Moore, ERLC’s clarifying joint statement includes apology

When I look out across our denomination, we have too much at stake and too much for which to be grateful to be divided,” Russell Moore wrote as he concluded his 1,691-word clarification and apology statement released March 20. The statement was praised by Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Steve Gaines.

Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said, “The gospel wins over everything in the end. I pray that the gospel would win in our denomination, in our churches and in my own heart.”

His statement is combined with a 536-word statement from ERLC’s executive committee. The “Seeking Unity in the Southern Baptist Convention” combined statement comes after the “bridge building” meeting between Moore and Frank S. Page, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee.

The March 13 meeting between Moore and Page took place after several churches expressed concern about alleged disrespectfulness by Moore toward evangelical supporters of President Donald Trump and about a friend of the court brief signed by ERLC in support of a New Jersey Islamic society’s right to build a mosque.

An initial joint statement was released from that meeting noting “we fully support one another and look forward to working together on behalf of Southern Baptists in the years to come.”

The follow-up statement from Moore and ERLC sought to clarify criticism he had leveled at Christians who supported Trump for president and affirm Moore’s ongoing leadership as president of the SBC entity, respectively.

The ERLC executive committee acknowledged criticisms of Moore and stated: “We are convinced that Dr. Moore has sought to be attentive and responsive to those who have brought concerns to him.

“We realize that divisions do not heal overnight and as needs arise our board will be happy to address them. But in terms of leadership and support Dr. Moore is the man to whom it has been entrusted to lead this entity — speaking prophetically both to our culture and to our convention. He will continue doing so with the confidence of our support,” the ERLC executive committee stated.

Moore acknowledged that he had spoken “often quite sharply” about Christians who said moral issues and character didn’t matter in the election.

He said he was not intending, however, “to talk about Southern Baptists and others — and there were many — who were open about all of these issues but believed in supporting candidates, however flawed, who would appoint good people and carry out good policies on some issues.”

Friends ‘wounded’

And he was “not meaning to suggest it was sinful for Southern Baptists or others to advise candidates or to serve on advisory boards in order to bear some influence there,” Moore said. He said close friends were among those “wounded” by “contextless or unhelpful posts on social media about the whirl of the news cycle. I cannot go back and change time, and I cannot apologize for my underlying convictions. But I can — and do — apologize for failing to distinguish between people who shouldn’t have been in the same category with those who put politics over the gospel and for using words, particularly in social media, that were at times overly broad or unnecessarily harsh.

“The same gospel that reconciles us to God is the same gospel that allows us to be reconciled to one another. I learned that from y’all. That’s why they gave me those Southern Baptist missions offering envelopes. I pray that our quarters, and more importantly our gospel unity and clarity, go out to our first-rate Southern Baptist missionaries and church planters and evangelists and seminary students for the sake of what will outlive our ministries and will outlast the Southern Baptist Convention — the glory of God and the souls of those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.”

In response to the statement, Gaines said the SBC should put division over ERLC “behind us” and move forward in support of the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ unified method of funding missions and ministries in North America and across the globe.

Also responding to the statement was Jack Graham, pastor of Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church. He tweeted, “This is a gracious and unifying statement from [Moore].”

Original concerns

Graham has been the face of the churches concerned about Moore since he announced in February that Prestonwood Baptist would escrow CP funds over “various significant positions taken by the leadership of [ERLC].”

Graham had complained previously of alleged “disrespectfulness” by Moore toward evangelical supporters of Trump.

To read the full statement from Moore and ERLC, visit (Compiled from BP stories)


Gaines’ response to Moore

I am grateful for the statement from Dr. Russell Moore and the ERLC executive committee,” Steve Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church, said in written comments.

“Regarding [Moore’s] work at the ERLC, I have agreed with most of his statements. … However, I have disagreed with some of the statements he made during the election and I especially disagreed with the tone with which he made some of those statements,” said Gaines, who also serves as SBC president. “He has genuinely apologized … and that is good enough for me.

“I believe all of us who are recipients of grace and forgiveness should grant him the same forgiveness that we desire from the Lord. It is high time that we put all of this behind us. … It is time to move ahead and work together to double our efforts to take the gospel to our nation and the nations.” (BP)