David Roach at Baptist Press reported this evening that Byron Day released an open letter calling for reconciliation between Russell Moore and his critics (Article: NAAF pres. urges ‘reconciliation’ among Moore, critics). Day is the pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Laurel, Maryland and current President of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention, a network of over 4,000 “predominately African American pastors and churches affiliated with” the SBC. Recent past presidents of the NAAF include K. Marshall Williams, Sr., and Dr. A. B. Vines, Sr.
The letter is first a call for unity. Of five paragraphs the letter contains, four stress the desire for unity. Day says the current controversy is damaging to our gospel witness and distracting from our mission. The fourth paragraph, which is clearly meant to play a supporting role in the letter, does offer a strong statement of appreciation & support for Russell Moore continuing to lead the ERLC. This seems especially notable after Dwight McKissic’s widely shared post on Monday in support of Russell Moore. McKissic stressed how Moore is held in high esteem by the vast majority of black Southern Baptists. Day’s open letter further substantiates McKissic’s claims in that area.
Excerpts from the section in support of Dr. Moore follow: “Russell Moore has done nothing worthy of discipline or firing. He… has been outstanding as president of the ERLC… he has also addressed social injustices such as racism which have been long overlooked.” This is high praise from an influential voice in the SBC.
Those sections are important, but please don’t overlook the supporting role they play in calling the convention to unity. Four of five paragraphs stress unity, reminding us to let political differences take a back seat, requesting private meetings to reconcile (Jack Graham confirmed in Tuesday’s Q&A that meetings of that nature had taken place but did not say how much progress had been made.), and other calls for us to put this controversy behind us. Letter text is reprinted below.
An Open Letter to Southern Baptists
The recent events surrounding ERLC President Russell Moore is dividing Southern Baptists and, more importantly, is hurting the name of Jesus Christ and the furtherance of the Gospel. The recent election has not only further divided our country, but it seems that political views threaten to divide our Convention, not over major theological doctrine but over practical or political preferences. Truth be told, our Lord is neither Republican nor Democrat; He is Lord of all.
The name of Christ is far too valuable and the preaching of the Gospel to the whole world too important that we should allow political disagreements to distract us from that which is most significant. The commands of our God and Savior Jesus Christ to love one another as He loves us outweigh any personal political views. This is how we show the world that our faith is genuine. To be sure, feathers have been ruffled on both sides; but obedience to the Bible’s teaching can surely offer a solution so that we can get back to working together to share the good news of God’s love, forgiveness, and gift of eternal life.
What would happen if those offended by Dr. Moore were to take a biblical approach and talk to him privately concerning comments that offended them and then give him opportunity to apologize and be reconciled, to the glory of Christ? What would happen if Dr. Moore would receive their calls and agree to meet with them and experience reconciliation, to the glory of God? What would happen if Dr. Moore, upon learning that his brother has something against him, would leave his offering at the altar, seek him out, and be reconciled to his brother, to the glory of Christ? Would not God be glorified and Southern Baptists be better served?
There are some who have suggested withholding cooperative dollars until Dr. Moore is either disciplined or fired. However, Russell Moore has done nothing worthy of discipline or firing. He has not violated The Baptist Faith and Message and, in fact, has been outstanding as president of the ERLC. He has represented all Southern Baptists, contending for the highly visible ethical issues of abortion and biblical marriage; but he has also addressed social injustices such as racism which have been long overlooked.
Southern Baptist have been uniquely gifted and called to have a great impact for the Kingdom of God. We must not be ignorant of the schemes of the enemy to divide us. Now is not the time for division but unity and we must be diligent to preserve the unity we have in Christ. Perhaps we should all take a step back and consider what would most honor Christ. The name of Jesus is too valuable and the preaching of the Gospel to the world too important to do otherwise.
Byron J. Day, President, National African American Fellowship of the SBC