Seth Udinski, FISM News
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) chose Brent Leatherwood as its new president on Tuesday, according to a report from The Baptist Press.
— Baptist Press (@BaptistPress) September 13, 2022
Leatherwood, who served for the better part of this past year as acting president, comes to the position of leadership in the SBC at a crucial time in the denomination’s history, as it is currently under a DOJ investigation for its handling of sexual abuse within the denomination.
Leatherwood has been in service of the ERLC for the last five years. He was chief of staff under his predecessor, interim president Daniel Patterson, and he served as VP of external affairs under controversial former ERLC president Russell Moore. Moore left the SBC for a high-ranking position at Christianity Today in 2021 and has been one of the denomination’s loudest critics ever since.
This past spring, Leatherwood spoke on the crucial situation in which the SBC finds itself, saying the denomination must resist the urge to protect denominational popularity for the sake of accountability:
It is essential that we resist the urge to react defensively or from a position of protecting ourselves or an institution rather than precious individuals made in God’s image. Whether at a church or an entity, we must foster an environment where survivors are confident they will be received, listened to, and supported. It is imperative that the stories of survivors be met with the same compassion Jesus exhibited for those who were marginalized or vulnerable.
The Ethics and Religious Committee has been one of the most controversial branches in the denomination, and not only for its former leader.
While many have praised this particular division of the SBC, especially in its consistent defense of unborn life and other conservative policies, there is a growing sect in the SBC that feels the ERLC only works well with the conservative bastion of Southern Baptists.
Of course, this says something profound about the potential future of the SBC, where tension has been brewing between conservatives and progressives. The denomination has — historically and especially so in the last 25 years — served as a bastion of biblical faithfulness, as numerous other denominations have given in to liberal ideologies like gay marriage and abortion.
Christians need to pray that it will continue to do so, even as it likely faces a long season of accountability, confession of hidden sin, and inevitable change.