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 (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
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2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
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3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
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4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
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5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
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7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
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9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
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10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
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11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
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12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
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13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
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14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
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15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
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16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
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17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
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18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
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19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
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20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
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21. Bae #retailtherapy
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22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
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23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
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24. Diggy Simmons
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25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
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26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
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27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
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28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
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29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
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30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
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31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
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