Roger Moran, a layman influential in Missouri Baptist life, recently released a scathing attack on Missouri and Southern Baptist leaders for supporting practices and evangelistic methods he finds inappropriate. Moran accuses Baptist leaders of following “cultural liberalism,” which he calls the “new liberalism” that he believes “is infecting the SBC in a significant way.”
Moran’s document, which is labeled as “Part 1” on the topic, focuses on the Acts 29 Network and the Emerging Church Movement. Baptists criticized include leaders at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, LifeWay Christian Resources, North American Mission Board (NAMB) and Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC).
Having recently completed two terms on the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, Moran’s attacks on his fellow Missouri Baptists come as he serves on the state convention’s Peace Committee, which is attempting to heal the two-year conflict among MBC leaders. Individuals attacked in his report include fellow members of the committee. MBC First Vice President John Marshall, who was attacked in Moran’s report, resigned from the committee two days after the report was released.
As leader of the Missouri Baptist Layman’s Association (MBLA), Moran spearheaded the effort to take control of the MBC. MBLA-backed candidates swept offices from 1997 to 2001. Following the 2001 annual meeting, a new state convention, the Baptist General Convention of Missouri, was formed and Moran’s faction ran unopposed for MBC offices.
However, in 2007, some Missouri Baptists started a new group called “Save Our Convention” (SOC) and argued Moran and others had too much control over Missouri Baptist life. The SOC candidates—many of whom had previously been MBLA candidates—won the officer elections in 2007 and 2008. At the 2007 meeting, Marshall defeated Moran by a 4-1 margin in the race for second vice president.
In April 2008, the Peace Committee was formed to resolve the conflict between the MBLA and the SOC factions. Moran and three others from the MBLA were appointed along with three individuals from the SOC. One MBLA member later resigned for health reasons, providing a 3-3 balance until Marshall’s resignation once again gave the MBLA a one-vote majority.
Peace Committee Chairman Jeff Purvis, who is aligned with the MBLA, reported during the 2008 MBC annual meeting that the committee was at an “impasse” with no peace. During his report to the messengers, he also attacked two SOC members of the committee. In February 2009, the MBC Executive Board approved paying a conflict mediator from Peacemaker Ministries to help the Peace Committee. The committee is expected to issue a final report to the MBC Executive Board in July, although Moran’s attacks and Marshall’s resignation suggest that once again peace has eluded the committee.
Moran’s attack on Southeastern Seminary center around Mark Driscoll, who has spoken at the seminary. Driscoll is attacked for holding to “cultural liberalism,” using “vulgarity” and promoting “pornographic images.” Moran’s report quotes from recent Baptist Press articles attacking Driscoll.
LifeWay’s Ed Stetzer, who was formerly with NAMB, is also criticized in the report for connections with Driscoll as well as for formerly being on the board of the Acts 29 Network. Moran calls Stetzer’s defenses of Driscoll “disingenuous at best and downright deceitful at worst.”
Acts 29 churches are disparaged in the report for holding Bible studies in bars and showing and discussing R-rated movies. Moran successfully pushed the MBC in 2007 to defund church plants that were part of Acts 29. Moran also authored a successful 2007 MBC resolution arguing that no trustee or committee member should be “a user of alcoholic beverages.” Two months later, the MBC Executive Board codified the rule by deciding to question potential trustees and committee members about alcohol use.
Several SOC leaders are attacked in the report for connections to Acts 29. Marshall, who will preach at the SBC’s annual meeting in June, is criticized because his church supports a church plant associated with Acts 29. That church is also attacked for giving out copies of a book by Brian McLaren, who Moran calls “a religious icon among the far-left wing of the Emerging Church Movement.”
Among the many Missouri Baptists criticized in the report are current MBC President Bruce McCoy, immediate past MBC President and former SBC First Vice President Gerald Davidson, St. Louis Metro Baptist Association Director of Missions Jim Breeden and Micah Fries, who will preach the sermon at this year’s MBC annual meeting.
Moran’s report revisits the criticisms that SOC leaders leveled against his influence in Missouri Baptist life and refutes those charges as inaccurate and “vicious.” He even compares the rhetoric of SOC leaders to Missouri Baptists who are part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and blames SOC leaders for the controversy in Missouri Baptist life.
“Thus, it was this kind of deceit and deception foisted upon Missouri Baptists by men like David Sheppard and his fellow SOC leaders that thrust the MBC into the political and spiritual turmoil we are currently experiencing,” the report offers.
Moran argues that this new liberalism must be fought just as CBF was and makes this argument by highlighting connections between CBF and the Emerging Church Movement. He concludes by urging an investigation into the matters addressed in his report.
“The seriousness of the emerging/emergent movement and the degree to which it has infiltrated the SBC warrants a full and thorough investigation,” the report concludes. “And I would argue that the investigation needs to start at the North American Mission Board, and most specifically in the area of church planting. As we refer this motion to LifeWay, I would ask that the Executive Committee express our deep and serious concern about the emerging/emergent movement and request that LifeWay honor this request for a full and thorough investigation.”
Brian Kaylor is a contributing editor to EthicsDaily.com and the editorial assistant for the Baptist General Convention of Missouri.
Brian Kaylor is editor and president of Word&Way, associate director of Churchnet, and a contributing editor for EthicsDaily.com.