In recent years, a series of leaders have warned against America’s largest Protestant denomination being too closely tied to one party, even as Southern Baptists and evangelicals at large remain stalwart supporters of the GOP:

  • “You just can’t always say we belong to a party,” former Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president Frank Page warned back in 2008. “We can’t. I have cautioned Baptists about being too lockstep with any party.”
  • “We are involved in the political process, but we must always be wary of being co-opted by it,” Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) told The Wall Street Journal in 2013, soon after his election.
  • “There continue to be perceptions in our culture that the SBC is in bed with the Republican Party,” wrote leaders of Baptist21, an influential group of young pastors with Reformed leanings, after Ben Carson was invited to speak to a national gathering of SBC pastors in Columbus, Ohio. Carson eventually withdrew as a speaker.
  • Baptist21 leaders also called for a moratorium on future political invitations. “Our suggestion is that we believe it would be prudent for future SBC leaders to stop inviting politicians to our meetings,” they wrote in April. “Period.”

But disconnecting from the GOP is proving complicated.

This past week, the ERLC announced plans to interview presidential candidates Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio at an upcoming Baptist missions conference in Nashville.

On Saturday, Baptist21 issued a statement, saying they “aren’t as concerned” about the Bush and Rubio interviews as they were about Carson.

The two settings ...

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