Updated: Oct 27, 2021
On Wednesday, October 20, 2021 Baptist Press broke the story that Pastor Mike Stone is suing former ERLC President Russell Moore for $750,000.00. The article states, “Mike Stone alleges he has ‘suffered a tremendous loss in professional cultivation and reputational standing, decreased future earning power…and serious mental and emotional injury in the form of extreme public embarrassment, stress, anxiety, and fear’ due to the actions of former Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission president Russell Moore.”
Who are Mike Stone and Russell Moore?
-Mike Stone is a well-known name among SBC elites. Stone serves as Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear, Georgia. He is the most recent former SBC Executive Committee Chairman, serving in that role from 2018-2020. He is implicated in the EC investigation being conducted by Guideposts.
Stone was also a candidate for the 2021 SBC presidency, losing narrowly to Ed Litton.
-Russell Moore is the most recent former President of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission (ERLC). Moore left the ERLC and the SBC earlier this year, shortly thereafter releasing 2 letters that outline corruption and cover-ups in the SBC Executive committee.
What led to the Lawsuit?
When the leaked Russel Moore letters hit the news in early June of this year, the letters clearly implicated Mike Stone as a major player in the alleged corruption and cover-ups. The letters were leaked just a few weeks prior to the 2021 SBC Convention in Nashville, TN where Stone went on to lose the Presidency.
Since that time, pressures and tensions have continued to increase across the SBC, but specifically between Stone and Moore, as evidenced by the lawsuit filed by Stone.
-In the 16 page lawsuit, Stone cites Moore’s letters saying, “This letter contained numerous false allegations against Plaintiff [Stone], who was then a prominent candidate for the presidency of the SBC. Upon information and belief, the First Letter was leaked to the news media in 2021 at the instructions of Defendant [Moore] to defame Plaintiff and discredit his campaign for the presidency of the SBC.”
So clearly, Stone blames Moore for not only defaming his character, but acting intentionally to prevent him from ascending to the SBC Presidency.
Should Stone sue Moore?
-Moore’s letter clearly implicates Mike Stone in wrongdoing. Stone is clearly denying the validity of the charges, as evidenced with his lawsuit. It seems one of them is lying, or at least, partially lying.
If, in fact, Russell Moore has alleged false accusations against Mike Stone, causing him emotional suffering, costing him the SBC presidency, and perhaps more...if all of that is true, it certainly constitutes an egregious sin on the part of Moore. An act of sin that must be addressed, called out, and dealt with. But, even if it's all true, is Mike Stone acting biblically in suing Moore in public courts?
1 Corinthians 6:1-11, Paul writes these words of instruction,
“When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Stone Should not Sue Moore.
Whatever the true details of the story are, Stone does not have a biblical standing from which he can justly sue Russell Moore in a court of human law. Paul is very clear, it is to the Christian’s shame when he neglects the biblical counsel and input of the saints of God in order to pursue the input of the unbelievers in the secular courts.
Paul even says, “Why not suffer wrong? What not rather be defrauded?”
When Christians drag each other into secular courts, arguing their cases against one another before the wisdom of unbelievers, not only are they denying the wisdom that God has placed within His Church, but they are ALREADY defeated in their sin.
Win, lose, or draw...Stone, and the larger SBC (due to his public standing) have lost.
Dough Wilson puts the situation in crystal clear perspective,
“In such cases, when the stakes are high and the potential for embarrassment is acute, the burden of proof should lie with the person who is going to go against what appears to be the plain meaning of the text. The fact that the lawsuit was simply filed, without a reasoned, careful and very public exposition of the [Bible], reinforces the impression that the [Bible] doesn’t really matter.”
It's incredibly concerning that the man who was so close to being the SBC President would take such blatantly unbiblical action. It’s terribly disappointing that two prominent Christian brothers are now embroiled in the secular courts of unbelievers attempting to deal with an issue of sin. It's terribly sad the the watching world sees the SBC acting in such ways.
Even while we do not know all the details, we can be sure that God knows all the details. In Galatians 6:7, Paul writes, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”
Even as Mike Stone mocks God in this lawsuit, God will not be mocked in it at all.