The Southern Baptist pastor who in October filed suit against a former Southern Baptist Convention agency head for defamation has withdrawn the suit, explaining that he trusts God to take care of him and judge the matter.
“This was a voluntary action on my part alone. I have trusted the Lord with my eternal soul, my family, and my ministry. I can and I do trust him in this present matter. He does all things well, knows all things perfectly, and judges all things and all people rightly in his own sovereign time,” Georgia pastor Mike Stone said in a statement to Baptist Press.
Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Ga., filed suit in federal court Oct. 18 against Russell Moore, former head of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. Stone accused Moore of three violations: defamation by libel, false light invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
He sought $750,000 in damages, some of which would be to recoup the honorariums Stone said he would not receive by speaking in other churches since he is not SBC president and has been cast in a negative light by Moore’s actions.
The dispute involves the intense battle within the SBC over how to investigate and respond to accusations of sexual abuse in SBC churches and institutions.
The dispute involves the intense battle within the SBC over how to investigate and respond to accusations of sexual abuse in SBC churches and institutions. Stone was chairman of the SBC Executive Committee during a recent period that is now under outside investigation for potential mishandling of abuse claims. Stone also led an Executive Committee task force that investigated Moore and his agency amid claims that financial giving to the SBC unified budget was suffering because of their positions.
A series of leaked letters and audio recordings revealed Stone also opposed Moore because he thought Moore was giving the SBC a bad reputation by giving voice to the abuse claims and highlighting the stories of abuse survivors. And Moore opposed Stone, who he thought was impeding the necessary investigation of abuse claims and had made him a target of unnecessary investigation.
Their disagreement came to a head in the days leading up to the SBC annual meeting last June in Nashville. Stone was one of five candidates and two finalists for election as convention president. His candidacy was supported by two ultra-conservative subgroups inside the SBC — groups that also had labeled Moore as too progressive on issues of race and immigration and gender roles.
Stone’s attorneys filed paperwork Thursday, Dec. 9, to withdraw the suit against Moore. It was dismissed without prejudice the next day by U.S. District Court Judge William Campbell.
Moore has not publicly acknowledged the lawsuit or its dismissal.