Russell Moore Clarifies Comments He Made During 2016 Election, Says He Never Intended to Criticize All Evangelical Supporters of Trump

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Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore has clarified that he never intended to criticize all evangelical supporters of President-elect Donald Trump, noting many were motivated by “biblical convictions” and “voted their conscience.”

In a Monday (Dec. 19) blog post, Moore acknowledged “pointed conversations in my denominational family about the election” over the past month, “some of them … directed at me.”

“I remember one situation where I witnessed a handful of Christian political operatives excusing immorality and confusing the definition of the gospel,” Moore wrote. “I was pointed in my criticisms, and felt like I ought to have been. But there were also pastors and friends who told me when they read my comments they thought I was criticizing anyone who voted for Donald Trump.

“I told them then, and I would tell anyone now: if that’s what you heard me say, that was not at all my intention, and I apologize. There’s a massive difference between someone who enthusiastically excused immorality and someone who felt conflicted, weighed the options based on biblical convictions, and voted their conscience,” Moore wrote.

Moore’s blog post was published the same day as a Wall Street Journal article about the ERLC president with the headline “Baptist figure faces backlash over his criticism of Donald Trump.”

Moore has voiced criticism of Trump’s candidacy since at least September 2015.

The Journal, to whom Moore provided an advance copy of his blog post, included critiques of Moore by former Southern Baptist Convention President Jack Graham, Louisiana Baptist Convention executive director David Hankins and former SBC Executive Committee chairman William Harrell among others.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. and evangelical voter Ruth Malhotra, a Millennial Republican who opposed Trump, expressed support for Moore to The Journal.

ERLC trustee chairman Ken Barbic told Baptist Press Moore “is a Gospel centered and faithful voice for Southern Baptists.”

“He speaks with prophetic clarity to the pressing cultural and ethical issues of our time, with which every Christian must wrestle,” Barbic, a member of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, said in an email. “I am particularly grateful for his courageous and convictional leadership, under which I’ve observed within our convention and beyond, significant newfound energy and excitement about the work of the ERLC the last several years. I have had the privilege of seeing up close the remarkable efforts he leads the ERLC to undertake here in Washington, across this country and abroad, all of which make me thankful for his leadership within the Southern Baptist Convention.”

In the Journal article, Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, and a member of Trump’s Evangelical Executive Advisory Board, cited Moore’s criticism of Trump during the presidential campaign for alleged “disrespectfulness towards Southern Baptists and other evangelical leaders, past and present.”

“It’s disheartening that this election has created this kind of divisiveness,” Graham said, adding Prestonwood is “considering making major changes in our support of the Southern Baptist Convention,” presumably a reference to designating financial gifts to specific SBC causes rather than giving through the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists’ unified channel of supporting missions and ministries in America and worldwide, including the ERLC.

Hankins told The Journal he knows of churches that “have said they are going to” divert their giving away from the ERLC. Messengers to this year’s Louisiana Baptist Convention annual meeting referred to the convention’s Executive Board a motion regarding concerns with the ERLC.

Harrell, EC chair from 2006-08, made a similar assertion about churches’ potentially withholding funds from the ERLC in a Nov. 15 blog post, stating the ERLC “was never meant to be a political voice which would promote a certain candidate or … discourage people from voting for another one.”

As examples of allegedly inappropriate statements by Moore, Harrell, a retired Georgia pastor, cited a Sept. 2015 New York Times op-ed, in which Moore argued “evangelicals and other social conservatives” must “repudiate everything they believe” to support Trump, and a Jan. 2016 Roll Call article that quoted Moore as stating, “Ted Cruz is leading in the ‘Jerry Falwell’ wing [of evangelicalism], Marco Rubio is leading the ‘Billy Graham’ wing and Trump is leading the ‘Jimmy Swaggart’ wing.”

Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee wrote in an email obtained by Townhall.com, “I am utterly stunned that Russell Moore is being paid by Southern Baptists to insult them.”

In support of Moore, Mohler told The Journal in an email, “I know his heart and his character and his love for the Southern Baptist Convention. I also have confidence in his ability to serve all Southern Baptists as president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
David Roach