WASHINGTON (RNS)—A video posted by a neo-Calvinist group paints Bible teacher Beth Moore, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and the SBC’s current leader as part of a conspiracy to introduce social justice advocacy into evangelical churches.
The video, posted on the Founders Ministries website, intersperses images and comments from a number of Southern Baptist leaders with commentary from Tom Ascol, president of the group.
“I see godless ideologies that have spread across Western civilization over the last decades with a vengeance, to tell us what we are supposed to be seeing,” Ascol said in the video. “Many of these ideologies have been smuggled into many evangelical churches and organizations through the Trojan horse of social justice.”
Includes footage from SBC annual meeting
A number of the clips highlighted in the video come from sessions and events that took place during the Southern Baptists’ annual meeting in June. They include part of a discussion on race in the church, featuring James Merritt, a Georgia megachurch pastor and former SBC president; a discussion about abuse; and a discussion of whether women can preach.
At several points, as leaders such as Merritt and megachurch pastor Matt Chandler are speaking, the video seems to glitch out, whereupon Ascol appears to give his warnings that their comments represent the infiltration of the church by social justice elements.
One such freeze occurs as Merritt, along with current SBC President J.D. Greear, urges Southern Baptists to listen to black evangelicals and Christians from other ethnic groups.
Ascol responds: “This understanding is what causes so many who are moving in these circles, advocating these ideologies, to tell people in the hegemony that what they must do is sit down and be quiet and listen.”
Following Ascol’s comment, Merritt returns to tell Baptists that they should humble themselves as good Christians.
Role of women in Baptist churches
The video also seems to take on a debate over whether women can preach in Baptist churches that came to a head during the SBC annual meeting, spurred in part by criticism of Beth Moore’s speaking engagements. One of the speakers in the video argues that allowing women to preach undermines the authority of the Bible and leads to egalitarianism.
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Russell Moore, head of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, is shown defending Beth Moore (no relation). The 2000 Baptist Faith & Message, the SBC’s official statement of faith, says that only men can be pastors.
Owen Strachan, associate professor of theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and former president of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, also appears in the video, arguing that “liberal Christianity” is invading the evangelical church and a spiritual battle is underway.
“We are always having the principalities and powers exert pressure on us,” Strachan said.
Responses on Twitter
An image that appears to be of Rachael Denhollander, an abuse activist who spoke at the SBC’s annual meeting, is intercut with Strachan’s comments.
That angered Jacob Denhollander, Rachael’s husband. He told Ascol and Founders Ministries on Twitter that their use of “my wife’s image in your video and the insinuation that she is part of the principalities and powers attacking the church is cowardly, grossly dishonest, and bearing false witness.”
“Please apologize and stop,” he tweeted.
Dwight McKissic, senior pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, also is featured in the video, as is an image of Lutheran pastor and author Nadia Bolz-Weber.
McKissic, who has argued that women should be allowed to preach, took to Twitter to criticize the video as well.
“Totally blindsided by this,” he tweeted. “Really disapprove of the message being sent here. Very divisive, unnecessary & unfortunate. I plan to ignore it from this point though. Kingdom work must take precedence over this bizarre attempt to sow discord among the brethren.”
The video, which is a trailer for a longer “cinedoc” project from Founders called “By What Standard,” is the latest salvo in an ongoing debate over social justice in the evangelical movement.
In September, a group of evangelical leaders with Calvinist leanings posted “The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel,” which called social justice concerns “dangerous ideas and corrupted moral values.”
Ascol was one of the initial signers of the document. He has also been a speaker for Sovereign Nations, a Christian nationalist group with Calvinist leanings.
Akin wants out
A Southern Baptist seminary president has asked that his interview be removed from the documentary. Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina, recounted via Twitter on July 23 that he had a brief interview for “By What Standard.”
Akin and three other SBC seminary professors took issue with the documentary’s four-minute online trailer.
“What I saw was edited footage that I believe to be misleading, which misrepresents important issues and what leaders in the SBC actually affirm,” Akin said.
He voiced concern “about what the tone, tenor, and content of the full documentary will be, and I have requested that my association with and contribution to this film be removed.”
Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Missouri, and Adam Greenway, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, also expressed concern via Twitter about the documentary’s trailer.
With additional reporting by Art Toalston of Baptist Press.