“I’m really enthused by the opportunity to build something here,” Darling said. “I believe in the power of institutions and really want to help create a place where we can discuss culture, politics, policy and shape the next generation. We’ve loved our time in Tennessee and will miss our church and friends, but we are pumped about going to Texas. My wife, two decades removed, is going back home.”
Editor-in-chief of Outreach Magazine Ed Stetzer asked Darling, “You write a lot about civility, and then you got caught up in a very uncivil controversy—which is pretty ironic. What did you learn from that?”
“The whole thing was a surreal experience for me,” Darling said. “From the shock of being let go to the kind of public moment that I didn’t ask for. I learned the value of seeking good advice from trusted friends and of the importance of a community that can help you make wise decisions in the moment when you are not thinking clearly. My goal was to glorify Christ when the spotlight was on me. I want to urge the body of Christ to work toward unity in a divisive age.”
Darling is rejoining the SBC at a tumultuous time for the denomination. Since the SBC’s annual meeting in June, the newly elected SBC president, Ed Litton, has been accused of plagiarizing sermons; a task force has been appointed to investigate it’s Executive Committee’s (EC) alleged mishandling of sexual abuse claims; the EC’s president and CEO Ronnie Floyd has resigned along with the EC’s vice president Greg Addison; the SBC’s longtime general counsel severed ties with the denomination, and Russell Moore is being sued by SBC pastor Mike Stone for defamation.
Pointing out that Southern Baptists have really struggled lately, Stetzer asked Darling, “How will a center for ethics make a difference right now in the denomination and evangelicalism?”
“Southern Baptists are wrestling with the same issues that every other evangelical institution or denomination is wrestling with,” Darling said. “And, to be honest, seemingly every other institution in American life is wresting with. We are the biggest, so our debates and fights and scandals make the headlines. We hope the Land Center to be a unifying voice where we can discuss important issues and help the Southern Baptists think through what it means to live out the gospel in a confused and complex age.”
“We are not going to pretend that we have all the answers,” Darling added. “We want to work with other Southern Baptist institutions and other institutions in the broader evangelical movement to help shape our public witness.”
Darling’s friends and well-known leaders Beth Moore, Trillia Newbell, Benjamin Watson, Phillip Bethancourt, and Matthew Boswell, were quick to congratulate him on his new position.