After leading the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for eight years, Russell Moore announced his departure from the denomination’s public policy arm. Moore will join the staff of Christianity Today (CT), headquartered in Carol Stream, as public theologian and director of its new Public Theology Project.
“Russell has established himself as one of the most significant evangelical voices of our time,” said Timothy Dalrymple, president and CEO of CT, in a news release about the hire. “He illuminates the relevance of the gospel to the whole of life, from everyday matters of faith to the great debates in our society and culture.”
Christianity Today was founded in 1956 by Billy Graham to provide news and perspective from an evangelical worldview. Its footprint now includes multiple online resources for pastors and ministry leaders, including The Exchange blog by Ed Stetzer, a former vice president at Lifeway Christian Resources.
In announcing his departure, Moore lauded the ERLC staff and noted their advocacy for human dignity, religious freedom, and civility in the public square, as well as their efforts to seek racial reconciliation and prevent church sexual abuse.
“I am always amused by people who assume that we have a staff of hundreds,” he said, “just based on everything this team is able to accomplish, when in reality we have a small team of brothers and sisters who are peerless in their gifting, excellence, commitment, and who love each other and Jesus.”
In December 2019, then-CT editor Mark Galli wrote an editorial calling for the removal of President Donald Trump from office amid impeachment proceedings. The magazine’s position elicited criticism from Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, and other evangelical leaders.
Similarly, Moore’s views on Trump’s presidency often put him at odds with some Southern Baptists. During the 2016 campaign, he wrote in The New York Times that for evangelicals and social conservatives to support Trump, they had to repudiate everything they believe. He later apologized, but a few churches temporarily escrowed gifts through the Cooperative Program (CP) because of the ERLC’s positions. At the 2018 SBC annual meeting, a motion was made—and defeated—to defund the ERLC.
In 2020, a group appointed to study the ERLC reported that the entity’s current direction “is a significant source of division” and obstacle to reversing overall decline in CP giving. The report likely would have been an issue during the SBC annual meeting June 15-16 in Nashville. Now, though, the meeting may serve as a farewell to Moore’s leadership, if not the leader himself. His tenure at the ERLC ends June 1.
The ERLC’s future, though, could be a matter of discussion at the upcoming meeting. Mike Stone, a Georgia pastor and candidate for SBC President, chaired the recent ERLC study group. After the group released its report, Stone told The Christian Index that messengers to future annual meetings “are going to have to decide if an ERLC, led by anyone, is the best and most effective means of addressing the public policy concerns of the Convention, especially when its current leadership has placed multiplied millions of mission dollars in jeopardy.”
After Moore’s announcement, David Prince, chairman of the ERLC Board of Trustees, thanked him for “eight years of principled, energetic and prophetic ministry” and said the board will begin the process of searching for the ERLC’s next president.