The Fellowship Baptist Church in Sidney, Montana, which has been affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention since 1980, announced Monday that they plan to withdraw from the organization "due to the ongoing social justice promoting, leftist progressivism, and mission drift away from the Gospel by the denomination's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission."
Jordan Hall, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church, called for the church to leave the Southern Baptist Convention, quoting Charles Spurgeon, that where there is such disagreement on vital issues, there should be no pretense of fellowship.
The announcement comes just days after the conclusion of the "MLK50: Gospel Reflections From the Mountaintop" conference in Memphis, Tennessee. Jointly organized by the ERLC and The Gospel Coalition, the conference called on Christians to reflect on the state of racial unity in the church and the culture.
Fellowship Baptist Church leaders argue, however, that speakers at the conference including ERLC President Russell Moore, "repeatedly denied the efficacy of the accomplished work of Christ in matters of sin and forgiveness."
"Following the MLK50 Conference, held in veneration of Martin Luther King and hosted by The Gospel Coalition and the ERLC, church elders felt that the Gospel was reproached so egregiously by Russell Moore (who seems to act with complete support of other SBC leaders and entity heads), the congregation could no long[er] continue in affiliating with the denomination," the church stated.
"Church elders for some time have felt that Russell Moore, a former Democratic staffer and benefactor of and partner with the George Soros' Open Society Foundation on the Evangelical Immigration Table, has been steadily taking the SBC to the progressive-left on virtually every ethics issue except abortion. ... However, speakers at the MLK50 Conference — organized in part by Russell Moore — repeatedly denied the efficacy of the accomplished work of Christ in matters of sin and forgiveness," the statement added.
Despite the announcement from Fellowship Baptist Church, Roger "Sing" Oldham, vice president for SBC communications and relations, said he wasn't aware of any complaints regarding the conference.
"We have not heard in our office from any churches expressing dissatisfaction with the MLK50 conference," Oldham said.
When asked about the situation Monday, Elizabeth Bristow, press secretary of the ERLC, said "this is the first I've heard about this."
"We are not aware of any SBC churches threatening to leave the SBC because of our event. We've had great feedback from the conference," she further explained in a statement.
In notes from a message preached on Sunday, the church argued that the social justice message was being used to redefine the Gospel to "gain the applause of the lost and fallen world."
"Help the oppressed! Do the work of justice! The church has been doing the work of justice for 45 years trying to hold back the bloodlust of abortion. We are trying to do the work of justice for children so that they might be raised by both mothers and fathers in happy marriages. The church has been feeding the poor, clothing the naked and visiting the imprisoned since the days of Colossae. But do not pretend as though the work of justice is the work of the Gospel," the message noted. "The work of the Gospel has already been done on Calvary; the Gospel is not something we do, it is something we proclaim! It is not something we do, it's something that's already been done!"
Writing in the Baptist Message, Lorine Spratt, a black executive assistant at the predominantly white First Baptist Bossier in Louisiana, said Moore was spreading division which his criticism of white evangelical churches.
"I, and many other black congregants, attend a predominately white, Southern Baptist evangelical church. We attend there because we are free to do so, we've been welcomed, and we're seen and treated as brothers and sisters in Christ. I truly believe that I could attend any white evangelical church and be welcomed," Spratt wrote.
"There are born again black believers who choose to attend black evangelical churches and worship within their culture and they are free to do so. We are exercising our freedom to choose. We are not commodities to be bargained with or exploited or used to promote an agenda or boost quotas," she continued before slamming Moore.
"White churches are not advocating racism but Moore is. He is fueling racial tensions. I view his comments as divisive and antagonistic. His words do not promote unity!" she said.
"It is a sad day when a leader such as Moore uses his position to wreak verbal havoc in our churches and assists in causing unrest in our society and it's even sadder if we continue to let him do so," Spratt added.