One of the unofficial but defining principles in the Southern Baptist Convention has always been that the leadership doesn’t speak ill against other leaders in the denomination. It’s almost as if there is a blood oath that must be sworn upon taking a leadership role–the principle has been often derided by critics as the “Eleventh Commandment.”
It appears things are changing–as the denomination scurries amid growing controversy and the looming possibility of schism, many of the current leaders are running cover over their own rear ends.
In the wake of the departure of former Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) leader, Russell Moore, Executive Committee head, Ronnie Floyd is now taking a defensive stance against Moore who leaked a letter to the public that he addressed to current Southern Baptist president, JD Greear.
In this letter, Moore accused the Executive Committee of forcing him to live in “psychological terror” during his tenure as president of the ERLC because the Executive Committee investigated him over his role in causing a drop in funding to the denomination’s Cooperative Program. He then insisted that opposition to him wasn’t because of his theological terrorism, but because he was anti-Trump and accused the Executive Committee was complicit in covering up sexual abuses in churches and wanted Moore removed because he was devoted to exposing these abuses.
Of course, Moore’s accusations are nonsense and Executive Committee leader, Ronnie Floyd believes so too. In a statement released by Floyd in response to Moore’s letter, Floyd writes that “for those matters of which I was present, I do not have the same recollection of these occurrences as stated.”
Russell Moore was also contradicted by Georgia Baptist leader, Tommy Fountain Sr., who says that Russell Moore’s claim that a second task force was launched to investigate claims against him was “false.”
“There has never been such a task force in Georgia,” said Tommy Fountain Sr., chairman of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s Executive Committee. “I can’t speak to why Russell Moore made this claim, but I can state categorically that it isn’t true.”
In response to the the response by these two men, Philip Bethancourt, Russell Moore’s right-hand man at the ERLC published his own “whistleblower” report supposedly proving that Russell Moore didn’t lie or even exaggerate–that he was completely honest.
That “bombshell” report can be read in its entirety, at this link. In summary, the report is a list of five audio clips from two separate meetings between the ERLC and Executive Committee leadership–which included Ronnie Floyd in one meeting and current SBC presidential nominee, Mike Stone, who worked for the Executive Committee at the time, in the other. These audio clips supposedly exonerated Russell Moore and impugned Floyd and Stone as Bethancourt accused these men of the following things:
- Audio Clip – Ronnie Floyd questions the lack of restrictions on Caring Well Conference speakers
- Audio Clip – Ronnie Floyd voices Executive Committee complaints about Rachael Denhollander
- Audio Clip – Ronnie Floyd suggests his primary concern is not survivors but to “preserve the base”
- Audio Clip – Mike Stone discloses that the Bylaws Workgroup abandoned pursuit of a Credentials Committee and perceived themselves as victims
- Audio Clip – Mike Stone suggests approaches like mine to the Credentials Committee are “unseemly”
Interestingly, upon listening to these clips without Bethancourt’s written commentary, nobody in their right mind would have come to the conclusion that these men were trying to do what Moore or Bethancourt are accusing them of. And certainly, nobody would come away with a sense that these men were trying to cover up sexual abuse, as Russell Moore has repeatedly alleged in his letters to Greear. In fact, the tone of Moore in these meetings wouldn’t suggest that he even thought these men were trying to do that at the time. They were simply having an honest, closed-door meeting about the logistics of having questionable speakers speak at Southern Baptist events and the best way to move forward.
Clearly, the divide in the Southern Baptist Convention is growing. While there are many reasons to split, the biggest is the progressive shift away from the inerrancy of Scripture and the embrace of theological liberalism. The idea is that it is the mission and focus of the Church to right the wrongs of social and economic inequality. Primarily, the movement advocates for an unbiblical view of man and sin and instead looks to secular ideology, such as Critical Theory (Marxism), for guidance.
While we don’t necessarily enjoy watching the denomination crumble, we can only conclude that this is a good and right move by God who is burning the Southern Baptist Convention to the ground and hopefully, if God wills it, it will go up in flames forever.
God doesn’t need a Southern Baptist Convention–he needs faithful pastors and leaders who will defend the truth against all opposition.