Two Southern Baptist leaders, one who is an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, met this week and ended up planning how to create stronger bonds within the Protestant church network amidst public murmurs the meeting was really about the "critic's" job being at risk.
A joint statement issued Monday evening by Moore, who leads the Southern Baptist Convention's public policy arm Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and Frank Page, the president of the denomination's Executive Committee, said the two-hour meeting deepened their friendship and understanding on how to move the denomination forward.
"We fully support one another and look forward to working together on behalf of Southern Baptists in the years to come. We will collaborate on developing future steps to deepen connections with all Southern Baptists as we work together to advance the great commission of our lord Jesus Christ," the statement read.
The pair "met as colleagues committed to the same priorities of proclaiming the gospel" to everyone, the statement said. They also talked about addressing biblical and gospel issues, including religious liberty, racial reconciliation and the sanctity of human life.
In the aftermath of Trump's victory, backlash from prominent Southern Baptist leaders raised questions about whether Moore's job was at risk. Moore, the face of the Nashville-based denomination, became a consistent critic of Trump and his supporters during the divisive 2016 election cycle, reports The Tennessean.
Several U.S. Southern Baptist churches pulled or threatened to withhold their contributions to the denomination's Cooperative Program, the Southern Baptist Convention's funding mechanism for state and national initiatives -- escrow funds that ordinarily would flow to the ERLC. A number of churches and pastors publicly declared they were withholding the funds in protest of Moore's actions during the 2016 election and his policy decisions as head of the ERLC. The Executive Committee decided to study how many churches are escrowing their gifts to the fund and why they're doing it, said Roger Oldham, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. The committee's report is due later this year.
News of this week's meeting between the two men was first reported Monday morning by the Washington Post. The newspaper reported Page said he hoped for reconciliation between Moore and those who oppose him, but had not ruled out asking for Moore's resignation if the meeting did not go well.
Moore told RNS in an interview in late January that he was confident he would be able to remain in his post. "Oh yes I'm committed to the long haul and very encouraged in what the Lord's doing these days," he said at the time. "The people who have concerns, I totally understand that and these are great guys. And so I have nothing negative to say about them at all."
The National Review reported Moore was an early critic of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The core of his critique was simple: American Christians shouldn't excuse or rationalize sin for the sake of political victory in any single election. Moreover, the same moral standards one applies to political opponents also should apply to one's political friends. If sexual misconduct, for example, rendered Bill Clinton unfit for office in the 1990s, how should Christians think about a thrice-married serial adulterer in 2016 - especially one who bragged about grabbing women by the genitals?
Moore was mapping out a vision for Christians that declared the church to be more than just another interest group, according to National Review: "Rather than narrowly seeking its own perceived political interests, it should offer a God-honoring moral voice that is concerned with ends and means. In other words, those who lie to secure power are still liars, even if they prove to be marginally better politicians than the candidates they defeat. The church does not glorify God when it aligns itself with corruption in either party."