NASHVILLE (AP) — Richard Land, the highly visible top ethics official for the Southern Baptist Convention, announced Tuesday that he would retire next year.
Land said he will step down as the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission in October 2013 on his 25th anniversary with the SBC.
“Let me be clear, I am retiring from the ERLC, not from the ministry, or from what is popularly called the ‘culture war,’” Land wrote in a letter to the ERLC board of trustees. The resignation was first reported by the Baptist Press, the news service of the SBC.
Land has been the person most often called upon to articulate conservative Baptist views against abortion, same-sex marriage and women in ministry.
He was one of the chief architects of a 1995 resolution by Southern Baptists apologizing for their role in supporting slavery and racism. The denomination was founded when Baptists splintered over the issue of abolition during the run-up to the Civil War.
The SBC reprimanded Land and canceled his radio show in June after he made “hurtful, irresponsible, insensitive, and racially charged” remarks on the air about the Trayvon Martin case. Land had to apologize for claiming President Barack Obama, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson had exploited the incident.
The remarks came amid a diversity push aimed at increasing declining Baptist church membership and just weeks before the SBC annual convention where the Rev. Fred Luter Jr. was chosen as the convention’s first black leader.
Land’s letter said he has been doing some media and public policy consulting in Washington and with his retirement would be free to engage more fully in the “culture war’s political debates.”
“I believe the ‘culture war’ is a titanic spiritual struggle for our nation’s soul and as a minister of Christ’s Gospel, I have no right to retire from that struggle,” Land wrote.