NASHVILLE (BP) – The Baptist witness the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has long provided in the public square “is needed now as much as ever,” Brent Leatherwood said Wednesday (Sept. 14) in his first presidential report to the entity’s trustees.
A day after the trustees elected him unanimously as the Southern Baptist entity’s ninth president, Leatherwood expressed his gratitude to the ERLC’s board, reported on the commission’s work during the previous year in which he served as acting president and offered a view of its continuing commitments.
In their two-day meeting, trustees also voted to require background checks for their members, adopted a budget and heard developments on the commission’s role in helping Southern Baptists prevent and respond to sexual abuse.
The ERLC board voted without opposition to require criminal and sex registry background checks of all current and future trustees. The board-approved motion called for the checks to be conducted each time trustees are elected by convention messengers “until/unless the [SBC] incorporates a background check into their Nominating Committee process.”
The trustees’ election of Leatherwood, 41, filled the ERLC’s permanent leadership role for the first time since the departure of Russell Moore as president more than 15 months earlier. The board had named Leatherwood as acting president at its September 2021 meeting.
Leatherwood, 41, thanked the trustees from across the country for “placing your confidence in me to lead this historic commission that has in various forms over a century brought forth a conventional Baptist witness into the public square.”
Southern Baptists expect us “to go into the public square and proclaim things that we know from The Baptist Faith and Message,” Leatherwood said before citing some of the tenets of the SBC’s statement of faith.
“God alone is Lord of the conscience. We’re going to continue to say that,” he said. “Marriage is between one man and one woman in a covenant union for life, that religious liberty is our nation’s essential liberty, that human dignity matters and that human life matters at all stages from conception to natural death.
“Those are going to be the things that we are known for that we are going to carry forth into the public square.”
Leatherwood will need to fill several staff positions, including on the senior leadership team, that have become vacant in the last 15 months. He read from Exodus 31:1-11, which describes God’s selection and preparation of men to design and build the elements of the tabernacle.
“God has already put wisdom in the hearts and minds of the future team members that are going to join the current team that is here at the ERLC, so that we may continue carrying out the work that is part of our ministry assignment that Southern Baptists have given us and we are privileged to carry out,” Leatherwood told the trustees.