Southern Baptists are unified again.
Or are they?
Four months of backlash against critics of President Donald Trump calmed this week with prominent ethicist Russell Moore still in place as Baptists’ policy leader and president of the denomination’s Nashville-based Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
For the second time, Moore apologized over hurt feelings last year “in the whirl of the news cycle.” Prestonwood Baptist Pastor Jack Graham of Dallas, a supporter and close friend of Trump adviser Mike Huckabee, called Moore’s apology “gracious and unifying.”
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In Arlington, Pastor Dwight McKissic said Tuesday that Baptists’ political and racial differences still have him worried.
“If a person does not toe the Republican line all the way, can they be accepted in the Southern Baptist Convention as leaders?” McKissic said.
Younger evangelicals or African-American Southern Baptist pastors concerned over Trump or partisanship “may not feel free to express feelings,” he said: “There’s this fear of rejection — ‘You’re not one of us.’ ”
An old-guard faction of evangelical pastors and televangelists backed Trump strategically in 2016 as the only Republican with any chance to save a Supreme Court seat or campaigning to “defeat Islam.”
Moore now says he was mocking “prosperity gospel” televangelists who backed Trump for the “wrong reasons,” not fellow Baptist pastors.
McKissic said Southern Baptists should be just as concerned about racism, gender bias and injustice against the poor. In a recent blog post, he wrote: “The SBC will morph into a ‘fake kingdom’ if they continue this horrid love affair and identification with the Republican Party.”
Moore’s supporters have included Pastor Matt Chandler of Village Church in Flower Mound and Pastor Bob Roberts of Northwood Church in Keller.
“I’m optimistic,” Roberts said Tuesday.
“These are all mainline Southern Baptist churches, and they hold the same beliefs doctrinally and theologically. But politically and socially, they have two very different models for how to engage the culture. We’re just going to have to work it out.”
The Washington Post quoted Baptist historian Nathan Finn: “If you’re one step in front of Southern Baptists, you’re a leader. If you’re two steps in front, you’re a prophet. Three steps? … You’re a target.”
Both sides are watching every step.
The gallery talk is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday for “Avedon in Texas: Selections From ‘In the American West’ ” at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. I had the date wrong Sunday, and I apologize.