ERLC uses excuse of being in a hurry to explain how its amicus brief filed against Will McRaney contradicted the SBC’s Constitution.
The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention said it regretted the implication of its amicus brief filed before the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The admission was published by the Baptist and Reflector.
According to the Executive Director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, “I have spoken with ERLC leaders and they genuinely regret the implication of the amicus brief they filed at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Their explanation is that there was a very small window of opportunity to submit the brief. In other words, it was rushed. A legal brief representing Southern Baptists via the ERLC, using language in violation of our own governing documents and historic understanding of the autonomy of the local church, was filed before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals without careful vetting or consideration of the legal precedent it might establish.”
Southern Baptists should be asking why the ERLC was so reckless in this case. If they cannot even accurately describe the SBC’s polity, then what good are they in defending the SBC when it is involved in religious liberty issues?
Of course, the fact that the ERLC’s chief is close to the NAMB chief probably has nothing to do with it. Just ignore that photograph (thanks to Tom Littleton for finding and sharing that image.)
The amicus brief was filed to help Kevin Ezell and the North American Mission Board avoid accountability for its treatment of Will McRaney. Ezell, president of NAMB, has long ties with ERLC president Russell Moore.
Both have ties to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Both were involved at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville. According to Baptist News Global, “North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell also has ties to the seminary. For 15 years he was pastor at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, where both Moore and seminary President Albert Mohler are members. Moore has a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from the University of Southern Mississippi. Before entering the ministry he was an aide to U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.) He is an ordained Baptist minister and was preaching pastor at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville from 2008 until 2012.”
And Tennessee Baptist leader Randy C. Davis asks for something important: the ERLC to fix this error. He writes, “My hope is that the ERLC would take immediate action to rectify this egregious error.”
The ERLC should. Russell Moore owes it to the people.
What will Russell Moore do to make this right to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals—to whom his organization filed a demonstrably false legal brief?
What will Russell Moore do to make this right to Southern Baptists—since his legal brief places the SBC into significant legal jeopardy?
What will Russell Moore do to make it right to Will McRaney—whom he harmed by filing a false legal brief trying to deny McRaney justice?
The ERLC should answer tough questions about the link of Moore with embattled NAMB chief Kevin Ezell.
Oopsie, I was in such a hurry I couldn’t even describe the organization I work for.
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The more I reflect upon this matter, the more of a whopper this whole “hierarchy governing over” statement becomes. They are asking us to believe that this was only done in haste as the result of an unfortunate oversight. But the nature of the statement is not some simple fact that someone might report in error. They did not juxtapose digits on a financial report. They did not misspell someone’s name or address. They fundamentally misrepresented the bedrock principle of Baptist ecclesiology. It’s simply not the kind of mistake one makes in passing.
The organization that actually wrote and filed the brief is The Thomas More Society, which is a Catholic-oriented legal group. Thus, it should be no surprise that it doesn’t really get to the truth of how the SBC operates. Technically what happened is that the ERLC joined in supporting the brief. This doesn’t let the ERLC or Dr. Moore off the hook. Anyone reading the brief (it’s only about 15 pages) who has any inkling of how the SBC operates would have seen these very glaring problems immediately. Given the nature of these errors, the right thing would have been for the ERLC to not join the brief. Moreover, it is stunning to think whoever reviewed this at ERLC was willing to okay it.
While this brief, in itself, has no legal precedent-setting value, if NAMB prevails against Will McRaney, it will be based on similar argumentation. NAMB’s lawyers have made similar, although not identical, arguments. I know this because I’ve read the NAMB briefs as well. They essentially argue that the SBC is a church and Will McRaney was a church employee and therefore this is an ecclesiastical matter over which the courts have no jurisdiction. I’m pairing it down, but that strikes at the essence of the argument.
Legally, NAMB and the SBC at large are asking for trouble if they continue along this trajectory. We’re not the Catholic Church and don’t have the resources to withstand the kind of crushing lawsuits that will occur should NAMB prevail.