment of sharing truth in the public square.” I am convinced that we need more who will boldly proclaim the truth in the public square. I am advocating that Christians take a more active role in their local, state & federal governments.

My hope for this country will not be answered through legislation. Legislation can do a lot of good or prevent evil to some degree, but legislation will never produce righteousness. Righteousness comes from Christ Jesus and His Gospel alone.

Preach the Gospel, love people, serve others, repent of sin, vote, be engaged in the government and pray fervently for God’s Kingdom to come & will to be done here as it is in heaven.

53 bill August 1, 2012 at 11:57 pm

Burn the ERLC down…

When you engage and change the hearts of people, people and Washinton take notice of the power of the gospel

When you engage and try to change the heart of Washington, well, then you’re doing it wrong and we wind up here.

54 Paul August 2, 2012 at 12:14 am

^^ What he said.

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