Russell Moore, a top-ranking official in the Southern Baptist Convention, announced his resignation from the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which he has led since 2013.
In a statement on his website, Moore announced he will join Christianity Today, a magazine founded by evangelist Billy Graham, as a public theologian. Moore also will serve as director of Christianity Today’s Public Theology Project, a new venture “devoted to cultivating a forward-looking, joyful, consistent gospel witness.”
Moore’s eight-year tenure with the ERLC has been tumultuous, to say the least. The SBC has come under massive amounts of scrutiny within the last decade, and as director of the ERLC, Moore has been at the center of many of these discussions, frequently pushing back against the convention’s contrarian drift. In his statement, he highlighted much of his work, including “advocating for human dignity, religious freedom for everyone, kindness and civility in the public square, racial reconciliation and justice, and the fight against the scourge of church sexual abuse.”
Tensions between Moore and much of the SBC grew more public during the 2016 presidential election. Moore spoke out about then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, saying many of Trump’s statements were unbiblical. Many young evangelicals praised Moore’s outspokenness, but the statements almost cost Moore his job and churches across the SBC threatened to pull their membership. Moore toned down his political statements until January 2021 when he called for Trump’s resignation following the insurrection.
Alongside his political remarks, Moore also has spoken out against the Church’s trouble with social justice, regarding everything from race to gender. In 2018, Moore spoke at the MLK50 conference about how many white Christians who claim they would have agreed with King’s methods and mission, had they been alive during that time, fail to support direct action and justice today.
“Time and time again in the white American Bible Belt the people of God had to choose between Jesus Christ and Jim Crow because you cannot serve both. And tragically many often chose to serve Jim Crow and to rename him Jesus Christ.”
Moore’s outspoken statements have been met with pushback from members of the SBC. In February, an SBC executive committee released a task force report that stated many convention members saw the ERLC as a distraction. Tensions have remained high and the SBC is beginning to see cracks.
Moore is the latest major SBC leader to step away from the convention. In March, Beth Moore, one of the leading female voices within the SBC, announced she was stepping away from the convention, and numerous Black churches have canceled memberships, as well.
Despite Moore’s ups and downs during his time with the SBC, he is leaving the ERLC in high spirits.
“I am thankful to the board of trustees at the ERLC who labored with me, loved me, supported me, and stood with integrity and conscience. I will be grateful to them for as long as I live,” said Moore. “And I am thankful for Southern Baptists, whom I love and to whom I owe so much.
Moore will officially leave his position June 1, and the ERLC said it would begin the search for his successor.