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48th U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (left) met with ERLC President Brent Leatherwood during a luncheon at the 2024 SBC Annual Convention on June 11 in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS (BP) – Vice President Mike Pence expressed his gratitude for the work of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) during a special luncheon the organization hosted Tuesday (June 11) in celebration of the 2024 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).

Pence, 48th Vice President of the United States and 50th Governor of the State of Indiana, said he was grateful for the work the ERLC has consistently done in the public space and for the leadership of ERLC President Brent Leatherwood.

“Brent, I’m grateful for your leadership,” Pence said. “I really appreciate the work of the ERLC and have for many years. We’re really grateful for the important leadership that this group provides. What a blessing to see you in this role, it really is, Brent.”

Leatherwood, who met Pence in the early 2000s while working on Capitol Hill, introduced him as someone he respected “immensely.”

Pence began by describing his political career to an audience of more than 400 people, describing a change of heart that occurred after suffering several electoral defeats early in his career.

“I dedicated my life to Christ when I was 18, but I’m not sure I gave him my dreams until I lost a couple of elections,” Pence said. “I started thinking about what my faith was asking of me.”

“The ERLC represents the idea that we can take our faith public and that being a winning witness for Jesus Christ is just as important as the things we stand for. And I had failed to do that early in my life. I thought the dream was over, but I resolved in my heart that if I ever had the opportunity to seek public office again, I would strive to conduct myself in a way worthy of the gospel.”

He described his recent role as vice president as an “honor.”

“One of the greatest honors of my life has been to serve as your vice president,” Pence said. “I am incredibly proud of the record of our administration and proud of the team we have had around us and what we have accomplished with a lot of help from ERLC.”

Pence thanked the pastors and church leaders present at the event and encouraged them to continue to influence families in their churches.

“I want all of you to know how grateful I am for the role you play in the lives of families in the communities you serve,” Pence said. “I will always believe that the pulpits you speak from behind are infinitely more valuable to the life of this nation than any lectern I have ever had the privilege of standing behind. I believe that with all my heart, so thank you for your service to the Lord and the role you play in the life of the nation.”

“If I leave one word to each of you as you return to those pulpits and those churches … encourage people to go home for dinner. When we save the family, we save America.”

Leatherwood and Pence discussed other topics, including the overturning of Roe v. Wade, current pro-life issues, the public discussion of the January 6, 2021, riots, and how to handle criticism as a politician.

When it comes to dealing with criticism, Pence said he simply tries to rely on God and draw encouragement from fellow Christians across the country.

“I’m not immune to feeling frustrated from time to time,” Pence said of the public criticism he receives for his biblical stance on certain issues. “For every person who has a problem with what you’ve said, there seem to be legions of people who are secretly grateful for your stance.”

At the end of the event, Leatherwood praised Pence for the courage and conviction he has shown throughout his political career.

“You have shown tremendous courage under fire at various times, you have stood firm in your convictions and, in my opinion, you have always pointed people to the light of this world, Jesus Christ,” Leatherwood said.

Pence said that despite all the turmoil and challenges facing the country, he has faith in the American people.

“I’m very optimistic,” Pence said. “In my 20 years of public service … my opinion of our government has not really gone up, sometimes it’s even gone down. But my opinion of the American people has gone up every day.”

“When I see the American people sticking together in the most difficult of times, I am convinced that the American people are the most freedom-loving, faithful, generous, caring and decent people the world has ever seen. We simply need a government again that is as good as our people.”

(EDITORIAL NOTE – Timothy Cockes is a writer from Nashville.)

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