Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention are taking seriously threats to withhold funds by churches dissatisfied with recent positions on public policy taken by some of the convention’s agencies.
During its board leadership meeting Feb. 20-21, the SBC Executive Committee formed a subcommittee “to study and recommend redemptive solutions to the current reality in Southern Baptist life of churches’ either escrowing or discontinuing Cooperative Program funds.”
Executive Committee chairman Stephen Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., told the convention’s press agency the issue has “risen to a level of prominence that justifies us taking a special look” at what is going on.
The subcommittee will report findings when the Executive Committee meets again in September. A separate motion asked officers to monitor activities of any SBC entity that “might adversely affect” giving and report findings when the committee meets in conjunction with the SBC annual meeting in June.
The action came days after the Wall Street Journal ran a story about former SBC President Jack Graham’s Texas megachurch placing $1 million in offerings earmarked for the convention’s unified budget in escrow while Prestonwood Baptist Church leaders discuss “various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission that do not reflect the beliefs and values of many in the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Last fall the Louisiana Baptist Convention asked its executive board to study recent actions of the ERLC, the agency assigned to represent Southern Baptists on religious liberty and public policy concerns.
The motion, referred without discussion, did not identify any particular action, but it came in the aftermath of controversies over the agency’s decision to file a legal brief supporting construction of a New Jersey mosque and a blog by a former convention leader criticizing ERLC head Russell Moore for opposing the election of President Donald Trump.
Moore, whose comments about Trump during the campaign were sufficiently critical for the candidate to label him a “nasty guy with no heart,” has been more muted since the election.
On Wednesday Moore commended the president for rescinding a previous order by President Obama barring discrimination based on gender identity in public schools.
“I’m very glad to see the Trump Administration revoke these guidelines,” Moore said in press release. “This move is good for parents and good for families.”
“This is a good decision that corrects outrageous and coercive directives,” Moore added in an article posted online Feb. 23. “Children should not be turned into pawns of culture war experimentation. As a conservative evangelical, I’m glad to see this action.”