Southern Baptist Convention presidential candidate Tom Ascol is calling for the removal of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) Acting President Brent Leatherwood after he opposed a bill that would criminalize women who have abortions in Louisiana.
The ERLC, a branch of the SBC, was among several leading pro-life organizations that issued an open letter to state lawmakers on May 12 expressing dissent over the bill that would hold women who have abortions criminally responsible.
"We will continue to oppose legislative and policy initiatives that criminalize women who seek abortions, and we will continue to work for initiatives that protect unborn children and policies that provide and strengthen life-affirming resources for abortion-vulnerable women," the letter states in part.
"We call upon all pro-life legislators to stand with us. We ask you to continue to act with love and compassion toward abortion-vulnerable women. We urge you to reject any measure that seeks to criminalize women who have abortions."
The ERLC joined the National Right to Life Committee, Americans United for Life, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and others in signing the letter.
Ascol, the senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, Florida, posted a thread on Twitter pointing to a resolution approved at the SBC's 2021 Annual Meeting that called abortion murder and asserted that the procedure should be outlawed.
He also called for the removal of Leatherwood as acting president of the ERLC for signing the letter.
"I urge Southern Baptists to call on their trustees to immediately remove @LeatherwoodTN as acting president of the @ERLC. By signing this open letter, he has used SBC resources to smear our name & defy our clear resolve to protect the unborn," Ascol, who also leads the conservative Baptist group Founders Ministries, wrote.
I urge Southern Baptists to call on their trustees to immediately remove @LeatherwoodTN as acting President of the @ERLC. By signing this open letter he has used SBC resources to smear our name & defy our clear resolve to protect the unborn 10/— Tom @tomascol (@tomascol) May 13, 2022
"The ERLC—along with all the other institutions & agencies of the SBC—belong to the churches of the SBC," he asserted. "Brent Leatherwood's defiance of the will of the messengers is another clear example of SBC elites rejecting the clear, biblical convictions of those who pay their salaries."
The ERLC—along with all the other institutions & agencies of the SBC—belong to the churches of the SBC. Glenn Leatherwood's defiance of the will of the messengers is another clear example of SBC elites rejecting the clear, biblical convictions of those who pay their salaries. 11/— Tom @tomascol (@tomascol) May 13, 2022
"It is past time to hold these entities accountable to the churches that own them," he added.
It is past time to hold these entities accountable to the churches that own them.— Tom @tomascol (@tomascol) May 13, 2022
Southern Baptists, get to Anaheim! Make your voices heard. It is time to come together to #changethedirection
As reported by Baptist Standard, Leatherwood explained that he signed the letter because it was in line with the messengers, who voted against criminalizing mothers who had an abortion at the 2021 Annual Meeting in Nashville.
After the messengers passed an abortion-related resolution, titled "On Taxpayer Complicity in Abortion and the Hyde Amendment," at the 2021 Annual Meeting, Josh Rice, a messenger from Reformation Baptist Church in Centerton, Arkansas, called for the resolution's last line to be amended. Rice called for the final line to be changed from "to love, care for, and minister to women who are victimized by the unjust abortion industry" to "preach the gospel and urge repentance from all men and women guilty or complicit in the sin of abortion."
The messengers, however, rejected Rice's amendment.
"The messengers easily voted down an attempt to punish vulnerable mothers last year. So, our actions are in line with the messengers," Leatherwood said.
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.