FeaturedThe Pen

In the Bleak Midwinter with Russell Moore, Donald Trump, and Lottie Moon

On December 19th, 2016, despite the best efforts of Russell Moore, the Electoral College of the United States affirmed Donald J. Trump as the nation’s 45th president. Moore, the President of the Ethics and Religious Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC), ardently opposed the candidacy of Trump on moral grounds in the months leading up to the November presidential election. Despite Moore’s opposition, 80% of white evangelical voters voted for Trump. In other words, the chief ethicist of the Southern Baptist Convention argued that voting for Trump ran contrary to a Christian ethic and almost no one in his own constituency listened.

To the rank and file Southern Baptist pew-sitter, Russell Moore is irrelevant.

Most Southern Baptist laypeople, arguably, don’t even know who Moore is. Yet, nearly $4 million of their Cooperative Giving goes to support the organization he leads. Why? The International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention (IMB) has struggled financially in recent times. From 2010 to 2015 the IMB spent $210 million more than it received in donations. This deficit caused the IMB to cut its workforce by 15%. Even if Russell Moore and the ERLC were being listened to by Southern Baptists, the question would remain, “Should the Southern Baptist Convention fund the efforts of the ERLC in lieu of redirecting funds to the foreign mission field?”

For Prestonwood Baptist Church of Texas, which is pastored by former Southern Baptist Convention President Jack Graham, the answer to that question seems to be “No.” The Wall Street Journal reports that Graham’s church, among others, is “considering making major changes in its support of the Southern Baptist Convention”. Pastor Bill Harrell of Abilene Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia echoed Graham in an interview with National Public Radio. When reached for comment, Harrell said, “There are a number of churches that I have heard of in the SBC, fairly large churches, that are going to withhold their funds from the ERLC…”

Every year at Christmas time, Southern Baptist churches throughout the United States participate in the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. The purpose of this offering is to raise support for foreign missions. The 2016 goal is $155 million dollars. Obviously, the cause of spreading the gospel to foreign shores is near and dear to the hearts of Southern Baptists. Small churches with modest budgets all across the country dedicate themselves to raising thousands of dollars for the Lottie Moon offering each year. Almost every Southern Baptist knows who Lottie Moon was. Many set aside money for the offering named after her at Christmas time. These same Southern Baptists, who obviously aren’t concerned with the musings of Russell Moore, should ask their pastors and finance committees why their churches send money to the ERLC and Russell Moore all year long.

Russell Moore is, at bottom, a pro-life Democrat. He once referred to Jesus as an “illegal immigrant.” He (remember he is a Christian ethicist) once advised that Christians attend the “gay wedding” receptions of their friends Moore hardly represents rank-and-file Southern Baptists.  Yet, he commands a prominent position and a high salary from them.

Essentially, Russell Moore is tearing down a wall and making Southern Baptists pay for it. Furthermore, the Christian worldview continues to lose ground at the federal government level. Despite the lobby of the ERLC, abortion remains legal and “gay marriage” recently became federally recognized. Exactly what is the ERLC doing with all that money to influence culture? The ERLC can’t even influence its own churches.

It’s time for Southern Baptists to Pink Slip the ERLC and demand #nomoore

*As a matter of full disclosure, I strongly opposed Christian support of Donald Trump on moral grounds during the 2016 election.

**Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

Seth Dunn

Masters of Divinity in Christian Apologetics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Member of the Evangelical Theological Society Certified Public Accountant