NASHVILLE—Executive Committee members took a break in their business Monday evening Feb. 20 to allow Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land to present former SBC President Paige Patterson the ERLC’s Richard D. Land Distinguished Service Award. The award was named for the current ERLC president by the entity’s trustees in 2003.

Land noted that Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, was the 44th recipient of the Distinguished Service Award. The ERLC’s board of trustees voted to award Patterson the honor during their September 2005 meeting in Nashville.

“There is no one in the Southern Baptist Convention who is more dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ, our Lord’s Kingdom, God’s Word, the Lord’s Church and to the people called Southern Baptist than Paige Patterson,” Land said. “There has been no one willing to pay a greater price to stand for the absolute truthfulness of God’s Word than Dr. Paige Patterson,” he added.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to give this award to Dr. Patterson,” Land continued, noting he has known Patterson since 1969 when both of them were at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. As the 2005 honoree, Patterson was given a framed certificate and an inscribed, dimensional chiseled column of crystal.

Reading from the certificate, Land said the honor was given for Patterson’s faithfulness in “boldly proclaiming the Word of God in all parts of the world as a compassionate pastor, a respected scholar, and a prolific writer” and a “servant of Jesus Christ who is intensely devoted to evangelism and the global mission task of the church.”

Patterson is a “trusted leader whom God used mightily in the resurgence of Southern Baptist beliefs based on the inerrancy of Holy Scripture,” Land continued, still reading from the certificate.

In receiving the award, Patterson said he was accepting the honor on behalf of the “hundreds of thousands of people in the Southern Baptist Convention who have paid a much heavier price than I and who have faithfully discharged duties.”

“They don’t have the headlines that I unfortunately get and the opportunity to see their name in the press. That is probably a great advantage,” Patterson said. “But the truth of the matter is—the pastors of thousands and thousands of churches and the lay people who work by their side really are the ones who have made a difference in our world and in our denomination,” he continued.

“I am honored to receive this award but accept it on behalf of all those others who equally and far more so deserve it,” Patterson continued, expressing appreciation to the ERLC for the award and the entity’s “incredible work.”

“My pastor for so many years, Dr. Criswell, used to say, ‘When they start giving you awards and standing to applaud for you, you have an idea of how ancient you have been become. And you become aware of the fact that you have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel,’” said Patterson, who was saluted by sustained applause from the Executive Committee members and others in attendance.

Don Wildmon, founder and executive director of the American Family Association, was named the 2004 recipient of the Richard D. Land Distinguished Service Award.

Previous recipients of the Distinguished Service Award include Gary Frost (2002), James Draper (1993), Carl F.H. Henry (1992), Charles Colson (1991), Billy Graham (1983) and former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalyn Carter (1982).