Speed Reads

Exodus

A year before quitting Southern Baptists, Russell Moore privately slammed SBC leaders over sex abuse, racism, psychological 'terrorism'

Theologian Russell Moore resigned in May as head of the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy arm, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), and now he appears to have left the SBC, too. T.J. Tims, lead pastor of Immanuel Nashville, announced Tuesday that Russell has joined his conservative evangelical church as minister in residence. Immanuel Nashville, part of the Acts 29 network of churches, is not a Southern Baptist congregation. 

Moore's departure from the SBC, like the exit earlier this year of popular Bible teacher Beth Moore (no relation), is a high-profile manifestation of growing schisms within the country's largest Protestant denomination. Both Moores criticized former President Donald Trump, earning them grief from Southern Baptist leadership, but Russell Moore told ERLC colleagues in February 2020 that it would be "a lazy journalistic assessment" to make this friction about Trump.

Instead, Moore wrote in a newly leaked letter, he was being hounded by SBC leaders because he was critical of their exoneration of sexual abuse and views on racial reconciliation. A "tiny minority" of Southern Baptists tried to silence him with "the most vicious guerilla [sic] tactics" and "psychological and institutional terrorism," he said, singling out Mike Stone, then the chairman of the SBC executive committee and head of a "task force" investigating ERLC. 

Three months before Moore resigned, the task force called ERLC a "significant distraction" for the SBC and blamed it for the loss of $1 million in donations to missionary work, citing complaints about Moore's opposition to Trump, support for immigration reform, condemnation of the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, and a general "liberal drift" at the ERLC. 

"When God called me to himself in Jesus, and when he called me to serve him in ministry, he called me to stand for the truth," Moore wrote last year. "He did not call me to provide cover for racial bigotry and child molestation. I will not do that. I love the Southern Baptist Convention and am a faithful son of the Southern Baptist Convention. I do not believe the people of the Southern Baptist Convention want me to do that. ... But a small group in the shadows do want me to do that. They want me to be afraid of them. They want you to be afraid of them. I am not afraid of them."

You can read Moore's 4,000-word letter at Religion News Service.