Responding to a months long controversy, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), and its president Russell Moore, issued a statement on Monday -- the former affirming its support of the president, and the latter apologizing for the role he played in creating any division within the denomination.
Moore’s comments during the previous presidential election season criticizing Trump and questioning some of his supporters were met with backlash, as more than 100 churches threatened to withdraw funding from the denomination.
Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas was one of the most noted of those, as it decided to withhold $1 million that it planned to give to the denomination.
Moore clarified in his portion of the statement, titled “Seeking Unity in the Southern Baptist Convention,” that his comments during the election were not meant to condemn members of the SBC who support Trump or are serving in his advisory board.
“I was asked often during the election season about evangelicalism as it related to moral issues and character, and in so doing I spoke, often quite sharply, about those Christians who said or implied that such concerns don’t matter or shouldn’t be talked about,” stated Moore. “I was not, in so doing, intending to talk about Southern Baptists and others — and there were many — who were open about all of these issues but believed in supporting candidates, however flawed, who would appoint good people and carry out good policies.”
“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. 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,” he added.
However, Moore apologized for “failing to distinguish between people who shouldn’t have been in the same category with those who put politics over the gospel and for using words, particularly in social media, that were at times overly broad or unnecessarily harsh.”
Moore also emphasized that the “gospel wins over everything in the end,” and encouraged unity in the denomination.
“When I look across our denomination, we have too much at stake, and too much for which to be grateful, to be divided,” he said. “I pray the gospel would win in our denomination, in our churches, and in my own heart. The same gospel that reconciles us to God is the same gospel that allows us to be reconciled to one another.”
The executive committee of the ERLC expressed support for Moore, and said that Moore has “sought to be attentive and responsive to those who have brought concerns to him.”
The committee added that it believes Moore has “spoken with clarity and conviction on ethical matters” such as religious liberty and racial reconciliation, and that he “has endeavored clearly and graciously to articulate the Christian gospel and its implications.”
“As an Executive Committee, we believe that Dr. Moore has taken appropriate measures to address this situation,” the committee said.
“We realize that divisions do not heal overnight, and as needs arise our Board will be happy to address them. 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.”
Shortly following the issuance of the statement, Jack Graham said on Twitter that Moore’s statement was “gracious and unifying.”