Concern is mounting among evangelicals that Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s policy arm, could lose his job following months of backlash over his critiques of President Trump and religious leaders who publicly supported the Republican candidate. Any such move could be explosive for the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, which has been divided over politics, theology and, perhaps most starkly, race.
More than 100 of the denomination’s 46,000 churches have threatened to cut off financial support for the SBC’s umbrella fund, according to Frank Page, president of the executive committee. The committee is studying whether the churches are acting out of displeasure with Moore because it has received more threats to funding over him than over any other “personality issue” in recent memory, said Page, who will meet with Moore today.
Here’s the problem in the Southern Baptist Convention; they want lobbyists.
But Moore’s anti-Trump activism during the presidential campaign and criticism of his followers continued to upset many established white Southern Baptist leaders, who question whether Moore can now lobby effectively for their concerns with the Trump administration. Further highlighting divisions, influential Texas megachurch pastor Jack Graham said in February after a meeting with Moore that his Prestonwood Baptist Church would begin withholding $1 million in donations to the SBC umbrella fund.
Here’s the approach of Russell Moore: disinterested, biblical analysis with some prophetic critique.
Moore reports to the 35 trustees of the ERLC, who would decide his ultimate fate if he faced requests to resign. His board chairman, Ken Barbic, who attends Capitol Hill Baptist in Washington, wrote in a text message that “Russell Moore is a Gospel-centered, faithful, and prophetic voice for Southern Baptists,” and that he and the board “wholeheartedly support his leadership.”
In an ironic twist, Moore’s lack of White House access reflects his belief that evangelicals should be prophetic outsiders, although no one thought such a shift would take place under a Republican president, said religion columnist Jonathan Merritt, who is son of former SBC president James Merritt and supports Moore.
“I think he’s not sitting in an apartment lamenting [his lack of access],” Merritt said. “I don’t think he’s celebrating it either.”
After the election, Moore wrote that his criticism was for “a handful of Christian political operatives excusing immorality and confusing the definition of the gospel.”
“But there were also pastors and friends who told me when they read my comments they thought I was criticizing anyone who voted for Donald Trump,” Moore wrote. “I told them then, and I would tell anyone now: if that’s what you heard me say, that was not at all my intention, and I apologize.”
The problem is that too many in the SBC don’t want the prophet. They want the lobbyist.