For a while now, Bible teacher Beth Moore has been calling out the racism and support of Donald Trump that’s prevalent in her Southern Baptist tradition. Her pushback against Christian Trumpism even led one conservative pastor to say of Moore, “Go home.”
One question that hovered over all those controversies was why she would choose to remain a Southern Baptist. There are Christian denominations whose values seem much more in line with her teachings; so why stay in the fold of a tradition that has a long history of keeping women out of the pulpit in addition to the racism and Trumpism?
For years now, Moore essentially answered that question by saying she supported the Southern Baptist Convention and its mission work. She even agreed with their stance on women not leading churches (running her own ministry and teaching Bible classes is technically different).
But she took a bold step in the other direction yesterday, telling Bob Smietana of Religion News Service that she no longer identified as a Southern Baptist though she’s still a Christian:
“I am still a Baptist, but I can no longer identify with Southern Baptists,” Moore said in the phone interview. “I love so many Southern Baptist people, so many Southern Baptist churches, but I don’t identify with some of the things in our heritage that haven’t remained in the past.”
Moore told RNS that she recently ended her longtime publishing partnership with Nashville-based LifeWay Christian. While Lifeway will still distribute her books, it will no longer publish them or administer her live events.
Things have only gotten worse since , said Moore. The SBC has been roiled by debates over critical race theory, causing a number of high-profile Black pastors to leave the denomination. Politics and Christian nationalism have crowded out the gospel, she said.
Having Moore publicly walk away from the Southern Baptists would be like Stephen Colbert denouncing Catholicism. When the most beloved members of a particular religious tradition say they can no longer be a part of it, others will undoubtedly leave with them. For the Southern Baptists, who have very few positive headlines these days, this is a major blow. Moore was one of the people who made Southern Baptism palatable, at least for Christians who might have otherwise been disillusioned.
Good on her for leaving. While it’s tempting to judge Moore for not leaving sooner, keep in mind that it’s no easy thing to leave any community, even if you know you longer fit within it. A church is more than just a place to worship on Sundays; for many people, it’s a second family. Leaving takes courage, especially when it means damage to your brand, your personal relationships, and other professional connections.
As someone who’s been following Moore on Twitter for a while, and watched this process unfold in real time, I can’t say this is entirely surprising. She’s too good for the SBC. They need her far more than she needs them.
Leave it to a denomination that was formed in defense of owning slaves to lose one of its biggest stars due to an utter collapse of morals and integrity.
(Screenshot via YouTube)