A shocking letter from Russell Moore, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, provides some insights into the topics of conversations he was having with SBC leadership in the months leading up to his resignation earlier this month. Namely, Moore clashed with SBC executives surrounding the convention’s stance on sexual abuse and racism within the church.
In his letter to the ERLC Board of Trustees obtained by Religion News Service, Moore mentions various conversations he had where people seemingly threatened him and his job if he were to continue speaking out against racism in the SBC and advocating for survivors of sexual abuse. He claimed that two secret task forces were created “to keep a cloud over me, and to keep me self-censoring and silent about these matters.”
“From the very beginning of my service, I have been attacked with the most vicious guerilla tactics on such matters, and have been told to be quiet about this by others,” wrote Moore.
Although Moore did not mention any names, he did recount specific, jaw-dropping conversations he had with leaders in his letter. One SBC leader threatened Moore after he allowed Rachael Denhollander to speak up about the SBC’s well-documented struggles with sexual abuse. Another leader who protested the hiring of Trillia Newbell allegedly told Moore he was “really just concerned about that Black girl” because “a lot of those Black girls” were egalitarian. He recounts other conversations that showcase the dark side of the SBC, including threats he received from white nationalists.
Through all he endured, however, Moore maintained that he stayed with the SBC for so long in the hope that he could steer the convention in a Christ-like direction. He speaks highly of many colleagues and convention members he worked with, but acknowledged that there was still a “small group in the shadows” that needed to be brought into the light. Moore says that one leader told him in 2017 that “We know we can’t take you down. All our wives and kids are with you. This is psychological warfare, to make you think twice before you do or say something.”
“When God called me to himself in Jesus, and when he called me to serve him in ministry, he called me to stand for the truth, to point the way to the kingdom, to die to self, and to carry the cross,” Moore wrote. “He did not call me to provide cover for racial bigotry and child molestation. I will not do that.”
This month, Moore took a new job as minister in residence at Immanuel Nashville, a non-denominational Tennessee church that is not affiliated with the SBC.
“In every other instance, I have tried to do what I thought was right: to be quiet, to bear all of this, including the spiritually abusive private meetings that I cannot even bear to think about right now,” wrote Moore. “I have not wanted to defend myself. I just counted on others to do so, and to know that Jesus would bring to light, as he promises, every hidden thing on that day. But I want you to know that I can’t bear it any more. I think to be the subject to all of this that goes on in secret makes me, in some ways, complicit with what I believe to be evil.”