Two former SBC leaders embroiled in lawsuit

by Seth Udinski

Seth Udinski, FISM News


As the SBC has dominated headlines in the wake of a sexual abuse scandal, two former SBC executives are embroiled in a murky lawsuit.

Pastor Mike Stone of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Georgia, is taking to court former head of the SBC Ethics and Religious committee (ERLC) Russell Moore. Moore no longer affiliates with the SBC and has also made headlines for his public criticism of the denomination. He now serves on the staff of Christianity Today magazine.

According to the lawsuit filed last Monday in a District Court in Tennessee, Stone claims Moore “began a malicious, intentional, and egregious campaign to harm” Stone.

The suit further argues,

(Moore) defamed him within the text of two letters strategically concealed from general distribution within the ERLC and the SBC but then subsequently surreptitiously released, or “leaked,” to the news media which Moore knew, due to the controversial nature of the letters, Moore’s prominent position within the ERLC and the religious community at large, and Moore’s significant connections to major media outlets, would result in their widespread publication. Said letters were then, in fact, subsequently published in Religion News Service, Baptist Press, and several other news media outlets.

In one of the letters, written in May 2020, Moore condemned Stone’s handling of the rumors of sexual abuse within the denomination to then-SBC president J.D. Greear. Moore wrote in the letter,

You and I both know how leadership in the Executive Committee, at the trustee level with Mike Stone and his allies, and at the staff level by former Executive Vice-President Augie Boto, have stonewalled many attempts at reform for the sake of the sexually abused

This is a difficult situation, as is almost always the case when Christians sue other Christians. Some stand with Stone, claiming Russell Moore’s anger at the SBC clouded his judgement and caused him to act without integrity as he left his position of employment with the denomination. Others defend Moore, claiming he rightly called to the carpet the issues of abuse within the denomination, which have been revealed to be widespread in recent months, while Stone and others tried to cover it up.