Home Christian News Leaked Russell Moore Letter Blasts SBC Conservatives, Sheds Light on His Resignation

Leaked Russell Moore Letter Blasts SBC Conservatives, Sheds Light on His Resignation

He also pointed to an incident where a speaker at an ERLC conference in 2019 criticized the Executive Committee.

In the fall of 2019, during a conference on sexual abuse in the SBC called Caring Well, Moore interviewed Rachael Denhollander, a former USA gymnast who outed team doctor Larry Nassar’s serial sexual assault. Denhollander criticized the Executive Committee for how it had reported on the case of Jennifer Lyell, who had accused a Southern Baptist seminary professor of abuse.

“That enraged some Executive Committee trustee leadership, who communicated that they were incensed that we would allow such a story to be told,” Moore wrote. After the conference, Moore said in the letter, he had received a veiled threat from Executive Committee trustees, characterizing it as being delivered with Mafia-like menace: “You’ve got a nice little Commission there; would be a shame if something happened to it.”

On race issues, Moore claimed in the letter that SBC leaders had been concerned about the ERLC promoting critical race theory, the academic work that sees racism in the United States as systemic, and the equality of the sexes in church and Christian life.

But he said others took issue with his hiring of Black staff at the ERLC and advocating for the convention to elect a Black president.

Moore relates how an SBC leader questioned certain hires at the ERLC whom the leader viewed as insufficiently Baptist. “When I answered his concerns to his face, he said, ‘I was really just concerned about that black girl, whether she’s an egalitarian,’” referring to the hire of Trillia Newbell to the ERLC and questioning her commitment to the SBC’s complementarian gender theology.

“When I asked what possibly could lead him to think that a woman who has written complementarian articles for complementarian websites was an ‘egalitarian,’ he responded: ‘A lot of those black girls are,’” Moore recalled in the letter.

Moore claimed the same leader, when discussing Black victims of police violence, retorted that “only those with guns would prevent black people from burning down all of our cities.”

“My family and I have faced constant threats from white nationalists and white supremacists, including within our convention,” Moore wrote. “Some of them have been involved in neo-Confederate activities for years. Some are involved with groups funded by white nationalist nativist organizations. Some have just expressed raw racist sentiment behind closed doors.”

Moore made clear he believed his opponents were led by then-Executive Committee Chairman Mike Stone, who also headed the task force looking into the ERLC. Moore alleges this group had used its oversight of the Cooperative Program to mount investigations. Their objections, Moore charged in colorful terms he disavowed, were that he was “‘not playing enough to the Bubbas and the rednecks; they pay the bills.’”

The real intent of the investigation, he wrote, was to keep him quiet: “so that Southern Baptists do not hear what goes on.”

While Stone has said in the past he was not seeking Moore’s resignation, Moore in his letter said this was part of a strategy to keep him “in psychological terror, so that I will not say what the Southern Baptist Convention has assigned me to say, much less to reveal what I know about what goes on behind the scenes.”

Stone, now one of the leading candidates for president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is a leader in the Conservative Baptist Network, which has been critical of Moore and other SBC leaders. Supporters have touted Moore’s resignation as proof of Stone’s effectiveness as a leader.

Despite Moore’s departure, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination remains divided over race, gender and politics while experiencing ongoing loss of membership.

Toward the end of his letter, Moore professed his love for the SBC and said he would not back down, no matter what critics said.

“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, to point the way to the kingdom, to die to self, and to carry the cross. He did not call me to provide cover for racial bigotry and child molestation. I will not do that,” he wrote.

“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, at least that’s not how they have acted in their votes when they are assembled together in national convention. 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.”

On Tuesday (June 1), a tweet by a Tennessee church not affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention welcomed Moore  as its new minister in residence.

This article originally appeared here.

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Paul O’Donnell is the editor-in-chief of Religion News Services and has served as editor for a variety of news organizations, including Newsweek, Condé Nast, CNBC, and Washingtonian magazine. He has also reported on politics, religion, and culture for national publications such as Huffington Post, Slate, Wired, Commonweal magazine, and others.