Some black Southern Baptists are resisting the efforts to redirect funds away from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) due to disagreements with its current president, Russell Moore.
Last month, the Southern Baptist Executive Committee voted to appoint a panel to begin a study to find a solution to the problem of churches' escrowing Cooperative Program money. The study was brought about in part due to the significant number of contacts received by the committee regarding the ERLC, according to the Baptist Press.
Congregations, such as the Prestonwood Baptist Church, outside of Dallas, Texas, has escrowed some of their contributions to the Cooperative Program to redirect resources away from the ERLC. The decision has raised concerns among African-Americans within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), many of whom shared Moore's anti-Trump stance during the 2016 election.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Frank Page, president of the SBC's Executive Committee, noted that many black Southern Baptists "feel that Dr. Moore has spoken to issues that are of importance to them and so it would be very hurtful if he were to leave."
The Louisiana Baptist Convention has passed an official resolution asking the Executive Committee to investigate the ERLC, an action that is not within the purview of the committee. Several ministers, including the first ever African-American elected president of the SBC, Fred Luter, have signed a letter publicly dissenting from the resolution.
David Crosby, a senior pastor of First Baptist Church of New Orleans, said that churches escrowing funds is tantamount to "cutting our fellowship lines too thin." Crosby was one of the signatories of the letter dissenting from the state convention's resolution.
Some Louisiana Baptists have contended that their objections were not related to Moore's comment against Donald Trump but to how he suggested that Christians supporting him cared more about having political influence than about sharing the Gospel.
However, Crosby believed that there would be no controversy if Moore had directed his criticisms toward Hillary Clinton.
"I can guarantee that had he been talking about Hillary, nobody would be objecting," he said. "That is for certain. So this is about Trump, the Republican Party, and its ill-advised connection to the power brokers in the Southern Baptist Convention," he continued.
In light of the controversy, Page stressed that the divisions within the SBC do not involve anyone attempting to undo racial healing within the Church.
"It is my goal to make sure that elections such as Pastor Fred Luter's are not an anomaly but an ongoing part of who we are. And I'm looking forward to the day when we see Hispanic presidents and Asian-American presidents," he said.
The Executive Committee is expected to present its findings at its September 2017 meeting.