Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention's public affairs division, has apologised in a blog post for appearing to criticise anyone who voted for Donald Trump as US president.
He wrote in a Christmas article on his blog that while he stands by his criticism of Trump, he did not intend to characterise all his supporters in the same way. He said: "There's a massive difference between someone who enthusiastically excused immorality and someone who felt conflicted, weighed the options based on biblical convictions, and voted their conscience."
He said that for him personally, to vote for either candidate would to "sin against my own conscience".
Moore is head of the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and has faced criticism within the denomination for his trenchant denunciations of Trump. According to a former SBC executive committee chairman William Harrell some larger churches are considering withholding funds from the ERLC while Moore is in charge. Harrell said in a blog post: "This writer has to believe that after all the negative rhetoric and positioning done by the leadership of our lobbying entity concerning this recent election, they must have egg all over their faces. They were almost completely out of touch with the reality of how the people felt."
A Wall Street Journal article entitled 'Baptist figure faces backlash over his criticism of Donald Trump' featured criticisms of Moore from senior figures including former Southern Baptist Convention President Jack Graham. Graham, pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, and a member of Trump's Evangelical Executive Advisory Board, referred to Moore's alleged "disrespectfulness towards Southern Baptists and other evangelical leaders, past and present", because of his criticisms of Trump, adding: "It's disheartening that this election has created this kind of divisiveness."
Former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee wrote in an email obtained by Townhall.com, "I am utterly stunned that Russell Moore is being paid by Southern Baptists to insult them."
However, in support of Moore, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler told the WSJ: "I know his heart and his character and his love for the Southern Baptist Convention. I also have confidence in his ability to serve all Southern Baptists as president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission."
In his blog post Moore urged Christian voters to "have empathy with one another" and said that "we all owe it to our brothers and sisters in Christ to understand their convictions and be slow to judgment when biblical motivations are the primary motivators".
However, Moore did not apologise for speaking out against Trump. He said 2016 had been "fraught with ugliness, much of which couldn't be left unchecked". He said it was "precisely because Southern Baptists are pro-life, pro-family, pro-religious freedom, pro-racial reconciliation, and pro-character-in-public-office that I felt it was my responsibility to speak out on those issues. For me, to remain silent – rightly or wrongly – felt negligent."