Russell Moore’s recent actions highlight a major problem within the SBC, we have been Canaanized. As Israel during the time of the judges, many want to do what is right in their own eyes. This Canaanization runs deeper than we think. Remember, Moore was the head of the ERLC. In the SBC system, the church messengers ultimately appoint entity heads through an involved voting process. That system is too intricate to detail here. The point is that the establishing of entity heads in the final analysis is a bottom up system. If you are upset about the actions of Russell Moore (and you should be), then remember that we the churches of the SBC were the driving force that made him the president of our Ethics Commission. Politics is downstream from culture and culture is downstream from religion. If things are not smelling good downstream, look up stream.
Regrettably, Russell Moore’s departure from the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has come with public scandal. Moore has written a letter to his colleague and president of the SBC J. D. Greear which has been “leaked,” drawing the attention of national news outlets. You can read that letter here. You can find a response from Pastor Mike Stone here. Much could be said about this troubling episode, but focusing on the Canaanite nature of what has occurred will help us all get a grip on what is going on in the broader scheme of things.
What is plain to anyone reading Moore’s letter is that it was written to be read by a broader audience than the one to whom it was addressed. Moore states in his letter to Greear, “I write this letter mainly because I feel conscience-driven to put down in writing what we have seen, if only so that I can be reminded of it myself if ever I find myself in a similar environment.” Yet, in that same letter, Moore provides a detailed description of Rachel Denhollander, a lady well known by both Moore and the recipient of this personal letter, J. D. Greear—”The defining moment—as it relates to the past year—of that conference was, of course, the conversation I had with Rachel Denhollander, the Olympic gymnast, attorney, and advocate for survivors of sexual abuse.” You can read Moore’s letter above and see for yourself that it was not intended as private correspondence to Greear. Moore was writing a Parthian shot public statement that there is a significant cancer of wickedness, racism, and abuse within the ranks of the SBC. The charges are grievous:
“The crisis is multi-pronged as you and I have discussed, as seen in the blatant, gutter level racism that has been expressed to me behind closed doors.”
“But sooner or later the majority of Southern Baptists will have to decide whether this sort of wickedness can continue to go on under their name.”
“You and I both heard, in closed door meetings, sexual abuse survivors spoken of in terms of “Potiphar’s wife” and other spurious biblical analogies. The conversations in these closed door meetings were far worse than anything Southern Baptists knew—or the outside world could report.”
“Now, as I said to my trustee officers last year, through all of this I have tried to smile and pretend that everything is alright with me personally and refrain from revealing the horrific actions you and I have experienced behind the scenes.”
“But the strategy is clear—an endless psychological warfare aimed at silencing through intimidation.”
An honest reader is left with an obvious question—”Why did Moore keep silent for so long about the gutter-level racism, horrific actions, abuse, and intimidation that he was privy to “behind closed doors” and “behind the scenes”? And why did he not abide by Christ’s teaching and confront those in sin directly, then taking one or two others along with him, and then telling the matter to their churches (Matthew 18:15-17)? I can certainly think of a number of excuses as to why not to do so. But, that would be exactly what they are, excuses for disobeying Creator’s Word and opting for creature’s word.