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.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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