Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission have affirmed ethicist Russell Moore, despite his criticism of President Trump that caused some to consider withholding funds from the denomination.
“For us not to stand in affirmation of the principles that Dr. Moore has espoused would be unfaithful to the mission entrusted to us by the Convention,” wrote the Executive Committee of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in a statement posted on March 20, on the website of the agency that Moore leads.
The unusual statement was released a week after Moore and Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank Page issued a shorter joint statement about how they “fully support one another,” after the two held a two-hour meeting.
Now, the committee that directly oversees Moore has expressed its continuing support for him, noting that he has been engaging in “numerous private conversations with many of those who had criticisms of him,” and has apologized for some of his past statements.
“We realize that divisions do not heal overnight,” the ERLC committee said. “But in terms of leadership and support, Dr. Moore is the man to whom it has been entrusted to lead this entity — speaking prophetically both to our culture and to our convention. He will continue doing so with the confidence of our support.”
In a statement of his own, Moore spoke of his long history with the denomination and his continuing commitment to it.
“As I look back over the last year, I am grieved by the tensions in our denomination over the state of American politics and the role of religion in it,” he said. “I want to do everything in my power to be an agent of unity.”
He explained that, during the election season, he was often asked about issues of sexual morality and character, and “I spoke, often quite sharply, about those Christians who said, or implied, that such concerns don’t matter, or shouldn’t be talked about.”
Moore said he was not intending to refer to Southern Baptists and others who “believed in supporting candidates, however flawed, who would appoint good people and carry out good policies on some issues.”
“To be clear, I was also not meaning to suggest it was sinful for Southern Baptists or others to advise candidates, or to serve on advisory boards in order to bear some influence there,” he added. “What I was attempting to talk about were those — most often prosperity gospel teachers — who were willing to define the gospel in ways that I believe untrue to the plan of salvation, or to dismiss the moral concerns other Christians had.”
Moore said he stands by his convictions to address “what the gospel is and is not, what sexual morality and sexual assault are and are not, and the crucial need for white Christians to listen to the concerns of our black and brown brothers and sisters in Christ.”
But he apologized for instances where he did not distinguish between different categories of people, as well as for social media postings that “were at times overly broad or unnecessarily harsh. That is a failure on my part.”
He ended his statement with a plea for reconciliation rather than division.
“The same gospel that reconciles us to God is the same gospel that allows us to be reconciled to one another,” he wrote. “I learned that from y’all.”
There was prompt response from former SBC President Jack Graham, who told the Baptist Message in Louisiana that his Texas church was escrowing $1 million in Cooperative Program funds, due to concerns about the direction of the denomination.
“This is a gracious and unifying statement from @drmoore,” Graham tweeted.