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OPINION

Land's apology accepted by African American pastor

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- A prominent African American pastor, Dwight McKissic Sr., has publicly accepted Richard Land's apology for remarks he (Land) made about the Trayvon Martin killing.
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"I fully accept his apology -- without hesitation, or reservation -- and appeal to all Christians, regardless of color, who were offended by his remarks to accept his apology and forgive him," McKissic wrote in a May 10 post at the SBC Voices blog (http://sbcvoices.com).

McKissic said he previously had contended that Land should publicly apologize or be fired as president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, which Land has led since 1988.

Land, on May 9, issued a five-part, two-page apology "for the harm my words of March 31, 2012, have caused to specific individuals, the cause of racial reconciliation, and the gospel of Jesus Christ."

Land and McKissic were among 12 people at a May 2 meeting when African American leaders' concerns were voiced to Land -- a session that Land said him "understand in sharper relief how damaging my words were." The meeting spanned nearly five hours at the SBC Building in Nashville, Tenn.

Land, on his "Richard Land Live!" call-in radio show March 31, had criticized the intrusion of politics into the Trayvon Martin case and had referenced President Obama and the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson by name.

McKissic, senior pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, opened his posting at the SBC Voices blog by citing the oft-quoted words about repentance and healing from 2 Chronicles 7:14.

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McKissic then wrote:

"It was my contention that Dr. Richard Land needed to publicly apologize -- own and disown his words -- as it relates to the controversial racial remarks he made regarding the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman saga. If Dr. Land refused to own and disown his words prior to the SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, in June of this year, I had planned to offer to the Convention a resolution requesting that the Convention own, and then disown Dr. Land's words and repudiate the racial comments he made concerning the Martin/Zimmerman case. Furthermore, it was my contention that Dr. Land needed to resign or be fired if he did not disown his own words before the June convention. Dr. Land has now taken responsibility for his words and has rejected them."

McKissic said he had "a joyful heart and renewed spirit" upon receiving Land's apology from James Dixon Jr., president of the National African American Fellowship of the SBC. The apology, McKissic said, "reveals that Dr. Land has indeed owned and then disowned his words regarding the Trayvon Martin/Zimmerman case."

McKissic then continued:

"Be it known that in keeping with my word, and in light of Dr. Land's statement, I no longer am calling for his resignation, nor do I plan to submit a resolution to the June convention regarding Dr. Land. I fully accept his apology -- without hesitation, or reservation -- and appeal to all Christians, regardless of color, who were offended by his remarks to accept his apology and forgive him. My confidence in Dr. Land, in light of his apology, has been restored. As much as our land needs healing, Dr. Land and his family also need healing. Let's remember to pray for the Land family."

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Dixon, contacted by Baptist Press after Land's apology was issued May 9, said he would have no comment until after trustees of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission have completed the process initiated by their executive committee on April 18 regarding Land's comments. The ERLC executive committee also created an ad hoc committee to investigate allegations of plagiarism over material Land failed to attribute to a Washington Times columnist on the March 31 broadcast.

Steve Faith, ERLC trustee chairman, issued a statement later on May 9 that the ad hoc committee is working "with due diligence and will bring a thorough and complete report to the ERLC Executive Committee who will prayerfully consider the findings. The ERLC Executive Committee will bring a report to the full board of trustees and then release a public statement by June 1.

"It is important to understand that our Southern Baptist polity places Dr. Land under the authority of the ERLC trustees who are elected by and accountable directly to the Convention," said Faith, a retired pastor and Baptist association director of missions in Indiana. "The trustees are aware of their responsibility to the Convention and to the watching world."

On Twitter, Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina, said he was "proud of my friend & former teacher 4 this apology," while Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, said he was "Encouraged to see Richard Land's clear & unequivocal apology about his Trayvon Martin comments."

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For the Baptist Press story on Land's May 9 apology, which includes the full text of the apology, go to www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=37795.

Earlier Baptist Press reports on the controversy over Land's comments can be accessed at www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=37620; www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=37619; and www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=37630.

Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net

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