Russell Moore’s departure from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and his role at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) has many conservatives in the denomination celebrating the end of a seven-year tumultuous period of declivity in both practical doctrine and orthopraxy. On the other hand, this author believes that despite Moore’s exodus, the damage he left behind by turning much of the denomination into a progressive political action group will likely be far too much for the denomination to clean up.
It’s a big year for Southern Baptists; the annual meeting this month is expected to be among the largest in history. With four presidential candidates vying for the most notable office of the Convention, more pastors and messengers will likely show up to cast their vote than in recent years. On the table this year is the progressive drift the denomination has been criticized of–particularly, at the hands of the now-departed Russell Moore.
Among those candidates for Southern Baptist president is Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS). Al Mohler is responsible for Russell Moore being place in the two offices he served in the Southern Baptist Convention–both ERLC president and previously, Dean of Theology at SBTS. Prior to his posts in the SBC, Moore served on staff with Democrat Congressman Gene Taylor. Russell Moore is a Democrat and everyone knew it.
Over the last seven years, Moore brought those Democrat politics into the Church, using his platform to push for such things as open borders and amnesty, socialism, and Marxism. After his departure, Russell Moore “leaked” a letter to the ERLC’s Board of Trustees complaining that his reasoning for leaving wasn’t because of the pushback against his progressive agenda–it was because Southern Baptists are nothing more than “racial bigots” and “child molesters” and he could no longer “provide cover” for them.
The letter was slanderous to its core and defamed an entire denomination and its leadership, staff, and members. Russell Moore spent seven years pouring gasoline on the denominational dumpster only to light a match and toss it behind him as he speeds away. If Al Mohler wants to be Southern Baptist president–which is largely a role as spokesperson for the Convention–he’s going to have to address this issue.
Al Mohler, who many conservatives in the denomination have already written off completely, has a reputation of leading from behind: To his credit, generally, Mohler lands on the right side of issues–at least rhetorically. Often, what he says when he speaks is profound and thoughtful. Mohler’s problem, though, isn’t in his theology or his doctrine. Mohler’s problem is in his practice.
Waiting until a dumpster has burned to the ground to put the fire out isn’t a mark of good leadership; preventing dumpster fires from happening is. And this is where the issue of respect comes for Mohler. Largely speaking, Mohler is responsible for the dumpster fire started by Moore. Not because Mohler agreed with Moore on these issues–he clearly did not on some things. But because Mohler is responsible for Moore being in office, Mohler has a duty and responsibility to address the damage Moore cause if he is going to be respected for his leadership.
This is where Mohler will either gain or lose respect among conservatives. Will Mohler denounce the slanderous letter by Russell Moore? Or will he ignore it and let that dumpster fire burn to the ground? For many, how Mohler handles this is going to make him or break him for them.