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.
There are many Christian leaders who have expressed their belief that Americans are responsible for welcoming and absorbing many of the refugees and immigrants from the Muslim nations of the Middle East, even though our national security experts strongly oppose such a move based upon our inability to screen them. In addition, many of the Christian leaders who strongly advocate opening our borders seem to be ignoring the impact of Islamic immigration in Europe over the past few years, and especially what has been happening since the refugee crisis began. We have been told that if we do not bring in refugees then we are failing in our Christian responsibilities.
Our church has directly expressed our support to President Trump for his recent travel ban. We decided that we could not stand by silently while Dr. Russell Moore, as president of the ERLC, published an open letter to the President in disagreement of his policies on the refugee situation. He supported his position by referring to the 2016 resolution on refugees adopted by the SBC at its annual meeting.
When we study the Bible and examine what it says about immigration, sojourners, and foreigners living within host nations, we find that the issue is not as simple as many suggest. God clearly warned about the dangers of allowing foreigners to adversely impact Israel. Israel’s downfall came as the result of embracing the pagan gods of foreigners living within the land.
We believe, while the Bible tells us to show compassion to the sojourner and stranger, that God does not want us to be foolish and gullible, ignoring genuine dangers and consequences to our own nation in the process. The world is in crisis because we are in the last days. Our church and denomination are committed to evangelism to the Muslim world but it must be done with wisdom.
We have sent a letter to Dr. Moore, signed by the members of our congregation, expressing our disagreement with his stance and his use of the secular media to express his disagreement with the President.
Perhaps we are a minority in the Southern Baptist Convention, but we feel that since Dr. Moore and the ERLC has loudly voiced what is presented to be the official SBC position, it is our responsibility to express our direct disagreement. Neither Dr. Moore nor the ERLC speaks for us.
Perhaps many would consider us to be narrow-minded and nationalistic, but we consider ourselves evangelistic, caring, compassionate Christians who have determined that compassion is not best expressed by ignoring reality, nor at the cost of our responsibilities as Christian citizens. Sometimes we need to speak out even when our view may not be acceptable to others.
Dr. Russell Moore, President
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
505 Second St., N.E.
Washington, D.C. 20002
February 26, 2017
Dear Dr. Moore,
Your recent open letter to President Trump and Vice President Pence, in which you presented your views about the travel ban, implies by its letterhead and your official position as the president of the ERLC, that your views are representative of the Southern Baptist Convention. Your letter therefore forces me, a pastor, along with the members of our Southern Baptist church, to enter the discussion and make it clear that you do not speak for us. Your public declarations through your letter as well as at other times make it necessary for us to make our views known in response. Our first response is to you directly.
We have neither the position, nor the desire, to present our views in the pages of a major newspaper as you have done. Instead, we will next begin to communicate on a smaller scale with the appropriate individuals and agencies that we feel should be contacted in order to make our views clear.
We are absolutely in favor of President Trump’s travel ban for both immediate security concerns for the United States, as well as in view of the obvious circumstances surrounding what is happening in Europe, particularly in connection with the refugee crisis. In spite of the very loud voices that condemn anyone who expresses grave concerns about the direction and impact of Islam on the modern world, for anyone to deny that we need to be extremely cautious about the cultural, political, and spiritual influences of Islamic immigration is being willfully blind.
We are a mission-minded church, and by being in favor of both the temporary ban as well as strong vetting measures, does not mean that we are unkind, non-evangelistic, or unfaithful to the teachings and compassion of our Christian faith. On the contrary, we are genuinely concerned with national security, the ability to freely practice our faith, and the safety of Christians around the world including our missionaries. We also support effective evangelism to individual Muslims and to the Islamic world in general.
We are keenly aware of what is happening, and what has been happening, in the European and Middle Eastern world with respect to Muslim immigration and the refugee crisis. A basic premise of Islam is to expand and dominate. This is the driving force of ISIS and Jihad, as you know. In addition however to militant Jihad is the soft Jihad, as it has been called, wherein Islam is spread peacefully by population growth and territorial occupation and expansion. Europe is losing its western identity as the result of Islamic expansion. If we are concerned with evangelism, then we should be concerned as well with how Muslim expansion inhibits and destroys evangelism by its very nature. Christians are being persecuted and slaughtered in the Islamic world.
Those who have tried to promote increased immigration of Muslims into America have pointed out how unlikely it is that any of us will be killed by Islamic terrorists traveling in stealth as refugees. I would like to point out that the effectiveness of terrorism does not require a huge number of victims. What we are seeing is that a single terrorist, or small group, is effective according to the strategic location and circumstances of the target. We have learned from the events of 9-11 that a terror attack can include both number count and strategic location and impact, and that it can be accomplished by a small number of individuals with careful planning.
As Baptists, we are acutely aware of our history and of the sacrifices made for religious liberty. However, freedom of religion is not a tenet of Islam. The more Islam grows in America, the louder is the call for adoption of local Sharia law, and the greater is the actual threat to religious liberty in America itself. You have commented in the recent past about how Christians were betraying their beliefs by supporting Donald Trump. Would you not say that Americans are actually betraying themselves in the way they are ignoring and even embracing an Islamic threat to our beliefs and security in the name of political correctness and under the guise of compassion and religious liberty?
Our own government security experts have warned that it is impossible to properly vet the refugees from Syria and the mass of immigrants seeking Asylum. It is not an absence of compassion to use common sense. It is also not an act of Christian compassion to expose our nation to obvious danger when an adequate screening system is not possible or in place. Compassion must be guided by wisdom. Compassion that is not guarded by wisdom becomes gullibility.
This letter does not exhaust several concerns that we have about some of your comments and the direction of the ERLC. However, we believe that your public position is unrealistic and ignores many critical factors.
Thank you for giving your attention to this letter. It was not pleasant to write, and I am sure it is not pleasant to read. Please understand it is not written in animosity, but from great concern.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Carter Corbrey, Th.M, Th.D.
Signed as well by the congregation of the First Southern Baptist Church:
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.
PLANO, Texas (BP) — A Dallas-area megachurch has decided to escrow Cooperative Program funds temporarily in order to evaluate future support of Southern Baptist Convention causes.
At issue are what the congregation calls “various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission that do not reflect the beliefs and values of many in the Southern Baptist Convention,” according to a statement the church released to Louisiana’s Baptist Message newsjournal.
Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, will escrow what would amount to $1 million annually, the Message reported Feb. 16.
In a text to Baptist Press, Message Editor Will Hall noted he had queried Prestonwood about its giving to SBC causes after pastor Jack Graham was interviewed in December by The Wall Street Journal. Graham told The Journal the church was “considering making major changes in our support of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
At issue, Graham said in the interview, was alleged “disrespectfulness” by ERLC President Russell Moore toward evangelical supporters of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Moore, who publicly opposed Trump during the primary and general election cycles, said in a December blog post he never intended to criticize all evangelicals who supported Trump.
Graham is a member of Trump’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board.
Some Southern Baptists also have criticized the ERLC for joining a friend of the court brief last May in support of a New Jersey Islamic society’s right to build a mosque. The International Mission Board joined the brief as well, and IMB President David Platt apologized Feb. 15 for the divisive nature of the action. See related story.
Graham, a former SBC president, told BP via text message Prestonwood is engaging in “an internal evaluation” of its giving, “and our desire is not to seek publicity so we can make the right decision for our church and Southern Baptists.”
Asked whether Prestonwood also will escrow funds for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention — the state convention with which it cooperates — Graham responded, “We’re evaluating everything.”
Graham told the Message he is “not angry at the SBC, and neither are our people, and I’m not working to start a movement to fire anyone.” He wants Prestonwood to remain “a cooperating partner with the SBC as we have been for many years” but cited “uneasiness” among church leaders about the “disconnect between some of our denominational leaders and our churches.”
SBTC executive director Jim Richards told BP in a statement, “In our fellowship of churches, Prestonwood Baptist Church has been a faithful ministry partner for many years. We love Jack Graham and his people. It is our hope that these concerns can be resolved in a way that strengthens the kingdom work of Southern Baptists and honors the autonomy of the local church. We stand ready to assist as we have opportunity.”
ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press in a statement, “I love and respect Jack Graham and Prestonwood Baptist Church. This is a faithful church with gifted leaders and a long history of vibrant ministry working and witnessing for Christ.”
Bart Barber, a Texas pastor who serves on the ERLC’s Leadership Council tweeted following Prestonwood’s announcement, “I love and appreciate” Jack Graham “but am an ardent advocate for #ReligiousLiberty and for” CP. “I’m just heartbroken & conflicted.”
In related news, First Baptist Church in Morristown, Tenn., announced last month it would escrow funds traditionally given through CP over concerns related to ERLC and IMB participation in the New Jersey mosque brief. First Baptist pastor Dean Haun resigned as an IMB trustee in November over the brief.
Louisiana Baptist Convention executive director David Hankins and former SBC Executive Committee chairman Bill Harrell both told The Wall Street Journal they know of churches considering a diversion of funds away from the ERLC.
Threats to escrow CP funds have occurred periodically in SBC history. In the mid-1980s, some Southern Baptist conservatives threatened to escrow CP funds if moderates regained control of the convention presidency, BP reported.
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention. David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press.