Amid ongoing drama concerning how Southern Baptist Convention leaders have responded to sexual abuse allegations and survivors, a lawsuit has been filed and another Executive Committee staff person has resigned.
Both the lawsuit and the resignation are in the wake of a 44–31 vote by the EC on Oct. 5 to waive attorney-client privilege in accordance with a motion adopted at the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting. The motion called for an investigation into how the EC responded to sexual abuse allegations and survivors from Jan. 1, 2000, to June 14, 2021.
Since that vote, the SBC’s attorneys; Ronnie Floyd, the EC president/CEO; EC staff member Greg Addison; and 12 of 86 EC trustees have resigned.
Mike Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Georgia, filed a $750,000 lawsuit Oct. 18 against Russell Moore, former president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (2013–2021), alleging defamation and libel, false light invasion of privacy and intentional affliction of emotional distress.
The lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee in Nashville and requests a jury trial.
In the lawsuit Stone, 2018–2020 EC chairman and 2021 SBC presidential candidate, alleges that Moore, who is currently employed at Christianity Today, launched a “malicious and defamatory campaign against him” in an “extreme and outrageous” manner, resulting in Stone losing his bid to become SBC president, experiencing negative impact on his “business operations” and suffering “reputational harm …. extreme mental anguish and emotional distress, especially because [Stone] is himself a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.”
The campaign to harm Stone, the lawsuit alleges, began within a week of the creation of a task force, formed Feb. 20, 2020, by the EC, to determine if actions of the ERLC had negatively impacted the denomination and Cooperative Program giving. The task force’s report, presented in February 2021, claimed the ERLC constituted a “significant distraction from the Great Commission work of Southern Baptists” and blamed the ERLC for the loss of more than a million dollars in church donations to the CP.
At issue were two letters written by Moore, one written while he served as ERLC president and the other written as he transitioned to Christianity Today. The letters, alleges the lawsuit, were “strategically concealed … from general distribution within the ERLC and SBC but then subsequently surreptitiously released or ‘leaked’ to the news media,” knowing that the letters would receive wide news coverage, damage Stone’s reputation and “defame and discredit” his candidacy for SBC president.
The lawsuit further alleges that the release of the first letter, dated Feb. 24, 2020, and directed to EC trustees, was “retaliation” for Stone’s leadership of a task force directed to investigate the ERLC. The second letter, dated May 31, 2021, and addressed to J.D. Greear, then-SBC president, was released to the public June 2, 2021, and “contained false allegations” against Stone, the filing states. The second letter claimed Stone and other EC leaders had “stonewalled many attempts at reform for the sake of the sexually abused.”
The lawsuit identified several statements from Moore’s two letters and provided information to refute those statements.
Latest resignation announced
Greg Addison, EC executive vice president, announced his resignation in an Oct. 20 email to EC trustees and staff. He plans to transition on Oct. 31, the same date that Floyd, who served for just over two years, will vacate his EC role.
Addison’s role, which was new to the EC beginning in October 2020, was to lead EC staff and coordinate convention policy and legal affairs for the EC, serve as liaison to various SBC standing committees and assist with orientation of new committee members and appointees.
Addison pledged, in his resignation letter, that he would “ensure that the matters over which I have responsibility have good transition plans in place.”
Prior to his year with the EC, Addison served as associate executive director of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, served as pastor of two Arkansas Baptist churches, served on staff at Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tennessee, and practiced law.