Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, joins Baptists of differing ethnic, regional and theological perspectives to address world-wide challenges to religious liberty at a one-day forum at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Sept. 29.
The event is free, but registration is requested to help facilitate preparation for the event. Register for the conference at www.nobts.edu/events/BaptistVoices.html.
Gregory Komendant, Kiev Theological Seminary, Ukraine and former leader of the All-Ukrainian Union of Churches of Evangelical Christian Baptists, is the 7 p.m. plenary speaker.
Recent incidences regarding bakers in Oregon, photographers in New Mexico, or the comments of Texas pastor Bob Roberts, Jr. regarding the immigration of Muslims highlights the need for a clear understanding of religious liberty.
“Religious liberty doesn’t mean that I endorse someone else’s beliefs, but that I allow them the right to live according to their conscience,” Harsch said. “If truth is given a fair hearing, truth will win out.”
Featured speakers representing varied perspectives include William Brackney, Acadia Divinity College, Canada; J. Brent Walker, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty; Suzii Paynter, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship; Mike Edens, dean of graduate studies at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary with two decades of experience living in the Middle East; and Kenneth McDowell, Union Baptist College and Theological Seminary, New Orleans.
A challenge to religious liberty today is a fundamental shift in the public’s understanding of what religious liberty means, Harsch said.
“What we currently understand religious liberty to be is what has been called religious toleration in the past: we will tolerate you to have your freedom to believe what you wish behind the closed doors of your home and place of worship, but you give up your right to practice what you believe once you enter the public square or the business realm,” Harsch said.
The event is co-sponsored by the NOBTS Institute for Faith and the Public Square and the NOBTS Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, endorsed by the Baptist History and Heritage Society. Donations for the event have made free admission possible, Harsch said.
Harsch said Komendant is a timely choice for the event due to Komendant’s experience of living under a Communist regime and a nation existing in tension with Russia. A Jan. 22, 2014 blog post of Mission Eurasia, an evangelical organization training leaders, distributing scripture, and planting churches in the former Soviet Union, referred to Komendant as “an elder statesman of the evangelical church in Ukraine.”
“We need to be reminded of the historic cost that was paid to secure religious liberty and not to give it away, and to educate those who do not understand its value,” Harsch said. “Religious liberty is not just for one group, but for all people: the atheist, the Muslim, the Christian, if any of these have their rights of conscience violated by government dictate, any of them become suspect.”