More than 16,000 people are expected to attend the denomination’s annual meeting, probably the largest religious gathering since the pandemic, as well as the biggest Baptist meeting in decades.
What is especially unusual about the meeting is infighting at the highest levels of leadership that has become public in recent weeks. New details released to news media outlets have shined a light on the backroom dealings of several of its high-profile leaders.
Russell Moore, who previously led the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, recently left his position and his church for a new position at Christianity Today magazine. On his way out, two letters he sent to SBC leadership were leaked to media, in which Moore described a culture of racism and mishandling of sexual abuse claims.
Since Moore’s letters were leaked, several leaders have called for a third-party investigation into how the SBC leadership has responded to the issue of sexual abuse within its churches.
The letters also exposed how many institutional leaders are unable to speak openly about what is taking place inside the convention without committing professional suicide within the SBC. The Washington Post interviewed a dozen employees of SBC institutions, as well as five pastors, all of whom said they could not speak openly about what has taken place without jeopardizing their jobs.
The SBC is full of highly influential pastors and Bible teachers who vouch for one another and promote one another’s books, conferences and networks. With no pope or hierarchy and a democratic system of voting, its system is designed to protect its own leaders and the institution by generally not publicly criticizing one another. Several people, however, have recently broken those unspoken rules.
Source: Sarah Pulliam Bailey, The Washington Post