Mike Stone has withdrawn his defamation lawsuit against Russell Moore, in which he was seeking $750,000.
Stone is the pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, GA and serves on the steering committee of the Conservative Baptist Network (CBN). He had brought a defamation complaint against Moore for actions Moore allegedly took while serving as president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
Stone claims that Moore’s actions tarnished Stone’s “reputation within the religious community” and jeopardized his “future earning capacity.” Notably, Stone narrowly lost the 2021 race for SBC president to Ed Litton.
Stone’s SBC presidential bid had been backed by the Conservative Baptist Network and Founder’s Ministries, two SBC entities that have expressed concern that the SBC has been experiencing an liberal drift under the influence of leaders like Moore and former SBC president J.D. Greear. The CBN has also been highly critical of Litton’s SBC presidency so far.
In the suit, Stone had claimed that Moore engaged in a “malicious campaign” to defame him, casting Stone “in a false light before the Southern Baptist community and the public at large,” which Stone alleged was intended to “inflict mental anguish and severe emotional distress” upon him.
The feud between Stone and Moore has been ongoing since Stone led an investigation into the ERLC in 2020, which was a response to “growing concerns” about the SBC entity. As the president of the ERLC, Moore had come under fire for his criticism of Donald Trump.
The results of the investigation stated that Moore’s words and actions at ERLC constituted a “significant distraction from the Great Commission work of Southern Baptists,” claiming that the ERLC had failed to sufficiently represent the values of politically conservative Southern Baptists.
In response to this, Stone claims that Moore launched a defamation campaign against him. In the weeks leading up to the SBC presidential election in June, two private letters written by Moore were leaked. In one of those letters, Moore named Stone and SBC then Executive Committee president Ronnie Floyd among those within the SBC who had actively suppressed investigations regarding sexual abuse.