Russell Moore answers all you wanted to know about sex (but were afraid to ask)

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Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, right, leads a June 9, 2014, panel discussion with (left to right) Phillip Bethancourt, director of strategic initiatives at the ERLC; Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.; and David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.

RNS photo courtesy Paul W. Lee

Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, right, leads a June 9, 2014, panel discussion with (left to right) Phillip Bethancourt, director of strategic initiatives at the ERLC; Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.; and David Platt, pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.

(RNS) The issues sound like they belong on the therapist’s couch:

The couple that hasn’t had sex eight months into their marriage.

The parents who can’t deal with their son’s homosexuality.

The male teen who wants to be called by a girl’s name.

But they’re also the kinds of topics that frequently crowd the inbox of Russell Moore, who recently marked his first anniversary as the Southern Baptist Convention’s top public policy expert.

Though he often grapples with contentious political issues — the Hobby Lobby case, religious persecution and, most recently, the immigrant border crisis — Moore has spent much of his first year at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission writing blog posts on Christian sexual ethics.

“Probably day to day I’m dealing with more church issues of how do we deal with these tough ethical issues,” he said recently.

Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, right, leads a June 9, 2014, panel discussion as David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, listens.

RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, right, leads a June 9, 2014, panel discussion as David Platt, pastor of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., listens.

Moore, 42, cited a query from a minister on how to deal with a transgender congregant as a reason for his commission’s upcoming conference on “The Gospel, Homosexuality and the Future of Marriage.” He hopes to help church leaders tackle modern-day questions as they hold onto age-old Scriptures. More than 1,000 are expected for the fall national leadership summit.

“That pastor is asking a question that nobody at the 1970 Southern Baptist Convention was asking,” he said of the minister who hesitated to address a 15-year-old boy in his congregation as a girl.

But these quandaries aren’t new for Moore.

As a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary years ago, he asked students on a final exam how they would guide a “Joan” who was born “John” but is seeking a pastor’s direction to do what’s right.

“Most of the students in the room thought that I was throwing them an ethical curveball but every congregation is having to address that issue,” Moore said in an interview. “I think we have to equip people to be able to deal with that.”

In the real-life example from the pastor, Moore said there are no easy answers.

“He has to see this person as a person, not as just a set of issues,” he said.

In June, delegates to the SBC annual meeting passed a resolution affirming that God created “two distinct and complementary sexes” and opposing “efforts to alter one’s bodily identity,” a statement criticized by the LGBT advocacy organization GLAAD.

“I think that Russell Moore will always continue to see transgender people as others,” said Ross Murray, a GLAAD staffer with expertise in working with LGBT religious issues. “I think his advice to people comes more out of making sure that he can keep and understand a world order that he understands.”

More traditional issues keep him busy, too.

Amid recent tweets on the current border crisis and the nominee for U.S. ambassador-at-large for religious freedom, he linked to his most recent column on marital life: “Does he need to confess adultery to his wife?”

In a word, yes.

“I do think that you need to tell her and for several reasons: One of those reasons being, you have sinned against her,” Moore wrote in his latest “Questions and Ethics” commentary on The Gospel Coalition’s website.

He also advised the questioner: “Do not give even the appearance that you are blaming her.”

Amy DeRogatis, author of the forthcoming book “Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in American Evangelicalism,” said Moore represents the mainstream view of U.S. evangelicals.

“They’re not anti-sex but they are very clear about the parameters of sanctioned sex,” she said.

Moore’s colleagues say he’s giving public expression to topics fellow evangelical leaders might think should be private but need to be brought out in the open.

“He brings to the surface a lot of questions that people have and don’t know how to address but need to address,“ said Alabama megachurch pastor and author David Platt.

In March, Moore took on the topic of a sexless marriage, raised by a pastor of a small congregation, approached by a woman whose new husband had refused sex in the eight months since they wed.

“It seems that I am finding more and more young couples having sexual difficulties,” Moore said at the time.

In his response, Moore was direct. “This is a marriage in crisis,” he wrote.

Among his suggestions: Seek professional counseling to learn whether there was some unresolved trauma in the man’s life.

Moore has also advised parents not to reject their gay children: “Be clear about your convictions, and at the same time don’t exile your child from your life.”

Murray said he’s glad Moore doesn’t want parents to kick out their gay children, “which is something that has been taught by conservative Christian churches.” But he wishes Moore would listen to people who are “just as faithful in their scriptural witness” but come to different conclusions.

Trillia Newbell, consultant for women’s initiatives at the ERLC, said Moore has managed to move beyond words on paper to addressing people’s sexuality concerns more directly with “a pastoral heart.”

“He’s not just looking at them as an issue — black or white,” she said. “These are real people who are dealing with this. It’s not just something that we can make a statement on and move on.”


  • Lles Nats

    Liberal ideaology has been dominant since the hippies. No wonder no one asked these questions before that. The boomefs were thr first group to actually embrace zero responsability for their lives as the ultimate ideal.

    Prior to that people were mostly about responsability and sound reasoning. Not now. And as a matter of public education, its politically incorrect to tell the kiddies they are anything more than animals who will have sex with multiple partners as they grow up. Nope kid, sorry, that is the best you will ever get. Thr pinnacle of your existence is the orgasim.

    The country is total crap. America is a pass. No one needs it except for the freaks and morally conflicted who love the folsom parade and want to masterbate in the streets but at the same time demand respect.

    We died as a worthy people when we shunned responsability. Liberals teach that actively. Blame a liberal.

  • Neo

    But looks like Dr.Moore is avoiding the taboo sex topics, like divorce and deliberate childlessness, etc.

  • Frank

    Keep up the great work Mr. Moore.

  • EDGY

    Lles, perhaps the pain of being in this country is too much for you. Have you considered moving on? I mean, don’t you have faith that a better place awaits you? I can hardly stand to read the pain that is so obviously reviled in your tirades. Such hatred, such misery. End it now! It is your only chance to have a peaceful existence, somewhere…….like China.

  • Lles Nats

    I believe the chinese people know where they stand with their oligarchy run gov. There is little illusion. We by contrast, do not. Much is illusion until we protest something, then the beatings and arrests proliferate. And we are upset because we thought we were in charge.

    Russia actually sounds good to me. A strong people with high ideals for themselves. Thats the most important part. Pretty fearless too. They just need a stronger economic system and currency, but I read that they are working on it.

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  • Theophilus

    I have a lot of admiration for Moore. He is thoroughly biblical, but even someone like Murray (I think) would agree that he is not motivated in the least by personal animus.

    He does take on some difficult issues. He says that parents should not estrange themselves from their gay children. But what if they claim to be Christians and are put under church discipline? (He may have a good answer for that; I’m just not sure what it would be.)

    A young man who wants to be called by a girl’s name? To me this is a psycho/spiritual problem akin to cutting one’s skin with a razor blade; not a sin per se, but evidence of a problem. I would encourage such a person to take his current state as an indication that he should remain celibate for now, but I would comply with his wishes.

  • Eric

    Hey Frankie-No-Facts,

    Moore has to *start* doing great work before he can keep it up. So far no signs of that happening, though. Just a kinder, gentler face of the same patriarchal game.

  • Eric

    I’d like to ask Moore why he thinks Christians should conform to the world by adopting without question beliefs about sex and gender based on Greco-Roman culture.

  • Lles Nats

    Is that what sex and gender is based on? Huh. Well I learn an new lie everyday.

  • Lles Nats

    Behold, an expert. He is capable of unraveling the sticking points between feelings/dogma/tradition and sexuality. Ask away and be enlightened!

    I just have to wonder, what are his qualifications that level him up beyond everyone else?

  • Theophilus

    If you’re going to ask a loaded question, why not go big? “Why do insist on promoting the Christian faith when you know it is false?”

  • Lles Nats

    A loaded question…meaning we all know that original stmt was false…thus the loading of my question?

    You don’t know christianity is false any more than I or any more than any other religion or secular worldview.

    I choose to believe it true because I don’t trust man’s judgement alone. I don’t think we are capable of absorbing all the best information on any given situation to always come up with the best answer.

    Alternatively, I assume those that believe religions false, and thus god non existent, believe that way because they trust man.

  • Theophilus

    My comment was directed to Eric.

  • Frank

    Willful ignorance is not attractive on you.

  • Lles Nats

    I apologize.

  • Eric

    Not a lie, hoss. Maybe take some time to learn before you speak on a topic. Unless you think the Bible fell straight from heaven. In which case history and facts probably don’t mean much to you in the first place.

  • Eric

    If Moore wants to contest my premise, he can certainly try.

  • Lles Nats

    Ah. I was thinking more simplistic. As in, I can look at myself in a mirror and make accurate assumptions about the rest. I don’t think I will spend the effort studying the greeks or romans to enlighten me further.

  • Eric

    Had no real expectations you would. Keep up the narcissism, though. Clearly working for you.

  • Eric

    If anyone is an expert on willful ignorance, Frankie-No-Facts, it is you.

  • EDGY

    Russia it is then! Always glad to help a fellow human being in need. Since you’re in the Atlanta area (OO) I’ve found a one way flight from Atlanta, GA to Moscow, Russian Federation.

    U.S. Airways (I thought you’d appreciate the irony) flight 1787 departs from Atlanta, GA, International airport at 3:30 P.M. on Tue, September 2.

    The extra month will give you a little time to learn to speak Russian. If you are religious, (I suspect you are), you already know how to live on your knees though, so you’ll be plenty ready!

    It will only cost me $546.36, and I am more than willing to contribute to the cause alone, however in reading the responses to your ridiculous tirades over the last few months, I’m sure I can get some others to pitch in so you can find a “motherland” that you can be proud of and happy in.

    It has a layover in Germany, and if you want to hop off there instead, feel free to do so.

    Just post your real name (Lles Nats is not it), and your address, and get your passport ready! I’ll arrange for you to pick up the ticket at the counter for free, just like food stamps! In just a little over a month you’ll finally be ride of this nation.

    May you find peace my friend!

  • Eric

    Ahahahaha! Well, Lles, how about it?

  • Frank

    Even your attempts at attacking me fail miserably. So sad.

  • @Lles Nats,

    “We died as a worthy people when we shunned responsibility.”

    Shame on you!

    So you have your own ‘get out of jail for free’ card called vicarious redemption which puts irresponsibility on STEROIDS!

    No matter what evil you want to do – you are free to do it – WITH JESUS.
    as long as you use your little card:

    “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” – Jesus (John 15:3)

    Jesus is a disgusting, immoral bauble from the bronze age.
    Shame on you.

  • @Lles,

    “You don’t know christianity is false any more than I ”

    Yet you hold to your ridiculous claims
    And people are killed everywhere in the world:

    “bring to me those enemies of mine who would not have me as their King and EXECUTE THEM IN FRONT OF ME.” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

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  • mot

    I really doubt much will come from this conference. But the 1000 will be able to say they went to “The Gospel …………Conference.

  • Frank

    God made them male and female. Stop being desperate. It’s not attractive.

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