Do Southern Baptists Need the ERLC?

Let me get right to the point.  While I believe the tone of William Harrell’s recent blog post could be more charitable, (and I have no idea why he takes a swipe at Calvinists), I agree with his general thrust that it is time to “call it a day” on the ERLC.

That being said, I have nothing personal against Dr. Moore.  I hold no ill will toward him.  I love him as a brother in Christ.  I appreciate many of the stances he has taken, particularly in the matters of sanctity of life and religious liberty. 

Nevertheless, I have had (and continue to have) concerns with his leadership of the ERLC in several areas.  (I listed some of these in an open letter posted on my blog.)  And like many others I sometimes cringed at his condescending tone toward, and unfair characterizations of, evangelicals who voted for Donald Trump.  (I personally did not vote for Trump.)  But those aren’t the primary reasons I support the elimination of the ERLC. 

The reason I believe it’s time to shut down the ERLC is because regardless of who mans the top spot, the entity turns into little more than a multi-million dollar platform for that individual to espouse their personal political beliefs.  National radio shows and book deals soon follow.  I felt that way about Dr. Land, and I feel the same way about Dr. Moore.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think it’s fine and good for Christians to make their voices heard in the public sphere.  But when you are funded by Cooperative Program dollars, you must understand you represent all Southern Baptists and act accordingly – on social media and otherwise.

Of course, I realize this puts the ERLC president in a tough spot.  Is he not to advocate for his strongly held beliefs and convictions, merely because he is a denominational employee?  I don’t necessarily know if that’s fair either.

In the end, I think the solution is simple.  Bring the ERLC to an end.  I have yet to see a compelling case for why it is needed.  Some might say, “It gives us a voice with national leaders.”  Why can’t the president of the SBC, or Dr. Page (president of the SBC executive committee) fulfill that role as needed?  (It seems pretty doubtful at this point that the ERLC is going to have a voice with the new administration any way.)

Some might point out the various conferences that have been held by the ERLC on race, homosexuality, etc.  First of all, let’s assume these conferences have a lasting, substantial impact on the issues they address.  (I am skeptical.)  But even if such conferences have a place, can they not be hosted by local churches, or even our seminaries?  

Bottom line…  It is good for Southern Baptists to engage the culture.  It is good for us to have theological discussions on the issues of the day, and even to address these issues in our doctrinal statement as needed.  I would argue it is not necessary, or even Baptistic, to have one individual speak for all of our churches on public policy.  No position in the SBC has as much influence and authority to speak for the entire denomination, with as little oversight or accountability, as the president of the ERLC.

My vote?  Let’s put those millions of CP dollars to work in the mission field.  In the meantime, let us pray for Dr. Moore, and for healing in the SBC.