Home Christian News What Happened Before Russell Moore’s Leaked Letters?

What Happened Before Russell Moore’s Leaked Letters?

This behavior was of a piece with the Executive Committee’s decision summarily exonerating SBC churches “in a spur-of-the-moment meeting, from serious charges of sexual abuse cover-up,” according to Moore’s letter.

Then there was the issue of Moore’s support for racial reconciliation, which led to “constant threats” against him and his family “from white nationalists and white supremacists, including within our convention,” Moore wrote. Alongside this was “the blatant, gutter-level racism that has been expressed to me behind closed doors along with the reprehensible treatment of my African-American employees and our African-American seminary professors by figures within the Southern Baptist ecosystem.”

Moore’s February 2020 letter, written to the ERLC executive committee, set the stage for his resignation last month as ERLC president (and, it seems, from the SBC itself).  The second letter — dated May 31 and addressed to Greear — focused solely on the sexual abuse issue, and unlike the first it names names.

“You and I both know how leadership in the Executive Committee, at the trustee level with Mike Stone and his allies … have stonewalled many attempts at reform for the sake of the sexually abused,” Moore wrote in letter No. 2.

“You and I both know the involvement of Paige and Dorothy Patterson, through their allies, in these tactics of retribution and revenge. Indeed, videos made for the group aligned with Mike Stone and Rod Martin, were geo-tagged to the Pattersons’ home. Websites for their subsidiary groups are demonstrated to have been created by a nativist political group.”

Stone is immediate past president of the SBC Executive Committee and he and Martin are both leaders of the Conservative Baptist Network, which has among other things helped gin up a campaign against a mild 2019 SBC resolution recognizing critical race theory and intersectionality as “analytical tools (that) can aid in evaluating a variety of human experiences” if employed “subordinate to Scripture — not as transcendent ideological frameworks.”

Long story short, what we’ve got is the old guard of Patterson-ites (wife Dorothy was also dismissed from Southwestern) on the warpath against Moore, Greear and anyone else committed to extricating the SBC from a death match against #metoo, wokeness and Black Lives Matter.

Truth to tell, Moore was not the politician that his glad-handing predecessor was. Encountering denominational pushback against his joining an interfaith coalition to support the building of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Land did not stand on principle. He withdrew from the coalition.

No Executive Committee president ever had to ask Land, as Moore said one asked him, “why I did not include ‘the Bubba crowd’ (his words) in my conference programming, since they pay the bills.”

It brings to mind the Larycia Hawkins affair, in which Wheaton College (the evangelical Harvard in Illinois) rid itself of its sole tenured Black political science professor because she dared express solidarity with Muslims. In the face of student and faculty opposition, the college administration kowtowed to powerful bubba-alumni.

Decades ago I was covering a courthouse in the Deep South when an old judge, hearing that I was interested in religion, explained how Southerners used to differentiate Protestant clergy.

“There was this young couple,” he commenced, “and one day the wife comes into the back room where her husband is cleaning his gun and says, ‘Honey, there’s a preacher at the door.’ ‘Well,’ the husband replies, ‘invite him in and ask what denomination he is. If he’s a Presbyterian, lock up the liquor cabinet. If he’s a Methodist, go out and chase the chickens into the woods. And if he’s a Baptist, go sit on your momma’s lap and wait till I get out there.'”

That predatory sexuality is the besetting sin of Southern Baptist preachers is, evidently, not just an old piece of Southern folklore.

Or as Russell Moore put it, “Behind all this is the larger question of sexual abuse within our churches, and the spiritual and psychological abuse of sexual abuse survivors by the Executive Committee itself along with a pattern of attempted intimidation of those who speak on such matters.”

This article originally appeared here.

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marksilk@churchleaders.com'
Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service.