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 head.
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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.
"Dr. Land has been a stalwart leader of conservative and Christian causes and has been at the forefront of protecting our liberty in America," said Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel and dean of the Liberty University Law School. "He will certainly be missed in the role that he has played for many years by those of us who have worked closely with him and those of us who have followed his work. I have a high respect for Dr. Land and believe his legacy will continue to be felt throughout the country."
Don Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association, told Baptist Press, "We're all indebted to [Land]. I'd hate to see him go, but if he's going to stay in the wars that's good. We need him."
Land made it clear in his letter he is retiring only from the ERLC, "not from the ministry, or from what is popularly called the 'culture war.'"
"When God called me into the ministry a half century ago, the burden He placed on my heart was for America," wrote Land, who recently began his 50th year in the gospel ministry. "That call and that burning burden are still there. I believe the 'culture war' is a titanic struggle for our nation's soul and as a minister of Christ's Gospel, I have no right to retire from that struggle."
Land chose to announce his retirement nearly 15 months before its effective date to provide "plenty of time for an orderly transition for both the Commission and myself to the next phase of our respective future ministries," he said in his letter to Richard Piles, acting chairman of the ERLC trustees. He described the ERLC's ministry as "critically important for both Christ's church and the nation," saying, "I pledge to do everything in my power to make the transition to new leadership as smooth and seamless as possible."
He has received numerous requests through the years regarding opportunities to serve in the public policy, media, ministry and academic fields, Land said.
"Until now, I have not felt freedom to consider such opportunities. God has now given me that freedom," wrote Land, who said he already is doing some media and public policy consulting in Washington.
He looks forward to working more closely with the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement, which is located at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, he said.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press