NASHVILLE (BP) — Despite a Washington Post article suggesting Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank S. Page could ask Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore to resign amid ongoing controversy, the two SBC entity leaders reported a collegial meeting today (March 13) and said they “fully support one another.”
Earlier in the day, amid a social media flurry following the Post’s report, Page told Baptist Press he planned on “bridge-building” with Moore with no anticipation of requesting a resignation.
The Post reporter who broke news the meeting would occur, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, tweeted in clarification less than two hours after her story was published, “Nothing in my story suggests Moore might be fired. SBC dynamics are more complicated. [Plus] the story is complicated (surprise!)”
The meeting between Page and Moore came less than a month after the Executive Committee launched a study of churches’ escrowing Cooperative Program money and two months after Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church announced it would escrow CP funds over “various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.” The EC has received reports of similar actions by other churches.
Churches have expressed concern about alleged disrespectfulness by Moore toward evangelical supporters of President Trump and about a friend of the court brief signed by the ERLC in support of a New Jersey Islamic society’s right to build a mosque.
Following their two-hour meeting at the SBC Building in Nashville, Page and Moore said in a joint statement, “We met as colleagues committed to the same priorities of proclaiming the Gospel to every man, woman, boy and girl while also addressing biblical and Gospel issues on a wide range of topics to a culture that seems to have lost its way — issues ranging from religious liberty and racial reconciliation to Kingdom diversity and the sanctity of human life from the womb to the grave.
“We deepened our friendship and developed mutual understanding on ways we believe will move us forward as a network of churches. We fully support one another and look forward to working together on behalf of Southern Baptists in the years to come. We will collaborate on developing future steps to deepen connections with all Southern Baptists as we work together to advance the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Page and Moore stated.
Prior to the meeting, The Post reported — under a headline that asked “Could Southern Baptist Russell Moore lose his job?” — that a meeting between Page and Moore was to occur March 13. Page declined to discuss specific plans for the meeting with The Post and told Bailey he hoped Moore and his opponents would pursue reconciliation.
Page told Baptist Press he had “requested a private meeting with Dr. Moore” last week and that Bailey apparently became aware of the meeting.
When Bailey called Page on March 12, “I insisted that the meeting with Dr. Moore was a private meeting intended to seek bridge-building strategies,” Page said, acknowledging that “nothing was off the table” in his efforts to facilitate reconciliation within the convention.
“I also informed [Bailey] that I have no authority over Dr. Moore; that is vested in his board of trustees,” Page said, adding his desire for the meeting was “to find bridge-building solutions to an unnecessary divide that has been created across the landscape of our Southern Baptist network of churches.”
Ken Barbic, chairman of the ERLC’s board of trustees, told The Post, “Russell Moore is a Gospel-centered, faithful, and prophetic voice for Southern Baptists.” Barbic and the board “wholeheartedly support [Moore’s] leadership.”
An EC ad hoc committee has begun work to “study and recommend redemptive solutions to the current reality in Southern Baptist life of churches’ either escrowing or discontinuing Cooperative Program funds, with the report being brought back to the September 2017 Executive Committee meeting,” according to a motion unanimously adopted in February by the EC’s CP Committee.
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.
Below is the letter that we, sent to President Trump and Vice-President Pence to let them know that we do not agree with the stance that Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention.
President Donald Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington DC 20500
Re: Support for Travel Ban
February 26, 2017
Dear President Trump and Vice President Pence,
Thank you for your tireless efforts to serve our country and keep the promises you made during the campaign. We appreciate the many changes you have already made, and actions you have taken to correct the nation’s direction and position, and return us to our traditional moral footing.
One of the main purposes behind this letter is to encourage you with our support for your stance on immigration and the travel ban on refugees and immigration from the seven nations of the Middle East.
We are a Southern Baptist church, and are in direct disagreement with the open letter recently written and publicly posted by Dr. Russell Moore of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention. In addition, we consider great caution and limitations regarding Muslim immigration to be important and wise.
It would have been timelier to have written this letter two weeks ago, but we have been researching and discussing the actions of Dr. Moore and the ERLC and I wanted to formulate an appropriate letter to Dr. Moore and include a copy of that letter in our communication with you.
We are evaluating our relationship with the ERLC and will be contacting our denomination with our recommendations. Dr. Moore and the ERLC do not speak for all Southern Baptists.
We are praying for your protection and guidance.
Sincerely in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Pastor Carter Corbrey, Th.D., and the congregation of the First Southern Baptist Church of Versailles, Indiana.