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Mike Stone withdraws defamation lawsuit against Russell Moore, cites 'better path' for family, church

Mike Stone
Mike Stone |

Prominent Southern Baptist Pastor Mike Stone has withdrawn a defamation lawsuit against former SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, stating he believes it's time to "leave the matter in the hands of our Lord."

Stone, a member of the SBC’s Executive Committee who serves as pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Georgia, had his lawyers withdraw the lawsuit last week.

In a public statement that was sent to The Christian Post on Tuesday morning, Stone explained that the withdraw of the lawsuit was "at my request."

“I have entrusted Christ with my soul, my life, my ministry and my family. I can and do trust Him to guide me in this present matter,” said Stone.

“While I continue to desire the revelation of truth that such proceedings would bring to bear against these accusations, I believe that based on current circumstances the better path for my family, my church, and our convention at this time is to leave the matter in the hands of our Lord."

In October, Stone sued Moore in the U.S. District Court for Middle Tennessee, with the issue centering on letters that Moore leaked to the press after leaving the ERLC in May.

The letters alleged that SBC leaders mishandled a “crisis of sexual abuse” and that Moore and his family had endured unfair treatment at the hands of denominational leaders.

Stone had previously overseen a task force that was commissioned to study how the Moore-led ERLC might be impacting contributions to the SBC’s Cooperative Program giving.

This was in response to Moore having had a history of garnering headlines for openly criticizing the public policy views and overall behavior of former President Donald Trump.

The commission released a report in February concluding that “the current perception of the leadership and direction of the ERLC by many Southern Baptists is a substantial impediment to the growth of the Cooperative Program.”  

Moore’s letters were made public ahead of the SBC's Annual Meeting in June, with Stone claiming that they contributed to his failure to win the election for convention president.

Stone asserted that Moore “began a malicious, intentional, and egregious campaign to harm” him by “defaming him with the text of two letters strategically concealed from general distribution within the ERLC and the SBC.”

“Plaintiff’s business operations have already been negatively impacted by Defendant’s untruthful statements due to a decreased trust and confidence in Plaintiff in the religious community,” his complaint alleged.

“Plaintiff’s pastoral efforts will undoubtedly suffer decreased church attendance and a reduction in donations and honorariums because of Defendant’s statements which are untruthful and have cast Plaintiff in a false light.”  

Stone's decision to withdraw the lawsuit elicited a slew of reactions on Twitter. 

"I commend Mike Stone for this action and pray that there can be reconciliation between these brothers. Praying for both," tweeted James Merritt, former SBC president and pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Georgia.

Christian author Matt Crawford wrote, "I don’t know the reason for which ⁦@PastorMikeStone⁩ withdrew his lawsuit against Dr. Moore, since no explanation has been given. But I’m thankful that he has done so."

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