The trustees of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission have voted to honor two well-known Christian leaders for their contributions during their more than eight decades of life.
In its annual meeting Sept. 15-16 in Nashville, the ERLC board unanimously approved civil rights leader John Perkins for the John Leland Religious Liberty Award and theologian J.I. Packer for the Richard Land Distinguished Service Award. The commission presents the awards yearly to a person exhibiting a deep commitment to religious freedom and a person displaying excellent service to God’s kingdom, respectively.
The actions came during a meeting in the Southern Baptist Convention Building in which the ERLC trustees approved a budget increase of more than $500,000, elected new officers and received reports on the commission’s activities and communications growth in the last year.
From his native Mississippi, Perkins, 85, has spread the Gospel while serving the poor and seeking racial reconciliation.
“This is somebody who has been fighting for religious liberty, religious freedom for 70 years,” ERLC President Russell Moore told the trustees before the vote. “[He] has evangelized the country in a way I can’t even imagine. And as he’s done that, he’s consistently spoken of the necessity of the people of God to speak to both righteousness and justice at the same time. As he was doing that, he was someone who ended up in jail in Mississippi back in the days of Jim Crow, beaten and yet never would allow himself to be driven into bitterness.”
Perkins, who has founded a Christian community development foundation and other ministries, remains “a voice crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ with freed people worshipping in churches and serving in communities freely, hand in hand, the dividing walls separating human hearts having tumbled,” Moore wrote in a memo to trustees nominating the recipient.
Packer, 89, the author of “Knowing God” and many other books, has defended Christian orthodoxy while helping make disciples. He now serves as a theology professor at Regent University in Vancouver, British Columbia.
He has been “really courageous” regarding the departure from biblical authority in the Anglican Church while doing so “with biblical depth, theological integrity and with a gentle, loving, Christ-like spirit,” Moore told trustees before the vote. Packer has defended the inerrancy of Scripture and biblical views on gender complementarity, marriage, the sanctity of human life and religious liberty, he said.
“When his own denomination moved to sanction same-sex marriage, he protested that such a ‘decision, taken in its context, falsifies the gospel of Christ, abandons the authority of Scripture, jeopardizes the salvation of fellow human beings, and betrays the church in its God-appointed role as the bastion and bulwark of divine truth,'” Moore told trustees in a memo.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press