Russell Moore

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After a fierce backlash on social media, Southern Baptists reversed course and adopted a statement denouncing “alt-right white supremacy,” calling it “antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

The unusual move on June 14 was a shift from the previous day, when the Southern Baptist Convention’s Resolutions Committee declined to bring to a vote a Texas pastor’s proposed resolution condemning the “alt-right” movement, whose members include white supremacists.

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Southern Baptists, grappling with the country’s political realities, adopted a statement on the importance of public officials who display “consistent moral character.”

But, within minutes of that action at their annual meeting, they agreed with a committee’s decision not to bring forth a proposed resolution condemning the “alt-right movement,” whose members include proponents that call themselves white nationalists.

Steve Gaines, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, speaks at the Pastors’ Conference at the Phoenix Convention Center on June 12, in Phoenix. Photo courtesy of Matt Miller

Faced with continuing declines in membership and baptisms, Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines implored delegates to the denomination’s yearly meeting to turn to God and put their emphasis on evangelism.

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“Barack Obama didn’t divide us,” said Nathan A. Finn, dean of the School of Theology and Missions at Union University, a Southern Baptist college in Jackson, Tenn.

“Donald Trump divided us. His personal behavior, his policy views, his temperament and character, his religious values, all were highly questionable.”

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For Russell Moore, whose sharp criticisms of Donald Trump voters nearly cost him his job as the public voice for America’s largest Protestant denomination, the path to regaining a prophetic platform is just beginning.

Moore started down that trail this week. After apologizing for being “unnecessarily harsh” during the campaign, he received a vote of confidence from the executive committee of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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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.

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The pro-Trump evangelicals suffer from a spiritual crisis, not a political one.

Moore has challenged the foundations of conservative evangelical political engagement because they desperately needed to be shaken. For 35 years, the old-guard religious right has uncritically coddled, defended, and promoted the Republican Party.

Mark I. Pinsky 1-03-2017

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White, an early and enthusiastic Trump backer, organized national gatherings of evangelical leaders on his behalf, and spoke at a Trump rally on the campus of the University of Central Florida. She also delivered the benediction on the first night of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

White will be only the second woman to pray at an inauguration. And, together with Bishop Wayne T. Jackson of Great Faith Ministries International, who will deliver another of the inaugural benedictions, she will be among the few outspoken advocates of the “prosperity gospel” to appear at an inaugural in recent memory.

Russell Moore preaching at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on Oct. 9, 2011. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

When some claim that Southern Baptists are partisan hacks, Moore finds a way to challenge the Republican establishment while holding the line on cornerstone conservative issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

(left) Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Charleston, W.Va., on May 5, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Chris Tilley (right) Russell Moore leads a June 9, 2014 panel discussion. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore, who has drawn praise and pans for his critiques of President-elect Donald Trump, has apologized to Southern Baptists who think he was critical of anyone who voted for the Republican candidate.

“There’s a massive difference between someone who enthusiastically excused immorality and someone who felt conflicted, weighed the options based on biblical convictions, and voted their conscience,” he said in a column published Dec. 19

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When President Obama signed a newly strengthened international religious freedom act on Dec. 16, the intention was to protect religious believers around the world.

But the freshly signed act is being heralded by some legal scholars as a different milestone — for the first time, atheists and other nonreligious persons are explicitly named as a class protected by the law.

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The day after the election, Lisa Sharon Harper nearly gave up the name “evangelical.”

That’s because 81 percent of white evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump for president, a candidate she described as “representing all of the things Jesus stood against — lust for money, sex, and power.” And their vote propelled the Republican nominee to victory.

Michael Schulson 11-11-2016

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“You are in a year of greatness. You are in a year of restoration,” White preached to a group of some 100 worshippers, almost all of them African-Americans. They had gathered in a large, windowless room at Faith Assembly Christian Center, a simple building in a predominantly black neighborhood of Durham.

Asked afterward about her ties with the president-elect, she declined to be interviewed “out of respect for the church.”

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In the summer of 430, the great Christian writer and bishop Augustine of Hippo lay dying as barbarians besieged his North African city – basically a mop-up operation in the slow-motion fall of the Roman Empire.

Today, in the fall of the year 2016, a lot of Christians can relate.

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“I think it took a comment from Trump that personally affected a majority of evangelicals for there to be a tipping point,” said Katelyn Beaty, editor at large of Christianity Today, and author of A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home, and the World.

“More than half of every church is women, and all those women are affected by comments about sexual assault.”

REUTERS / Kai Pfaffenbach / RNS

President Barack Obama with Elie Wiesel in 2009. Photo via REUTERS / Kai Pfaffenbach / RNS

Elie Wiesel’s death is inspiring an outpouring of grief and gratitude from leaders in the religious and political worlds, and ordinary people alike.

Ryan Hammill 6-27-2016

The Supreme Court struck down Texas’ restrictive abortion laws on June 27 in one of the most important abortion-related cases in years.

The Court ruled 5-3 in the case known as Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which served to clarify the 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey. That case concluded that while the states are free to regulate abortion, they cannot place an “undue burden” on women’s constitutional right to abortion.

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Heading into Donald Trump’s meeting with hundreds of conservative Christian leaders, mostly evangelicals, in New York on June 21, it was clear not all Christians have lined up behind him.

Not even all traditionally conservative evangelicals.

Ryan Hammill 6-21-2016
Donald Trump salutes supporters at the Peabody Opera House in Downtown St. Louis in March.

Donald Trump salutes supporters at the Peabody Opera House in Downtown St. Louis in March.Gino Santa Maria Shutterstock.com

While evangelicals have traditionally been an important part of the Republican base, Trump’s candidacy has exposed some fissures. The combination of questionable investments, vulgar and hateful rhetoric, widely-publicized affairs, and Biblical illiteracy has caused some evangelical leaders to denounce Trump, even as others have voiced their support.

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Southern Baptists are usually the first to defend religious freedom. But when it comes to Muslims, some want to draw a line.

At their annual meeting in St. Louis, an Arkansas pastor said Baptists shouldn’t support the right of Muslims to build mosques, especially “when these people threaten our very way of existence as Christians and Americans.”

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