Factions of the Southern Baptist Convention are battling what direction the denomination will be taking after the end of the Trump presidency.
One side says the organization should pull back from politics, while the other side want to recommit to its conservative roots and remain involved.
Both sides are accusing the other of pulling away from the SBCs mission, and their separation came into full view with the resignation of top SBC Washington lobbyist Russell Moore, a critic of Trump, The Wall Street Journal reported.
His resignation came while SBC president J.D. Greear wraps up his term this month leaving both jobs open at the same time.
Moore's board of trustees will appoint his successor while Southern Baptists will vote in the organization's annual meeting, which will begin Sunday.
The Southern Baptists' political power has grown in recent years, but its membership has been shrinking to the point, Greer said in February, it should not be difficult for "Democrats to come to Jesus."
"Do we want to be a Gospel people or a Southern, Republican culture people?" he also said.
The SBC currently has about 14 million members, down from a peak of more than 16 million in 2006. It marked its largest drop in more than 100 years in 2020.
The members, who are 90% white, are also aging, and their affiliation with the Trump administration caused divides in generation and ideology to grow. Meanwhile, younger members, who are still conservative, are joining, but they are different from the traditional SBC members as they are more likely to suffer LGBT and immigrant rights, are more racially diverse, and are not as supportive of Trump as the previous generation.
The candidates running to replace Greear have different positions about the CDC's future. Ed Litton, an Alabama pastor who is running, says the evangelicals' connections with the GOP risk alienating the members the denomination needs to attract, such as young people and members of color. He does not suggest the SBC ally itself with Democrats, but he wants the denomination to distance itself altogether from politics.
The Conservative Baptist Network, formed last year, says it wants to fight a drift away from evangelicalism toward liberals.
The faction's candidate Mike Stone says the SBC's leaders are pushing social justice causes and are out of touch with its members.
"We see some worldly ideologies, philosophies, and theories that are beginning to make their way into Southern Baptist life," Stone said in Macon, Georgia, this March. "Our Lord isn't woke."
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler, who is also running to head the SBC, said the denomination has lost a "lot of internal unity" because the tensions of the 2016 election never went away.
Mohler, meanwhile, did not support Trump in 2016 but did in 2020. Last year, he organized a letter last year by seminary presidents to denounce critical race theory, but has also been known to say racism can have "structural forms."
Critical race theory is defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica as the concept in which race is a socially constructed category ingrained in American law intended to maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites. It holds that the U.S. society is inherently or systemically racist.
Much of Trump's backing has come from white evangelicals, with 75% voting for him in 2020, despite saying they had misgivings about his character.
Trump's supporters also pointed out, once he was in office, he followed on his promises on several evangelical-favored policy issues, including anti-abortion policies and expansions of religious exemptions.
About a third of the nation's evangelical Christians belong to the SBC, which has become progressively conservative since the 1980s and 1990s, when theological progressives were dropped from SBC posts and eventually broke off to form their own denomination, the smaller Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
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