“This is an earthquake,” a prominent Christian writer told me.
The publication of an extraordinary February 24, 2020, letter by Russell Moore, one of the most influential and respected evangelicals in America (and a friend), has shaken the Christian world.
When the letter was written, Moore was the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. The letter, sent to the ERLC’s board of trustees, offers a devastating indictment of the denomination’s executive committee.
Moore’s letter was leaked to Religion News Service (RNS) a few weeks after he resigned from the ERLC. And on June 1, Immanuel Nashville, a church not affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, announced that Moore would become its pastor in residence. Which means that one of the most important figures in the SBC has completely broken with the denomination he has been a part of for virtually his entire life.
Moore’s 4,000-word letter explains why.
His departure was not primarily prompted, as many people had assumed, by his role as an outspoken critic of Donald Trump, although that had clearly upset powerful members within the politically and theologically conservative denomination. Instead, the letter suggests, the breach was caused by the stands he had taken against sexual abuse within the SBC and on racial reconciliation, which had infuriated the executive committee. The chair of the executive committee at the time, Mike Stone, is now running for SBC president. According to RNS, “Supporters have touted Moore’s resignation as proof of Stone’s effectiveness as a leader.” (Stone released a statement in response to Moore’s letter, alleging that it contained “numerous misrepresentations,” and calling it an attempt to influence the coming denominational election.)