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SBC loses if Moore is forced out

A man who most Southern Baptist church members probably have never heard of could be fired from his position at the Southern Baptist Convention this week.

If he is, it could have big implications for the nation’s largest Protestant denomination. In Lincoln County, more than a dozen churches belong to the Southern Baptist Convention.

Russell Moore, who leads the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the SBC, has been very outspoken in challenging the denomination’s approach to politics and other issues.

He was not a supporter of then-candidate Donald Trump and questioned why evangelical leaders could support the amoral candidate. He was open about not voting for Trump (or Clinton) and accused some evangelical leaders of “normalizing an awful candidate.”

That some would push back against his anti-Trump positions was expected. But Moore wasn’t done offending members. He has been outspoken about other issues that likely touched the nerves of many. He has criticized cultural Christianity, the idea of a moral majority and the denomination’s deep ties to the Republican party. He also thinks our country should take in refugees.

“We should be the ones calling the rest of the world to remember the image of God and inalienable human dignity, of persecuted people whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Yazidi, especially those fleeing from genocidal Islamic terrorists,” he wrote.

Moore has also been a proponent of racial reconciliation in the church. He has been an advocate of taking down the Confederate flag.

So, yes, there are some in the Convention who would like to see Moore gone. And they’re speaking with their wallets. Some churches have threatened to withhold donations to the SBC in an effort to push Moore out. They feel that Moore’s positions don’t represent most Southern Baptist churches. And they may be right.

That’s a troubling move but it’s well within those churches’ rights.

It’s what makes the SBC such a great idea, and what leaves it vulnerable to divisions. The SBC is not an association of churches, it’s a Convention made up of “messengers” from member churches. It has no authority over Southern Baptist churches. That means it can’t dictate positions to local congregations. As powerful as the SBC is, it can’t force a local congregation to accept Moore’s positions on politics or Trump or refugees.

But it also means a church — or group of churches — can decide to pull out of the Convention if they aren’t happy with it. Or use their donations to push for leadership changes.

Why does all this matter? Because the SBC, as the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, helps define what Christianity looks like in this country. And it would be a shame if the SBC lost a man like Moore simply because he challenges SBC churches. Those who criticize him don’t appear to have a Biblical basis for doing so — Moore meticulously defends his positions with scripture.

The SBC needs someone who will speak out of turn, who will challenge longstanding traditions and will push the Convention to look more like Christ’s church, which will be much less white than many SBC churches.

The SBC needs Moore more than it needs the money of his critics.

Publisher Luke Horton can be reached at luke.horton@dailyleader.com.