Land thanks SBC for CP funding increase
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--The annual trustee meeting of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission opened Sept. 11 with ERLC President Richard expressing gratitude to the convention for increasing the percentage of Cooperative Program dollars the ERLC would be receiving in the new budget year.
Messengers to the SBC annual meeting in San Antonio voted to approve the SBC Executive Committee's recommendation increasing the ERLC's share of CP dollars received at the national level from 1.49 percent to 1.65 percent.
"The ERLC will receive on average 60 cents out of every one hundred Cooperative Program dollars given at the local church level, given the percentage increase," Land explained. The commission is anticipating its CP receipts to increase by just over $320,000 in the new budget year because of the bump in its CP percentage.
Land illustrated the impact of the .16 percent-of-budget CP increase via a PowerPoint presentation. He noted that it would require Cooperative Program giving to increase by roughly $59.6 million at the local church level for the ERLC to see a budgeted increase in CP funds of $320,962, if the commission's share of CP funds had remained unchanged.
"We are grateful for this increase," Land said, "because clearly it would take a while for Cooperative Program receipts to grow by nearly $60 million."
6 YEARS SINCE 9/11
Noting it was six years to the day when ERLC trustees were meeting when the World Trade Center was attacked, Land said, noting, "It was the morning that our world changed."
He said he is thankful the nation had not been attacked again, noting it was not for a lack of trying by those who wish to harm the United States.
Yet Land said the nation is in need of a new level of civility in the way public policy is discussed, particularly when it comes to the war on terror.
"I am concerned about the debasement of debate in this country," he told the trustees in his report to the trustees during their Sept. 11-12 sessions.
"We have divisions in this country, but they are exacerbated by the media thinking the best way to have a discussion is to get the two people with the loudest mouths and the smallest brains and let them yell at one another for 15 minutes," he said, noting it was this fact that led him to write his newest book, "The Divided States of America?: What Liberals and Conservatives are Missing in the God-and-Country Shouting Match!"
Holding up a full-page ad in that day's New York Times in which the liberal political activist group Moveon.org accused U.S. Army General David Petraeus of being a liar, Land said, "If you want to disagree with General Petraeus' assessments, that's one thing. But to accuse him of being a traitor, to accuse him of being a liar, to accuse him of betraying his troops in the field is despicable.
"It is dishonorable and should be denounced from every rooftop," Land said.
If a conservative organization published a similar ad, he said the media would be aghast. Yet any critique of the Moveon.org ad has been muted by the mainstream media, he noted.
"This poisons the well of honest debate and honest differences. It is corrupting the process," Land continued. "We can disagree without attacking each other's motives," he said.
Land said the country is involved in a national debate that has "enormous consequences for us, our children and our grandchildren." Many in the media are leading the country to believe we are more divided than we are, he added.
"We are in a long, twilight struggle," Land said, projecting that the struggle against Islamic extremists would last as long as -– and is as significant as -- the Cold War.
"Those people who don't believe this are the equivalent of ostriches who stick their heads in the sand," Land said.
Western civilization is being targeted by a worldwide movement -- radical jihadism -- that has as its aim the destruction of Israel as a state and the elimination of at least the influence of the United States in the world, he said.
"This is serious," Land emphasized. "You can't simply coexist with people who want to kill you. Sometimes, there is no substitute for spine."
Land told the trustees he would be traveling to Vietnam in late September in his role as a commissioner with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. President George W. Bush appointed Land to the commission in 2001. He served two two-year terms under that appointment. He currently is serving under an appointment made by then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in 2005.
Noting that Vietnam has a "bad record" on religious freedom, he said he would be on an official diplomatic mission to investigate the state of religious liberty in the Indochinese country. Land was elected vice chairman of the USCIRF earlier this year.
"I can assure you we are not going on a junket at the government's expense," Land said as he passed around to the trustees a thick briefing book from the U.S. State Department, one of two books he said he is expected to familiarize himself with prior to his arrival in Vietnam.
Few countries would recognize the religious freedom their citizens should have without the United States pressing the issue, Land said. He noted the USCIRF aids both Congress and the executive branch in understanding how foreign policy decisions can be used to enhance and promote religious freedom.
Since most countries want to have healthy trade and diplomatic relations with the United States, their interest in extending religious liberty to their countrymen has been quickened, Land said.
"This gives us leverage to make some real improvement," Land said. "It makes you proud to be an American to see our government caring about this issue," he added.
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AWARD
ERLC trustees named Bob Fu as the 2007 recipient of the John Leland Religious Liberty Award. Fu was a leader of the student democracy movement that ended in the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.
"Fu has been a tremendous witness for faith and a tremendous witness for the sanctity of human life and religious freedom," said Land, noting Fu became a Christian in 1989.
Fu was imprisoned after Chinese authorities discovered he had started a Bible school in an empty factory building. Fu and his wife fled from China via Hong Kong in 1996, just days before China regained control of Hong Kong.
In 2002, Fu founded China Aid Association, an organization that seeks to draw international attention to human rights violations against house church Christians in China.
"He is a towering figure of strength and encouragement for our Christian brothers and sisters in China and throughout Asia," Land continued, pointing out that Fu is a "tireless spokesman for the cherished Baptist belief in soul freedom."
ERLC trustees awarded evangelist Billy Graham the entity's 2007 Richard D. Land Distinguished Service Award. Graham is the "greatest evangelist of at least the last century," Land stated, suggesting Graham may well be the greatest preacher since the "apostles went home to be with the Lord."
In honoring Billy Graham the "ERLC honors itself," Land said. The action "expresses the heart of our entire denomination in its gratitude for this crown prince of preachers."
Graham's ministry personally touched Land's family, he said, noting his father accepted Christ at a Billy Graham crusade in Houston.
Trustees learned more about a recently established ERLC campaign based on the biblical account of Josiah (2 Chronicles 34), including the launch of a website, josiahroad.com. The effort will blend a call to spiritual revival with an emphasis on the need for cultural reform, explained Harold Harper, the ERLC's executive vice president.
"We need a movement of God. We need revival desperately," Harper said, saying spiritual awakening will be "birthed in the hearts of people through Scripture." He noted the ERLC's mission statement calls for the "biblically based transformation of families, churches, communities, and the nation."
Any such movement starts with individuals, he emphasized, noting that the Josiah Road campaign recognizes that to reclaim the culture Christians must be on their knees in prayer.
In a report to trustees, the ERLC's vice president for public policy, Barrett Duke, compared the progress pro-family groups made prior to last year's congressional elections and during the current year.
Duke said the political landscape in Washington had changed dramatically between congressional sessions in 2006 and 2007.
The battlefield has shifted, he explained, noting the change in control of the Senate and the House has led to fewer and fewer bills with ERLC support finding favor in Congress.
"It is like trench warfare," Duke said. "We've gone from rushing across the field taking the ground to digging trenches and denying our opponents any more ground."
More pro-homosexual legislation is now being introduced, Duke added, noting the pending hate crimes bill and Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA) that provide special protected status for homosexuals and transgendered individuals.
Duke said the greatest public policy achievement this year was the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the ban on partial-birth abortions. He said the law would help "stem the tide of violence directed at the unborn that was washing over this nation."
Announcing that the ERLC had been granted "consultative status" as a non-governmental organization (NGO) with the United Nations, Duke said the status will allow the ERLC to bring its perspective into deliberations being made by the United Nations and its committees, including the opportunity to submit policy papers.
In other business, trustees:
-- re-elected Hal Lane of Greenwood, S.C., as trustee chairman and Jim Brown of Olive Branch, Miss., as vice chairman. Penna Dexter of Plano, Texas, was re-elected secretary of the board.
Trustee chairman Hal Lane said the trustees "were pleased with all the staff has accomplished" since the board's last meeting. He said he wished every Southern Baptist could be aware of how the work of the ERLC is "impacting and changing the culture."
-- noted the value of the ERLC's continued emphasis on communication and cooperation with state Baptist conventions.
-- voted to recommend Russell Moore, associate professor of Christian theology and dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, as a fellow of the ERLC's Research Institute. Land said Moore is "one of the brightest up-and-coming scholars in Southern Baptist and evangelical life."
-- approved $32,000 in the 2007-08 ERLC budget to be designated as seed money for the future establishment of a Center for Cultural Engagement where "students could be trained to become ethics leaders and teachers."
-- signed off on a $3.527 million budget for the ERLC's 2007-08 fiscal year, a 12.8 percent increase from last year's budget, an increase of a projected $320,962 made possible by the convention's vote to increase the commission's share of Cooperative Program receipts.
Dwayne Hastings is a vice president with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.