Russell Moore responds to Southern Baptist detractors

Left, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to supporters in Charleston, W.Va., on May 5, 2016. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Chris Tilley. Right, Russell Moore leads a June 9, 2014, panel discussion. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

(RNS) Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore, who has drawn praise and pans for his critiques of President-elect Donald Trump, has apologized to Southern Baptists who think he was critical of anyone who voted for the Republican candidate.

“There’s a massive difference between someone who enthusiastically excused immorality and someone who felt conflicted, weighed the options based on biblical convictions, and voted their conscience,” he said in a column published Monday (Dec. 19).

His column appeared on the same day The Wall Street Journal reported some of Moore’s critics are considering withdrawing support for the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which Moore has led since 2013.

The Journal quoted Robert Jeffress, senior pastor at First Baptist Dallas and a Trump supporter, who said members of his church don’t believe the ERLC “represents our church’s beliefs.”

Some SBC members fear Moore’s stances will limit their access to the new administration. And Louisiana Baptists have asked their leaders to study recent actions of the ERLC, though the convention’s executive director, David Hankins, called defunding the agency “a last resort.”

“I’m not aware of any churches that have pulled funding yet, but I’m aware some have said they’re going to,” Hankins told the newspaper. “People are mulling their options.”

In his column, Moore explained why he didn’t vote for either Trump or Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“For me, to vote for either candidate, I felt, would be to sin against my own conscience,” he said.

But he urged those who made a similar decision and those who did vote at the top of their ballots to not judge one another. He also called for Christian unity as well as prayers for Trump: “(W)e owe it to him to work with him for the common good everywhere possible.”

RELATED: Marginalizing Russell Moore is grave mistake for Southern Baptists

In the midst of the campaign, Trump tweeted that Moore was “a terrible representative of Evangelicals and all of the good that they stand for. A nasty guy with no heart!” Moore tweeted in response “Sad!”

Now, Moore has been the subject of an #IStandWithMoore Twitter hashtag campaign, while former GOP presidential candidate and fellow Southern Baptist Mike Huckabee has been quoted by as saying, “I am utterly stunned that Russell Moore is being paid by Southern Baptists to insult them.”



The swirl of debate around Moore is not new. He has previously been outspoken about and criticized for his statements on issues such as immigration, the Confederate flag and religious liberty for Muslims.

In his column, Moore said there were times during the campaign that he thought it would be “negligent” to keep quiet.

“(I)t is precisely because Southern Baptists are pro-life, pro-family, pro-religious freedom, pro-racial reconciliation, and pro-character-in-public-office that I felt it was my responsibility to speak out on those issues,” he said. “For me, to remain silent — rightly or wrongly — felt negligent.”

Ken Barbic, the chairman of the ERLC’s trustees, continues to support Moore. He told Baptist Press, the news service of the denomination, that Moore “is a Gospel centered and faithful voice for Southern Baptists.”

About the author

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks, production editor and a national reporter, joined RNS in 1995. An award-winning journalist, she previously was the religion reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and a reporter at The Providence Journal and newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Syracuse and Binghamton.


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  • Russell Moore speaks for me. That so many who claim to be evangelical could vote for Trump is astonishing. These are the same folks who castigated Bill Clinton for his character deficiencies when he was president. Well, if character mattered to you then, why not now?

  • “The prior administration… was divisive” (from one of the tweets above). I still cannot fathom how massively brainwashed some folks are. Years of fake news have taken their toll. I’m no fan of Obama, but the ridiculous lies people believe about him are just sickening.

  • To summarize this article: The SBC is afraid they will lose political influence if they do not bow to Caesar. That’s just the kind of political atmosphere Trump wants.

  • Gosh, I don’t know. No joke. Have no idea.

    But somewhere in the past 18 months, I became totally convinced that HILLARY was able to answer your question. (Bill too, depending on which tarmac he lands on, but specifically
    *Hillary’s* words and deeds this time around.)

    So it’s a good question there, but I simply defer such questions to Hillary now.

  • “Well, if character mattered to you then, why not now?”

    Because character never mattered. Neither did morals or principles. It was always about power and how to wield it against others. What better example than the “Pro-life” and “Family Values” political agendas. Attempts to use the force of law to force others to follow in precepts of your sectarian religious beliefs.

    “Pro-Life” is all about forcing women to accept your judgment and input into her personal decisions.
    “Family Values” is a catchall for attacking access to family planning, attacking single parents for existing or being impoverished, attacking gays for existing, promoting censorship, promoting sectarian discrimination.

    It was never about upholding “Christian principles and values” it was always about forcing others to follow one’s view of such things through coercion. Forced “values” are none at all. An act is not moral if one does it involuntarily.

    Since morals and principles never really mattered much to begin with for that crowd, it was easy for evangelicals to sell them out for empty promises of access to political power.

  • They did that a while ago when they threw their support into trying to give discrimination color of law. Moore’s current stance was simply a political gamble which did not pay off.

  • “Ken Barbic … continues to support Moore.”

    Of course he does. Moore is the religious arm of Ken Barbic’s secular lobbying effort to bring in more cheap immigrant labor to help the agricultural industry.

    Just look at what his job is:

  • This is why I left the Baptist church. “It was never about upholding “Christian principles and values” it was
    always about forcing others to follow one’s view of such things through
    coercion.” Their “love” comes with lots of strings attached.

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