WASHINGTON (BP)—The mission of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is not primarily to declare biblical morality but to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus, Russell D. Moore said upon his inauguration as the entity's new president.
Moore was inaugurated Tuesday (Sept. 10) in a ceremony at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, about six months after ERLC trustees elected him in March to lead the commission. He took office in June.
Members of Congress, at least one Obama administration official, religious leaders, advocacy organization representatives and most of the Southern Baptist Convention's entity heads participated or observed as Moore received encouragement and challenges from speakers in a service marked by hymn singing, Bible reading and prayer.
The ERLC addresses moral, social and church-state issues—and their public policy implications—on behalf of Southern Baptists, but Moore said in his inaugural address the Gospel is the focus of the entity's charge.
The mission of God's people and the ERLC, Moore said, "is not simply to speak about what the law of God has revealed. It is not simply to speak of the ethical norms that the Scripture has given to us. It is to speak primarily with the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
Satan "is more than happy to have a world in which there is no pornography, in which there is no abortion, in which there is no malaria, in which there is no trafficking, in which there is no poverty as long as there is no cross," Moore said. "[W]e cannot be longing for Mayberry. We must have a voice that speaks to the conscience, a voice that is spattered with blood."
The Kingdom of God, Moore said, is "not made up of the moral. The Kingdom of God is made up of the crucified."
In an address based on Luke 4:14-30, Moore also delivered words of caution for American Christians. "[F]or too long we have assumed that the church is a means to an end to save America," he said. "America is important.
"But the end goal of the Gospel is not a Christian America. The end goal of the Gospel is redeemed from every tribe and tongue and nation and language" dwelling in the new Jerusalem, Moore told the audience.
"We will stand as good American citizens, and we will fight for justice, and we will fight for liberty, and we will fight with our forefathers for all of those things that have been [guaranteed to us] by the Constitution as Americans, but we will also remember that we are not Americans first," he said. "We belong to another kingdom."
Baptist Christians "can no longer pretend that we are a moral majority in this country," Moore said. "We are a prophetic minority who must speak into a world that is not different" than other historical eras.
The message Jesus shared, and His followers should share, is one of judgment and of hope, not fear, Moore said.
"The word that Jesus has given to His church is a word that is filled with optimism and joy," he told inaugural guests. "We are not slouching toward Gomorrah; we are marching to Zion."
Engaging the culture, however, requires the church of Jesus to be transformed from within, Moore said.
The Southern Baptist Convention's name reflects "the fact that we were founded, at least partly, to justify man-stealing and kidnapping, slavery and lynching," he said. "We stand here only by God's grace and mercy."
Regarding sexual ethics, Southern Baptists "need to see the ways in which we have already capitulated to the culture that we rail against," Moore said.
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