In response to his pro-life bona fides being called into question by a number of sources, Leatherwood tweeted on Thursday (May 12), “I joined a pro-life letter along with more than 70 other leaders in the pro-life movement to all state legislators across the country, not just one state. Here’s the gist: Ban abortion. Save lives. Protect mothers. Go after the abortionists.”
On Friday (May 13), Florida pastor and SBC presidential hopeful Tom Ascol tweeted his displeasure with Leatherwood, referring to the ERLC as a “rogue entity” within the SBC.
“The messengers spoke loudly & clearly about our commitment to abolish abortion & see equal protection under the law for preborn children,” Ascol said. “The ERLC has defied the will of the churches who own it.”
In 2021, the SBC messengers voted to pass a resolution on the abolition of abortion, which says, “We affirm that the murder of preborn children is a crime against humanity that must be punished equally under the law,” further resolving to “humbly confess and lament any complicity in recognizing exceptions that legitimize or regulate abortion, and of any apathy, in not laboring with the power and influence we have to abolish abortion.”
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The resolution calls for Southern Baptists to not “embrace an incremental approach alone to ending abortion” and rejects “any exceptions to the legal protection of our preborn neighbors.”
In light of this resolution, Ascol urged Southern Baptists to “call on their trustees” to remove Leatherwood as acting president of the ERLC.
“By signing this open letter he has used SBC resources to smear our name & defy our clear resolve to protect the unborn,” Ascol said. “The ERLC—along with all the other institutions & agencies of the SBC—belong to the churches of the SBC. [Brent] Leatherwood’s defiance of the will of the messengers is another clear example of SBC elites rejecting the clear, biblical convictions of those who pay their salaries.”
In response to Ascol’s thread, West Virginia pastor Joel Rainey tweeted, “These guys want to lock up women who have an abortion—something the pro-life movement has long opposed by overwhelming consensus because we [recognize] the mother as a victim in this also. That’s what @erlc is opposing and these guys need to stop lying.”
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Of note is that while the SBC resolution Ascol referenced was adopted in 2021, it was not passed without controversy. In an article published in June 2021 following the SBC’s annual meeting in Nashville, prominent SBC leaders including professor and pastor Denny Burk and former ERLC president Richard Land explained why they opposed the resolution.