A Southern Baptist pastor who hopes to be the next president of the SBC says letters written by the former leader of the denomination's public policy group are an attempt to discredit his candidacy.
The two letters are from Russell Moore, the recently departed head of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission – one written to the Executive Committee of the SBC, the other to current SBC president JD Greear. Both letters refer to Pastor Mike Stone (pictured), one of the candidates seeking to replace Greear as president – and one of the letters specifically accuses Stone of diverting attention from a sexual abuse scandal to an investigation of Moore and his tenure at the ERLC.
American Family Radio spoke with Stone on Wednesday about the second letter.
"The average Southern Baptist and even [those] who are not Southern Baptists can see this letter for what it is," Stone began. "The timing of it is clearly related to the upcoming presidential election in the Southern Baptist Convention and the desire of the powerful and elite among the Southern Baptists to make sure that Southern Baptists do not consider me serving as president."
The Georgia pastor has earlier expressed his concerns about the direction of the SBC being dictated by "high-profile pastors and national employees."
Stone says he's angry that Moore – who has since left the ERLC to take a position at Christianity Today – would accuse him of covering up the investigation into sexual abuse in the SBC.
"In that second letter he does name me very explicitly and specifically in that regard," Stone explains. "I would just say, as a sex abuse survivor myself, [that] I find that accusation as offensive as it is inaccurate. In strongest terms, it is a bold-faced lie."
The leaked letters, Stone adds, could also be payback for the creation of a task force meant to determine if Moore's leadership at the ERLC was causing churches to withhold their donations from the denomination's Cooperative Program. Stone was chairman of that task force.
The SBC's annual meeting is slated for next week (June 15-16) in Nashville. In addition to electing a new president, the denomination is expected to address the divide that's developed over the last two years over the use of critical race theory (CRT) within the denomination.