Ministry Profile: Christian Life Commission

Department: Christian Life Commission

Staffers: Gus Reyes, Director; Ferrell Foster, Director of Ethics & Justice, Coordinator, Texas Baptist Hunger Offering; Kathryn Freeman, Director of Public Policy; Marilyn Davis, Congregational & Commission Specialist; Joyce Gilbreath, Hunger Offering Specialist; Julie Valentine, Ministry Assistant

Explain your ministry:

The CLC addresses ethical and public policy issues in order to help Texas Baptists follow Christ in their everyday lives. Each Baptist comes to his or her own conclusions about issues. The CLC speaks to those issues in order to help each Baptist grapple with the biblical witness; the life and teachings of Jesus provide the focal point. We are especially guided by the words of Micah 6:8 -- do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.

What are the different aspects/emphases of the CLC?

  • Texas Baptist Hunger Offering - The CLC administers and promotes giving to support anti-poverty efforts in Texas and around the world. Churches collect the funds in many ways, including taking a special Mother's Day offering. Learn more...
  • Ethics & Justice - The CLC provides and connects with resources on various issues. These include sanctity of life, justice, human trafficking, immigration, pornography, business ethics, civility in the marketplace, etc. Learn more...
  • Public Policy - The CLC addresses legislative and governmental issues in Austin and Washington, D.C., as prioritized by CLC commissioners. These include hunger and poverty, gambling, predatory lending, public education, healthcare, etc. Learn more...
  • Community Care - The CLC helps churches minister in their communities by supporting economic development, literacy programs, food pantries, restorative justice efforts, etc. Learn more...
  • ISAAC - The CLC's Immigration Service and Aid Center in San Antonio helps non-citizens comply with the laws of the United States regarding their residency here, including sometimes helping them gain citizenship. Learn more...
  • Religious Liberty - The CLC promotes religious liberty for people of all faiths through its work on specific legislative actions and efforts in the nation's capital. Learn more...

You recently relocated the ministry to Austin. What advantages does this move provide?

The CLC previously had offices both in Dallas and Austin. By moving the Dallas offices to Austin the CLC now has its staff together in one place in order to promote greater collaboration among the various ministries. Austin was chosen over Dallas because of the importance of the CLC's advocacy work with state government.

At this year's Annual Meeting, the CLC is really emphasizing the theme, "Live the Difference." Why is this theme so important in the CLC's work? In the Texas Baptist's life?

Baptists care both about inviting people into relationship with Christ and about helping believers live in a manner that honors Christ. This year's Annual Meeting stresses the latter part of that equation. Scripture clearly states that those who follow Christ will desire to become more like Jesus in their daily lives. They will care about the hungry and thirsty. They will care about the impoverished and imprisoned. They will care about the weak and the strangers. In short, the Great Commandment says we are to love God with all of our being and we are to love others as we love ourselves. To "Live the Difference" means to love in all that we do as Jesus commanded.

What projects and/or issues are the CLC currently focusing on?

The Texas Legislature begins its 84th Session in January, which requires we work within the political system to establish practical means for pursuit of biblical principles. We are communicating with legislators, their staffs and various partners in seeking to influence the work of the Legislature.

What is the importance of being led by biblical insight in the life of a believer?

Every Christian faces great challenges in seeking to live a life that honors Christ. Our culture imposes influences on us for good and bad, and the Bible provides a God-given resource from outside of that culture in order to better understand it. Baptists follow and worship Christ, and we believe the Bible is God's authoritative resource for how God has been at work in the world in the past and what is expected of Christians today.

What is a short history of the CLC?

The CLC began its work in 1950 in the midst of a race relations crisis. Reminding Baptists in that era that in Christ we are reconciled across racial and ethnic boundaries met great resistance. Throughout the past 64 years the challenge has never waned. The gospel pervades all of life, and the tasks of reminding, encouraging, and helping Baptists to be salt, light, and leaven in a world of tragedy and pain are unending. Seven directors have led the CLC's work: A.C. Miller (1950-1953), Foy Valentine (1953-1960), Jimmy Allen (1960-1968), James M. Dunn (1968-1980), Phil Strickland (1980-2006), Suzii Paynter (2006-2012) and Gus Reyes (2014-present).

What is the most unique thing about your ministry?

No other Texas Baptist ministry is as engaged in confronting our culture as is the CLC. We equip Texas Baptists to be authentic witnesses for Christ in all that do and in all of their interactions with the broader society. It is not easy to be such witnesses, and we all need help in thinking through and acting on our Christian convictions as they relate the unique circumstances of life in the 21st century.

What can we expect to see from the CLC during 2015?

We will be developing a greater presence in the digital world of social media and the Internet while we address ethical and public policy issues.

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