I learned earlier this month that Beth Moore has decided to leave the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). For some, this comes as shocking news. For others, it was only a matter of time.
Beth Moore is one of the most popular woman Bible teachers in the Western Christian Church. And because of her popularity, Beth Moore brought in a lot of money into the coffers of Lifeway (the publishing arm of the SBC). She may have sold more books through Lifeway than any other author.
Several Facebook Groups I follow were full of snide remarks, biting humor, and otherwise tasteless conversation. Very few comments encouraged prayer for her, her family, and her ministry. (Ephesians 4:29)
About thirty years ago, my wife returned from a Staff Wives Retreat in Austin, Texas. She talked about a Bible teacher named Beth Moore from Houston. My wife said, “She didn’t just teach. She preached!”
Over the years, I have observed from a distance the development of a woman of God who is deeply committed to the authority of the Bible. From her teaching (yes, men can learn a lot from her, too!), it’s obvious that Beth Moore spends countless hours studying God’s Word to make sure she “cuts it straight” and applies the truths she has mined from years of studying her Bible. (2 Timothy 2:15)
During this time, she and her husband Keith raised a God-fearing family. At one point, she enrolled in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s extension campus in Houston. But family commitments prevented her from completing her academic studies. From everything I’ve read, and from her own stories Beth Moore has a deep, intimate walk with Jesus. She listens to God’s voice and obeys.
Some people allege that because she talked about God speaking to her, she has rejected a “closed Canon” view of Scripture. It’s interesting that very few accused other successful Lifeway authors, Henry Blackaby and Priscilla Shirer of rejecting a “closed Canon” view of Scripture. And I see not just a little hypocrisy when pastors, who have been “called to the ministry” accuse Moore of hearing God speak to her; who called them to the ministry? Did they hear God calling them?
Beth Moore asked questions. That should have been seen as a positive thing, but unfortunately, some/many were threatened by her, perhaps due to her popularity. In fact, she recently spoke out acknowledging her “loose complementarian” view of family and church. Contrary to accusations by some “strict complementarians”, Moore stated she had no desire to serve as a pastor of a church.
She deserved to be heard. However, sometimes/often she was not “offered a seat at the table” to contribute to complementarian theological conversations. She is a woman, after all. Shortly after speaking from the pulpit at an SBC Church on Mother’s Day, I saw an advertisement for a preaching conference at Baylor University’s Truitt Seminary. Beth Moore was one of the featured speakers.
After the presidents of all six of the SBC seminaries recently published a statement affirming that Critical Race Theory (CRT) is incompatible with Scripture, she publicly asked for a four-sentence explanation of CRT. She wanted an honest, researched response and she wasn’t interested in opinions, not based on knowledge of the subject. I don’t know whether or not she heard a qualified answer. But she was concerned about African-American brothers and sisters who had left the Denomination over their concerns that the SBC wasn’t adequately addressing the subject of race relations.
Another issue that contributed to her departure from the SBC is the almost wholesale endorsement of Donald Trump of some in the Denomination. Being a victim of sexual abuse, she saw Trump’s previous abusive behavior toward some women (revealed in the 2016 “Access Holywood” video) as incompatible with Biblical ethics.
“‘Wake up, Sleepers, to what women have dealt with all along in environments of gross entitlement & power,’ Moore once wrote about Trump, riffing on a passage from the New Testament Book of Ephesians.” “The same Southern Baptists who had been outraged by former President Bill Clinton’s conduct in the 1990s gave Trump a pass — not only a pass but a ringing endorsement. ‘The disorientation of this was staggering,” she told RNS. ‘Just staggering.’”
In light of her concerns, I can’t say that I blame her. Complementarianism. CRT. Blurred lines between politics and the church. Each of these are concerns that Southern Baptists need to address in a non-defensive, non-combative, non-canceling way. In 2019, Russell Moore (no relation), the President of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission said that “An SBC that doesn’t have a place for Beth Moore doesn’t have a place for a lot of us”.
Contrary to what some have been saying online in recent days, Beth Moore is not a heretic. She is not a false teacher. She is not “woke” or a “liberal”. Beth Moore’s leaving the SBC is not the end of the world. I’m sure she will continue to be a successful Bible teacher and author. She will continue to teach women (and men) the truths of God’s word and call people to obedience.
Just like she always has.