NAAF pres. urges ‘reconciliation’ among Moore, critics

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By David Roach

LAUREL, MD (BP) — The president of a network of some 4,000 predominantly African American Southern Baptist churches has issued an open letter urging reconciliation between Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore and those threatening to withhold Cooperative Program money over his actions.

Byron Day, president of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote in a March 9 letter that while “feathers have been ruffled on both sides,” “obedience to the Bible’s teaching can surely offer a solution so that we can get back to working together to share the good news of God’s love, forgiveness, and gift of eternal life.”

Disputes regarding Moore’s leadership are “dividing Southern Baptists” and “hurting the name of Jesus Christ and the furtherance of the Gospel,” Day wrote, adding the ERLC president “has done nothing worthy of discipline or firing.”

“He has represented all Southern Baptists, contending for the highly visible ethical issues of abortion and biblical marriage,” wrote Byron Day, president for the National African American Fellowship, in an open letter to Southern Baptists on ERLC president Russell Moore. “But he has also addressed social injustices such as racism which have been long overlooked.”

Day’s letter came less than a month after the SBC Executive Committee launched a study of churches’ escrowing CP money and two months after Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church announced it would escrow CP funds over “various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.” The EC has received reports of similar actions by other churches.

Among complaints cited by Prestonwood pastor Jack Graham is alleged “disrespectfulness” by Moore toward evangelical supporters of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. Others have voiced concern over a friend of the court brief signed by the ERLC last year in support of a New Jersey Islamic society’s right to build a mosque.

Day, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Laurel, MD, told Baptist Press there seems to be “a predominance of opinion” among NAAF pastors that Southern Baptists should not “take sides” in the present discussions about Moore but “for the Gospel’s sake try to get together.”

The letter was prompted, Day said, by “the flurry of news” about CP escrowing by some, defenses of Moore by others, and the CP Committee’s study. “All of that coupled together made me think: Why don’t we just get this taken care of and not air it out in public?”

In the letter, Day wrote that Moore “has been outstanding as president of the ERLC,” addressing “the highly visible ethical issues of abortion and biblical marriage” as well as “social injustices such as racism which have been long overlooked.”

Day added, “What would happen if those offended by Dr. Moore were to take a biblical approach and talk to him privately concerning comments that offended them and then give him opportunity to apologize and be reconciled, to the glory of Christ? What would happen if Dr. Moore would receive their calls and agree to meet with them and experience reconciliation, to the glory of God?

“What would happen if Dr. Moore, upon learning that his brother has something against him, would leave his offering at the altar, seek him out, and be reconciled to his brother, to the glory of Christ? Would not God be glorified and Southern Baptists be better served?”

Day clarified to BP that his questions were hypothetical and not reflective of firsthand knowledge about interactions between Moore and his critics.

The letter concluded that for Southern Baptists to “have a great impact for the Kingdom of God,” they “must not be ignorant of the schemes of the enemy to divide us.”

“Now is not the time for division but unity,” Day wrote, “and we must be diligent to preserve the unity we have in Christ. Perhaps we should all take a step back and consider what would most honor Christ. The name of Jesus is too valuable and the preaching of the Gospel to the world too important to do otherwise.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: The full text of Day’s letter appears below.

An Open Letter to Southern Baptists

The recent events surrounding ERLC President Russell Moore is dividing Southern Baptists and, more importantly, is hurting the name of Jesus Christ and the furtherance of the Gospel. The recent election has not only further divided our country, but it seems that political views threaten to divide our Convention, not over major theological doctrine but over practical or political preferences. Truth be told, our Lord is neither Republican nor Democrat; He is Lord of all.

The name of Christ is far too valuable and the preaching of the Gospel to the whole world too important that we should allow political disagreements to distract us from that which is most significant. The commands of our God and Savior Jesus Christ to love one another as He loves us outweigh any personal political views. This is how we show the world that our faith is genuine. To be sure, feathers have been ruffled on both sides; but obedience to the Bible’s teaching can surely offer a solution so that we can get back to working together to share the good news of God’s love, forgiveness, and gift of eternal life.

What would happen if those offended by Dr. Moore were to take a biblical approach and talk to him privately concerning comments that offended them and then give him opportunity to apologize and be reconciled, to the glory of Christ? What would happen if Dr. Moore would receive their calls and agree to meet with them and experience reconciliation, to the glory of God? What would happen if Dr. Moore, upon learning that his brother has something against him, would leave his offering at the altar, seek him out, and be reconciled to his brother, to the glory of Christ? Would not God be glorified and Southern Baptists be better served?

There are some who have suggested withholding cooperative dollars until Dr. Moore is either disciplined or fired. However, Russell Moore has done nothing worthy of discipline or firing. He has not violated The Baptist Faith and Message and, in fact, has been outstanding as president of the ERLC. He has represented all Southern Baptists, contending for the highly visible ethical issues of abortion and biblical marriage; but he has also addressed social injustices such as racism which have been long overlooked.

Southern Baptist have been uniquely gifted and called to have a great impact for the Kingdom of God. We must not be ignorant of the schemes of the enemy to divide us. Now is not the time for division but unity and we must be diligent to preserve the unity we have in Christ. Perhaps we should all take a step back and consider what would most honor Christ. The name of Jesus is too valuable and the preaching of the Gospel to the world too important to do otherwise.

Byron J. Day, President, National African American Fellowship of the SBC

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