PLANO (BP)—Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano has decided to escrow Cooperative Program funds to evaluate future support of Southern Baptist Convention causes.
At issue are what the congregation calls “various significant positions taken by the leadership of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission that do not reflect the beliefs and values of many in the Southern Baptist Convention,” according to a statement the church released to Louisiana’s Baptist Message.
Over the course of a year, Prestonwood’s contributions to the Cooperative Program would total about $1 million, the Message reported.
In a December interview with the Wall Street Journal, Pastor Jack Graham said Prestonwood was “considering making major changes” in its support for the SBC due to alleged “disrespectfulness” by ERLC President Russell Moore toward evangelical supporters of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Graham is a member of Trump’s evangelical executive advisory board.
Moore, who publicly opposed Trump during the primary and general election cycles, said in a December blog post he never intended to criticize all evangelicals who supported Trump.
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Some Southern Baptists also criticized the ERLC for joining a friend-of-the-court brief last May in support of a New Jersey Islamic society’s right to build a mosque. The International Mission Board joined the brief as well.
First Baptist Church in Morristown, Tenn., announced last month it would escrow funds traditionally given through the Cooperative Program over concerns related to ERLC and IMB participation in the New Jersey mosque brief. First Baptist Pastor Dean Haun resigned as an IMB trustee in November over the brief.
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IMB President David Platt apologized Feb. 15 for what he called the “distracting and divisive” action.
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Graham, a former SBC president, said in a text message Prestonwood is engaging in “an internal evaluation” of its giving, “and our desire is not to seek publicity so we can make the right decision for our church and Southern Baptists.”
Asked whether Prestonwood also will escrow funds for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention—the state convention with which it cooperates—Graham responded, “We’re evaluating everything.”
Graham told the Message he is “not angry at the SBC, and neither are our people, and I’m not working to start a movement to fire anyone.” He insisted he wants Prestonwood to remain “a cooperating partner (with the SBC) as we have been for many years.” However, he cited “uneasiness” among church leaders about the “disconnect between some of our denominational leaders and our churches.”
ERLC President Russell Moore issued a statement: “I love and respect Jack Graham and Prestonwood Baptist Church. This is a faithful church with gifted leaders and a long history of vibrant ministry working and witnessing for Christ.”
Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church in Farmersville and member of the ERLC Leadership Council tweeted following Prestonwood’s announcement, “I love and appreciate” Jack Graham “but am an ardent advocate for #ReligiousLiberty” and for the Cooperative Program, and “I’m just heartbroken & conflicted.”