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.
by David Roach
NASHVILLE (BP) – With an ad hoc committee of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee set to begin its study of churches’ escrowing Cooperative Program money, EC chairman Stephen Rummage says the study was occasioned in part by the notable volume of contacts the EC has received regarding the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
ERLC President Russell Moore told Baptist Press the entity is “a servant of our churches” and “happy to work with the Executive Committee.”
Meanwhile, Jack Graham, pastor of Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church, told BP the congregation will conclude its internal study of giving to SBC causes before the convention’s June annual meeting in Phoenix. Prestonwood announced last month it would escrow CP funds over “various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.” Prestonwood plans to continue cooperating with the SBC in some form, Graham, a former convention president, said via text message.
Other churches have taken or are considering similar action over concerns related to multiple SBC entities, according to reports received by the EC.
Rolland Slade, chairman of the EC’s CP Committee told BP today (March 6) the ad hoc study group will include 11 members : Slade, pastor of Meridian Baptist Church in El Cajon, Calif.; Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla.; EC vice chairman Shane Hall, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Oklahoma City; Dave Bryan, pastor of Chisholm Heights Baptist Church in Mustang, Okla.; Daniel Carr, pastor of Canaan Baptist Church in St. Louis; B. Scott Davis, pastor of Pitts Baptist Church in Concord, N.C.; Dale Jenkins, pastor of Airway Heights (Wash.) Baptist Church; Mike Lawson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sherman, Texas; Glynn Rhinehart, a member of First Baptist Church in Youngsville, La.; Hoyt Savage, pastor of Foothills Baptist Church in Las Vegas; and Jared Wellman, pastor of Mission Dorado Baptist Church in Odessa, Texas.
The group’s initial meeting, Slade said, likely will occur via conference call. A date for the meeting will be calendared by March 18.
According to a motion unanimously adopted by the CP Committee last month, the study committee will “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.”
Slade said in an email the study committee “will discuss ways to discover whether escrowing CP funds is widespread and, if so, the reasons why; then we can begin to develop redemptive solutions to resolve the issues … We’ll likely look at this issue, share our findings with the [EC] officers and the CP Committee and then with the full EC.”
Slade said he will “stress with the group” that “this is first and foremost a Kingdom effort, not an effort to single out an individual, entity or point of view. What affects CP affects the work of Southern Baptists. We must be about sharing the Gospel to the world.”
Rummage told the SBC This Week podcast March 3 the ad hoc committee, and a separate study of SBC entities to be undertaken by the EC officers, is necessary because “a lot of … churches” have “concerns about some of the things that are happening in certain SBC entities. Specifically, some of the actions of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission have caused a lot of churches to respond and register concerns.”
Rummage added, “In fact, our Executive Committee staff tells me that they have received more letters, more calls, more emails [from] people who are considering defunding or holding back CP monies” over “this issue” than “from any other issue in memory.”
The ad hoc committee’s study will examine “the way our churches are responding” to all SBC entities, Rummage said, even though discussion of the ERLC “has surfaced most strongly” in recent months.
Roger S. Oldham, EC vice president for convention communications and relations, told BP the EC office has processed dozens of requests over the past year from churches seeking to withdraw from the SBC.
“Pastors seldom call or write the EC offices to express concerns about an entity, so when they do it is notable,” Oldham said in written comments. “Our practice is to refer them to the entity’s leaders or its trustees. In addition to numerous conversations with pastors expressing frustration or even threatening to withhold CP funds this past year, our office processed requests from 49 churches to withdraw from the convention, up from the half dozen or so we usually process in a given year. We grieve each time we send a notice to our entities that a church has voted to leave the convention.”
Moore told BP in written comments, “The ERLC could not do what it does without the sacrificial giving of churches, and there is hardly anything more foundational in our denomination than our Cooperative Program partnership, working together for the sake of Gospel advance.
“As a servant of our churches, we are happy to work with the Executive Committee, and more broadly, grateful to be able to serve our churches daily, whether by answering their questions, providing resources and assistance or standing alongside them in the public square contending for the fundamental issues of life, family and religious liberty,” Moore said.
Rummage expressed hope that churches’ concerns can be resolved.
A decision by Prestonwood to resume CP giving could indicate resolution of “most of the concerns that have been raised by the [Executive] Committee” because Prestonwood appears representative of other concerned congregations, Rummage said.
Graham told BP Prestonwood executive pastor Mike Buster “is chairing a study committee to evaluate our SBC giving” and the committee has “nothing to report” at present.
According to data from the SBC’s Annual Church Profile, Prestonwood has given $500,000 through CP each of the last three fiscal years for which data is available. The congregation has given approximately $500,000 each of those years through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and $100,000 through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions, according to ACP data.
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.