Two leading Christian voices, whose lives span almost a century each, were honored Friday by the trustees of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
During the ERLC board meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, last month, members unanimously approved John Perkins, 85, for the John Leland Religious Liberty Award and J.I. Packer, 89, for the Richard Land Distinguished Service Award.
"This is somebody who has been fighting for religious liberty, religious freedom for 70 years," ERLC President Russell Moore told the trustees. "[Perkins] has evangelized the country in a way I can't even imagine. And as he's done that, he's consistently spoken of the necessity of the people of God to speak to both righteousness and justice at the same time. As he was doing that, he was someone who ended up in jail in Mississippi back in the days of Jim Crow, beaten and yet never would allow himself to be driven into bitterness."
Perkins has devoted much of his life to desegregation, cross-cultural ministry, and a commitment to the poor. The octogenarian is well known for his "three Rs" approach to ministry: "Relocation, Reconciliation, and Redistribution." He is the author of numerous books, including a notable memoir chronicling his life story titled Let Justice Roll Down.
Moore proclaimed how Perkins was instrumental in helping to bring down "dividing walls" that separate "human hearts," and bringing greater openness to churches and worship.
J.I. Packer is considered one of the most influential Protestant Christian theologians in all of North American history. Born in England and a citizen of Canada, his prolific writings include Knowing God, one of the most popular Christian books of the 20th century.
Packer has vigorously defended the inerrancy of Scripture, the Christian vision of marriage, religious liberty, and traditional views of gender roles.
"When his own denomination moved to sanction same-sex marriage, he protested that such a 'decision, taken in its context, falsifies the Gospel of Christ, abandons the authority of Scripture, jeopardizes the salvation of fellow human beings, and betrays the Church in its God-appointed role as the bastion and bulwark of divine truth,'" Moore announced to the trustees.
Packer is now theologian emeritus of the more conservative Anglican Communion North America, after previously leaving the Anglican Church of Canada in 2002 for their embrace of same-sex marriage.
Packer was a signatory of the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which was largely seen as a successful effort to reemphasize the primacy of Scripture and move away from liberal interpretation of Scripture, which had been creeping into Evangelicalism. Other notable signers included Francis Schaeffer, R.C. Sproul, D. James Kennedy and Norman L. Geisler.