July 31, 2012

Richard Land, who led the transformation of the Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics entity during the denomination’s conservative resurgence, has announced he will retire next year after a quarter of a century of service as its president.

Land’s retirement as president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) will be effective Oct. 23, 2013, he announced in a letter today (July 31) to the acting chairman of the entity’s board of trustees. His retirement is scheduled to take place 25 years from the date he assumed the ERLC’s presidency in 1988.

Land, 65, has acted as an outspoken advocate among Southern Baptists for biblical positions on such issues as the sanctity of human life, religious freedom, marriage and race relations. His staunch efforts during his tenure also have made him a leading evangelical Christian voice among social conservatives in this country’s escalating cultural battles. Time Magazine named him in 2005 as one of America’s 25 most influential evangelicals. 

Read the full story at bpnews.net


The full text of Richard Land’s letter to ERLC trustees follows:

July 31, 2012

Dr. Richard Piles, Acting Chairman

Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission

Southern Baptist Convention

Dear Brother Piles,

I have just commenced my 50th year in Christian ministry and I will very soon begin my 25th year as president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. It hardly seems possible. A quarter century! 25 years! 300 months! 9,130 days!

When I came to the Commission in 1988 I was, at 41, more than a decade younger than the next youngest entity head and the first baby boomer to lead a Southern Baptist entity.

It has been the honor, privilege, and blessing of a lifetime to serve the Lord, the wonderful people of God called Southern Baptists, and other brothers and sisters in the faith through the ERLC for virtually half of my entire ministry. Now, I believe that God has led me to the place where He is releasing me to other places of service in His Kingdom. Consequently, I am announcing my retirement from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, effective October 23, 2013 which will mark the completion of 25 years of service to the day since I assumed office October 23, 1988.

Let me be clear, I am retiring from the ERLC, not from the ministry, or from what is popularly called the “culture war.” When God called me into His ministry a half century ago, He put no time limit on that service. It was, and is, a lifetime calling. As my pastor said a few weeks ago, “when God puts His hand on you, He never does let go.”

I will do my best to continue to serve my Savior and His church wherever and however He leads. When God called me into the ministry a half century ago, the burden He placed on my heart was for America. That call and that burning burden are still there. I believe the “culture war” is a titanic spiritual struggle for our nation’s soul and as a minister of Christ’s Gospel, I have no right to retire from that struggle.

I am looking forward. My denominational service, while always close to my heart, has to some degree inevitably limited my participation in the culture war’s political debates. I have had numerous inquiries over the years about

other places and means of service including public policy and media opportunities as well and ministry and academic pursuits. Until now, I have not felt freedom to consider such opportunities. God has now given me that freedom.

I am announcing my retirement from the ERLC now so that there will be plenty of time for an orderly transition for both the Commission and myself to the next phase of our respective future ministries. I believe that the ERLC’s ministry is critically important for both Christ’s church and the nation and I pledge to do everything in my power to make the transition to new leadership as smooth and seamless as possible.

I am already doing some media and public policy consulting in Washington and recently I have been made aware of other future possibilities in these areas. Also, I am looking forward to working ever more closely with the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth in the months and years ahead. I am truly excited about the many things the Lord is already doing there under the very capable leadership of the center’s director, Dr. Craig Mitchell.

I will do my very best to be open to God’s will for my future ministry service, wherever and whatever it may be. Like Abraham, I go forth “not knowing” yet where God will lead just knowing that wherever it is I will follow His direction (Hebrews 11 :8).

As I said earlier, I am leaving the ERLC, not the ministry. My Heavenly Father’s call was for the rest of my life. The closing words of one of my favorite poems (Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”) best describe my commitment to continue to follow God’s call on my life:

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep.

And miles to go before I sleep.

And miles to go before I sleep.”

In His Kingdom’s Service,

Richard Land, President

Baptist Press: ERLC’s Land announces retirement in 2013