The popular American evangelist and Bible teacher Beth Moore made headlines when she said she is no longer a Southern Baptist and ended her longtime partnership with the evangelical denomination's publishing arm, Lifeway Christian Resources.
Some commentators have asked, will it matter? Will something happen to white evangelical women, or will Moore just be seen as crossing over the cultural divide to the liberals? Can she play a bridging role?
When a high-profile person like Moore leaves the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, it is likely bound to impact white evangelicals wrestling with their direction.
The story of her departure was broken by Religion New Service and a central characeter in her tale is the former president, Donald Trump.
Moore retweeted the RNS story, but her spokesperson told The Tennessean that Moore has no plans to comment further on her decision.
LIVING PROOF MINISTRIES
Moore founded Living Proof Ministries, a Bible-based organization for women based in Houston, Texas.
The ministry focuses on aiding women who desire to model their lives on evangelical Christian principles.
Ashlie D. Stevens wrote in Salon on March 11, "Moore has been viewed for decades, as the 'Evangelical Julia Roberts meets Oprah,' according to Anne Helen Peterson's recent 'Culture Study; newsletter.
Moore has published over 20 Bible studies, and her Living Proof conferences drew thousands of women who would pack into stadiums to hear her speak about topics like insecurity, forgiveness, and godliness.
A 2008 simulcast of her speaking called "Living Proof Live" is estimated to have been watched by over 70,000 people at 715 locations, Salon reported.
As a Southern Baptist, Moore established herself as a singular voice in a denomination that male thought leaders dominate and offered a generation of evangelical women an opportunity to see themselves in her and through her work, Stevens wrote in Salon.
"Now, however, Moore has announced she's breaking from the Southern Baptist Convention largely because as a sexual assault survivor, she couldn't reconcile with evangelicals' overwhelming hypocritical support of Donald Trump. This raises the question of whether her followers and other women will follow suit."
STILL A BAPTIST
Moore told RNS, "I am still a Baptist, but I can no longer identify with Southern Baptists."
"I love so many Southern Baptist people, so many Southern Baptist churches, but I don't identify with some of the things in our heritage that haven't remained in the past."
RNS described her as having been for nearly three decades "the very model of a modern Southern Baptist."
"She has been a stalwart for the Word of God, never compromising," former Lifeway Christian Resources President Thom Rainer said in 2015, during a celebration at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville that honored 20 years of partnership between the Southern Baptist publishing house and Moore. "And when all is said and done, the impact of Beth Moore can only be measured in eternity's grasp."
Moore said she had understood why evangelicals supported Trump, who promised to nominate anti-abortion judges for the federal judicial system.
"He became the banner, the poster child for the great white hope of evangelicalism, the salvation of the church in America," she told RNS. "Nothing could have prepared me for that."
But RNS said that changed with the arrival of Trump as the president.
Moore's criticism of the former president's abusive behavior toward women and her advocacy for sexual abuse victims changed her from a beloved icon to a pariah in the denomination she loved all her life, said RNS.
"Wake up, Sleepers, to what women have dealt with all along in environments of gross entitlement & power," Moore tweeted about Trump in Oct 2016, "riffing on a passage from the New Testament Book of Ephesians."
Stevens wrote, "If you've paid attention to news surrounding evangelical leaders over the last several years, it's not surprising. In 2020, former Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. tumbled into one scandal after another, before finally, officially plummeting from grace."