Baptists put aside differences, unite for religious liberty in Houston

By Elizabeth Bristow
Oct 16, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 16, 2014—The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and the Baptist Joint Committee are often on different sides of church–state issues. The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and the Baptist General Convention of Texas represent two different strands of denominational life. These groups put aside their differences Thursday to stand together in asking Houston Mayor Annise Parker to stop the “improper and unwarranted” subpoena of pastors’ sermons.

ERLC President Russell Moore, working with BJC Executive Director Brent Walker, organized the coalition behind the letter and was joined by other Baptist leaders of Texas.

In the letter leaders wrote to Mayor Parker:

“Your Honor, we represent a broad coalition of Baptists from across the political and theological spectrum. We disagree on many things, but, as Baptists, we have a long history of support for religious liberty and separation of church and state. On that, we stand united.

“We ask you, and the City of Houston, to acknowledge that the issuing of these subpoenas is improper and unwarranted, in order to ensure that such will not happen again. Whatever a church or synagogue or mosque or any other religious body believes about marriage or sexuality, the preaching and teaching of those bodies should be outside the scope of government intimidation or oversight.”

Other signatories included:

Frank Page, President, Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention
Suzii Paynter, Executive Coordinator, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
Jim Richards, Executive Director, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention
Jimmy Pritchard, President, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention
David Hardage, Executive Director, Baptist General Convention of Texas
Jeff Johnson, President, Baptist General Convention of Texas
Gus Reyes, Director, Christian Life Commission, Baptist General Convention of Texas
Robert B. Sloan Jr., President, Houston Baptist University

Download a PDF of the letter

The Baptist Joint Committee is an advocacy organization comprised of 15 national, state and regional bodies in the United States devoted to religious liberty and the institutional separation of church and state. The SBC was a key part of the BJC until withdrawing from the organization in 1991, reassigning religious liberty advocacy to the body now known as the ERLC.

The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is a Christian network of nearly 1,800 churches, formed in 1991 after the controversy between conservatives and moderates in the SBC.

Pastors in Texas are able to sign on to the letter by emailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

The ERLC issued an action alert to over 8,000 pastors, church leaders and constituents Oct. 15 urging them to preach, pray, educate and send in their response to the Houston crisis.

The Southern Baptist Convention is America’s largest Protestant denomination with more than 15.8 million members in over 46,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is the SBC’s ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn. and Washington, D.C.


To request an interview with Russell Moore
contact Elizabeth Bristow at (615) 782-8409
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