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Land apologizes after meeting with black Baptist leaderscomment (0)

May 17, 2012

A five-part apology for “injudicious comments” was released May 9 by Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), regarding the Trayvon Martin killing.

Land’s apology stemmed from a May 2 meeting in which several key African-American leaders were in attendance, including Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans; James Dixon Jr., president of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and senior pastor of El-Bethel Baptist Church, Fort Washington, Md.; and K. Marshall Williams, chairman of the Southern Baptist African American Advisory Council and pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church, Philadelphia, Pa.

“I am here today to offer my genuine and heartfelt apology for the harm my words of March 31, 2012, have caused to specific individuals, the cause of racial reconciliation, and the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Land said in his two-page apology May 9.

As a result of the meeting May 2 that lasted nearly five hours, Land said, “I have come to understand in sharper relief how damaging my words were.”

Among others at the May 2 meeting were Frank Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, and Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. In all, 12 individuals attended the session at the SBC Building in Nashville.

Dixon, contacted by Baptist Press, said he would have no comment on Land’s apology until after ERLC trustees have completed the process initiated by their executive committee April 18 regarding comments by Land on his weekly call-in radio show over the intrusion of politics into the Martin case, in which Land referenced President Obama, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson by name. The six-member executive committee, in a public statement, expressed sadness “that this controversy has erupted” and concern “about how these events may damage the work of the ERLC in support of Southern Baptists and in furtherance of the Kingdom of our Lord.”

The ERLC executive committee also created an ad hoc committee to investigate allegations of plagiarism over material Land failed to attribute to a Washington Times columnist on the March 31 broadcast.

Steve Faith, ERLC trustee chairman, issued a statement later on May 9 that the ad hoc committee is working “with due diligence and will bring a thorough and complete report to the ERLC executive committee who will prayerfully consider the findings. The ERLC executive committee will bring a report to the full board of trustees and then release a public statement by June 1.

“It is important to understand that our Southern Baptist polity places Dr. Land under the authority of the ERLC trustees who are elected by and accountable directly to the convention,” said Faith, a retired pastor and Baptist association director of missions in Indiana. “The trustees are aware of their responsibility to the convention and to the watching world.”   

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