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Tag: russell moore

Former Southern Baptist Chief Calls Sex Scandal An ‘Apocalypse’

Russell Moore, the former president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, is calling the massive sexual abuse – including child molestation and rape – in the SBC an “apocalypse.” He says, “I cannot help but wonder what else this can be called but a criminal conspiracy.”

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is the largest Protestant denomination in America and the nation’s second-largest Christian denomination.

Some of that abuse is detailed in a 288-page third-party report released over the weekend that states in part, “for many years,” a few senior Southern Baptist Convention executive committee (EC) leaders, “along with outside counsel, largely controlled the EC’s response to these reports of abuse,” “closely guarded information about abuse allegations and lawsuits … and were singularly focused on avoiding liability for the SBC to the exclusion of other considerations.”

As a result, “survivors and others who reported abuse were ignored, disbelieved, or met with the constant refrain that the SBC could take no action due to its polity regarding church autonomy – even if it meant that convicted molesters continued in ministry with no notice or warning to their current church or congregation.”

The report names several past presidents of the SBC including this example:

“Former SBC President Paige Patterson was terminated from his position at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2018 after it was revealed that he told a student not to report a rape in 2003 and, in 2015, emailed his intention to meet with another student who had reported an assault, with no other officials present, so he could ‘break her down.'”

“This Is the Southern Baptist Apocalypse,” writes Moore at Christianity Today, where he now serves as the director of the Public Theology Project. “The abuse investigation has uncovered more evil than even I imagined.”

Moore says he had called for the investigation, which he now says “uncovers a reality far more evil and systemic than I imagined it could be.”


Its conclusions “are so massive as to almost defy summation. It corroborates and details charges of deception, stonewalling, and intimidation of victims and those calling for reform. It includes written conversations among top Executive Committee staff and their lawyers that display the sort of inhumanity one could hardly have scripted for villains in a television crime drama. It documents callous cover-ups by some SBC leaders and credible allegations of sexually predatory behavior by some leaders themselves, including former SBC president Johnny Hunt (who was one of the only figures in SBC life who seemed to be respected across all of the typical divides).”

As Moore reveals, Southern Baptist Convention leaders had documentation – a database – of over 700 cases of sexual abuse, and instead of acting on them by reporting them to the police or preventing those who committed abuse from being in positions where they could continue the abuse, “nothing was done” except to use the database to protect senior leaders.

“Not only was nothing done to stop these predators from continuing their hellish crimes, staff members were reportedly told not to even engage those asking about how to stop their child from being sexually violated by a minister. Rather than a database to protect sexual abuse victims, the report reveals that these leaders had a database to protect themselves.”

Moore, who with his wife left the Southern Baptist Convention last year, says he has rage wondering “how many children were raped, how many people were assaulted, how many screams were silenced, while we boasted that no one could reach the world for Jesus like we could.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Churches Are Challenged As Political Polarization Deepens

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

Most religious traditions follow a set of commandments, perhaps written down in a holy book. They differ in the particulars, but the sentiment can be boiled down to what's called the "Golden Rule" — treat others as one would want to be treated.

You don't need to subscribe to any faith; just strive to live with honor in a civilized society. But apparently, even that's too much for some folks who have other priorities.

This week, the welcome mat was out at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting. "Join us at the Nashville Music City Center for four full days of equipping, and inspiration," the invitation read. But that cheery message, and the words of Ronnie Floyd, president of the SBC Executive Committee, that it's "a time for Southern Baptists to come together and celebrate how God is moving in and through our convention and churches," belied internal turmoil.

The SBC surprised some Tuesday when it elected Ed Litton as its president. In a close vote, Litton, who is seen as someone more interested in reconciliation than retribution, defeated Mike Stone, the candidate of those wanting to move the organization even further to the right. But in some ways, Litton's selection is only buying time for a denomination that is still divided over issues of racism and sexism.

Several of the SBC's signature leaders are walking to the exit doors, and they are not going quietly.

In a leaked letter, Russell Moore, who left his position as head of the denomination's public policy arm, accused leaders of disparaging and bullying victims of sexual abuse and failing to properly investigate their claims. Moore, who is white, had also described racist behavior he witnessed within the convention, followed by, he says, threats.

Beth Moore, the popular Bible study teacher and author (no relation to Russell), had long been at odds with many in the SBC over her criticism of Donald Trump's comments about women. The organization's handling of abuse accusations and its pattern of not listening to the women and girls who made them led her to declare this year that she was "no longer a Southern Baptist."

Two Black pastors ended their church's affiliation with the convention late last year after the leaders of six SBC seminaries released a statement that said"affirmation of Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality and any version of Critical Theory is incompatible with the Baptist Faith & Message."

One of the two pastors, Charlie Edward Dates, the senior pastor at Chicago's Progressive Baptist Church, wrote in an op-ed for Religion News Service: "When did the theological architects of American slavery develop the moral character to tell the church how it should discuss and discern racism? … How did they, who in 2020 still don't have a single Black denominational entity head, reject once and for all a theory that helps to frame the real race problems we face?"

Though it is the nation's largest Protestant denomination, the SBC has been losing members, so perhaps the election of Litton was an attempt to slow the debate and the exodus. If only many of its members had thought long and hard before throwing their lot in with Trump, who demands absolute devotion. Isn't there something in the Ten Commandments about that?

A Catholic Chasm

My own Catholic faith also is facing a headline-making reckoning.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in its virtual meeting this week, had scheduled a vote on whether to permit its Committee on Doctrine to draft a document "to help Catholics understand the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist as the center of their Christian lives." Those spiritual words, from Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, the USCCB president, couch the intentions of a leading figure among the conservative cohort that would deny the second Catholic president, Joe Biden, the sacrament of the Eucharist because of his support for abortion rights.

The right to an abortion may be legal in the U.S., for now, but it is also a sin for Catholics.

That, of course, is true for Pope Francis. But he has warned conservative American bishops to avoid prioritizing an issue that has become a political litmus test. For Francis, it's complicated, though many U.S. bishops disagree. So much for all Catholics being controlled by this pope, with whom conservative Catholics have been feuding since he arrived at the Vatican.

A recent petition, organized by Faithful America and signed by 21,000 people, accused the bishops of weaponizing the Eucharist, and in a letter the group thanked the more than 60 bishops who opposed the USCCB vote. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, who is archbishop of Washington, was one of them. So the president is in no danger of being turned away at a D.C. altar.

It's not a new debate, though John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, had to prove with words and actions that he would not let faith dictate his politics. Another famous Catholic politician, Mario Cuomo, had much to say on the subject, as he did on most everything.

In 1984, at the University of Notre Dame, no less, Cuomo, who died in 2015, said: "Better than any law or rule or threat of punishment would be the moving strength of our own good example, demonstrating our lack of hypocrisy, proving the beauty and worth of our instruction. We must work to find ways to avoid abortions without otherwise violating our faith. We should provide funds and opportunity for young women to bring their child to term, knowing both of them will be taken care of if that is necessary; we should teach our young men better than we do now their responsibilities in creating and caring for human life."

That would satisfy few today. As places of worship have reopened post-pandemic, the political divide in America has followed worshippers through the doors.

Misplaced Priorities

Would now be the time to act on other items on Pope Francis' agenda — climate change, migrants, poverty, racial justice and how to ease the grief of those who lost someone or something in this harrowing year?

What about the voting restrictions proposed in Texas that take special aim at Black churchgoers, with limits on Sunday voting, and seniors, who depend on these organized voting drives? And this is in a state that plunged its residents into endless crises during a freeze.

What about disabled voters, who worry these laws being enacted across the country limit access, preventing them from exercising their rights as Americans?

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose faith informed and inspired civil rights activism, once chided fellow ministers for failing to see the injustices in front of them. He might have a few relevant words.

As would the Rev. Dr. William Barber, who this week traveled to West Virginia to deliver a message to that state's Democratic senator, Joe Manchin — about voting rights and the minimum wage, poverty and power.

It was personal and political, and delivered with passion, as if on command.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Evangelical Leaders Still Support Trump — But Will Lewd Remarks Repel Voters?

By Steve Holland and Michelle Conlin

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Leaders of religious conservative groups largely stood behind Donald Trump on Saturday, the day after vulgar sexual comments he made about women surfaced online, but some expressed concern that the U.S. Republican presidential nominee’s remarks could depress evangelical turnout on Election Day.

Most evangelical leaders did not condemn Trump, and instead pointed to an urgent need to prevent Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton from winning the presidency, reshaping the Supreme Court and implementing liberal policies.

The latest blow to Trump’s campaign came after a 2005 video surfaced of the then-reality TV star talking on an open microphone about groping women and trying to seduce a married woman. Vice presidential running mate Mike Pence said he could not defend Trump’s words.

Gary Bauer, chairman of the Campaign for Working Families, said Trump’s “grossly inappropriate language” does not change the choice facing the country in the Nov. 8 election and that “I continue to support the Trump-Pence ticket.”

“Hillary Clinton is committed to enacting policies that will erode religious liberty, promote abortion, make our country less safe, and leave our borders unprotected,” Bauer said.

White evangelicals make up about 20 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Public Religion Research Institute, and represent a crucial voting bloc Trump needs to win the presidency.

They have long represented a pillar of support for Republicans. In 2004, they were instrumental in President George W. Bush’s re-election. They turned out in similar numbers in 2008 and 2012, when Mitt Romney, a Mormon who many evangelicals considered too moderate, was the Republican nominee, according to a report by the Pew Research Center.

Support from evangelicals for Trump has been strong throughout his campaign, even though it was only late in life that the New York businessman adopted their cause. Social conservatives flocked to his side over other deeply religious Republican presidential candidates, such as Ted Cruz.

“Naturally I’m disappointed,” said Steve Scheffler, head of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition. “But, you know, the Bible tells me that we are all sinners saved by grace and I don’t think there’s probably a person alive that I know of that hasn’t made some mistakes in the past.”

He said Clinton has peccadilloes of her own, most notably marital woes with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

“So yes, I will vote for Donald Trump. I’m not excusing his behavior at all. It’s disgusting,” he said.

Still, politically active Christian conservative leaders across the country said they were worried that Trump’s comments could depress turnout among evangelicals.

“Evangelicals are not going to vote for Hillary,” said religious political activist David Lane. “But this could cause them to stay home. This could be a big deal. Things like this matter.”

Much will hinge on Trump’s performance in the second presidential debate on Sunday night, and whether he can convince Christians that he is a changed man, Lane said.

“He already apologized and said he was wrong,” said Lane. “I think he’s moving in the right direction. But he’s got to do really well in the debate Sunday night.”

Other religious leaders, however, were less forgiving.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, tweeted an article detailing evangelical apathy toward the Trump tape, calling it a “disgrace.”

“What a scandal to the gospel of Jesus Christ and to the integrity of our witness,” Moore wrote.

Still, the majority view among religious conservatives appeared to be summed up by Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council action group, who said evangelicals “are left with a choice of voting for the one who will do the least damage to our freedoms.”

“This is far from an ideal situation, but it is the reality in which we find ourselves and as difficult as it is, I refuse to find sanctuary on the sidelines and allow the country and culture to deteriorate even further by continuing the policies of the last eight years,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson and Amy Tennery in New York; Editing by Bill Rigby)

IMAGE: Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council