The Louisiana Baptist Convention’s (LBC) Executive Board has concluded a study of “issues of concern” related to the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and issued a letter commending ERLC President Russell Moore for “confessing his failings.” The letter, addressed to the ERLC president and trustees, also urged Moore “to listen carefully and respectfully to Southern Baptists even as we listen to him.”
BP file photo by Adam Covington
The LBC Executive Board voted to report to the convention’s annual meeting in November “that it has evaluated the complaints lodged against the ERLC, that its leadership has met with Dr. Moore and has sent a letter to the trustees of the ERLC and encourages the churches to continue their generous financial support for all our convention work,” according to a May 11 report by Louisiana’s Baptist Message newsjournal.
Eddie Wren, president of the LBC Executive Board, told Baptist Press (BP) he is “satisfied no other steps [need] to be taken” and asked churches to continue supporting the ERLC and other Southern Baptist causes through the Cooperative Program (CP). The ERLC, he said, should continue to receive its current 1.65 percent share of the Southern Baptist Convention’s CP Allocation Budget.
Moore told BP in written comments, “I’ve had a great time talking with Louisiana Baptist leadership about the ways the gospel intersects with our cultural moment. As I told their leaders recently, too, I look forward as always to partnering with Louisiana Baptists for the sake of the Great Commission and the cause of Christ.”
The LBC Executive Board’s study began in response to a motion at the state convention’s 2016 annual meeting requesting that the Board “study the recent actions of the [Southern Baptist] Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission with regard to issues of concern to Louisiana Baptists.”
The convention referred the motion to its Executive Board.
Moore has drawn criticism for alleged disrespectfulness toward evangelical supporters of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election. In March, Moore issued a statement apologizing “for failing to distinguish” in some instances between Trump supporters who appeared to compromise core Christian principles and those who did not.
The LBC Executive Board’s letter – which was adopted May 3 without opposition – cited Moore’s apology as “key in helping the Louisiana Baptist Convention Executive Board arrive at a proper response” to the motion referred by the convention.
“We want to commend Dr. Moore for plainly confessing his failings that had resulted in the serious breach of fellowship we were observing in our Southern Baptist family,” the letter stated. “Although the [apology] statement did not address all the various particular complaints people had lodged, we believe it has encouraged folks to look for positive, rather than punitive, ways to work with the ERLC going forward.”
The letter thanked Moore “for his leadership and contribution on important matters such as the sanctity of human life, the biblical view of marriage and sexuality and racial justice.” Executive Board members pledged to pray for the ERLC.
“We hope that we will be able to forge consensus among Southern Baptists as we attempt to bear witness in cultural conflicts,” the letter stated. “We encourage the ERLC to tread carefully in those matters where our people have genuine differences of opinion.”
A four-hour meeting at the ERLC’s Nashville office in January involving Moore and three LBC leaders “was very helpful, though not conclusive, in our process,” according to the letter. The three LBC leaders in attendance were Wren, LBC President Gevan Spinney and LBC executive director David Hankins.
Wren, pastor of First Baptist Church in Rayville, La., said Louisiana Baptist leaders requested the meeting. Throughout a question-and-answer session about Moore’s statements and actions, the ERLC president was “very gracious” and “never defensive,” Wren said.
“It wasn’t that a resolution was met,” Wren said, “and I’m not sure that was the purpose of the meeting. We wanted to hear his heart and hear where he was coming from and really get to know him a little more. … I left the meeting feeling very positive.”
Moore “loves the Lord, and he wants to stand for the Kingdom of God,” Wren said.
In related news, Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church concluded a study of its CP giving April 26 that began, at least in part, over concerns related to the ERLC. The Plano, Texas, congregation said it was “renewing our commitment to Southern Baptist missions by giving to the Cooperative Program without designation.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)