The Southern Baptist Convention has released a report in which it calls its own Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission - the convention’s public policy arm - a “significant distraction from the Great Commission work of Southern Baptists".
The ERLC is headed up by Russell Moore - an ethicist and prominent critic of former president Donald Trump.
The commissioned SBC report, led by Georgia pastor Mike Stone, included a quote from the leader of a state Baptist convention who criticised the ERLC as being "a stumbling block not worth the mission dollar investment".
“The task force sought to find objective verifiable facts,” the report added. "Based on the statistical information we received, the direction of the ERLC is a significant source of division..."
The report claimed that many churches have left the SBC due to a perceived “liberal” drift - it took aim at Moore for leading the charge in that area, despite the fact he holds traditionally conservative views in many key areas. The report stopped short of calling for Moore's removal, however it did recommend that the ERLC refrains from making public comments on any political candidate in the future, and urged the group to only address issues that the SBC has passed resolutions on.
Moore, a passionate advocate on issues related to racial and social justice, was publicly attacked by Trump after lambasting the politician for stirring up "bigotry" across the US. “Russell Moore is truly a terrible representative of Evangelicals and all of the good they stand for,” the former president fired back on Twitter as he prepared to receive the Republican nomination. “A nasty guy with no heart!”
Stone insisted that the report was "not based on anecdotes or third-hand reports. It is based, almost exclusively, on documented facts received from the chief executive officers of various state conventions".
While Moore has chosen not to comment publicly on the report, David Prince, chairman of the ERLC’s board of trustees said that Southern Baptist "can see this report for exactly what it is" and should "be ready to move on from this moment and focus on our mission together".
“The ERLC has served Southern Baptists faithfully during a time of political, cultural, and in some cases, denominational chaos," Prince told the Baptist Press. "Much of this chaos remains with us, including widespread news of many of our black and brown brothers and sisters leaving the SBC. That should be alarming to all of us.
“Regardless, all this and more is why I am grateful the ERLC serves our churches with a vibrant and bold Gospel witness day in and day out.”