Russell Moore, the prominent Southern Baptist leader known for his criticism of former President Donald Trump, is leaving his post as president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission to join Christianity Today.
According to an entry on his website posted Tuesday, Moore explained that he accepted an invitation by Christianity Today to serve as a “public theologian” at the evangelical news publication as the director of its Public Theology Project. His term as the commission's president will come to an end on June 1.
“I’ve struggled with this decision, because my gratitude for the honor of serving the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is so deep,” wrote Moore.
“As I conclude my time serving Southern Baptists as ERLC president, I am filled with gratitude as well as excitement for the future.”
Moore also spoke positively of his time as president of the ERLC, saying that he was “thankful to the board of trustees at the ERLC who labored with me, loved me, supported me, and stood with integrity and conscience.”
“The team I have been blessed to work with at the ERLC is second to none. I am always amused by people who assume that we have a staff of hundreds, 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,” he continued.
“Whether that was through national conferences such as MLK50 and Caring Well, a string of successful engagements on matters of public policy, or through the work of evangelism and cultural engagement, this team has excelled far beyond what I could have ever asked or hoped from any group of people.”
During his tenure, the ERLC hosted conferences on race, marriage and abuse. The commission also advocated for issues of life, religious freedom and justice.
ERLC Executive Vice President Daniel Patterson will serve as the acting president, according to a statement shared with The Christian Post. The commission's board of trustees will begin its search for the next president.
David E. Price, chairman of the ERLC board of trustees, extended his gratitude for Moore's "eight years of principled, energetic and prophetic ministry."
"He led with integrity, courage and convictional kindness during tumultuous times," Price stated.
"It has been our joy as trustees and fellow Southern Baptists to be on mission for Christ and His Kingdom with the utmost confidence in Dr. Moore’s leadership and in the effectiveness of the commission’s ministry."
"Though we are sad to see his time leading this entity come to a close, we wish him the best and will continue to look to his leadership and voice in American evangelicalism," Prince added. "The importance of the ministry assignment Southern Baptists have given to the ERLC remains essential to the SBC and our trustees will now begin taking the necessary steps to identify the next president for this organization.”
Formerly the dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, Moore became president of the ERLC in 2013.
During his tenure, Moore garnered controversy within the Southern Baptist Convention for his criticism of Trump and his support for certain religious liberty measures.
In March 2017, after Trump was elected president, Moore apologized for engaging in rhetoric that was sometimes "overly broad or unnecessarily harsh."
“I was asked often during the election about evangelicalism as it related to moral issues and character, and in so doing I spoke, often quite sharply, about those Christians who said or implied that such concerns don't matter or shouldn't be talked about,” stated Moore at the time.
“The 2016 presidential election was different than any in our lifetime. Good and godly people had to make very hard decisions.”
Moore continued to be critical of the Trump administration, stating in January that if he had been a member of the United States Senate, he would have voted to impeach the president.
Moore also garnered criticism, as well as calls for the ERLC to be defunded, when he opted to support a 2016 lawsuit that a Muslim community was leveling against a New Jersey county that refused to allow the building of a mosque on Church Street in a historic part of the town.
In response to the failed efforts to remove him from the ERLC, Moore defended the SBC commission’s involvement in the litigation, saying that protecting the rights of Muslims was beneficial to the SBC.
“When you have a government that says 'we can decide whether or not a house of worship can be constructed based upon the theological beliefs of that house of worship,' then there are going to be Southern Baptist churches in San Francisco and New York and throughout this country who are not going to be able to build,” explained Moore at the time.
Last November, the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit The Religious Freedom Institute honored Moore with their Defender of Religious Freedom Award.
“Moore defends the religious liberty of all people. He challenges believers to be better public witnesses to their faith, and he challenges secularists to have greater appreciation for the importance of religion in American public life,” stated the Institute.