Cooperative Program: Grounded in the gospel

Editor’s note: October is the Cooperative Program Emphasis month in the Southern Baptist Convention. To learn more about the Cooperative Program, go to

NASHVILLE – In 1920, the great Baptist leader George W. Truett stood on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, preaching the Baptist vision of religious liberty for all, of the unrivaled lordship of Jesus Christ over every aspect of life.

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For Truett – as for the Baptists of centuries past of whom he was heir – that lordship entailed not only a check on the power of government, but also a mandate for holiness in Christian living, advocacy for what is right in the public arena, and cooperation for the Great Commission among the people of God.

Ethics and religious liberty are grounded in the gospel of Christ and the Kingdom of God. That’s the stance of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, as we serve together with Southern Baptists all over the country through the Cooperative Program.

Nothing could be more horrifying than a vulnerable person being sexually abused in the context of a church, supposed to be devoted to the presence of God and the reign of Christ. One of the most important tasks of the ERLC’s work this year has been our partnership with the Sexual Abuse Advisory Study assembled by SBC President J.D. Greear.

For many months, our team has worked tirelessly alongside these experts, survivors and ministry leaders to create resources for our churches to respond appropriately should abuse become known within a congregation. These efforts have resulted in the creation of a new curriculum known as “Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused” which includes both a handbook and videos that provide specialized training for local churches handling cases of abuse.

To further support the effort of combatting this crisis, the ERLC and the Sexual Abuse Advisory Group also have created the Caring Well Challenge. We know that the demands placed on the pastors and ministry leaders in our convention are great, and that few among us are equipped to create or implement the necessary policies and procedures to stop abuse on their own. The Caring Well Challenge is a cost-free, eight-step initiative designed to help our churches engage the issue of abuse by becoming places that are both safe for survivors and safe from abuse.

And in order to best serve our churches, the ERLC has dedicated our 2019 national conference to this very cause. On Oct. 3-5, we will host the Caring Well conference in Dallas where attendees will hear from survivors, advocates, counselors and leading experts as they receive training to confront the abuse crisis in their own ministry contexts.

In addition to these efforts, the ERLC also has been hard at work this year confronting emerging challenges in the realm of culture.

Perhaps nothing in our lifetimes has held forth the promise of reordering the basic rhythms of our lives, or our understanding of what it means to be human, more than the development of artificial intelligence technology. In order to proactively equip the church to engage this new technology, this April the ERLC released a document, “Artificial Intelligence: An Evangelical Statement of Principles,” which creates a framework for Christians to assess both the possibilities and the potential risks posed by artificial intelligence.

Whether we are working to confront sexual abuse or considering the challenges of artificial intelligence, the cause of human dignity remains the driving passion behind our work at the ERLC. And the Cooperative Program helps make that work possible.

That’s why I’m also grateful that plans are coming together for our annual Evangelicals For Life conference held in conjunction with the March for Life. In January, we’ll once again gather in our nation’s capital to protest the scourge of abortion and promote and advance the cause of life. The ERLC is proud to stand up on behalf of the most vulnerable among us and to declare the truth that all people bear the image of our God. I invite you and your church to consider joining us in Washington on Jan. 23-24 for this important event.

We have a host of new projects and initiatives that our team is excited to share in the coming months, but now, as ever, the ERLC is continuing its work of equipping our churches and contending for the faith in the midst of a hostile culture.

As we do so, we are grateful to partner together with Southern Baptists around the country, bearing the good news that Jesus is Lord. That’s why we evangelize. That’s why we advocate. And that’s why we cooperate.

Written by Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Published by Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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