Christian Converser

Russell Moore Resignation Draws Attention to Southern Baptist Coverup of Racism and Abuse

It seems since this blog has formed a lot has been written about events in the United States. The intention of this blog is to focus on topical issues across the entire Christian church. America ends up getting more focus than anywhere else because there is more theological controversy there than anywhere else, regrettably. News and information sources for this blog are drawn from across the world but there are some gaps in coverage at least in part because of language barriers. Anywhere here is another post on the church in America and it is a serious concern what has been articulated in the content because there is still a massive desire by this prominent denomination to cover over major concerns relating to sexual abuse and racism. Russell Moore is the former head of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, who recently resigned from that body to take up a public theologian post at Christianity Today Magazine, and he has also formally renounced his personal membership of the SBC by changing to a church of another denominational affiliation.

Today, it also came out that he had written a formal letter to the ERLC Board outlining the key issues that he had experienced whilst leading the ERLC. In effect the letter which has been published on Religion News explains what has led to his resignation from ERLC and SBC. It paints a serious picture of the kind of issues that are riving the church in America; and it outlines that the church has some serious work to do in rooting out these kinds of attitudes from within their ranks. For decades, all of the public attention has been on the Roman Catholic Church for its historical record of dealing with abuse and abusive practices. But now, the focus is shifting to major Protestant denominations, and the SBC is probably the largest of these to come to notice in recent years. Clearly, the racism issue is the most prominent one in wider American society, and the Southern Baptist churches need to do a lot more to address it.

The key issue for the Southern Baptist Convention is to address these issues instead of allowing a very small minority of their membership to keep public divisiveness in the foreground. Critical race theory has been in the headlines for the past year due to an ill advised backlash against its recognition in earlier SBC leadership meetings. CRT itself is simply a theory that seeks to understand embedded / systemic racism within the legal systems of countries and has been around for the last 30-40 years so there is nothing that new about it. There is a lot of detail about CRT in an article posted on Snopes’ website a week ago and it’s clear that American conservatism, which is often indistinguishable from the evangelical church over there, has taken aim at it not because of any sound basis for opposition (apart from informed academic critique) but because of a strong desire to oppose the past year of strident anti-racism campaigns. Whilst the racism issue has become prominent within SBC, it is quite something else to realise that there has been concerted pushback against sexual abuse resolution.

Clearly, Russell Moore is a standout example of principled godly leadership in a nation where the evangelical community is constantly riven by theological and political controversy. This is of considerable importance to the Christian church worldwide because of the tendency for American evangelicals to dominate the church worldwide. Even in New Zealand where this is being written, significant US-made church content is broadcast daily on a national TV channel and a great deal more is available on free to air satellite and IPTV broadcasts, as well as Youtube. Balanced viewpoints that incorporate a broader understanding of church history and theology tend to be less visible or get overlooked. Russell Moore is a theologian the world should take notice of because he has bucked the prominent evangelical lobby and the widespread concerns over many issues that seem to dominate the US Church. Ultimately many of these issues are a huge political distraction from what should be the key focus of the Church on preaching the Gospel. The wider concern is that the nature of them show that parts of the US evangelical community are unable to achieve that focus. And the third issue is that US evangelicalism has become concerned with maintaining its own political privilege in its home nation and by implication, its dominance in the world in general. A large part of the recent controversy for US evangelicalism has of course revolved around the person of Donald Trump and his role as US president in the last term. The American evangelical church is moving into serious heresy and idolatry with the focus it has placed upon Trump and his policies.