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From BJC Staff Reports
FORT WORTH, Texas — Church historian Bill J. Leonard received the Baptist Joint Committee’s highest honor and challenged the crowd to embrace its historical Baptist identity at the 2012 Religious Liberty Council Luncheon June 22. The attendees also elected new Religious Liberty Council (RLC) officers and representatives to the BJC Board of Directors.
BJC Executive Director J. Brent Walker presented the J.M. Dawson Religious Liberty Award to Leonard in recognition of his contributions to the defense of religious liberty for all people. Calling Leonard a “Baptist role model extraordinaire,” Walker lauded Leonard’s “nearly four decades of teaching, preaching, writing about Baptist heritage of freedom and support for the BJC’s fight to ensure that freedom.”
Leonard, who is the James and Marilyn Dunn Chair of Baptist Studies at the Wake Forest University School of Divinity, delivered the keynote address at the event, encouraging the crowd of more than 500 people to reaffirm their Christian and Baptist identity “as persons distressed and distressing of conscience.” Leonard charged them to embrace that identity, and he raised issues that were currently “plaguing” his conscience.
During the event, outgoing Religious Liberty Council Co-chair Mark Wiggs presided over the election of new RLC officers: Pam Durso of Georgia and David Massengill of New York as co-chairs, and Rebecca Mathis of North Carolina as secretary. Aubrey Ducker of Florida and Tambi Swiney of Tennessee were elected as new representatives from the RLC on the BJC Board of Directors, and they will serve a three-year term. The RLC is an association of individual donors to the BJC that work to provide education about and advocacy for religious freedom and the separation of church and state.
The J.M. Dawson Religious Liberty Award is named for the first executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee. Characteristics of award recipients include vocal advocacy of church-state separation as a means to genuine religious freedom, consistent commitment to the biblical witness to freedom of conscience under God and the dignity of the individual, and defense of the religious rights of all citizens with no prejudice of belief or non-belief.
From the July/August 2012 Report from the Capital. Click here for the next article.