NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Richard Land, the highly visible top ethics official for the Southern Baptist Convention, announced Tuesday that he would retire next year.
Land said he will step down as president of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission in October 2013 on his 25th anniversary with the SBC.
"Let me be clear, I am retiring from the ERLC, not from the ministry, or from what is popularly called the 'culture war,'" Land wrote in a letter to the ERLC board of trustees. The resignation was first reported by the Baptist Press, the news service of the SBC.
The Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission takes public stands on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. In his position at the commission's head for nearly 24 years, the outspoken Land has become the most visible spokesman for the nation's largest Protestant denomination. He often appears on television and until last month he hosted a weekly call-in radio show on the issues of the day.
Land was forced by the commission's board of trustees to give up that show after he made what the board called "hurtful, irresponsible, insensitive, and racially charged" remarks on the air about the Trayvon Martin case. That included claims that President Barack Obama, the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson had exploited Martin's death for political gain. Martin was an unarmed black Florida teenager shot to death by a neighborhood watch volunteer.
"We have carefully considered the content and purpose of the Richard Land Live! broadcast," the board's public reprimand said. "We find that they are not congruent with the mission of the ERLC."
The statement went on to say the board was especially disappointed because the remarks did not accurately reflect the body of Land's work. That includes being one of the chief architects of a 1995 resolution by Southern Baptists apologizing for their role in supporting slavery and racism. The denomination was founded when Baptists splintered over the issue of slavery during the run-up to the Civil War.
The controversy over Land's remarks came amid a diversity push aimed at increasing declining church membership and just weeks before the SBC annual convention where the Rev. Fred Luter Jr. was chosen as the convention's first black leader.
David W. Key Sr., director of Baptist Studies at Emory University's Candler School of Theology, said Land might be known as a strong conservative but at times he has "kept the SBC from going too far to the right."
For example, under Land's leadership the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission has supported a version of the DREAM Act — the proposed law that would allow illegal immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to earn legal status, either by going to college or serving in the military.
Land's letter said his retirement would free him to engage more fully in the "culture war's political debates."
"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," Land wrote.
Also On Black America Web:
This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (6/18-6/24)
25 photos Launch gallery
1. Me & the homie @jaleelwhite #RujohnFoundation Happy to be in Jamaica! Good times
1 of 25
2 of 25
3 of 25
4 of 25
5. Good Morning. Early day in Detroit! Making press rounds for @thebossnetwork's Ladies That Lead Tour. Thank you @traycemadre and @colourbynumbr for my glam.
5 of 25
6. POWER the best show on TV @djenvy, Queens we so big out here. #EFFENVODKA #FRIGO
6 of 25
7. They said u lost a step, wasn't explosive as once was, the best days was in the real view, questioned your drive, your leadership, your commitment, you don't have killer instinct, going back home is the worst mistake in your career, he got the coach fired, players traded, won't work between him and Kyrie, Him and Kev won't work, love your teammates to much, there's no way he can deliver a championship in his hometown, etc etc etc.... But guess what THATS NONE OF MY BUSINESS #StriveForGreatness #ThisOneIsForTheLand #PutSomeRespeckOnMyName Hahahaha!!! Yes sir
7 of 25
8. Oooooh weeee this man right here is responsible for at least three of our four babies!! #JOE ❤❤❤🎤 #rnb #king #voicelikebutter #ForPeetesSake
8 of 25
9. Hanging with my @abcnetwork family! @abcunclebuck tonite y'all check us out ! @anthonyanderson @traceeellisross
9 of 25
10. My broski ( @sayeedshahidi ) and I are on Top 5 Live on @go90 at 5 (which is super duper close)! Make sure to tune in :) #UncleBuck #Blackish
10 of 25
11. Lights out💤 #GoodNight
11 of 25
12. Late nights mornings
12 of 25
13. Ran into the lovely talented @siedahgarrett on this brutiful favvuz deh!
13 of 25
14. #halal #love #thedargans #kattwilliamsSHOW #mashallah when that Jennah piece HIT!! @sweetjennahcollection glasses by @baddieglamaccessories LIZ 😍 @dynamiteko top @dazzledmv and jeans @thevision414 and shoes: @louboutinworld
14 of 25
15. Big Hair and Optical Illusions #OceanDrive #MiamiLiving #coverparty
15 of 25
16. MAMA and THE SAVAGES ... ⚓️ #supportyourlocalgirlgang
16 of 25
17. From the bottom of my ❤️, thank you new followers & old! & hello fellow night owls! #grateful #racheltrue #naturalhair #curlyhair #curlygirl #healthyhair
17 of 25
18. I feel so grateful because I met these amazing young minds, visiting from Houston TX, during their college tour stop today at #usc.These students are ALL extraordinary and embody academic excellence so I'm humbled to have shared a few moments with them to applaud and celebrate their bright futures ahead! Thank you @EmergeFellows for inviting me to speak and blessing me with your love and attention this afternoon!
18 of 25
19. Happy Fathers Day Pops. U taught me how to be a man. Lessons of love, hard work & gratefulness. Sorry the fishing didn't stick. LOL. I Love U!
19 of 25
20. Sky Zone and Ice Cream! Best Fathers Day Ever!! Photo credit @mariahcarey
20 of 25
21. Look what finally came in the mail 😎 #mtvmovieawards2016 💥+🌽! #straightouttacompton
21 of 25
22. Claudia Jordan: ....
22 of 25
23. 'Member that time I almost knocked a bajillion dollar camera off the car? Really? Yeah, me neither! #Greenleaf Episode 2 comin atcha!
23 of 25
24. Full of love. #birthday #Cabo
24 of 25
25. Oh hey! Look who just joined Snapchat
25 of 25