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Southern Baptist Leaders Meet: 'We Deepened Our Friendship'


The public policy spokesman for the nation's largest Protestant denomination appears to be keeping his job.

Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), met late Monday with Dr. Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). In a joint statement released later, the two declared: "We fully support one another and look forward to working together on behalf of Southern Baptists in the years to come."

Moore and Page cited a joint commitment to the Gospel and to "addressing biblical and Gospel issues on a wide range of topics to a culture that seems to have lost its way."  Specifically, they mentioned religious liberty, racial reconciliation and "the sanctity of human life from the womb to the grave." 

Their two-hour meeting came as the Southern Baptist denomination is vigorously debating its future direction in the areas of politics, race, and theology and in many ways, Moore appears to be at the center of the storm.  The statement did not address any of the controversy surrounding him.

Sing Oldham, an SBC spokesman, told CBN News prior to the meeting that the two leaders would be talking about "bridge-building strategies" in light of Moore's comments during the election about those who supported Donald Trump.  He said another key issue is Moore's support for the right of a Muslim community to build a mosque in New Jersey.

Oldham said that Page and Moore would also talk about "redemptive solutions" for churches that have begun threatening to withhold funds from the SBC.

Oldham characterized the meeting as one that was intended to be private until The Washington Post published a story about it.

Page told The Washington Post that he would not rule out "the possibility that he could ask Moore to resign" but Oldham noted that technically, "we have no authority over any of our entity leaders."  Moore reports to trustees of the ERLC who ultimately decide his fate.

As the Post reported, more than 100 of 46,000 SBC churches are threatening to withhold funding from the SBC umbrella fund. Page said that the SBC's executive committee is studying whether Moore is the primary reason.

In February, powerful Texas megachurch pastor Jack Graham said that his Prestonwood Baptist Church would stop giving $1 million in donations to the fund.

Many believe that displeasure with Moore centers around his outspoken opposition to Donald Trump and his shaming of evangelicals who supported him.  For instance, when some Southern Baptist leaders met at Trump Tower last summer Moore wrote that they had "drunk the Kool-aid."  

Moore has called on Southern Baptists to take a different kind of role in society as the culture has grown increasingly hostile to biblical principles. 

"It is good for American Christianity to no longer think of itself as a 'moral majority,'" he wrote last summer. Instead, he's calling for the body of Christ to be a prophetic minority.

Moore did apologize broadly for his negative comments after the election, saying it was not his intent to criticize those who voted for Trump.

Moore has also pushed for a view of religious freedom that encourages religious liberty for all faiths and he has worked to connect with leaders of other faith groups. Some Southern Baptists felt he went too far in working with the denomination's International Missions Board (IMB) to file an amicus brief supporting a Muslim community's effort to build a mosque in New Jersey.

An IMB trustee later resigned over the brief, saying that Islam doesn't deserve protection and IMB president David Platt apologized for the brief.

Others have supported it noting, as National Review writer Paul Crookston did, that "if 'religious freedom for me but not for thee' becomes the SBC's standard, then the ERLC would morph into the lowerest kind of political operation: one that lobbies for special treatment."

Moore's supporters flocked to social media on Monday after the Post story broke.  J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, told CBN News that he believes Moore is "a leader that is right for this moment," adding "I don't believe that he's perfect" and noting that Moore has acknowledged "going too far" is some of his comments about the election.

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