Nashville, Tenn. | A task force appointed last year by the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee to study past and current actions of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission released its report Feb. 1.
Tasked with determining whether the ERLC’s actions have had negative impact on giving through the Cooperative Program, the group elicited feedback from executive directors of state/regional Baptist conventions. The fifteen leaders that responded represent conventions with 60% of the churches in friendly cooperation with the SBC, the task force reported, and 74% of the total Cooperative Program dollars received by the SBC Executive Committee.
While several conventions reported little to no negative effect, the task force said, others “reported more significant challenges, including churches that have withheld funds, have negatively designated funds, or are considering doing so because of their concerns with the ERLC.”
Former Executive Committee chairman Mike Stone, who chaired the task force, said, “Based on the statistical information we received, the direction of the ERLC is a significant source of division and creates a very real challenge to reversing CP decline.”
The task force issued six recommendations, including asking the full Executive Committee to request that the ERLC board of trustees “encourage the president and staff to refrain from opposing specific candidates for public office.”
ERLC President Russell Moore was a vocal critic of Donald Trump leading up the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He apologized shortly after the election to those who felt he had criticized all who voted for Trump. But some churches temporarily escrowed Cooperative Program giving because of the ERLC’s positions on certain issues. In 2020, Moore called on President Trump to resign after the Jan. 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol.
David Prince, chairman of the ERLC’s board of trustees, told Baptist Press, “The ERLC has served Southern Baptists faithfully during a time of political, cultural, and in some cases, denominational chaos. Much of this chaos remains with us, including widespread news of many of our black and brown brothers and sisters leaving the SBC. That should be alarming to all of us.
“Regardless, all this and more is why I am grateful the ERLC serves our churches with a vibrant and bold gospel witness day in and day out.”